by Thomas Mitchell
by Aik Beng
by Dean M. Lock
by Patrick J. Kelly
With the mid-winter doldrums upon us, many will be looking for interesting new games to divert and entertain until spring's kindly thaw. This review will cover three possible candidates, catering to a wide range of tastes.
The first is Oil's Well from Sierra On-Line. Initially, the cartridge may appear to be just another variation on the "gobble the dots" theme, but this arcade-style game offers action that is both truly different and challenging. Your joystick controls a PacMan-like drilling implement on a retractable tether. You must maneuver your drill bit through a network of subterranean oil pipes, consuming units of energy and avoiding foreign objects flushed into the network to hinder your progress. The goal is to successfully navigate the network without colliding with the obstacles, and reach the lower segments of the screen.
Simple as it may sound, Oil's Well is very difficult, offering fast play, good graphics, and that certain something that makes you want to keep playing long after many other games have lulled you into boredom.
If the scenario of Oil's Well isn't unusual enough for you, then Broderbund's Drol is the ticket. This game puts you into a topsy-turvy fantasy world of screeching witch doctors, renegade vacuum cleaners, bounding monsters and plants with a taste for murder. You are the heroic soul sent into this bizarre never-never land on a desperate rescue mission. Equipped with an anti-gravity back pack and a gun that blasts monsters to oblivion with "reality pellets," you must comb a scrolling maze in search of a hostage family held prisoner by an evil witch doctor. Battling monsters and dodging weapons hurled at you by the witch doctor in your quest, your job is to scoop up the captives as they guilelessly wander around.
Besides the mother, daughter and little boy that you must find, you are also in search of the family pets (a lizard and a crocodile), also imprisoned by the heartless blackguard. This aspect of the game I find especially charming; the pets float through the maze smiling happily and zooming about on their own private jet packs or "beanie belts." (This is reminiscent of a scene in William Peter Blatty's film The Ninth Configuration, which also featured characters ambiguously floating by, propelled in a similar manner.) Drol is the most light-hearted of these three games, and by far the best thought-out. It also features refreshnig sound effects and some of the best pseudo-3D graphics I've ever seen.
Last, but by no means least, is Orc Attack by Thorn/EMI. Attack is easily the most violent and gratuitously satisfying shoot-'em-up on the market today (although "drop-'em-down" might be a more accurate label). In Orc Attack, you are the sole defender of a castle besieged by hellish Orcs, whose sole purpose is to scale the walls and invade. You prevent this by hurtling chunks of mortar down into the rampaging Orcs, splitting their scaling ladders and soft Orc skulls. A direct hit on an enemy Orc rewards you with a sickening thunk and a splash of blood.
As the invasion progresses, so do your methods of defense. Periodically during each attack wave, you can make use of a cauldron of boiling oil, which horribly (and probably painfully) eradicates the arrogant Orcs. Bonus levels force you to deal with a necromancer who calls forth spirits of the dead, an alchemist who hurls lightning bolts, or a horde of fast moving and deadly spiders.
Orc Attack is essentially an endurance contest in which you annihilate as many Orcs as possible before they scale the wall and send your severed head over the side. The graphics are adequate and, well... graphic. It's great if you want to get rid of the frustrations of a hard day, or if you are a budding sadist at heart. So take some of your remaining holiday money and ask your local computer store to show you Oil's Well, Drol and Orc Attack. Whatever your choice, you won't be sorry.