The GEK collection consists of two games, EuroBlaster and Joust. Both games require a RiscPC/A7000 due to their use high colour screen modes. Unfortunately we have been unable to get screenshots out of these games, so this is going to be a plain text review!
EuroBlaster could be described as a vertical shoot 'em up or, in more common speak, a space invaders game. The plot is simple; it is some time in the future and the all-powerful USA has decided to attack the new United Europe with all the silly little space ship things it can lay its greasy hands upon and you're the only chap they have to defend themselves with. Plot aside, lets review the game!
Since there have been countless games, even on the Acorn, which take their basic gameplay from Space Invaders, we must ask: what makes EuroBlaster different from those 80s arcade machines? Sadly, the answer is not a lot... OK, so the enemy ships dance around a bit and come at you from funny angles but it's still the same old you at the bottom of the screen, them at the top and nothing much else is there from a basic game play point of view. However, EuroBlaster does do a very good job of the Space Invaders thing and takes the concept forward with nice graphics and some very good music indeed.
The graphics are high resolution and take advantage of RISC OS 3.5 and upwards' ability to use re-definable 256 colour palettes this is why the game is RiscPC/A7000 only. This is used well in the game and gives the illusion that it is, in fact, running in a high colour mode which would use more than twice the memory. The menu screen is well presented and there is also a nice, convenient installation program to ease initial setup. However, whilst on the subject of graphics, there is something which I feel needs pointing out here. On non StrongARM equipped machines, the graphics are very flickery and as soon as things start to hot up, the game play is hardly smooth either. This is a pity because it would seem that since the advent of the RiscPC, programmers have forgotten how to plot sprites smoothly across a screen. The jerkiness on non StrongARM machines really does detract from the gameplay in later levels and is something that could have been avoided had the game been programmed more effectively.
Overall, EuroBlaster is a good game, but as I mentioned earlier it could have done with smoother movement by ships once things get more hectic.
The game starts up with a rather dull banner, leading to the title screen which displays the highest scores and the game options. The title screen is a little confusing, as although the sound, redefine keys and quit options are clear, it is not obvious how to actually start a game!
I was pleasently surprised by the music, which is actually rather good. It's certainly one of the best musical scores I've seen in a budget game. The sound effects could have been a little more varied, but the ones that are there are good, and unlike with some games, can still be heard while the music is playing.
The graphics are all high-resolution, and the because of the redefinable palatte, many of the landscapes (which are used as a background behind the gameplaying area) look like 32,000 colour images. The landscapes are rather boring at first, but as the game progresses, they change more often, and get more interesting.
The main problem with this game is the slowdown that occurs when there are several enemy ships on the screen at the same time. This happens quite often as the levels get more complicated, and becomes quite annoying. However, I believe that on a StrongARM machine this is un-noticeable. There are also a few minor niggles, for example when you lose a life, if you keep your hand on the fire key, the shoot sound effect is played continuously even while your ship is not on the screen. The graphics are also slightly jolty in places.
Overall, EuroBlaster is certainly one of the best space invader style shoot 'em ups on the Acorn platform, but the redraw problem on non-StrongARM machines does cause some problems on the later levels.
To sum up
Joust is a game which follows a wholly original concept, something which is good to see in the Acorn market. As is clear from the name, Joust is in fact a jousting game but this is a joust with a difference as in this game, you're jousting on the back of an ostrich. Your opponents are also riding ostriches and your job is to knock them from their birds by flying past slightly higher than them, thus knocking the knights from their ostriches to the ground. The game is played on a single screen which wraps at the vertical edges so that you can fly off one side and reappear on the other.
This game may sound quite easy given its plot but it is in fact quite tricky because as in real life, the ostriches are rather clumsy flyers and repeated hammering of keys is necessary to keep your ostrich high on the screen and out of the reach of your computer opponents. In later levels the bottom of the screen becomes deadly so if you accidentally fall down there, you'll loose a life. This adds a little something more to the game once the first levels have been dealt with but other than that, the only thing which really changes from level to level is the number of opponents. Oh, and there's also a weird petradactyl thing which flies across the screen and gives bonus points when killed. A two player mode is also provided which adds to the value of the game significantly.
The graphics in Joust are well drawn and suit the gameplay and the sound effects are also good. The in-game menus have been well thought out and the sound level/quality slider bars deserve particular praise.
Overall, Joust is a good implementation of an original concept, something which is always good to see. This is definitely my favourite from the two games reviewed here and I think Joust alone nearly makes the whole package worth buying.
This game is very well presented through good use of graphics and sound. The in-game graphics are quite simple but are all in high-resolution so thier simplicity does not detract from the overall feel of the game. The sound effects are, in the main, quite short but give a very medieval atmosphere which is another good touch.
Although the idea of the game sounds very simple (knock your opponent off his ostrich), there are many little touches which add to the complexity of the game. When you succeed in dismounting one of the enemy knights, he falls to the bottom of the screen, but the ostrich continues flying around and bonus points may be obtained by collecting a dismounted knight before his ostrich is re-united with him. There are also bonus animals which occassionally fly past, which can also knock you off.
Clearly a lot of time has been put into the appearance and gameplay of this game, this is evident in both the smooth gameplay and the well-designed menu sequences. It probably isn't the sort of game that you'd play continuously for several weeks, but it is good fun especially in two player modes.
Overall, a very well presented game working on an original idea. I also preferred this game to EuroBlaster.
To sum up
Overall, the GEK Flying High compilation is definatly value for money. One very good game and another averageing game for just under £15 is makes good sense in anyone's book!