Spitting Image logo

FLUCK and Law come to the smaller screen intent on giving an irreverent chuckle to all their TV show fans. And offending just as many, too.
Here's the scene: Within the next seven years a world war will take place, one so great that even the Swiss will get involved. A war so terrible the Italians have already surrendered. One leader will emerge from this war. It is your task to stop him ans ave the world from a fate worse than ITV.

Wrapped up in a cute cover offering a free Barry Manilow - not supplied with review copy, thank goodness - the game is essentially a boxing-cum-karate-cum-Ninja Gerbil variant.

First you must - and I quite from the instructions - "select the leader you would like to rule even less than all the other leaders you wouldn't like to lead either". This is one set of instructions you'll want to read. They are short but hilarious.
Anyway, the leader in question is one you are about to beat up. Next you choose who will do the beating up. Scores flash on to the screen at various times, but it's difficult to judge how well you're doing. Control is with a joystick. Victory is the best of five bouts.

There are six leaders - Gorbachev, Reagan, Thatcher, The Pope, President Botha and the Ayatollah. As well as being able to strike a blow at their opponent's head, body and feet, each leader has a special move. The Ayatollah's is a boxing glove which comes out of his hat. Botha's involves dropping something and slashing.

Each leader also has a sidekick who comes out to help when you press the zero key. Mrs T's sidekick is Dennis, who appears, throws a gin bottle at her opponent - listen for the sound of breaking glass - and then passes out. The Ayatollah's sidekick sends a burning burst of intestinal gas across the screen.

When you knock out one leader you choose another two, and so on until... well, that's the whole point of the game, so I can't reveal what happens.

The main screen, where you choose the protagonists, shows a globe of the world disguised as a bomb. Moving the cross-hair over different parts of it reveals such tantalising items of information such as The Wet Bits (oceans), Fuzzywuzzyland (Africa) and Loadsamoneyland (USA). Spitting Image is not a game for the easily-offended. But then bad taste always sells well.

As a political satire, Spitting Image is superb. As a game, however, once you've chuckled your way through a few bouts it's bound to lose some of its appeal.

Spitting Image logo

Price: £19.95

Spitting Image would have been an excellent licence on its first run. But when Domark originally tried to produce a game linked to it, Splitting Images, they didn't stop to buy the licence and had to change the name to Split Personalities.

The Completely Brilliant Spitting Image Computer Game, to give it its full title, is a beat-em-up. Nothing more, nothing less. The idea is to take over the world. To do this, you must first pick a world leader and then find an adversary. These range from Groovy Gorby, to Ronald Mac-Reagan, to His Coolness the Pope, to Mr and Mrs Ayatollah. Even the Queen herself makes an appearance as a commentator.

Each of the characters is represented as a photograph along the sides of the screen, around a map of the globe. By moving a pointer around the screen, you can make different things happen. When you move the pointer over one of the faces, you activate a joke. The Ayatollah raises a glove puppet of Sooty and squirts himself in the face with it. Thatcher's wig flies off, His Coolness smiles and his shades twinkle. As you move the pointer over the map, a message at the top of the screen tells you which country you are over, which is generally faithful to the map in the Spitting Image book. Most of Europe is called Britain, the rest being Pinkoland, whilst Mexico is known as Sansosodallmoney. Har har.

When you've selected your host and your adversary, you go into a one-on-one battle in true beat-em-up style. This is where the game falls flat. The graphics are great and it is fun for a short while, but it's very restricted. The problem is, you only have three basic attacking moves: normal, high and low punch and a kick.

On top of your three moves, you've got your dirty moves. The first is achieved by pushing the opposite direction and pressing fire. Each of the characters pulls a different stunt at this point, Ronal MacReagan pulls out a tomato Ketchup dispenser and squirts it, P.W. Botha drops his trousers and, well, does what he normally does really (Oh, little bit of politics there, this is a computer mag so stamp it out now!).

The second dirty move is the calling of the sidekick. By pressing space or 'O' on the keyboard you call on a little henchman to do the dirty work for you. The Ayatollah calls on a cannon, which fires a ball at you, Ronald calls on a flying hamburger which savages the neck of your adversary.

Sadly the restriction of moves is the game's only poor point. It may not be brimming with originality, but it is very well converted. Domark have quite successfully managed to capture the feel of the TV programme, fun, well put together, but short lived.

Spitting Image logo

Domark, C64 £9.95 cassette, £12.95 disk; Amiga £19.95

Warning: Domark are at pains to point out that whatever information you may have heard to the contrary, Barry Manilow will not appear in their game. Not in any shape, size or form. Nope.

Phew! At least that's one set of nostrils we won't have to worry about. Or do we?

Well actually we don't just have to worry about Barry's puzzling proboscis - we've got to worry about everyone else's as well. No, no, it's not a mystery maniac plastic surgeon, it's worse than that - basically, the end of the world is nigh.

Or at least it nearly is, 'cos one of the world's six most threatening leaders (Maggie, Gorby, Ronnie, Pope Paulie, Knomeini or Bothie... er... sorry, Botha) is gonna take over if you don't throw a spanner in the works.

Hold it! We didn't mean literally throw a spanner - just set those cute lil' old leaders fighting against each other one to one (best of five bouts) and see who survives. Then deal with the remaining blot on the political landscape secretly (i.e. find out when you get there, right?).

And that's it, is it? Nope. Well, you didn't expect this lot to play clean, did you? For a start each his own personal dirty secret er... weapon (whips, water pistols - all that stuff) and an even nastier sidekick who comes on at demand to throw bottles, squirt explosives and other nasty tricks.
And now - Blue Peter.

Gordon Hogg If you fancy a soothing afternoon admiring the graphical capabilities of you 64, do yourself a favour - don't buy a copy of this. OK, so forget about the graphics, what about the game - bit boring if you ask me. It's really just a load of bashing the joystick and hoping you score a hit - not the most varied beat 'em up I've ever seen. The Amiga version might have better animated graphics, but when you get down to it, the gameplay is pretty much the same - all the same. Don't buy, unless you're weely, weely sure it's what you want.
Kati Hamza Bit of a larf this. Well, the packaging and presentation is anyway. In fact, as far as jobs like the inlay, the box, the intro and the in-between game bits go, Domark have definitely come up with a winner. Shame the gameplay doesn't match up to all of that, though. I mean, strip away all the TV hype and all you've got is an average beat 'em up. On the Amiga version the graphics go some way to making up for this (big sprites, clever secret weapons) but the 64 version is so badly drawn you might as well be watching your mum and dad slogging it out on the local football pitch. If you really want this, try it out first.
Zzap's Nose