Oldschool Gaming - reviewing new games on classic computers
Main review :: written by Mark 

The New Dimension have produced a few too many games for my liking, it's almost suspicious. Their latest offering is a one player collect-em-up; take control of "Ned the Dog", and battle through the levels to save his companion Daisy who is now in the clutches of the "evil Traxxonian". Ned has been placed in the Grid Zone and he has to collect diamonds in order to progress towards his goal of rescuing Daisy.

Initial population of the C64's memory with Richard's handcrafted binary data gives us the game's basic but relatively pleasant title screen. Things start out okay on the graphics side with a half decent logo (rather flat, but nicely coloured) but the title music lets things down a touch; rather nice instruments (especially the arpeggio) but the actual musical content is really not my taste. You are provided with the option of changing the skill level and number of diamonds required to pass each level on the title screen, and there is also an informative scroller setting the scene (but please, what is the "chiggiz"!?!). Once you've set the options, press fire and you're ready to go!

On the main game screen you are confronted with your task; you are in the Grid Zone, a top down cavern of mayhem! There are several to components to each "zone". The platforms; 5 independent horizontal ones, some of which move, and have gaps in between that Ned can fall through (losing a life), a ball which bounces around the screen and kills you on contact, and two fiendishly sequenced guns at the left and right of the screen; these fire inwards at the most awkward of times. The game starts (and restarts when you lose a life) with Ned on the bottom-most platform, and there's no hanging about to be done; collect those diamonds! The diamonds appear randomly on each platform and you just have to collect 'em. Well, it would be that simple if you didn't have to avoid obstacles (ball and gaps in platforms), and try to foresee where the guns will fire next. Judging the moving platforms is also an art in itself, and you can really get into a "zone" (no pun intended) rushing about between the platforms. Once you collect your allotted quota of diamonds, it on to the next screen.

Graphically, this game is nothing really special; Ned is made up of two sprites, using the fairly common hires sprite overlaid onto low res sprite method which gives him a little bit of extra character but that's probably about the only redeeming feature. The graphics aren't bad, it's just that they are not great either. The other sprites and background are pretty bland and the scrolling of the moving platforms could surely have been done more smoothly since they scrape across the screen rather roughly, but fortunately it seems to have little impact on the game. I also would have liked to see a little "Ned-falls-through-the-hole" animation when you plunge to your doom. In game spot effects are pretty adequate, also nothing special but they don't grate on your ears. The presentation is not too bad at all... until, the game ends, and you enter your initials for a high score. It seems Richard is using some kernal input routine, and you can basically do anything with no error trapping - CLR/HOME, CRSR keys etc. It's quite a bad oversight for something that is otherwise presented pretty well. And this is where I have to mention the oh-so horrible highscore music, it's a cross between Jason Donovan and Rick Astley (I swear there is at least 2 bars of Stock, Aitken and Waterman in there) and it is quite a torture. However, I can overlook that because this is a fun little game. Definitely the best TND titles I've played, and I recommend you try it.

Second opinion :: written by Jason 

After the last New Dimension outing Washout, this came as a reasonably pleasant surprise; once again the action is confined to a single screen area but there's a lot of fast-paced gameplay to be had and arcade-style reflexes and a good sense of timing certainly won't go amiss for dodging the lasers and bouncing ball as well. Graphically, the screens themselves change in layout between levels but the actual action remains pretty much the same as regards how the sprites look and move and even which rows of platforms shift and the direction they're going. And, as Mark mentions, that movement could do with being smoother too, it's more than a little uncomfortable on the eye after prolonged playing. The sprites all move smoothly and are passable although they're are a little indistinct; Ned stands out from the crowd more due to his hi-res overlay, but he's nothing to get seriously excited about.

The sound effects are reasonable but nothing remarkable and I have to agree with Mark totally about the music because although it has always been one of TND's stronger suits, Grid Zone doesn't manage to be more than bland at best and the highscore tune really is downright cheesy! The storyline is also typically Richard with "silly" names but one little niggle is the diamonds; what is it with collecting diamonds in TND games all the time?! Surely there are other things Ned could be collecting to save the fair Daisy like keys, parts to a large laser cannon or a teleporter to get to the next zone...?

All in all though, this is a rather hopeful sign from Richard because it seems to represent more time and, importantly, thought going into his games. An enhanced version is on the cards for Cronosoft so we've got out metaphorical fingers crossed that at least some of the shortcomings will be dealt with and we might have to write a new review for that version.

Information

GRID ZONE

Format Commodore 64
Developer The New Dimension
Released 2004
Price Free
Review Mark and Jason
Download Available
Screenshots
Titles Screen
Titles Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
Scores
Graphics
Sound
Playability
Lastability
6
5
7
4
   Overall 6
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