Product: Tarzan Boy
Publisher: Alligata
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #68

Tarzan Boy (or Jungle Boy on 10 Computer Hits 3, presumably for legal reasons) is one of the classic Alligata software titles. It is very colourful and, at less than 16K, was one of the first machine code platform games for the Electron, hailing from the same era as Chuckie Egg and Kissin' Kousins. The premise is a basic one - haul butt to wherever on the screen a little red sign is situated - whilst avoiding all manner of evil nasties en route.

There are a number of great things about this game - firstly, it's very appealling visually. It is done in Mode 2, and features a large variety of sprites. All seven colours of the Elk's palette are used to render snakes, birds, trees, bears and blobs in abundance. Secondly, you will bite the dust only if any one of the following occurs: (a) you collide with any of these beautiful beasties, (b) you fall through the bottom of the screen, (c) you get splatted into an overhead platform by a lift, or (d) your time runs out. Thirdly, the developer has stuck to four screenfuls of fun and has cranked up the difficulty by a notch each time. Whilst one might imagine this could make the game all too easy, the last two screens are very difficult to complete - hence it presents a real challenge, even to the hardened arcade game player.

You have three lives, and your aim is to rescue your beloved Jane who is depicted in graphical form at the end of the fourth screen. On start-up, the game enters a demonstration mode, displaying each of the four screens you are bounden to traverse in turn. Something which is particularly pleasing is that the sprites are different on each of these. Hence, unlike say Chuckie Egg for example, there is a different 'feel' to each new layout.

The game executes very smoothly and your character handles very well, responding instantly to keypresses, and bouncing around the screen accompanied by a 'blam-blam-blam' sound of padding feet. Leaping into the air also produces a burst of cascading notes, and meeting your maker the sound of a pinball machine breaking down (I defy you to think of a better analogy!). The game is extremely kinetic. One of the common elements on all of the screens are the cyan lifts, which can be ridden to progress from the bottom of the screen to the top of it. However, you need to be extremely careful when using them as they frequently, rise right up to a overhead platform above. Should you not leap off them in time, you can come to a sudden sticky end - and be left slapping your forehead for not remembering about it.

Meeting your maker the sound of a pinball machine breaking down (I defy you to think of a better analogy!) The converse of this is also that the lifts rise and fall. The lifts take the form of an expanding and shrinking cyan 'block' and should this shrink to less than a pixel in height with you still riding it, you will also find your character falling through the bottom! You can, in fact, fall as far as you wish in this game without sustaining any injury whatsoever, as long as you don't hit the very bottom of the screen. But, whilst the tasks of the first screen are fairly easy - you need to duck under a bobbing snake, take a few lifts, jump a few holes and avoid the stones being rained through the gaps in the scenery - on further screens, you can use your knowledge of this 'fall impact immunity' to leap across screens and land, say, on a log floating over a river.

Screens three and four introduce new stuff, which is even more challenging. On screen three, as well as contending with a new range of marauding animals, you need to leap across a waterfall whilst landing on a log floating down its eastern side. On screen four, you firstly need to navigate four lifts with a flying bird amongst them and then leap off a springboard first left and then right. I have alluded to these as difficult already, but this is not to give these due credit. They set new levels in pixel perfect accuracy and only dogmatic replaying and study is going to reveal the correct solution.

If you manage to complete the four levels - which is of course, not particularly difficult if you cheat, use an emulator, and keep saving as you complete a bit more of each of them - then you get a rather cool end sequence. With the graphics of the calibre that they so clearly are, this is nothing less than you would expect. It makes a welcome change from 'Congratulations' or just to send you back to the start!

The game does not really have any flaws. It is difficult, but it is clearly meant to be. The author has used his devious mind well in the creation of the levels, frequently forcing the player to pause the game, study the playing area and methodically work out the best method to traverse the screen successfully. Many areas on the later two screens need to be traversed in a strict order and, with the clock ticking down, few mistakes are allowed. Even if plummeting through a lowered lift back to the starting position doesn't kill you, the fact that you now have to do the whole level again with three seconds remaining surely will!

Tarzan Boy was quite a popular game in its day, and it remains inherently playable even now. It's colourful, it's addictive and it's a good challenge - hence it's thoroughly worthy of having the dust blown off it and being taken for a twirl.