A cute Bitmap Brothers platform game by Renegade. Reviewed by Rob Gibson.
Note: This review was originally written for the Illusions disc magazine well before Acorn Arcade was born, so we make no guarantees that this game will work on more recent machines. Many thanks to Richard Goodwin, Phil Coleman and Rob Gibson for allowing us to reproduce this review on the site.
When I first saw Magic Pockets at the back of a copy of PC Zone (not that I would actually buy that sort of thing, you understand), I thought oh no, not another tired old platform type game with cutesy graphics; the Bitmap Brothers must be slipping. Then when I heard that it was out on the Arc I wondered if the whole Acorn scene has gone Bitmap crazy, starting conversions for the sake of it.
So how wrong can one person be?
At first glance it does seem like just another platform game, apart from the fact that the graphics are exquisitely drawn - even better than Xenon 2. You wander around collecting things, some of which give you extra lives or some other power-up, and you also get to shoot at thing that get in the way.
The first shock came when I was standing at the edge of a pit that contained a couple of snot creatures (similar to the green ghost in Ghostbusters); they wandered back and forth in a standard pre-defined path sort of way that we've all seen so many times before. But no! The little snot spat at me, leapt up onto the higher level where I was standing, and proceeded to chase me! Stars circling my head from the bashing I was taking, I let fly with the standard weapon, which appeared to be a small whirlwind, and I had soon dispatched the blighter to the great hanky in the sky. Taking note of a message contain in a scrolltext on the 'continue' screen I decided to test the Bitmap Kid's jumping ability; instead of falling down into the pit, I jumped up then fell down into it, and hit the floor in a roll, bowling down the snot's companion. So, two ways to massacre anything foolish enough to cross your path. I was feeling on pretty safe ground so far.
Your cunning adversaries
I got a little further, after blasting through a rockface and flying via a bubblegum bubble, then got trapped within after leaping onto a ledge only to find that I was trapped within a small box room, unable to jump out. In this sort of situation logic fast gives way to mindless violence, and I began blasting away in the hope that I could destroy some of the stone blocks as I had done earlier on in the game; when this didn't work I got seriously miffed. Then I noticed that, holding down the fire key, the kid's pockets began to bulge (actually it looked like he was fast getting a very bad case of haemorrhoids), and when I let go a huge whirlwind shot out, bounced off the walls and threw me into the air.
Starting again with this new-found skill I went around blasting as much as possible with this giant whirlwind, finding that it would also absorb the creatures it killed, and the resultant Michelin-man lookalike could then be touched to reveal an extra collectable. Also, the large whirlwinds could be used to throw my character about the screen in the roll, lasting much longer than when just jumping into a hole. Not content with this I found that there were other wonderful bits and pieces, such as the blowing of huge bubblegum bubbles to fly around, teleportation devices, invulnerability masks, or a bag which would throw tacks out when opened; when I neared the end of level one I found a bicycle and pedalled off towards the exit - I found I was killing meanies left right and centre, and if I pedalled fast enough the kid would pop a wheely and shout "Whee!". Later on there are petrol cans that turn your whirlwinds into balls of flame, a Le Mans start bicycle race with a load of trolls, which can also play "Chuck Rock" with you...
The star of the show
A finely crafted game, showing how games should be presented. Unfortunately it doesn't have some of the Arc-only touches that other conversions such as that other Bitmap classic Xenon 2 has, namely being icon-bar installable or any other way of allowing you to go back to the desktop without losing your data; it plays buggery with all the available memory on your machine, and for this and other reasons it's very hard to use The Hacker on this game - although I managed with a combination of skill and desperation. It does have a VGA-mode option though.
Magic pockets is a brilliant game, the best platformer I've played, well, ever, and I realise that it must have been some sort of temporary insanity to have ever have doubted that it would have been anything else with such a pedigree. There are so many great touches that add to the game, the graphics are well drawn, the scrolling is handled well, there's a code number system to skip earlier rooms, loads of power-ups... I could go on, but needless to say if you only buy one platform game this Christmas, you can't go far wrong with this one.