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Alive 13


by EKO

                         [ ]

        Ok, here's an old joke we pulled on our chemistry teacher back 
        in high school. Just before he came into class wrote H2O+ on the 
        blackboard (the vertical line of the plus a bit longer than the 
        horizontal). When the teacher came in looked at it and said: 
        "Who wrote that? That compound does not exist!". "Oh yes it 
        does!" we said. "That's impossible, he said. Water is a valid 
        compound; it can't be missing an electron". "That's not just 
        water," we replied again, "it's holy water!". Dunno why I wrote 
        this, but it popped to my mind the minute I agreed to do this 
        review :)

        Anyway, a little history concerning this game: It was supposed
        to be released a long, long, long, long, long time ago (10+
        years) but for unknown reasons (commercial deals that didn't get
        them anywhere?) the game was held back. What's weird though is
        that I somehow managed to get the PC port of this game about six
        years ago, and it had copyright date of 1996! So, the minute I
        heard that the game would be released I was puzzled, because I
        thought it had been (remember that I got my first falcon only
        last year!).

The game

        So, after such a long time we have the game ready to run in our 
        Falcons. Yay! So, let's go on with the game. I can't think of 
        any category this game could fit in, the closest relative of it 
        being Lemmings. The goal of the game can be described like this: 
        On each level you are presented with a landscape and one or more 
        taps (usually located at the top of the screen. From each tap 
        water starts falling down. It's your duty to channel the water 
        in order to go to deposits and not let it get trapped in 
        isolated places.

        You control a man that has the ability to fly around the
        landscape. To achieve this goal you can use bombs, which allow
        you to blast a small portion of the landscape to suit your
        needs. You also have a limited amount of small blocks which you
        can use to make bridges or ladders.

        Since you are working against the clock a timer is ticking on 
        every screen. Thus finding a solution doesn't just involve 
        finding a path. Finding an optimal solution is required as early 
        as level 1! Also, you have some seeds which, when planted, will 
        grow a tree. Finally, there is a lower threshold on each screen 
        on the amount of water you need to store, so that adds to the 

        Now you have a brief description of the game. Let's see now how
        all this is implemented in your Falcon. The game runs fine on a
        Falcon030 with VGA and I suspect RGB would pose no problem too.
        Each level is unique (i.e. it's not plotted from blocks or
        anything like that), rendered in 640x480x256 colours if I'm
        correct. In fact the backdrops are pretty lovely, although
        fiendishly designed to present a challenge. A nice feature is
        the levels aren't more than 480 pixels high and vertical
        hardware scrolling is used to scroll them up and down.

        The game is joystick controlled and although the controls are a 
        bit quirky for my taste (sometimes I kept forgetting the 
        combinations needed for each "weapon"). Anyway, soon I got 
        adjusted to them. Each level poses a formidable challenge and it 
        requires lots of forward thinking to get it right. Also, the 
        level of difficulty is raised by the fact that only a small 
        portion of the level is being displayed, so when you think you 
        have a good solution figured out you might forget what lays 

        A password system is used to give the player the possibility to
        restart the game at a higher level, which is fortunate enough,
        because playing one or two levels in a row gives a big headache!
        It wouldn't hurt to use a save game though (level passwords are
        soooo outdated nowadays - then again the game is 10 years old :)


        Being a real-time game by nature (after a few seconds after the
        start of each level, the water starts flowing and there's no way
        of stopping it!) this game isn't suited for everyone, but those
        who will persist will find a good challenge.

        The whole game is executed very nice. I could only find two
        minor annoyances in it. The first one is, as I said above, the
        quirky password system. The other one is the complete lack of
        two player support. Doing a vertical or horizontal split screen
        and allowing two players to play at the same time the same level
        would be a killer addition. Also, this would give a couple of
        extra modes of play (co-op, competitive).

        Still, with all these minor whines aside, it's a great game out
        of the ordinary that will fill your idle hours quite nicely. I
        really recommend you to try it.

                                GGN/KUA for Alive, re-written 2006-07-30

Alive 13