Product: Repton
Publisher: Superior Interactive
Compatibility: PC (MS-DOS)
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #65
Product: REPTON 1
Supplier: Superior Interactive
Web Site: www.superiorinteractive.com
System Requirements: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
Pentium II 300MHz or higher
32MB RAM / 8MB Graphics Card / DirectX 7.0 or higher

The lizard that was to the Acorn Electron what a hedgehog named Sonic was to the Sega has officially returned as the flagship product of Superior Interactive’s new range of games for the PC. Its name: Repton. The game’s name: Repton, or now, in a foretaste of what’s on the horizon, Repton 1.

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of Repton, the best-selling Boulderdash clone that led to six BBC/Elk sequels, memorabilia galore, a whole host of spin-off games and hundreds of PC remakes? Well, at least one of you is in for a treat then. For Superior’s first foray on the modern PC is a distinctive improvement on those conversions put together by hobbyists.

Like the games of many smaller companies, Repton 1 is not available ‘off the shelf’ in a high street store. Instead it must be downloaded from the Superior Interactive web site at a cost of £9.99 per game. You therefore do not get printed instructions; they are just displayed on-screen before the game starts. This is not really a problem however as the premise is simple.

You control a green lizard (He stands on two feet and looks like a man but that’s artistic licence, one supposes!) and move around a small area collecting shiny diamonds. The area you can see represents only a small section of a larger ‘map’ and the screen scrolls as you walk left, right, up and down, keeping your character squarely in the middle. Boulders litter the maze and will fall if you remove a diamond or a piece of ‘earth’ underneath them. Eggs behave similarly but smash on impact and release a very angry monster which chases you and needs to be squashed by a falling boulder. Finally, as the game progresses, some diamonds are encased in safes which need to be ‘unlocked’ by collecting a key.

The game runs full screen with high resolution graphics, the logo being particularly well designed and putting some of the standardised one-colour text below it to shame. In the first of many added touches in comparison with the ‘old’ versions, Repton 1 begins by asking the player for his/her name and creating a ‘Profile’ for that name. This feature allows the game to record information onto that player’s profile as the game progresses. This information seems to be restricted to noting whether or not the player has completed any of the sixteen levels and, if so, whether they did so without losing a life. This nice touch gives the game much more longevity.

The main title page is curiously static for a professional release. A nice rift of opening music bursts out though and the four commands Play, Options, Help and Exit are available by pointing and clicking with the mouse. Play takes you directly to the game. Help gives brief instructions. Exit returns to Windows. The Options area allows you to load in another scenario or profile or start at a different level by entering a password. You can also manipulate the music and SFX levels or turn on joystick control.

The scenarios are another extra touch and consist of sets of levels loaded into the game in much the same way as the datafiles of the REPTON 3 series of games. The password system so loved of the original Repton has, as you might expect, been retained for the PC version, although the passwords themselves are different on those levels converted directly from the BBC range.

The levels are accompanied aurally by the identical ragtime number from the Beeb version, souped up to take advantage of the PC’s superior sound capability. The graphics are also nicely rendered, with the same ‘skating’ feel to Repton’s walk and the walls, boulders, supports and diamonds done in such a way as to be instantly recognisable whilst featuring up to 256 different colours in their palette.

Personally I found several aspects of handling the Repton character troublesome though. When moving around the maze, and particularly when attempting to escape an irate monster on some of the later levels, he would occasionally run on one more space than I intended. The general speed of the game is also a touch on the fast side. On the original versions running at about half the speed, the monster could usually be outwitted by running in a largish circle. On Repton 1, no sooner is the monster visible on screen that he’s got you! The two ‘faults’ (in conversion) in tandem make the game more difficult to complete - so if you expect to run through the converted levels with ease then think again!

In total there are 52 levels (or screens) to complete and the first twelve are identical to the original 8 bit versions in every way. Twenty of them are designed with children in mind and are extremely easy to complete so in total, you get twenty extra brain-straining puzzles in addition to the fully converted Repton game of the past.

So what are the less subtle differences between the 8 bit version we all know and love and this new one? Well, in the original Repton you needed to collect a map character before you could view the complete map of the playing area. This is not so in Repton 1 and the map is available by pressing M on the early levels immediately they begin. One suspects Superior chose this option because the original Repton was something of an oddity in this respect and no map character was required to be collected in any of the sequels in order to see the whole of the game area. (In the original Repton, you also started with four, not three, lives which also has been altered.)

Another small difference is that Repton does not just look from side to side if he is left standing. He also taps the back of the monitor screen impatiently accompanied by a sampled sound to simulate the noise such a tap would make. Finally, the monster looks decidedly more evil from the cute, big-eyed olive-skinned alien that chases him in his original first outing.

Although I have to confess a liking for this official conversion overall, I have three main reservations. The first is that the Repton sprite is plain and not endearing. Repton, by such titles as Around The World, Life Of and Thru Time, had taken on a very mischievous personality, not to mention a very big head, big black alien eyes and a small body. The game would have benefited enormously by having designs more in tune with this ‘cartoon-style’ Repton than touched up versions of the original Repton sprite. Masabi’s version of REPTON WORLDS for mobile phones has the right idea while Superior’s version simply looks dark and unfriendly.

The second is that the time limits on some of the levels are far too harsh. I’ve played the levels time and time again on the original and never had to move like Superman on cocaine to have any chance of completing it before time ran out. Whatever happened to “the thinking man’s arcade game”, Superior?

The third is that Repton 1 requires quite powerful hardware – nothing less than a Pentium 2 – to run at any kind of playable speed. This really is ridiculous. The original BBC version ran on a 6502 processor and fitted in under 28.5K! Fancy graphics aside, the game is identical so why should it need such high processing power?

On the plus side though is that Repton 1 is truly as addictive now as it was when it first appeared all those years ago. Re-traversing the levels in their pixel-perfect accuracy is a conversioner’s dream, the extra levels are suitably challenging and Superior’s version is undoubtedly head and shoulders above the numerous clones cyberspace has offered so far.

The price tag of £9.99 is about right and for that you do get an Editor package as well, allowing you to design more taxing screens to your heart’s content. I would recommend those in doubt to try Superior’s trial version which can be downloaded for free from the web site. Overall, it gets my vote.

Dave E, EUG #65