Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
This quick brown fox Jumps, runs and punches!
If you ain't ever heard of software company Aimo, join the club! However, you might well look out for the name from now on, since they have just produced one of the best games for the Master System - ever! Based upon the jovial exploits of a small fox and his split personalities, the game takes you on a journey across seven strange landscapes, which the fox has to negotiate on his way to coming muzzle-to-muzzle with the evil Psycho Fox himself!
Each landscape is made up of three separate levels, whose scenery consists of multilevel platforms, chasms, slides, conveyor belts and collapsible bridges to trap the unwitting fox, while a variety of crawling, bouncing and flying enemies patrol the landscape.
You have to guide the fox through each level as he runs and jumps from platform to platform, aided by bouncy bumpers, air-jets and springy flagpoles which catapult the poor animal through the air.
Here you are at the start of the first level, in the desert landscape.
A swift punch should see off those deadly scurrying hermit crabs.
And up onto the block, as a freshly-deceased crab goes sailing past!
Jump onto the steps - but beware as they flick down to form a slide!
And a large ball rolls out of the pipe, needing a well-timed jump to safety!
A big leap onto the second block squashes the green flying insect.
Another jump onto the trampoline block and down onto the pipe.
And avoid the slide-steps to reach the platform and on you go...
You have to take care, though, for if the fox falls into a river or spiked pit, or touches an enemy creature, then it's back to the start of the level. When the fox loses his third and last life, a continue option allows you to carry on from the last level you made it to.
The fox's main means of defence comes in his amazingly un-vulpine ability to punch, plus his bosom buddy, a small black bird (looking like a cross between a penguin and an owl), who rides on the fox's back and gets hurled at any oncoming enemies. There's a brief pause while the dazed bird gets his act together, then he whizzes back to the fox like some feathered boomerang!
Extra assistance comes in the shape of shields, smart-bombs and a 'transformation stick'. These are revealed by punching and smashing eggs which lie around the place, or occasionally by duffing up an enemy beastie. The three gadgets are collected simply by walking into them, and are activated using an option sheet brought up by pressing the pause button.
(Image caption) The fox is a pretty agile creature, but often reaches sections of the landscape where he can't jump high enough, or run fast enough, or is simply blocked by a brick wall. In this case, it's time to turn him into one of his alter egos: a tiger, monkey or hippo. As long as you've managed to collect a magic transformation stick, you can select a different character to control simply by jabbing the pause button and selecting a character. The tiger runs faster and can jump further, the monkey is springy and can leap higher, while the hippo, if a bit slow and lumbering, can at least smash any troublesome walls which get in the way!
As if you hadn't guessed, the shields offer temporary protection against contact with enemy creatures, while the smart bomb-style whizzy gadget makes the screen go all wobbly (great effect!) and sucks up any enemies in the area. The transformation stick allows the fox to become a hippo, monkey or tiger, each of whom have different abilities and are used to master specific sections of terrain.
Some locations also hold invisible platforms and blocks which can be smashed using the bird to reveal a hole. Jump through this and you end up in a special room, with warp gates for instant access to later sections of the game.
At the end of each landscape (every third level) there is a large meanie which has to be destroyed by jumping on their heads or by activating the different bits of hardware which appear (for instance, a large bug has to be destroyed with a spray can, and a multi-sectioned owl has to be shot - one piece at a time!). And at the end of the final stage, you face the iightning-spittin' Psycho Fox in a battle to the death (probably yours!).
(Image caption) In between levels, you get a chance to gamble some of the money which is to be found inside eggs. Each bag of cash allows you to set a fox upon one of five trails which lead into a simple maze. Each fox always turns at a junction, but eventually they all make their way to a reward at the end of the trail. Depending upon which trail your fox (or foxes) are on, you can collect (from right to left) a transformation stick, extra lives (a one-armed bandit-style counter revolves, with the numbers one to five. Pressing button 2 stops the counter and you are rewarded with that amount of extra lives to add to your initial three), extra shields, and a smart bomb. And if the fox reaches the large hole, he just falls into it and you get zippo!
If you've ever sat and wished you had a version of Super Mario Bros for the Sega, then Psycho Fox should be right up your street. Okay, it isn't SMB exactly, but Aimo's little gem boasts some amazing gameplay, plus some features of its own which even put Nintendo’s multi-million seller in the shade!
For instance, the fact that your quest takes place across a huge horizontally AND vertically scrolling play area offers some very unusual action: you get a real stomach-churning sensation when you fall off a ledge - not knowing what's beneath - and rapidly drop about four screens before hitting the deck!
The control is really sensitive and has some vicious inertia, which varies for the different characters. Similarly, you have to watch out for changing surfaces, like slippy ice or sluggish sand, and the air jets which blow you off-course! Guiding your character around the screen proves a real test of your reactions, timing and dexterity!
Brain-poundingly addictive and wonderfully challenging - if you only ever buy one cartridge, make sure it's Psycho Fox!
On top of a spray can, the monkey tries to commit insecticide against a large buzzing end-of-leve! bug!
The terribly cute tiger contemplates his next move, as he stands on a desert cactus (ouch!) in landscape number 3.
These chimney pots blow out jets of air which let the fox hover in mid-air!
Hippo has just smashed the wall down, enabling him to continue on his way.
Guess who, folks!
▲ Ultra-smooth eight-way scrolling
▲ Heaps of big, bright and colourful scenes with plenty of variety between landscapes
▲ Animation and movement of all the characters, collapsible bridges, springy poles etc, is great
▲ A series of unbearably jolly tunes bounce along during play
▲ Plenty of good arcadey sound effects to enhance the action
▲ 21 different levels to battle through
▲ Each level can be completed in a number of varying ways
▲ Plenty of tactical thought called for in use of different characters, shields and smart bombs
▲ Amazingly good fun - it's very difficult to drag yourself away!
▲ Dreaded continue option for "just one more go..."
▼ Returning to the start of each level on death is a bit frustrating
▼ Slight pause between goes breaks up the flow of the action
Utterly brilliant platform beat 'em up. The Super Mario Bros of the Sega System - buy it now!