Sunday 24 March 2013

Ramiro El Vampiro (ZX Spectrum)

The website 'World Of Spectrum' lists over thirty titles credited to The Mojon Twins published over the last six years. It is pleasing to see that their impressive output doesn’t show any signs of slowing and the lovely Ramiro El Vampiro is their latest, and quite possibly one of their greatest so far.

From the clean loading screen, tuneful opening music and menu, it is obvious that the Mojon’s usual polish is evident, but this offering trumps the usual expectations by actually being two separate, but linked, games. “Ramire ain’t got a break!“ and “Ramire gets back the Zaphire” tell the story of Ramire the Vampire and the joys of being an undead parent. Ramire's first quest is to collect the four pieces of a Talisman as a gift for his daughter on her Deathday and then – in part two (have had his daughter kidnapped) he has to return the four pieces of the talisman to four shrines as ransom. As usual the Mojons have provided a ridiculous piece of backstory for their game, which is well worth the time taken to read it - even if just to enjoy the silly names of the characters (such as ‘Raiden the Dead Maiden’). Gamers of a delicate nature will be happy to note that this game contains none of the nudity sometimes present in the Mojon Twins’ game, and is pleasantly kiddy safe. Both the backstory and the game are also provided as English and Spanish versions, which is definitely a "bueno" thing.

The game itself plays as a nice piece of tight platforming, with Ramire moving fluidly and controllably, with a very pleasing floaty jump (presumably that’d be due to his cape). In a thematically relevant touch, our hero - being a vampire - can not spend long in the sunlight without incurring damage. The level design ensures that the shaded areas are sufficiently far apart so that moving between them without getting sunburned pushes the player to be slightly more reckless than is advisable. Cue some nice frantic races through the moderately challenging (but not pixel perfect) platform sections. Excellent stuff!

Along with the damage taken from spending too long in the sun, any contact with enemies and floor spikes will deplete your energy and push you closer to the true death. As well as the regular enemies who follow preset paths, special screens in which the pieces of the talisman are either collected or deposited trap you and contain a homing-bat which will chase Ramire until he's collected all the crucifixes on the screen. These crucifixes actually add a little health, so with a bit of skillful jumping and dodging these booby-trapped rooms can actually be helpful rather than just life-sapping. It’s nice touches like this, and the aforementioned limited-time-in-the-sunlight mechanic, that really lift Ramiro El Vampiro above the run of the mill fetch-quest platform game.

Both chapters of the game are playable separately, and whilst neither are particularly long, both are very satisfying and are very accomplished examples of the platform genre – with particularly effective use of graphics (including nice background art). Despite sharing art assets and game engine, the two halves have their own identities, Part One (which has a predominantly Red/Black colour scheme) is perhaps the more traditional of the two - with a basically horizontal layout of screens, whereas Part Two (Yellow/Black) has a more vertical nature - due to the ascent of a large tower, which includes the potential for frustrating falls between screens. Happily, both parts are great fun to get your (vampire) teeth into!

'Ramiro El Vampiro' is also known by its (far less poetic) English title 'Ramire the Vampire' and presents a pretty much perfect slice of platform goodness. Highly recommended.

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

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