Monday 26 July 2010

Horace Goes Skiing

The gift that keeps on giving

"HORACE GOES SKIING", second in the "Horace" series of games. Highlighting the problems in modern day society Horace has decided to take up winter sports.

A three lane motorway separates the ski shop from the ski slope, and it's up to Horace to cross it in this Frogger clone. Though there have been some improvements, those improvements are extremely minor - it's still being released for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Dragon 32 and we still don't know what the hell this guy actually is.

The Commodore and Dragon versions were released two years after the ZX Spectrum version, but again there's not much difference between the three. There's more colour this time around, but it's still not really pushing any of these systems to their limits. However, We do have the benefit of a loading screen in the C64 version, so for those playing on real hardware, this time there's some indication that the game actually works.

The game is essentially divided into two parts. A Frogger clone and a skiing game. In the Frogger section, Horace has to make his way across the road and back to get some skis. This means avoiding the software trucks, cars, buldozers and... biker gangs. There are quite a few biker gangs... more than you would ever expect on any stretch of road, and everyone is out to kill the colourful cartoon character, maybe due to the hate crimes of the previous game.

The skiing part just involves dodging trees to rank up points. Typical 1980s stuff I suppose. The thing is, most gameplay and fun is to be had outside of the skiing segment, defeating the sole purpose of this game. Controls are still mapped to QZIP and the quality is still a bit hit and miss, but what is a nice touch is that when you're hit, an ambulance comes to pick you up, which you don't get in Frogger (though Frogger is a bit more fair since the vehicles don't change lane).

Though you could say that the fact vehicles can change lanes means Horace Goes Skiing improves on Frogger. You aren't limited by time but you are strangely limited by cash... which is lost if you die. Despite being made in Britain we're relying on the dollar, so I guess there's no public health service to keep Horace alive without a fee being taken. Of course, if you wanted to venture deeper into the equation, you could try and work out which country uses this currency, speaks English, drives on the left and has active software development and construction sectors, as well as a biking community and mountains suitable for skiing (top tip: such a country does not exist).

The sound is still very bland and although there's clearly been some improvements in the graphics department, you wouldn't frame these screenshots and place them around your house. Of course it was early days for all those systems, but it's not helped by the fact nobody knows what Horace is supposed to look like.

But is it a good game you ask? Well... difficult to say really. It obviously hasn't aged well, and it's a matter of taste as to whether you think this actually improves on Frogger or not. For me, it's a mediocre game, but the build quality is noticably better than Hungry Horace. Guess you'll have to stay tuned for the final Horace encounter to see if the series is worth the time.

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