Sunday 5 February 2012

Maritrini, Freelance Monster Slayer (ZX Spectrum)

As a self-proclaimed 'super-fan' of The Cure, I am somewhat ashamed to confess that I played Maritrini, Freelance Monster Slayer for three days straight before a rusty cog in my brain turned and I made the following observation. Maritrini's five stages, each made up of four levels, are named after famous songs by the band. This certainly called into question both my commitment to Smith and the boys, and my so-called powers of deduction – especially as it took Stage 3, Lovecats, to finally make it click. I'm not proud, but still, bonus points for Maritrini from this reviewer!

Maritrini has been unceremoniously sacked as the star of her own TV show Maritrini, Monster Slayer. Like any good entrepreneur she is undeterred and sets up as a freelancer, only to be contacted out-of-the-blue by the former Director of the series, Paul Duran, who asks her to rescue his kidnapped daughter. She has been taken by an evil organisation – the type that specialises in genetic manipulation and turning human beings into bloodthirsty monsters. She heads to the grounds of Mr. Duran's mansion, and strikes out into the woods (A Forest, Cure fans) to get her back.

Maritrini is a top-down blaster in the vein of Gauntlet. Each level is a sizeable, beautifully presented maze full of detailing appropriate to the setting, whether it's a deserted schoolhouse or a secret laboratory. Maritrini must find the exit to progress, but to get there a horde of monsters must be slain and keys to the locked doors blocking her path must be found. Each level is populated with numerous spawners – or generators – that spew forth a variety of monsters at a reasonable alarming rate. The game is heavy on the trigger-finger, especially as each spawner takes around 10 to 12 shots to destroy and those pesky monsters do tend to get in the way of your bullets! Each maze is well designed, but progression does tend to be rather linear until you reach the later stages.

The graphics and presentation in Maritrini are superb throughout. Unlike many similar games, including Gauntlet, the levels are hugely detailed and extremely colourful with not a hint of the dreaded colour-clash. I would argue that some of the texturing of floor areas is unnecessary and, although the game does avoid feeling cluttered due to its excellent design and presentation, it is rather tough on the eyes. This is mainly due to a slight judder in the scrolling, which becomes noticeable because of the high level of detail.

The soundtrack to the game is fabulous, with four in-game theme tunes that are highly atmospheric as well as title and interlude tracks. A particular highlight of the game is the stylish introductions to each of the five worlds which feature an action shot of Maritrini, a snippet of storyline and a tremendous Cure-inspired ditty. The in-game sound effects are weaker; they lack the punch required for a shooter of this nature.

This is a fine game that makes good use of the hardware at its disposal, but nonetheless it does have a few weaknesses. Firstly, I found the controls slightly less responsive than I would have liked, slightly spongy, making both rapid fire and switching direction when in battle irksome. This is a long game, with 20 large levels, and although there is good variety graphically and in terms of enemy type, there is no variation in game-play. There's a lot of shooting to be done, and it gets quite repetitive, especially as diagonals aren't used for either firing or for enemy movement. In fact, without exception, the monsters you face will pretty much line up for you to shoot them and their movement is entirely predictable.

The big negative, for me, is that the game is too easy, even though it does take some time to play through. I am a huge fan of the sophisticated password system that enables you to save your game and statistics after every level – but it allowed me to complete the game at my first attempt! You begin the game with 200 energy points, but because there is no upper limit, by the time I reached the last level I had 2,000! Maritrini is far too generous with energy boosters. If you clear a level, you receive additional energy based on how many points you scored, so if you wipe out all the spawners you are guaranteed a good return. This is the game's main issue and the difficulty could be easily tweaked to increase the challenge.

Download the game here (from the Mojon Twins website).
Run it using Spectaculator (shareware) or Klive (freeware).
3 out of 5

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