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Roland's taking on the mantle of an archaeolgist on a mission to escape the tomb he's been raiding whilst dodging all manner of supernatural entities and nasty bitey creatures! Can he reach the tomb's top tier before his health is depleted by the ghoulish inhabitants?
Keep the vampires from your door...
Amstrad's most memorable metamorphosising mascot, Roland, is back once again in the far depths of an Egyptian tomb searching for hidden treasure and being chased around by all sorts of late-night fiends. All this whilst climbing his way out to escape with what loot he can in probably his most playable outing of the series.
As Roland, you're initially stranded within the lowest recesses of the maze armed only with your club feet, crazy smile and a gun that seems a little redundant in the first round as it can only scare the ghosts away - sometimes! Talking of ghouls, you'll find all sorts of creatures baying for your blood, and any contact with them will zap your energy as shown by the "strengthometer" at the bottom of the screen.
Thankfully, you can top up your strength by finding a little life elixir along the way. There's a number of ropes at your disposal so that you can make your getaway and climb up to freedom. Sometimes these lead into areas where you can find treasure usually guarded by a combination of fast and furious spiky creatures, along with acid dropping from the ceiling, and sometimes they just lead to dead-ends whereby you need to backtrack without getting lost. But the sight of climbing a rope that leads to the exit brings about the kind of unbridled excitement that should probably be reserved for a lottery win.
Now onto the aesthetics! So, what can be said about the look of the game, except to dispute whether it was made by Tom Hanks during the making of 'Big'? After all it is just a little bit chunky and colourful! Whilst Roland is supposed to be collecting artefacts, the screen spends most of its time rendering malfunctioning visual artefacts continuously as you scroll along in any given direction. This is generally noticeable at the top and bottom of the screen, and manifests itself at the top as a fleeting flickering copy of the newly named strengthometer. The sprites are also poorly constructed. You can see the black box background that the sprite is set against as it moves across another element on the screen.
The sound that comes from the computer as Roland walks along appears to be a carbon copy of Space Invaders. It's a weird sound choice because, by comparison, the shots that ring from his gun are a good representation. I should know because I've watched a lot of Starsky & Hutch.
But even with these quite annoying little gliches, which must surely have been easy to iron out, the game still exudes a wonderful element of charm and playability and provides a relaxing level of fun. Even when you're up against the fact that all enemies seem to be a lot faster than yourself, so much so that running away to a safe haven becomes a second favourite to just taking the hit and moving along, you don't feel frustrated by it all. The hit ratio to lifespan is reasonably balanced so you always have excellent opportunities to find an elixir of life or a round of bullets to protect you on your travels.
Roland's sported many different appearances on his unusual adventures (famously, as a flea in Roland in the Caves), and each one has had its highs and its lows. But I like the rustic and unpretentious nature of Roland on the Ropes. It was one of the highlights of the Amstrad 12-pack that came with my CPC464, and I've enjoyed the replay!
Oh, and the nod to Frankie Goes to Hollywood? I remember playing my brother's vinyl copy of Frankie's 'The Power of Love' single to death, along with this game, all those many years ago! Every time I hear the song it takes me back to my teens, and fond memories of Roland on Ropes.
Fun graphics but let down poorly by flickering artefacts and poor clipping of sprites.
I know it was the 80s, but they could do a decent gunshot noise, so walking and jumping sounds shouldn't have been an issue.
Plenty of lives available to keep a positive sense of looming achievement alive.
An enjoyable and charming game that is difficult to dislike even against its obvious glitches.
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