Growl at the postman, comb your face and welcome...

Wolfchild logo

CORE DESIGN * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Wolves, brilliant, aren't they? Great big hairy dog things. And werewolves? Even more brilliant. All that prowling around and drooling at people. That's the life. Dracula? A wishy-washy ponce. Frankenstein? A limp-wristed girl's blouse. The Mummy? Yawn city. But werewolves? Werewolves are, if you'll pardon the phrase, the gnu's gonads.

And Core Design seem to agree with me, for their new release stars a lovable lycanthrope as it's hero. Not your traditional 'bitten by a mysterious animal on the moors' werewolf, but a "genetically created futuristic robomonster" werewolf. Obvious really.

You see, it all began when Kal Morrow, a dead brainy genetic scientist bloke, was kidnapped by Chimera, one of those evil organisations who like nothing better than to kidnap dead brainy scientists. Unfortunately, they reckoned without Saul Morrow, Kal's son.

Saul decided that the game would be a lot more exciting if he got up off his bum and did something about it, and so he injected himself with some of his Dad's Wolfchild fruit cordial. And hey presto! He becomes a werewolf and sets off to dribble a lot and menace lamp posts.

His quests begins at his spaceship descends towards the Chimera base, and Saul must fend off the mutant Birdmen on the hull. This accomplished, he must fight through a jungle infested with, er, jungly things.

Then, without pausing to adjust his breeches, he dives into some dank and spooky caves to fight insecty things. No rest for the wicked, and he leaps straight into the Chimera base for the penultimate shutdown, before striding manfully into the main control centre for the obligatory Final Conflict.

Of course, what it all boils down to is a scrolling platform game with a liberal sprinkling of beat-'em-up. It's the sort of gamestyle that's currently setting the consoles alight, so it's likely that we'll see quite a lot of it in the future. Luckily for Core, Wolfchild is the first of these games out of the proverbial gate, so they could be on to a winner here.

And with presentation like this, it's not surprising the graphics are excellent. Loads and loads of detail, topped off with some of the swishiest parallax you'll ever see. Add some decidedly yukky mutants to beat up and you've got a game that's just the thing to stick two fingers up at the Megadrive contingency.

The twist here is that once your energy reaches 75 per cent or higher, a bolt of power burst all over the shop and you sprout unsightly hair from places you didn't even know you had places. When in werewolf mode, you're not only twice as 'ard as before, but you can now project magic energy as well as relying on physical prowess to defeat your opponents.

Or to put it another way, you can fire rather than just punch. The bullets are, as always, upgradable and vary from three-way fire to heat seekers. No surprises in that department, then.

So, Wolfchild is a visually impressive, reasonably playable console beater. If you need any persuasion then I'll tell you that it was written by the bloke responsible for Switchblade.

Nuff said. It lacks that extra depth that it needs to get the coveted Gamer Gold but it looks, sounds, smells, tastes and feels like a "quality game". Surely that must count for something?

Wolfchild logo

Core Design * £25.99

On first playing, WolfChild bears a striking resemblance to the classic Switchblade - and that's not surprising when you consider that they were both designed by Core Design's Simon Phipps. Although WolfChild uses many similar tricks and design ideas, it's by no means old grounds re-covered.

Your quest is to wreak some revenge upon Draxx, who kidnapped your father and murdered the rest of your family. You do have one rather handy ability at your disposal - you can turn yourself into a wolf and hurl claws at Draxx's henchmen. To do this, you must first find the power-ups that are strewn around the five beautifully drawn levels.

While WolfChild doesn't win any prizes for originality or spectacular gameplay, it's still worth a shot. The intro sequence is worth a couple of close watches, and the in-game music, reminiscent of a Jean-Michel Jarre track, is pleasantly up-beat.

Because WolfChild's difficulty changes depending on your level of success, you'll complete the game quickly, but it's still good fun on the second and third attempts.

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Habt ihr "Teenwolf" gesehen? War Michael J. Fox als umschwärmtes Wölfchen nicht herzallerliebst? Ein weiteres Exemplar der Gattung "Dein freundlicher Langzähn von nebenan" läßt Core Design nun auf den Amiga los.

