Fresh from his Sizzling exploits against the evil toy goblin and his nasty toys, Thing On A Spring (the alternative page margin hero from ZZAP!) sproings back (but for the first time on the Spectrum!) for some new adventures in toyland.
He finds himself in an industrial complex composed of 11 separate scrolling areas, connected by a system of wide and tangled ventilation shafts; through these our heroic coil tumbles. In the piping his somersaulting progress is blocked by minions, but Thing can turn at functions and reverse direction.
He can also collect points by touching Crowns stuck in the pipes.
Some pipes end in exits which hurl him into one of the toy factory's zones; there he finds more varied surroundings, a chaotic multilevel layout of slides, automatic bounce pads, unidirectional conveyor belts, elevating blowers, debilitating lasers, crumbling platforms and descending doors which block or trap him.
An unwary Thing is easily trapped and with no escape he has to quit the screen - which returns him to the ventilation shafts. Narrow gauge pipes snake through the factory; falling into one, Thing is taken uncontrollably to another part of that playing area.
Emerging from the pipe he must quickly move to one side to avoid slipping back into the funnel's gaping mouth.
But what of the Great Mission? To stem the flow of evil playthings, the bonce with a bounce must gather computer components: a tape, a disk, listing paper and ROM. Once they're found he can exit one playing area and progress to another.
Needless to say a horde of evil toys, still on the departed goblin' s pension scheme, do their best to push Thing from platforms and girders and back into the narrow pipes. Encounters with them reduce springboy's limited liquid engineering; the oil level is indicated onscreen by a descending propeller.
When lubrication is dangerously low, it's time to find an exit and return to the ventilation shafts where collectable oil cans exist. A total oil-out loses Thing one of his lives.
Bonuses can be collected by striking red mystery platforms on their undersides. They evaporate, and some reveal extra points, but others give a headache as a heavy weight clonks down on Thing's cranium.
Control keys: Z/X left/right, O/K up/down, zero to fire
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2
Use of colour: all colours used very sensibly
Graphics: plenty of variety in the smallish sprites, fast and smooth scrolling
Sound: average spot FX, but nice title tune
Skill levels: one
Screens: 11 scrolling play areas, each 12 screens large, plus a pipe maze
'My biggest gripe is that the Thing Bounces Back instructions tell you nothing about playing the game, so ft's a bit daunting at first. But once the controls are mastered Thing turns out to be playable, with fast and furious action. The scrolling is excellent, and isn 't done at the expense of the graphics which are colourful and reasonably detailed. Though essentially a platform game, Thing packs enough punch to keep the player enthralled.'
'This has a fast and furious pace, and the play area hurtles round the screen at breakneck speeds. I doubt if there 's anyone out there who won't be addicted to this attractive game. Presentation Is superb - a pleasant ditty and a revealing little demo. I love the subscreen of ventilation shafts which Thing sproings about with the greatest of vigour, and all the screens are appealing to the eye - loads of colour and varied and detailed graphics, giving Thing Bounces Back a very realistic feel.'
'Never having played the original Commodore Thing On A Spring, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a game of a high standard both graphically and sonically. Thing and all the toys are nicely animated, and I like the boppy little tune on the title screen. But Thing Bounces Back lacks a bit In gameplay because it's so difficult, and soon becomes boring. A game to keep for a rainy Sunday.'
Now I've always been the sort of girl for a thing - especially one that bounces back. So, with a spring in my step, I thrust the thing into my Spectrum.
Memories of Thing are a trifle vague but I seem to remember that the original was a platform game. Is that what I really needed to put some bounce back into my day?
The answer is, amazingly... yes! This is a return to those good ol' gaming values of a comic character let loose in a hostile universe... and it only uses five keys, which won't overtax anybody's grey matter. Mapping the areas should keep you occupied for days though.
Don't panic about the plot, which concerns collecting bits of computer program to clear the evil goblin's factory. All you need to know is that this is scrolling-screen jumping and leaping of the most athletic kind. It's so good that you'll forget you swore you'd never load another platform game until your Jet Set Willy withered.
There's a big difference between the Manic Miner and the spring-driven one though. While Willy was only tiny, Thing is much more satisfying - a really big, meaty sprite to get your teeth into. This means that he's got some character as he jumps up and down, waiting for you to grasp the joystick and steer him into a nice, cozy tunnel.
The tunnels are all-Important in Thing, as they link the various levels, each of which is 12 screens in size. Your hero bounces and bounds through this maze and only quick reactions will change his direction when he reaches a turning. Eventually, though, he'll catapult out into the wild, black yonder and that's where the danger really begins!
