Imagine if Matt Round has less of a sense of humour than what he has now (hard to imagine, I know), and he named his first commercial title as Trinitrotoluene. Hmmm, not very catchy, is it? Thankfully, Matt of Malevolent Design has as wacked out a sense of humour as you could imagine - so Trinitrotoluene is replaced by T'n'T (much more snappier) and the world becomes a better place - hurrah!
T'n'T is Matt's first commercial release. You may of heard of the guy through his numerous Fred Magazine contributions written on Gamesmaster, including One Man and His Frog (you see the sense of humour coming through here...), Santa goes Psycho 1 and 2 (both fantastic) and also Retros - the long-overdue Fred release. T'n'T has since become Matt's debut in the SAM games world, and boy (or girl) - it's one hellova debut!
If anyone has played that arcade classic Bombjack on their trusty Speccy, then you should have a fair idea of what the game is about. You take control of one of two characters - Teddy or Tamara. Because the game has a two player option, you can get both on screen simultaenously. The aim of Bombjack was to jump up at bombs to diffuse them, and the action would take place on a screen filled with various platforms and baddies, who would kill you on contact. T'n'T shamelessly robs this basic concept, though I'm pleased to say, takes it one (or two) steps further.
Bombs have been replaced by animated smileys, and it is your job to go through 17 levels (plus 8 bonus levels) of frantic smiley diffusing action. Your progress is hampered somewhat by the baddies which you encounter on each screen. The 17 levels are divided up every two levels by an invaluable bonus section, where a life is up for the taking. But the main action on the screen can get pretty hectic, though thankfully your job is made a lot easier with the presence of power-ups. Bombjack never had this little feature, and the power-ups drop down intisingly from the top of the screen waiting for you to eagerly scoop up a very definite advantage. These power-ups include the ability to fly (very handy!), faster movement and higher jumps, in fact, certain power-ups are invaluable in order to complete certain levels.
Right, the meat of the review! The game itself features an on-disk user friendly players guide, which although only gives you the bare bones of the games (some tips would of been nice!), shows you a benchmark for the fantastic presentation throughout the game. The graphics in the game itself are definitely the games eye-opener. Each screen has it's own personality, and each screen gives you permanent extra powers (normally given to you by power-ups) for you to try your luck. For instance, the first screen has a digitised background of the Mona Lisa which has been defaced - a cigarette she is smoking acts like a platform - though the aforementioned ciggy burns away, thus making it harder to get up to the higher level if you're a slowcoach.
Your character control is great too - it gets one first game to get to grips with your character's inertia, but once you've figured it out, the game gives you a lot of control - especially moving the opposite direction to the direction you've just jumped - a definite luxury for Bombjack, where you often ended up travelling in the direction of a baddy, and couldn't do a thing about it. You can also hover in mid air by pressing the jump button vigourisly, and when you come back onto the screen after dying, you can choose the right moment to enter the game instead of dying at the hands of a baddy without you doing a thing about it. By the way, baddies can also be killed (well, most of them) by means of the bullet power-up (a bit like Arkanoid's shooting bat!), and the feeling you get when you kill one of those baddies is great - half the screen's trickyness has been wiped out!
Each new screen reached is a very pleasent surprise, and half the fun of playing T'n'T is actually trying to see the next screen which awaits you. The bonus levels are also invaluable, with (I reckon) a sympathetic gesture to the poor old gamesplayer and a bonus life practically given away! The two player game is also very good fun, though unfortunately your names can't be entered in the Hall of Fame and you don't get to see the legendary 17th level, which can only be reached in one player mode. Playing with two players definitely makes playing the game a bit easier (if you co-operate!). In the Atomik office, there were some rum old scenes about who should get which smiley! The game is definitely addictive in this mode!
Unfortunately (arrrgh! I hate that word!), after an hour of solid playing, there were two little niggles which still stick in my mind. The first is a bit unfair for the poor deluded gamester - on some levels, as was mentioned, some smileys can only been reached by obtaining the right power-up - and sometimes this can be very unfair indeed (the two disadvantages combine in a minute, dear viewer...). Sometimes it's a matter of trial and error - under a nasty second disadvantage...
On each screen, there is an imposing time limit. You have no idea how much time you have on each screen until a clock comes up from the foot of the screen, hits the centre of the screen 5 seconds after appearing, and then draws the game to an abrupt conclusion by means of the dreaded Game Over sign. No loss of one of your lives and another crack at that screen - Game Over is Game Over. So imagine me getting to the 7th level, seeing one smiley which is unreachable unless I had a springy icon or a flying icon or I figured something out, and then seeing the dreaded clock end my game - even though I was proud to have 4 lives on that stage!
I suppose the first niggle is survivable - it makes you want to play those screens again, with the notion that the power-up you'll want will come down the screen and save your bacon, and I suppose that if the power-ups came more often than they do, it would be an easier game to play. Though the Game Over niggle is a bit unforgivable, especially when it isn't really your fault. Still, forgetting these little troubles, the hour I spent was a very happy hour of addictive action. The game has some lovely atmospheric graphics, some great music by TomKin, and some addictive one-more-go qualities - and I don't know, maybe the niggles work in T'n'T's one-more-go factor. For £7.95, though, the game is a veritable bargain and is one of the most addictive games I have ever played in donkey's years!
Overall - 93%