Allerdings ist Wolfchild keineswegs so ein 08/15- Werwolf, der sich bei Vollmondmal eben ein paar Haare anklebt und dann den Mond anheult. Nein, laut des umfangreichen Mega-Intros (beansprucht eine ganze Disk) ist er vielmehr ein echtes High-Tech-Produkt - sozusagen der Beweis dafür, was eine Transformerkammer aus einem schonen Jungling alles machen kann, wenn man sie nur entsprechend programmiert. Denn wie seinerzeit schon Mr. Fox erkannt hat, bietet so eine kleidsame Wolfsgestalt durchaus gewisse Vorzüge! Besonders, wenn man es mit einem Schürken wie dem finstern Draxx und seinem Spiessgesellen aufnehmen muß..

Daß Spiel selbst entpuppt sich als Misschung aus "Strider" und "Turrican". Oder anders gesagt, als Platform-Oper erster Gute! Der lange und gefahrvolle Weg durch die multidirektional scrollenden Landschaften beginnt auf einem feindverseuchten Kriegsschiff, wo man zunächst noch in menschlicher Gestalt uber Masten und andere Hindernisse springt bzw. Lauft und dabei bosartige Robots und Killer- Echsen in Handarbeit niederschlagt.

Aber kaum sind die richtigen Energiekapseln gefunden, geht's als wehrhafter Werwolf weiter, der auch selbst kraftig mitballern kann.

Im nächsten Abschnitt folgt ein höhes Urwalddickicht, wo man es mit fiesen Mutantenpflanzen und einer Art Mega-Chameleon zu tun bekommt. So oder ähnlich sind insgesamt fünf Stages zu bewältigen, allesamt beeindruckend gestaltet und so voller Action, daß fur bewundernde Blicke kaum Zeit bleibt. Lustvolle Optik so fein macht jedoch noch kein Spiel allein -das Gameplay muß stimmen. Und daß stimmt hier tatsächlich! Zwar erscheint die wilde Hatz zu Beginn recht frustrierend (weil schnell tödlich), aber schließlich findet man immer eine Strategie, um große und kleine Gegner ohne Energieverlust beiseite zu räumen und seine anfanglich drei Bildschirmleben erfolgreich zu verteidigen.

Es lohnt sich, auch mal unscheinbare Gegenstände anzubaggern, denn hinter so manch bizarrer Blüte verbirgt sich eine Extrawaffe, eine Smartbomb oder gar ein Bonusraum!

Wie bereits zart angedeutet, kann sich die Präsentation sehen lassen, die Feinde sind vielfältig und ansprechend animiert, die Farbwahl ist sehr gelungen, und es warten ein paar nette optische Gags. Lediglich die Soundeffekte hören sich eher durchschnittlich an, aber dafür bekommt man laufend neue, stimmungsvolle Musikstücke zu hören (keinen Schimmer, warum die musikalische Pracht auch abschaltbar ist).

Alles in allem is Wolfchild eine rundum gelungene Action-Erfahrung. Nicht eben innovativ, aber sehr spielbar! (rl)

Wolfchild logo

We've had Switchblade, and Switchblade II. Now comes, erm, another Switchblade II. Except it isn't really. Confused? Well...

There've been a lot of pretty great wolves through history, lycanthrope fans: White Fang, The Big Bad, Lon Chaney Jnr, Citizen 'Wolfie' Smith, Michael J. Fox's Teen Wolf (okay, so we're stretching the definition of 'great' just a bit here), the American Werewolf in London, um, Johnny Alpha's mate Wulf Sternhammer, er - oh yeah, proto-feminist author Virginia Woolf, and, uh, top dead German dude Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of course. (You're fired - Ed).

But there haven't, as far as I can remember, been any great baby wolves. Luckily, Wolfchild hasn't got anything whatsoever to do with baby wolves, so that's not important. Nope. Core's Wolfchild is actually an unfortunate character called Saul, whose father has been kidnapped and the rest of his family slaughted by the evil Draxx.

Conveniently, though, Saul is afflicted with the power to turn into a spooky man-wolf character armed with psychic weapons, and thus armed he sets off through five levels of all the usual old platforms and slimy beasties to kill Draxx and free his dad. What psychological traumas await the pair of them as they try to re-adjust to home life without the rest of the family are, perhaps wisely, left to the sequel.