What is it that makes Thing so fulfilling? Perhaps it's that the instructions tell you almost zilch about what the various platforms and devices do. For example, there's the Blower. Now would you like to risk having your Thing blown? I avoided these columns of bubbles for ages until I discovered that they act as lifts and don't sap your strength, as I'd feared.
There are bits of floor that crumble under Things's spring, while others may give him a bonus boost or sap his strength with a well-placed weight - you'll never know until Thing head butts them. It's important to keep him well-oiled, though, because rust never sleeps; try to locate cans of the slippy stuff for a long life.
There are slides for when Things are looking down; conveyor belts for when he gets carried away; deadly pipes that can suck him in and shoot him all over the level; and doors to cut off his route of escape. Is it any wonder that, as well as the official exit from the screen, back into the tube system, there's also a Quit key for the easy way out.
Thing performs with all the boinginess that you could hope for. Right and left cause him to slink sideways, while pressing down contracts his coils so that on release he shoots higher than ever. Fire combined with a direction key causes a leap to the left or right. This all adds to the cheeky little chap's character.
I've fallen in love with Thing - must be because Spring is in the air.
|Value For Money||8/10|
Thing has lost none of its bounce in this sequel the C64 hit, Thing On a Spring. He's the same old Zebedee, with big eyes rather than a funny moustache, and with more muscle in his spring than a kangaroo on a pogo stick.
And he's still a hi-energy platforms ultra-long distance springy jump effort.
It's almost two years since Thing defeated the evil Toy Goblin, and he's probably almost forgotten the battle by now. But he's got to get back in there and shut down the computer, which has run amok, and is producing ghastly toys at a rate of knots. Which results in a speedy, frantic chase around the computer's circuits, travelling round pipes, bouncing on platforms and dodging the evil toys out to avenge their Goblin Master.
To shut down the computer, Thing has to pick up four pieces of a computer program - a disc, a tape, a listing paper and Rom. These are scattered around different parts of the computer's circuit, and can only be collected if you've got a sharp eye and quick reflexes.
Because Thing is FAST! Sliding down chutes, flying up in air-streams getting caught behind trap doors, these are all part and parcel of playing the game. The trick is to know which chutes to slide down, and when to take a flying leap off the platforms. And don't forget that Thing loses energy when he bumps his head or if he bounces too hard. Ultimately he'll end up losing a life, which is mirrored by a broken-heart icon appearing on the screen.
First, though, you have to get in there! And that means rolling Thing around the pipes of a multi-screen plan of the computer complex. He moves in one direction, sometimes taking other randomly chosen route at a cross-section between pipes. Your object is to steer Thing towards one of the green airducts - into a room - and away from the Goblin's guards which roll around the pipes in an effort to bounce you away from your destination.
There is a way to dodge the guards, but it costs you. You have 10 'panics'. Each time you hit the panic button you can choose to change direction. But if you use up your panics for one life, you're in big trouble. You either have to rely on luck, and reach an air-duct, or you can hit the good old 0 key again, and lose another life. Defeating the master computer isn't easy.
When you hit an air-duct it'll suck you into one of the Goblin's machine rooms where Thing can shoot down chutes, rise to levels on bubble ladders, or travel up and down pipes in search of program parts.
Once I'd been through a few of the rooms I felt a little disappointed because the traps, security devices and alien toys are always the same, although the construction of each room is different and usually well- designed... That's not so bad, though, because the authors have come up with dozens of different deadly combinations. For instance, you may find two ledges, one on top of another. You jump to the left and on top of a bubble ladder only to find that you're blocked to the left by a wall and a hidden door is closing down on your right. You're trapped and there's no way out except to press Q and lose a life, which will take you to the pipes. It's irritating but in this game it's a fact of life, so be careful where you bounce.
I've got no reservations about the monsters, though, and there are plenty of them. There are blue meanies which look like bassett hounds in Miami Vice shades, toads who wear crash helmets and go by the name of rivlets and. of course there's Gerald the Gremlin. All of them suck out your energy by bouncing up against you - all you can do is spring to avoid them.
When you've found a piece of program you go to the nearest exit and take your chance on the roller coaster pipeline again. Once you've got all four parts the program will start to run and, just like that Tron software in the Walt Disney film, it closes down the works and you win the game.
Although there's a lot of repitition in this sequel, Thing Bounces Back is a winning combination of alien action and strategy-building constructions. You don't need to have played the original Thing game to enjoy it but... Bounces Back has double the difficulty of... On A Spring, so if you've only just got your Thingies together warm up with the original first.
Reviewer: John Gilbert
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