Released in October 2003, Washout was at that time the latest in a line of millions of games coded by Richard Bayliss of The New Dimension (TND). Well, millions may be an exaggeration on my part, but according to the TND website, Richard has created "more than 152 C64 games" (this is confirmed by Gamebase 64 - Jason). Also on the website it states that Richard once played in the snow naked at the age of 1 or 2. Errmmm...
Right then, down to business. Picture the scene: A beautiful village called Quantopia, inhabited by cute creatures called Fuzzles, who are basking in the warm sunshine. One day a particularly clumsy Fuzzle, called Slippy, accidentally turns on the water supply in a nearby cave. Slippy panics and rushes to the rest of the Fuzzles screaming and shouting that Quantopia is about to be flooded. Fortunately, a brave little Fuzzle called Ploppy drags his boat out of the shed and sails to the cave in order to rescue his village.
To save his village and friends, Ploppy has to manoeuvre his boat left and right at the bottom of the screen and collect a specified number of falling "gems" in each of the fifteen caverns that make up the cave. Whilst doing so he has to avoid falling rocks that decrease his health status if they touch him. Failure to collect the amount of required gems in the given time results in "Game Over", as does losing all of your health. If you are successful in gathering the requisite amount of gems, then the cavern begins to flood and you have to guide Ploppy to safety at the top of the screen by avoiding the bricks which can trap and drown him. And then it's on to the next cavern...
The title-screen supplies a nicely drawn and shaded "Washout" logo by Johan Janssen (JSL of Covenant). The in-game graphics, however, are purely functional, no more, no less. The main character exhibits a few frames of animation but everything else is static; the falling rocks and gems are one sprite entities. Just like the sprites, the background "bricks" that make up the numerous caverns, are unimaginative and dull. Conversely, the music in Washout does provide some entertainment. The title-screen and in-game tunes are lively and original.
I would like to say that Washout is a decent little game, but I can't. I enjoyed its' simple game play for the first five minutes, but then it's flaws became blatantly obvious. The instructions say you must collect twenty gems in each cavern. Wrong. Thirty gems must be collected. Then there's the conundrum of the flooding cave. The very act of collecting the gems actually starts the flooding that you're allegedly trying to stop - this is at complete odds with the game's "story". Additionally, it clearly states in the instructions that as the water rises in the cave you must avoid the bricks to prevent your character from becoming trapped and drowned. Yet each and every time I completed a level, my on-screen persona merrily passed through parts of the bricks, en route to the top of the screen, without dying.
Perhaps the main failing, however, is in the difficulty level and challenge. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a super-fantastic games player (ask fellow OSG reviewer Mark who beat me seven-nil in an online game of Sensible Soccer the other night) and neither am I a total incompetent, but the first time I played this game I "completed" it. I say completed when what I actually mean is, I played through the hyped fifteen levels before the game looped back to level one, cheekily calling it level sixteen. After getting to level seventeen, I gave up. Throughout, the game didn't get any harder with more obstacles, shorter time limits or extra challenges. It didn't change at all, nothing.
With more thought, this simple game could have been fun. As it stands, it merely feels unfinished. To add insult to injury, while browsing the TND back catalogue of games I found more than a few games that follow exactly the same format as Washout and use what seems like exactly the same game engine; check out Cherry Dash, Missile Blasta and Drop Down to see what I mean. Overall then, I can't recommend this unless you like playing repetitive games, so as to gain a high score. And my advice to Richard? Don't give up, you are clearly passionate about what you do and this is a good thing. Just remember the saying, "Quality rather than quantity..."