Wolfchild comes to you from the drawing board of Simon Phipps, the man behind the original Switchblade. You can tell, too, because Wolfchild is so similar to that earlier game in a number of ways that it's probably almost fair to call this the true Switchblade II. (Simon had nothing to do with the sequel released earlier this year by Gremlin, and is on record as not caring for it much).

The basic game structure is almost identical to Switch I (lots of platform-leaping, hidden rooms hiding behind destructible walls, power-ups and bonuses concealed inside destructible containers littering the playing area, limited-use power-up weapons), many of the enemies look like characters from the original game beefed up a bit, even the 'BONUS' and 'EXTRA' letter-collecting for bonus points and extra lives is the same. There's no escaping it, if you played Switchblade you'll feel awfully at home here.

Unfortunately, Wolfchild also shares many of Switchblade's deficiencies, expands on some of them and then adds a few of its own. The biggest irritation is the Rick Dangerous-style invisible danger (Oh no, here we go again - Everybody in the whole world). While this did pop up occasionally in Switchblade, it's much more heavily used here, at least in the later levels. I'm fed up of droning on and on about why it's such a bad thing, but let's just say that this kind of pure laziness can really take the fun out of a game, not by making it harder - because it doesn't, all you have to do to avoid it is go very very slowly, inching along a pixel at a time so that you never run headlong into anything before you can react to it - but by wrecking the pace and making the game a real chore to trek through rather than a joy.

Similarly, the way that some enemies can take upwards of a dozen hits before they die is a ridiculous notion in a platform arcade game - if people want Final Fight they'll go out and buy Final Fight, or any of a dozen other real beat-'em-ups, rather than look for their fighting thrills in a platform game.

A lifeless, uninspiring run-of-the-mill hack-'em-up

In a platform game the trick is to work out how your enemy moves, discover his weak spot, then get in there and hit it without getting hit yourself. Having to hit it over and over again (some of the level three baddies, for example, are actually more persistent than the end-of-level guardians from levels one and two), is a complete pain in the backside, and indefensible from a design point of view. All it does is slow you up and get you heartily sick of seeing the same old scenery, especially since when you die you almost always get sent right back to the start of the level.

Then again, it only took me 10 minutes of play to reach the third of the game's five levels, so maybe slowing down the pace is a deliberate ploy by the programmers to distract attention from how little Wolfchild there actually is. Or possibly to distract attention from the slightly ropey nature of the parallax scrolling when things get moving at any kind of serious rate.

Then again, the preposterous-looking animation of your physically-freakish /hero (Arnold Schwarzenegger's body on top of Bonnie Langford's legs) as he runs does a pretty good job of that by itself. (Mind you, you probably won't notice any of these things, as you'll more than likely have been driven into some kind of dribbling stupor by the completely awful background music.
Oh God, that background music. Please Matt, can we have Harry Connick Jnr on again? Anything's better than this...).

Alright, alright, so Wolfchild isn't so bad that it really justifies putting the boot in like that (I mean, Harry Connick Jnr... come on, nothing's that hideous). It does boast some atmospheric graphics (level three is particularly nice, in a horribly creepy, claustrophobic kind of way, and level two is pleasingly reminiscent of the Forest of Arborea in the Flash Gordon movie), and the gameplay is harmless enough in a generic kind of way. But really, look beneath the superficially interesting surface and what you've got here is a lifeless, undemanding and uninspiring run-of-the-mill hack-'em-up that's much more in the Frenetic/Warzone division of Core's catalogue than the Chuck Rock/Thunderhawk/Heimdall camp.

After about 45 minutes of it I found myself wandering around the office to review Graeme Souness's Vector Soccer, or make the tea, or clean the windows, or just anything at all, really. When a game exerts such a loose grip on a player that Graeme Souness seems like an attractive proposition by comparison, it really is time to start worrying.


Okay, so we know which one's the real Switchblade II, but which one's the better game? Let's see...

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A close call here, but the bright, deep colours, Japanese console game look and sheer variety of Switchblade II wins out over Wolfchild's darkly atmospheric but slightly rough-around-the-edges style.

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Okay, Switchblade II might be a bit on the minimalistic side, but at least it doesn't make your eardrums bleed.

