Monday, June 19, 2023

Spikey in Transylvania

What, no Lucky Eddie?

Spikey is a Viking who crashlands near a village called Transylvania after suffering horrendous weather conditions in the North Sea. He has no weapon or shield but has kept hold of his helmet - just to maintain that Viking look. Weirdly, his shipmates have been rounded up and locked away in a dungeon - so it's our job to free them. Thankfully, the cell keys have been scattered about in many different places. All we have to do is find them and free our comrades. Easy.

Is it just me or does Spikey look an awful lot like Hägar the Horrible? Anyhow, Spikey in Transylvania comes from the same Code Masters stable as the Dizzy series so it's hardly surprising that it looks quite familiar for both gameplay and visuals. Released in 1991 and programmed by Dave Clarke who sadly, didn't seem to create a whole lot more for the ST.

Hey, wanna see some screenshots of the earlier puzzles? Of course, you do! So gander at this lot...

Farmer Piles!!! It's like something from a Carry On movie. Brilliant!

The pixel art in this room is amazing. Love the cauldron, the wizard, and the king's painting!

So what's the plan?

Our adventure begins in a village of a few houses, including a pub and a very hungry farmer. After escaping from one of the houses, our task is to gain entrance to the castle where our friends are held captive. Surely an impossibility, as it's guarded by a really mean soldier (hmm, why not try bribing him with cash). If you've played any of the Dizzy games before then you will already know what to expect as you help Spikey scour many rooms for carelessly-discarded prison keys.

Things begin simple and, if I'm honest, remain simple throughout. For example, the first puzzle is escaping from a house - the front door has no handle but look, there is a doorknob on the floor. This is the level of difficulty for most of the puzzles and I enjoyed that a bunch because they never came with baffling/vague clues - or a solution that made no sense.

Yep, that's the level of the difficulty which isn't bewildering but very entertaining. It's time for more screenshots...

I wanted to take this screenshot as the dog approached to take a bone. But he was quicker than me!

Bored, eh? I think he needs a Walkman to listen to. Showing my age now, right?

Explore, examine, scrutinize!

Once inside the castle, it's a myriad of mazes but nothing too overwhelming. And I liked that a lot. Getting around is very easy and makes exploration perfect. Once again, there are puzzles to solve but nothing mind-blowing. For example - a drink for a thirsty guard, ghosts will flee from the Cross, and you should wear Wellington boots in the mud. The only puzzle I failed to instantly solve was with the cannon - which was dead simple and something I didn't even consider!

Walking around the village and castle areas is never too troubling but there are still some dangers to look out for. Spikey only has four lives and each has a finite amount of energy that depletes when coming into contact with angry soldiers, rats, ghosts, dripping acid and so on. Sadly, health replenishment is scarce (very scarce actually) with only the odd pieces of chicken or bread left lying about. Stay clear of rotten foods that will only make Spikey feel a lot worse.

Unlike the adventures Dizzy endured, Spikey can walk left/right but cannot jump. Instead, he moves diagonally in/out of the screen which is pretty cool. Sadly, it's not perfect as you can occasionally get stuck on objects or walls. The inventory is a cinch, just hold fire and move up/down to pick up/drop and left/right to select what object you wish to use. Dropping most objects near another character will solve that puzzle as they will automatically collect it and reward you.

This isn't a huge game but it's big enough for a pub, which is never a bad thing. Check out these beer swiggers...

The local Wetherspoons! My kinda place. But then everyone stops and stares at me! Creepy.

Hmm, weren't there some gloves carelessly left lying about?


The graphics are by Jonathan Smyth who also did Cj in the USA and Cj's Elephants Antics. As you would expect, they are gorgeous and would look perfect in any cartoon with a colourful design. The backdrops are good but it's the characters that feature stunning details - I loved the beedy-eyed rats who watch Spikey. Sadly, there is little animation which, I'm not too bothered about, but it would have been nice to see a roaring fireplace rather than a static flame.

The audio fairs differently with a choice of chip music or sound effects that can only be chosen on the title screen. The music is by Ashley Hogg (again, who worked on Cj in the USA and Cj's Elephants Antics) and is absolutely superb. Sadly, there is only that one tune which loops around constantly during play. If you opt for sound effects instead then you shall hear Spikey's footsteps along with a ding when interacting with objects. And that's that. Bit disappointing tbh.

Here is one of the cells holding a shipmate so hurry up and find all the other keys! Then everyone can party...

This is one of many cells holding our mates. Simple task - find the keys!

This is the end screen - just to prove I did it!! Sorry for the spoiler :p

The CryptO'pinion?

I have thoroughly enjoyed playing Spikey in Transylvania! However, it's not a big adventure and there isn't enough food available to replenish his energy. Also, the puzzles are quite easy (even for me) and I completed the entire thing in just a couple of hours! I cannot imagine fans of Dizzy, Elf, Spellbound or Stormlord will be impressed by that?

However, ignoring these quibbles, this is extremely enjoyable and very addictive. So I loved the progress I made right from the start. The puzzles are logical without any irritatingly pointless solutions which meant I continued on and loved every second. So how can I say anything terrible about a game that gave me so much pleasure? I cannot.

Before you view my map (click it), grab this cool puzzler for either a floppy disk or a hard drive and enjoy...

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