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Alive 4

            by Digital Nightmares
              (A 'Kwik' Review!)

I turned to the obscurer corners of my CD-ROM collection in those tense pre-
Chu  Chu Rocket pre-release days.  For the purposes of informing you better,
this one came from the 'Transmission' Falcon CD-ROM collection.

And  I found this game,  which I don't recollect seeing before,  although it
dates  back  to  the mid-nineties.  This one falls into the category  of  an
'early  but  playable work in progress'.  In other words,  a bit like Thomas
Haines infamous interpretation of 'Breakout', fortunately saved by not being
totally  crap.  What  I got was a basic interpretation of an ancient  arcade
game sometimes known as 'Quix' or 'Painter' for the Falcon.

This  was  developed  by Tommyknocker of the obscure  group  called  Digital
Nightmares.  There may be some ST-ish origins,  as the intro kicks in with a
cheesy sub-Carebears effect and elderly Amiga style fonts in the intro.  The
music  is  more Amiga-modern,  or modfile though.  A basic options screen is
next, which can allow you to select up to four players, and with a choice of
controllers.   In  a  sensible  move  for  sanity  and  good  sense,  Jagpad
controllers  are  included in there.  Alternatively,  you can go and look at
some instructions on how to play the thing,  if you hadn't been alive in the
early 1980's, when the game came around for the first time.

It  plays  like,  well,  the classic painter game,  where you have to fill in
around  three  quarters  of  the screen area,  whilst a  hostile  alien  dot
creature  is  bouncing  around.  When  you  draw a line  and  join  it,  the
appropriate  area of the screen is closed or 'painted' off.  In this updated
version,  instead  of  a  plain  screen fill,  you get a  lovely  background
picture,  of a landscape, desert, or tropical paradise appearing bit by bit.
Apart  from  the modfile tune playing throughout,  this is the most  obvious
attempt to show off the revamped 'Falcon-ness' of this concept.

There  are up to six separate backgrounds bundled with the game,  the number
being  limited  so the game could fit on a double density  disk  originally,
according to the readme bumpf supplied with the game.

If  the single pixel bad guy does make contact whilst you are in the  middle
of drawing a line to close off a block,  then a life is lost. Alternatively,
careless and panicky going back on the line that you just drew also forfeits
a life.

Of course, it wouldn't be much of a game without some attempt to ramp up the
difficulty/interest  factor,  and   by adding extra numbers of bouncing  bad
guys,  Kwiks attempts to do that.  Dodging one is a doddle,  and can be done
practically  blindfolded,  two is still reasonably okay,  but once there are
four or more on screen, then life can get so very interesting.

  Do you get that boxed-in feeling?

This  isn't  a  game with any grand long-term aims,  but that works  in  its
favour.  It is eminently suitable for a quick half-hour session. Not exactly
Chu  Chu Rocket,  but more like a nice relaxant to wind down after a fraught
day in the salt mines or something.

Tech note:-  It runs mainly under RGB screens, and the majority of SVGA type 
screens,  although  I tried it with a newer screen which rejected the signal 
as  'out of range' on the vertical frequency.  Be suitably warned then,  and 
curse that nannying herz detection circuitry!  It claims NVDI compatibility, 
but I'm not so sure? It should run on accelerated machines, according to the 
author, but you be the judge of that...


Graphics:-  55% - Combines a minimalist approach with borrowed  material.  A
typical amateur coder's approach then.

Sound:- 60% - A reasonable choice of modfile music, but no sound effects.

Playability:- 77% - Ancient but winning gameplay achieves that crucial 'Just
one more go' factor.

Overall:- 73% - Cheap, cheerful and unpretentious is a winning combination.

(C) - CiH for Alive! - Nov '01

Alive 4