Monday 1 February 2016

Winter Wally (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Steven MacIlwee
Publisher: Alternative Software
Released: 1987

Winter Wally is a multi-screen platformer from the same developer as California Run (1988, Atari 8-bit).

You control a penguin called Percy who has fallen into a cave while out on a morning stroll. There's nine stages in total and the objective is to collect any stray items, avoid all enemies and work your way to the exit. Each stage is unique and you'll be avoiding flying ice blocks across multiple levels, and timing your jumps to reach new platforms. They're all fun to play and the controls are solid and responsive. The difficulty is uneven though as Stage 2 features some tricky platforming as you jump onto a moving ramp, shuffle your way to the end and attempt to leap to the exit while being pushed backwards; it's the hardest stage as it takes real skill and precision. In contrast, Stage 3 is a breeze and simply involves jumping onto an iceberg and riding it to the top. Later stages challenge you to reach a mid-air object to transport to the exit, as well as making pixel perfect jumps while avoiding falling icicles. An ending screen would have been nice as you simply loop back to Stage 1 after completing everything; there's also no noticeable difficulty increase so the only reason to keep playing is to rack up a high score. My main issue is the inconsistent collision detection; the majority of times I lost lives was because Percy fell straight through a platform despite landing on it with tons of space to spare! It's an unfortunate annoyance but at least the title screen gives you the option to select any of the stages from the get-go. The music consists of a short loop with only three notes and a crappy sounding snare drum; there's also a programming bug as it frequently loops the same part without finishing the sequence. The graphics aren't anything special but I like the facial animation when Percy walks.
Winter Wally won't hold your attention for long but it's a fun little platformer and I appreciate the effort that went into making each stage unique. It's undoubtedly lacking in content and has a few technical issues but if you're just looking for a quick game to kill a few minutes this one is ideal.
Random trivia: The game was also released on the Micro Designs label, although the exact year is unknown.

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