Thursday, 9 October 2008

Roland on the Ropes [Amstrad CPC, 1984] review

In Spain, this game is known simply as "Fred". What a brilliant title for a game, just "Fred". Roland is somehow less fitting to describe our lead character: I see him as more of a Fred Dibnah type dude.

With a title like that, you might think that Roland is some sort of terrible boxer. He probably is, considering the fact he needs a gun to protect him from the clutches of vampires, mummies, ghosts, rats and dripping green ooze (!) as he explores the tombs of Tootiecarmoon [sic]. Huh, I don't think Frank Bruno would have needed a gun in such a situation, know what I mean, Fred? But, erm... [changes subject quickly] this is essentially a glorified maze game in which you climb ropes and collect treasures on your way out of the tomb.

Something you'll notice quite soon is the fact you have to be at the correct pixel perfect position underneath a rope to climb it and at exactly the right spot on the rope to jump onto a platform from it. That said, the controls seem more responsive than I remember - maybe I just had a really rubbish joystick back then. After some initial frustration you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly but this problematic necessity to be precise will inevitably crop up later as you get backed into a corner and panic. Believe me, you will at some point get trapped with a wall to the left and an advancing ghost to the right. In these cases, it's better to cut your losses and take just one hit and walk through the enemy rather than multiple hits as you struggle to dodge their movements.

Back to that gun. You will find that the enemies you most want to shoot are the ghosts: their paths are incredibly unpredictable and they can even float through walls. But guess what? Your bullets pass right through them, meaning you'll have to use your digital dexterity to avoid them. Not much of a problem, you might say - a lot of games have enemies that cannot be beaten, only dodged. It isn't that easy, however. Those blighters gang up on you, and then you've had it. That said, those enemies that can be shot, such as the mummies, make a resounding and satisfying 'poof', turning to dust when you hit them.

For all its shortcomings, Roland proves to be fun in parts. There is an element of trial and error (never a good thing in a video game) but I found myself wanting to have another go, and another - even though I had been slaughtered by a scorpion for the umpteenth time something told me that next time I might be luckier. But this is precisely were the game falls down: much of the game is down to luck, especially at the beginning. You need a huge amount of patience and collectedness because you will get lost and find yourself at the mercy of fate. Once you die, as Revolver Ocelot would say, there are no continues my friend. You have to make do with starting right at the beginning once more, but at least you get a life bar refill at the end of each level.

Indiana Jones has nothing on Fred? Well, perhaps not.


Recommended sequels: Roland in the Caves [Amstrad CPC].

Get if: you like maze games. It's pretty satisfying when you complete a maze, I will concede.

Avoid if: you have little or no patience - you'll get lost often. Also avoid if you are susceptible to getting blisters on your fingers (for those with a joystick).

Game info

Roland on the Ropes (Fred) [Amstrad CPC, 1984]. Also available for ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.
Buy this game
  • Rarity rating [10=extremely rare]: 4
  • Buy @ eBay - approx £1
  • It could be pretty tough to track this game down in your local area as from my experience not many places stock old CPC games. If you can find one though, this was a pretty popular Amstrad game so they may well have it. You could have more luck finding a Spectrum or Commodore copy.

Video review
(more info)

Longplay with commentary (more info)

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