Sunday, 24 March 2013

Cheril the Goddess (ZX Spectrum)

I can only apologise for my crassness, but I don't think it is going to be possible to review the Mojon Twins' Cheril the Goddess without addressing her bosoms. So, I'm just going to get this over with: you see, she has a rather large and prominent pair (see the tasteful loading screen above). And, for reasons unexplained, she is apparently buck naked for the duration of the game - or at least wearing an article of clothing so skimpy as to make no difference.

Despite a discernible bounce when Cheril moves, there's really no need to shy away from playing when your partner/mum/grandma might see. Her sprite is so tiny that no, erm, details are on show - and despite having lovely hair she certainly does not titillate. Think Atom Ant with big boobs. On second thought, don't - it's a bit wrong. Now, there's an image I wish I had never conjured up...

The Atom Ant analogy is not necessarily a bad one as the game mechanics and controls are rather similar, although Cheril has a larger, more varied, platform-based world to explore. She has super powers too: the player can make her fly by 'pushing' up and she can fire energy balls to vanquish enemies. The problem is that doing so drains her life-force; to preserve it, it's especially important to minimise her time in the air.

The plot is relatively sane by Mojon standards, but still crackers, and for once nicely tied into the gameplay. Cheril must gain access to the Temple of the Big Cucumber (hmmm...) to intercept a delivery of 'arogas.' This would prevent the evil Prince Chicken getting his hands (or talons?) on it. But more importantly, the arogas would give our heroine great inner power, meaning that flight and fireballs would no longer drain her energy so drastically. To win the game you must unlock three shrines by finding the amulets that undo their magic seals that protect the temple, then find the temple key to finally gain access. It's not difficult to find the shrines or any of the required objects, as the game world is relatively small at around 20 screens. However, Cheril may only carry one object at once, so a little to-ing and fro-ing is required, and care should be taken to plan the shortest and/or least dangerous route.

It takes a while to master controlling Cheril accurately as she leaps and flies through the air, battling to overcome that pesky old enemy gravity. It's energy sapping stuff, and the trick is to use her power as sparingly and efficiently as possible. Thankfully the game has three difficult levels, where essentially the difference is how quickly your energy is drained when flying. This means you can hone your skills and get to know the game map on 'Easy,' before attempting the game in more unforgiving form. 'Hard' is just that, and I doubt many players could complete the game consistently at this level.

The difficulty levels give Cheril a friendly learning curve with a very stern challenge at the top. It takes a while to master, and it's also necessary to memorise the best route through the game and the location of objects, shrines, and the vital energy recharge points.

There are plenty of nasties to dodge as well. Cyclops monsters and other beasties will simply trudge back and forth along platforms, not giving Cheril much bother. There are also flying monsters and bats that can really give a vicious bite. Some patrol in set patterns, but the worst of them will circle, swoop and home in on you mercilessly. Although Cheril can shoot and send the bats flapping off into the darkness with a couple of hits, I really found it better to concentrate on avoiding them - to the extent that I forgot she could shoot until I came to write this review!

The game has a good splash of colour and the graphics are attractive. Despite its small size, Cheril's central sprite is nicely drawn with simple, effective animation. Other sprites are a little more crudely animated but the quirky little beasties certainly look the part. Sound is minimal but when it is used, it works well and does not irritate. The 48k title music is something of a dirge, really, but somehow I still don't mind it. I must really love the Speccy, eh?

In the end this is a slick little platformer where the central character has unusual abilities and moves around very delicately and smoothly. The platform world is very well designed, too. There are plenty of enemies that are tricky - but not impossible - to dodge and you have to play with great care and an amount of forward thinking to make it through. It's a challenge, and that will spur you on to keep playing until you have completed the game on the highest difficulty setting.

My main criticism is the same levelled at one or two other Mojon Twins games in recent months: it's just too short. Yes, the adjustable difficulty makes it last longer, but it still feels like a mini-game or even a single level of a game. It does seem a shame to have a great concept for a platform game and not squeeze a little more fun out of it.

Download the game here (from The Mojon Twins' site).
Run it using Spectaculator (shareware) or Klive (freeware).
3.5 out of 5