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Yes it was probably man's first word, and though the title is rudimentary the platform gameplay isn't.

Now and again a game pops out of the sky and knocks you for six. Ugh! sauntered into the Amiga Format office looking like a harmless platform caper, but it's a game that has taken us by complete surprise. The star of the show is a hairy caveman who has the hots for a blonde cavebimbo. The problem is he hasn't th' funds to keep his love in the manner that she would like to become accustomed.

So how does our hero raise the capital for his love? Well, while dosing under a tree an apple falls on his fuzzy bonce, and a fun-raising idea springs to his small prehistoric mind. The wheel? Fire? Nope, nothing so basic, he dreams up a man-powered helicopter, then starts up the world's first door-to-door taxi service. You play the daring young man in his flying machine, ferrying his neighbours around from platform to platform - for a nominal fee. So far, so good, but not everything on this primeval land is as simple as it appears. For example, helicopter design doesn't lend itself to underwater conditions and if you land with too much of a bump you 'copter is firewood.

Something old...
Though Ugh! might sound like just another platform game, it does have a special something that others in the genre don't. Many of the levels involve you having to plan your route first, otherwise you'll come across various obstacles like knocking the more mature citizens into the brink (the oldies, unlike the younger residents, can't swim, they just float for a while and then drown).

The levels go from being very difficult to incredibly tough later on in the game; where all the obstacles that were introduced earlier in the game all gang up against you. For example: smaller gaps between platforms, more dinosaurs, unmarked platforms and rising water levels all make for hard going, but all of them are 'do-able', eventually.

As you go through the game it becomes obvious that Ugh! is not only a good-looking game with great graphics (though sometimes the characters are hidden against backgrounds of the same colour) and fun to play to boot, but it is also very well put together. The collision detection is excellent. You can't balance on the end of platforms; at least half of the helicopter has to be on the platform before you can deliver anyone or pick anybody up. And the control system works well, though it takes a while to get used to, but soon enough you're fighting your way through gale force winds and torrential rain.

As you might expect with a cutsie platformer, there has to be some cute music, and yes there is some cutsie platform music. The sound on the other hand really stands out; it blends brilliantly with the game and is perfectly coordinated with the game and is perfectly coordinated with the action on-screen. In fact the sound at times is an ally, listening out for danger is often your best defence, especially when avoiding head-on collisions with oversized scaly birds.

What's the saying? The pen is mightier than the spear? In Ugh! it's a case of having to be quicker on the draw than Billy the Kid ever was. The level codes appear so briefly and are written in such a horribly bubbly font, that getting them down on paper requires a great deal of determination.

The two-player option and the difficulty level choice add even more interest, if you're a little heavy handed then playing on the easy level can give you an edge, while the hard level is only for those with the most delicate joystick control. The two-player option is straight of Sesame Street: cooperation is the key (if only taxi drivers today would take a leaf out of that book).

The sign of a bad game is you get so frustrated with it you want to take a 12-bore shot gun and blast the coders to kingdom come. Ugh! doesn't get you annoyed with the game or the coders, but frustrated with yourself for not being good enough to beat it. But not so angry you don't come back for more, and believe me you will.


OK, so according to the history books, dinosaurs were long gone before man made his first appearance. But here in the land of Ugh the two species happily - well almost - coexist.

Dino - Big dinosaur, big breath. Dino may be fast asleep but his snore is worse than his bite. He's usually positioned in a vertical corridor, so be really careful because if you pedal too close to him he could suck you right into the rocks. If you want to beat the beast, get really close, watch the timing of dino's snores, then pedal like the wind.

Triopterus - Most dinosaurs were harmless vegetarians. But this one's big, strong and heat-butting helicopters is his favorite hobby. There's two ways to avoid getting bashed: either knock your customer into the water and pick them up there, or drop a rock on the beast's head and knock him out for a time while you do your stuff.

Bird - More like a pterodactyl than a pet budgie, if you stay still for too long it's sure to come your way. One touch and you're dead, so steer well clear. To thwart his flapping, sit still, listen out for his squawk and wait till you see which way he's coming from. Then get out, quick.

