Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Summer Camp (C64, 1990)
OK, let's admit it, Zzap never game a Thalamus game a bad rating because, well, they belonged in the same company: Newsfield Publications. How's that for objective, unbiased journalism? A bit corrupted maybe? Poor old Zzap reviewers, you could sense for example that when they gave the mediocre Delta 74%, the pressure was really on them to give it a somewhat positive review. And don't even get me started on Hawkeye's golden medal. -)
Summer Camp was actually one of the last titles that Thalamus published for the C64 but it never really caught on the way Creatures or Nobby The Aardvark did. It's a flick-screen platformer where you play the part of a mouse, Maximus, and you have to find the flag of your summer-camp which has somehow gone missing. In order to do that you have to go through four levels, and your objective is to pick all Acme crates located there. These crates contain vehicle parts for your transportation to the next level. There's also a bonus round in-between, where you have to assemble these vehicle parts.
The first thing you notice about Summer Camp is the colourful, cartoony graphics. Boy, are they wonderful! The second thing you notice is how difficult it is to move around the platforms. That's because the controls suck, which is very frustrating for a game that demands pixel-perfect positioning. The collision detection doesn't do you any favours either, and neither do the hordes of re-spawning enemies, as opposed to non re-spawning power-ups. Again, terribly frustrating for a game that relies so much on them. The game is just unbelievably, infuriatingly difficult. You might find the patience to practice enough to make it through the first two levels (the summer-camp itself and a Wild-West styled ghost-town), but levels three and four (some gold-mine and the moon!) are just impossible.
It's not really worth bothering. The game is just an evolution of the ancient Jet Set Willy formula, with enemies going back and forth around the screen, and you having to climb your way through the desirable object. Oh sure, there are amusing touches, such as Maximus using his tail to become helicopter-like (if you get the necessary power-up), or the cat in level-two which swallows you and then burps you out, or the platforms which you can move yourself in level-four etc. The thing is that the average games-player will never get to see them because he will give up too soon, seeing as the game is stupidly difficult. What a shame.