Map of Momentum

Goodness me, after four months of disagreeing with other people's old reviews in "Second Opinion", I finally get to cast my eyes over a new game! Momentum - from FRED publishing - was written by Graham Burtenshaw of SamPaint fame, so it is hardly surprising that the menu screen contains plasma and gradient effects; he has even reused the mausea-inducing palette cycling code to give his game that distinctive look...

The plot is set in a shortish story by Graham Goring (who also lent a hand in designing the puzzles) - essentially you must prevent an invasion of earth by collecting each of the 365 alien eggs scattered around the 152-screen map (a section of which has been painstakingly drawn out above). The screens are presented in isometric 3D format; you can rotate the view in right-angle steps to make sure you've seen everything, but a handy compass always points north and stops you from getting lost. I'm told this owes more than a little to SpinDizzy (an old Spectrum game from Electric Dreams - NOT Codemasters) but I've never played that; people are going to draw certain parallels between this game and Revelation's Sophistry, although it reminds me more of Marble Madness but without the scrolling. Or the baddies. Or the time limit. Or, come to think of it, the marble. BUT what we do have are devious platform layouts which could take all your skill to negotiate, and special blocks which do weird and wonderful things to your fragile craft. For example, gravity blocks and air vents blow you around like there's no tomorrow; ice patches stop you from changing direction; trampolines let you bounce very high (you can only jump on certain screens); some rooms even create a carbon copy of your craft - sometimes a good copy will mirror your movements and help collect the eggs - a bad copy will drain your energy if you let it collide with you.

You also lose energy when you fall off (or through) the platforms onto the planet's surface below. However this is not much of a problem since you are provided with enough energy to be able to fall off over two hundred times. This points to one of the game's main faults: the oddly pitched difficulty. Unlike Sophistry which was divided into distinct levels, this game consists of one gigantic map - and although the north and east sides are supposed to be easiest, the map doesn't seem to divide up as easily as the instructions imply, besides it will prove very difficult to serialise in magazines such as this. You may save the game at any time (that section of the program is, frankly, a bit of a bodge - Graham obviously was too proud to ask for advice! His routine reboots the DOS to carry out the operation, but then must reload to the page of memory which the DOS overwrites. That file obviously has to come from the Momentum disk - you are told to save your games onto a backup, but I don't recommend even that since I always ended up with corrupted files). Anyway, all of this means that it is possible to restart the game just before each and every difficult screen, making the energy system totally pointless. Sophistry suffers in more or less the same way; a solution would have been to split the game into smaller levels and give each a password, but I suppose that would considerably tone down the maze and mapping elements of the game.

Music is provided by TomKin; the in-game tune seems based on a classical theme and is therefore not nearly as annoying as it might have been. Graphics are colourful and fairly clear, however the isometric view can present problems of its own. Sometimes it can be very difficult to interpret the scene you're given - that is no accident apparently, since on some of the screens extra ceiling tiles are added merely to hide, indistinguishably, holes in the floor. That's nasty! Rotating the screen is the way to see things properly, but the more complex screens can still be confusing. So much so, in fact, the program occasionally confuses itself - for example after collecting an egg from an arial platfrom, you may be left with a hole in the 3D which becomes apparent when you move underneath. There are a few other bugs too, eg the (slightly) energy-draining "bad-copy" obviously wants to make a sound effect, but nobody bothered to define one and the music gets messed up for evermore. More seriously it is possible that, after falling off the edge, you can be returned to a position from which you can't move - or wasn't even quite solid ground in the first place - and you are forced to quit the game, or wait until all your energy has drained away (Harks back to Jet Set Willy in a most unpleasant fashion.) Once again, it does seem that the release of this game was rushed a bit, presumably to cash in on the Weatherby show (hardly worth the bother then) and these bugs, which should have been spotted, leave the game with an unfortunate half-finished feel.

So to sum up at last, here we have a very playable game which shows off the Sam's graphic and sound capabilities to reasonably good effect. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that the game will pose a realistic long-term challenge; it is not hard to progress round any of the platforms because an over-useful freeze key halts all movement - even on inclines - and it is also worth considering that I've worked through over a third of the game in less than half a week after getting a copy which actually loaded. Fred promises extra levels and maybe even a map editor, but we've all heard that one before: Grubbing for Gold Question packs, anybody?

Graphics: 77%
Sound: 86%
Lastability: 62%

Overall: 81%

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