Tuesday 22 December 2015

Leaper (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Mike Donnelly
Publisher: Bug-Byte
Released: 1986

Leaper is a single screen action game that was also released for Commodore C16 / Plus 4 Computers.

You play as Leaper and the objective is to light up all the letters that spell your name at the top of the screen. You start off at the bottom and need to jump up the gaps that appear in platforms as they move from side-to-side. To make things more difficult there's tons of baddies in your way such as UFOs and Gub-Gubs and if you make contact with them you lose one of your five lives. After making it to the top and lighting a letter you then have to quickly work your way back to the bottom and start again; by this point new enemies will have joined the fray. The gameplay is immediately frustrating as it takes forever for gaps to appear and most of your time is spent waiting around doing nothing. The difficulty curve is off the charts and even completing the first level is nigh-on impossible; the reason is that the platforms move extremely fast with frequent gaps that knock you back down. Getting to the top and lighting a letter is down to pure luck rather than skill as there's no pattern to try and perform the same action again, let alone six times. To make things worse it's actually possible to short circuit a letter you've already illuminated by contacting it again; considering there's little room to manoeuvre and you don't have much choice over where the gaps appear it's incredibly annoying when this happens. While your character's movements are responsive jumping up platforms is anything but; half the time you press the button to leap upwards and your character refuses to do anything, leaving you stranded to inevitably fall back down when a lower gap appears. The music is the best part of the game as it plays an excellent rendition of the Popcorn song and the animation is also good. 
Leaper is a game I desperately wanted to love as it's a great concept and sounds like it should have tons of addictive qualities. However, the mechanics are poorly executed and it's impossible to keep playing for long as it repeatedly punishes you with very little in the way of reward.
Random trivia: The game was also featured on the Compilation C cassette for Atari 8-bit which was released in 1987.

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