Drawing heavily on the influence of newer console games, Top Byte's latest platformer follows the adventures of a skilled labourer on a treacherous journey through a land strewn with strange creatures and enormous amounts of cash. The classic values of 'something to kill, something to collect' are in evidence as a cute hero bounces around the screen.
STario Land's fun lies in its simplicity. You control a character that can walk, run, jump and crouch to make his way from the left-hand side of the horizontally- scrolling world to the right, and all you really have to master is the way he moves. The obstacles you come across are either puzzles to solve, scenery to climb or dexterous manoeuvres to make, but the inclusion of a swarm of bad guys who hurt you on contact turn every piece of colourful scenery into a challenge.
Bad news for violence fans – you don’t to shoot anything. Though you can obtain the ability to bounce thunderbolts at the more unapproachable evils, the majority of the slaying involves jumping on your enemies' heads. The cash, of course, don't have only needs to be jumped through.
Initially the movement of the main character may cause a problem. You can spot a beginner a mile away, sliding off the end of a plat- form or totally misjudging a jump, due not only to STario's two running speeds but also to an seemingly unnecessary amount of inertia. As you play, though, you'll develop the fluidity and timing that makes STario such a joy to play, becoming smoother and less awkward as you get used to the feel of the game. STario's weighting is about right, the speed matching the parabola perfectly (in other words, the character doesn't look like he's swimming when he jumps).
The emphasis in STario Land is on enjoyment. The graphics con- firm that this is a game with a sense of humour, and the bad guys go from the sublime to the plain silly. From tortoises to typewriters (I think), just about everything imaginable roams the cheerfully coloured landscape. The linear nature of the game means you don't have to make big decisions, navigate maps or get lost - just get to the right any way you can, and have fun doing it.
Whatever it ends up looking like, you can expect a reviewer wibbling about traditional gaming values in a few months. STario Land is mindless, hassle-free, simple fun, and I think you're going to enjoy it a lot... stf