Rock - The rock is small enough to carry around, but heavy enough to do some damage. If you're running low on energy, drop the rock on the tree and pick up the fruit that falls. And dropping it from a height can knock a bird off course and brain a triopterus for a few seconds.
Be warned, if you've got the rock with you the natives won't tell you where they want to go.

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Anfang des Jahres veröffentlichte Kingsoft mit "Sky Cabbie" ein Remake des 64er-Klassikers "Space Taxi" - und das ging ziemlich daneben. Jetzt starte Blue Bytes Budget-Label Play Byte einen ähnlichen Versuch - und siehe da, das Teil ist gar nicht übel!

Bereits das witzige Intro läßt Hoffnung auf ein nettes Spielchen aufkeimen, also bestimmen wir froher Dinge einen von drei Schwierigkeitsgraden, sagen Bescheid, ob wir Solo-Driver sind oder lieber im simultanen Duo-Modus zocken wollen, und schon sitzen wir im Taxi.

Im Gegensatz zur Vorlage ist das aber kein Futuro-Gefährt, sondern ein uriges Tretmobil aus Saurier-Knochen und Baumstämmen - richtig, hier sind Steinzeit-Chauffeure gesucht!

Der grundsätzliche Spielablauf ist allerdings auch im Neandertal nicht anders, als man ihn vom "Brotkasten" in Erinnerung hat: Die prähistorischen Fahrgäste winken, tun (in einer Sprechblase) kund, auf welcher Plattform sie abgeliefert werden wollen, und wir bringen sie hin.

Nun stellt UGH! Jedoch Ansprüche an den Bildschirm-Taxler, die den Verkehr in einer Großstadt geradezu lächerlich aussehen lassen! Erstmal darf man beim Landen seines Mini-Flugis aufpassen, daß die Passagiere nicht zerquetscht werden, dann kostet jede Kollision mit einer Wand oder einem der herumfliegenden Steine wertvolle Energie, und schließlich kommt in praktisch jedem der insgesamt 90 Level (je 70 Abschnitte im Ein- bzw. Zweispielermodus, im Duett sind jedoch 20 anders) ein neues Problemchen hinzu: Mal muß man gegen die Atemzüge eines asthmatischen Dinos anfliegen, mal den Stößen eines Ur-Stiers ausweichen oder sich wegen eines beständig steigenden Wasserspiegels tierisch mit dem Einsammeln der Fahrgäste beeilen...

Es wurden also allerlei frische Ideen eingebaut, man hat aus dem betagten Spielprinzip herausgekitzelt, was eben ging. Das gilt auch für die Präsentation: von der niedlich animierten Grafik über den passenden Sound bis zur exakten (Schwerkraft-) Steuerung ist hier eigentlich nichts so richtig daneben.

Daß die Sprites etwas arg winzig ausgefallen sind und sich die einzelnen Level optisch nur wenig voneinander unterscheiden, werden alte 'Space Taxi"-Fans dieser ansonsten doch sehr gelungenen Neuauflage bestimmt gerne nachsehen. (C. Bormeier)

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A caveman taxi-service? Now there's an idea for a game...!

Dumber than dumb isn't necessarily such a bad thing- take Ugh! for example. The concept's incredibly simple, and not a little old fashioned - it's the sort of game which probably could've been conceived over a good strong cup of tea, then knocked out using AMOS in a week or two - and yet it's got a certain something.

Look, can I just get straight to the point? I love games which have simultaneous two-player options. I'd much rather play a computer game with, or against, someone else than sit around with only the Amiga for company.

And while Ugh! makes Asteroids look like a NASA mission simulation in terms of complexity, it's got cute appeal, play-and-learn controls (there's plenty of inertia and gravity here - the things which made the coin-op Joust such a masterpiece), and a simultaneous two-player mode going for it.

The cute appeal mainly comes from a Flintstones-esque prehistoric man scenario, based around that age-old profession - the taxi service. Added problems with floods and various unfriendly dinosaur types complicate things a tad - to the point where it all reaches Pythonesque proportions of silliness, in fact - but the basic game is very simple indeed.

