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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Super Wonder Boy in Monster Land

We're a kid called Tom-Tom who wears a nappy and wields a sword: I expected blood and tears straight from the start but there was none! No, little Tommy seems to hold his own well for his only outing on the Atari ST. Tommy (yes, I've renamed him) lives in a pleasant place called Wonder Land which he apparently saved during the first game...

However, don't get too comfy because a dragon has wreaked havoc on Wonder Land by releasing an army of hideous creatures. Not only will many of these beasts aimlessly walk back and forth in a menacing manner but they've now managed to turn Tommy's once beautiful home into Monster Land. Yup, this is where we come in with the task of killing them all, including their weird bosses, and to save the day. Are you up to the challenge?

Monster Land starts off very bright and cheery with lovely colours and a cutesy design I really like. Right from the start, you meet with somebody who details your quest and kindly arms you with a sword. Every level has its baddies who get more frequent (and nasty) the deeper you progress through the land. Easy ones are snakes and rabbits but there are many others which are trickier: bats, mud men and grey things that fire arrows (I hate those).

Wonder Boy has to deal with some of the silliest monsters - which can be a pain to kill.

Slain monsters will leave behind gold coins which you can use at any of the shops you happen to pass along the way. Also, it's worth jumping up into apparently empty or useless parts of any level because these areas might reveal extra hidden coins. You've just gotta be willing to hop here, there and everywhere - like an idiot!

Doorways are scattered constantly throughout most maps and will give you access to various kinds of stores where you can use your coins to purchase items, enhancements, or advice. For example, it's a good idea to carry a shield when that little grey fella is nearby firing his arrows. Other items which you might find useful are shoes for faster movements, weapons (I love the fireballs) or perhaps you're just after some basic help and advice?

Oddly, there's an egg timer displayed in your status bar and I hadn't got the foggiest what it was for. But, when it expires, some of your health is frustrating taken so try to keep it topped up by collecting the tiny egg timers hidden throughout the levels. Yep, they're probably going to be invisible so you better get jumping...

It looks like everyone's fate is in my hands... A drink you ask? Beer!! Ignore my nappy, I'm 18. Honest.

Bosses appear quite frequently I thought, with the first being Death himself. Actually, he's rather slow and moves in a predictable pattern so is quite easy to kill, However, the others aren't defeated so easily so prepare thyself. Once any level boss is dead, you're then able to collect his loot and a key to the exit. Tip: grab the loot first!

Use your joystick to walk, leap and activate power-ups. When Tommy moves, he abides by humble laws of physics with regards to momentum: so he cannot simply stop moving when you release the joystick and will instead slow to a halt. At first, it's rather annoying I gotta say, but it soon becomes second nature. Oddly, the spacebar is used to open shop doors, which can be a little awkward and I would have prefered not letting go of my joystick.

You can't just run through to find an exit. There's always an end-of-level boss waiting for a fight!

Visually, Monster Land honours the arcade game well, but I doubt it'll blow your socks off: we're not talking Seven Gates Of Jambala or Risky Woods. What we do have is a gorgeous cartoon design with the cutest sprites - I love the snakes but those horrendous Mudmen are the best. Scrolling suits the gameplay perfectly and is smooth and responsive. Sure, they reduced the screen size but at least they didn't wimp out with flick or push scrolling!

Audio is pretty good and features chiptunes throughout by David Whittaker which I really liked. They're oldskool style and I doubt they're his finest work but there's still something cool and timeless about chipmusic and these prove that. Sound effects are nice, nothing more the expected spot effects for weapons and so on. No complaints.

Considering that I have never liked this style of platformer (including Mario!), I must admit that I've really enjoyed playing Wonder Boy on the Atari ST. It starts off easy but soon becomes challenging with a massive variety of cute baddies. A good game - but who'd have thought a nappy-wearing toddler would have been fun?

Download for floppy or hard drive!

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