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You'll finish WolfChild inside a couple of days, but lots of people still can't get to the end of Switchblade II.

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Switchblade II scores for having almost the same first level as the original game and a high level of graphical continuity, and the word 'Switchblade' in its title, but Wolfchild runs away with this category by dint of more or less actually being the same game.

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Well, Switchblade II starts with the same three letters.

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Here's a quick guide to the world of the wolf.
  1. Punch or shoot these and they'll explode, revealing some useful power-up or bonus and suchlike.
  2. This shows you which letters you've collected towards an extra life.
  3. Whereas this one shows you how close you are to grabbing a big points bonus.
  4. This icon indicates which weapon you're currently using - here it's your bare hands.
  5. Your hero himself - check out that, er, unusual physique.
  6. These smart bombs will kill almost anything instantly, but you don't get many.

Wolfchild logo Zero Hero

Patrick McCarthy was foolish enough to believe that he could play his way through a game called Wolfchild (Aa-wooooooo!) without everytone in the ZERO office howling every time it was mentioned. Poor, deluded person.

You (point, point) are Saul Morrow, Rodney Marsh lookalike and son of the world expert on genetic hybridisation, Kal Morrow. Guess what? Your father's been kidnapped by an evil organisation intent on using his Wolfchild (Aa-woooo! Everyone in the ZERO office.) knowledge for their evil ends.

You'd think these world-famous scientists would have learnt their lesson by now, wouldn't you? I blame the parents. If only they 'd had a mother-like mine: "Don't bother becoming the only person in the world who's an expert in something that will appeal to secret evil organisations, son", she said to me when I was a lad, "You'll only get kidnapped and forced to use your knowledge for evil purposes. It's just not worth it." I nodded, amazed at her insight. "Get a job in the glamour business instead," she added, "people will always want pictures of ladies with poor taste in underweart, and you'll never to be short of work."

Anyway, you'd probably like to know a bit about the game, wouldn't you? (It might help. Ed.) As I was saying, Saul, left for dead by the evil organisation with the silly name who nabbed his father, reactivates his father's secret research programme, Project, er... Wolfchild (Aawooo!) (damn), modifies his own genetic structure and cybernetically implants his body (presumably under local rather than general anaesthetic, otherwise he wouldn't be able to see what he was doing) to become a lycanthrope - a powerful psychic man-wolf with bad breath and a surfeit of hairy nipples.

He then sets out to battle his way through five levels and over 300 screens of baddie-infested mayhem, using fisticuffs and psychic wolfie powers to free his father (and then write a computer game about it afterwards).

Amiga reviewPatrick: When you first load Wolfchild (Aa-wooo! Everyone in the ZERO office.) (Oh, give it a rest - this isn't a Mel Brooks film) the lengthy introductory sequences leaves you feeling a bit, er... unconvinced. Why go to all the trouble of an intro sequence if the drawings (especially of Saul Morrow) are so naff?

As you probably guessed, it's yet another parallax-scrolling platform-type thing - the concept itself is not exactly bursting with originality (there are at least two other variations in this issue alone), so it has to have something special going for it to get any attention.

Luckily, though, the game is rather good, and certainly better than the intro sequence. The animation is okay and the backgrounds are quite atmospheric - the level three maggot-infested walls in particular caused some squeals and shrieks in the office, but I've always been a bit of a girlie. Once you get through the relatively straightforward first level, on top of Saul's aircraft, the subsequent levels are hectic trap-and-baddie-infested nightmares that will require all your reflexes (or both, if you're not particularly endowed in the reflex department) and patience to see you through.

The second level has a peculiar touch, in that it seems to be chock-full of enormous testicles. The best advice I can give you is to punch them hard (this maxim can also be applied in everyday life - if confronted with a large testicle, whack it one).

There are vitality bonuses dotted liberally about the place - collecting them boosts your vitality to the point that you become, er... that thing with 'wolf' in the title that causes all the 'Aa-wooo-ing'. It's quite tough to maintain your wolf form, but if you do, you quickly find yourself able to utilise more and more powerful 'psi-powers', which you'll be grateful for when some of the nastier individuals decide that you spilt their pint. What more can I say? "Lawks a mercy, Meery Poppuns, it's a weal challenge, an' no mistake" (© D. Van Dyke, 1962) Stop