So how exactly does it work? Well, each player (it is possible to play solo, but that's not really what it's all about) controls a little crate with a rotor blade mounted on top. The mission is simple - cavemen (and cave-babes and cave-OAPS, come to that) will walk out one of a number of on-screen caves, hail a taxi (you) with a speech bubble, and tell you a destination.

The player must then swoop down and land (taking care to miss the passenger!) nearby, he or she'll climb aboard, and it's off to the required cave. Each cave has a handy little number posted on sign outside, so there's no guesswork about where anyone wants to go. Complete several taxi runs, and it's onto a more complicated screen.

That's not quite it though. While all this taxi palaver is going on there's a grub meter slowly but surely decreasing at the bottom of the screen. If this gets to zero it's a life lost, but the problem is easily remedied by picking up a rock, dropping it onto a palm tree, and collecting the fruit it then deposits (logical, huh?)

Later screens offer more complex cave layouts, the introduction of various dinosaurs (the breathing of some is enough to buffet your crate!) and the added danger of a rising water level. (It is possible to fly the taxis underwater, but, being light, they pop to the surface very quickly).

This stuff is all just so much fancy dressing, however - the root of the game lies in the inertia-overload control system, as it does in games like Thrust, Asteroids et all. Gravity constantly conspires against the airborne taxis, any over compensation with the joystick easily sending your fragile crate hurtling into a nearby rock. It's this that makes the game.

Good fun then, but if you suspect it of being rather slight, well, you're right. There's just not enough variation from level to level to keep the interest up for any great length of time, and I doubt the fly-around-collecting-passengers concept is really the sort of thing classic games are made of.

Fun then, but a little too lightweight for the price.

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Before man invented the wheel he had a go at running a skyborne taxi service. Dan Slingsby catches a lift with a prehistoric high-flyer.

Ugh! is essentially a prehistoric version of Lunar Lander. Man has invented a flying taxi, cobbled together from bamboo poles, overgrown leaves and sticky tape(!), and is busily eking out a living transporting the rest of his tribe around their high-rise cave system. The trouble is, the wobbly 'copter suffers from incredibly bad inertia, so while you're busy pulling in one direction on the joystick it's still travelling in the direction you sent it previously and is slow to respond to any new commands.

The aim of each of the 70-odd levels is to guide your airborne ancestors around the many different cave systems, picking up tribal members and taking them to where they want to go. At first things are incredibly easy. For instance, level one merely requires you to pick up three tribesmen and take them to a different cave entrance.

Later on, things become much more hectic, as the number of trips slowly rises and the number of obstacles increases. These include a flying pterodactyl which swoops in to knock you off course and a charging rhino who likes nothing better than tossing your human cargo into the watery pit at the bottom of the screen.

Landing the craft requires pinpoint accuracy - land too hard and both you and your passenger fly off the screen. All the trips are against the clock, too, and your fee for transporting each tribesman dwindles away the longer you take to complete the journey. Each level consists of just one screen, but each one is suitably different to offer something new. Often, the cave entrances demand a steady hand to reach them as you have to guide your craft through a maze-like construction of cliff faces.

There are three difficulty levels in the game and these relate to the number of hits your craft can take as well as the time you're given for completing each stage. If things are getting tight, each level also has a fruit bearing tree which, when hit by a stone, produces a number of energy fruits. Once picked up, these fruits extend the time limit, giving you vital seconds to complete the round.

Ugh! is a very well put together game, with smashing looking graphics, neat sound effects and some difficult if repetitive puzzles to solve. There's also a neat two-player team mode where you have to work in tandem with another taxi service.

Unfortunately, Ugh! is a game built around one idea, and a very poor one at that. Players will soon become bored with the repetitive nature of the gameplay. There are few surprises in the game's later levels and the whole thing becomes very plodding after a while.

Okay, so there are one or two nasties to take care of and the time limit offers a bit of a challenge, but merely transporting the assorted tribesmen and women from point A to point B and then back again is not my idea of fun. Nor yours, I would hazard a guess. Definitely a case of try before you buy!