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

According to the in-game instructions for Groops!, this game "is a challenge. Not a challenge against time, not a challenge against an enemy, not a challenge against fate, only a challenge against yourself". Run all that through Alta Vista's online Babel Fish Translator, converting English to English and it will probably spew forth a single phrase - puzzle game. That's right, another puzzle game. Puzzle games seem to be a very popular genre on 8-bit formats at the moment. I guess there are only a few people left in the world who know how to do scrolling, blasting or driving games anymore? Oh hum. And this puzzle game is on the Amstrad CPC. Great, I can expect monochrome graphics, dodgy sound, crappy controls and yawn-inducing gameplay. In fact, no...

A huge round of applause is due to Binary Sciences for they have bothered to take the time to actually stretch the CPC a little; nowhere near it's full potential but just enough to banish the memory of those poorly converted Spectrum games of years past - what a breakthrough! Using a machine's hardware as it was intended, instead of adhering to the limitations of a less powerful machine to save some time. The graphics in Groops! are really attractive; the fantastic use of colour makes the game a pleasure to look at, while the simple animation is cute and effective. Dare I say it; the good-looking graphics on offer here give similar games on the Commodore 64 or Atari 8-bits a run for their money. This game also sounds good - a range of tunes are played from a juke box on the title screen, over which you have the control to pick and choose what you abuse your ears with. All this graphical and auditory sugary coating is wrapped around a delicious centre, which is the gameplay.

As mentioned, the gameplay is puzzle based and requires logical thought and patience. Anyone not possessing those qualities in abundance may leave the room now. The play area is filled with patterned tiles and the object of the game is to clear the area of all the tiles by "exploding" them. Tiles can only be exploded if they are adjacent to other tiles of the same pattern, the minimum number obviously being two. The greater the number of tiles in the exploding group, the higher the number of points added to your overall score. As lower tiles are removed from the play area, any gaps which appear are filled by the tiles from above, which fall to fill their place. Also, should any columns of tiles be completely cleared during play, then the remaining columns of tiles shift across from the left to fill the space left. At any point, if it is not possible to form groups (or "groops" as the game calls them, hence the title) of tiles from those remaining, then the game ends.

GROOP I IMPLORE THEE
All sounds very simple, n'est-ce pas? Well, there are a few different game modes to help speed your hair pulling. In normal mode, you are presented with a fully filled, randomly generated play area to clear. In fast mode, the play area is only half filled, severely crippling your chance of obtaining a high score. Challenge mode presents you with sixteen levels of brain busting puzzle action which increase in difficulty and only allow you to continue if you reach a minimum score. There is enough depth here to keep you playing for a while; the randomly generated levels ensure each game provides a fresh experience. The nature of the gameplay is addictive and the lack of time limits, enemies and lives means that you can take your time for change and make considered, planned moves just like in chess - remember that when clearing tiles, a lack of forward planning can make the play area impossible to clear.

I have to be honest, when I was asked to review yet another puzzle game, my shoulders and head sank a little. But I'm glad I was given the opportunity, because Groops! is actually a nifty little game. It has been coded with care, lavished with suitable visual and audio delights and overall, presents as a proficient, polished production - which kind of flies in the face of those who have recently claimed that "home brew" games are below-par and substandard. If you're a fan of puzzle 'em ups or are looking for a game to play in-between other tasks, try a little Groop action. You'll enjoy it or knacker your brain for good.

Second opinion :: written by Shaun C. 

Here's a game that falls squarely into the "simple concept, well executed" category. At first glance some might take it to be a tile matching puzzle game similar to Bejeweled, but if anything Groops! is even simpler to describe. Rather than swapping tiles around, all you need to do is click on any groups of two or more tiles to cause that group to disappear, with greater scores awarded for larger groups. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, yes and no; trying to ensure that your tile exploding antics causes more and larger groups to form is where the challenge lies, and this is particularly well demonstrated in the aptly named Challenge mode, which consists of sixteen stages, each one requiring you to exceed a certain score in order to progress. Being given fixed goals to work towards really encourages the player to plan ahead, nicely bringing out the core concept of the game. Best of all, each stage has its own score table and its own password, so there's no need to slog through previously cleared ones unless you want to go back to try top your best score.

A glance at the screenshots will show you this is a colourful game but what you can't see from the screenshots is the way all the tiles in a group animate when the cursor is over them. Not only that, but there are a selection of different tile-sets that alternate between stages, adding a little extra visual pizzazz. Accompanying the purty graphics is a whole bunch of jolly jingles and tunes complete with a separate "jukebox" option to listen to them all, very slick indeed.

As often seems to be the case with puzzlers, I was surprised by how much enjoyed this game. (I really should re-evaluate my preconceptions about puzzle games some day). The Challenge mode in particular did a fine job of keeping me and my somewhat lacklustre puzzle skills busy for a long time. Others might be able to soldier through the stages more swiftly, but they should still find it a decent challenge. At least I hope they do, otherwise I'll look like a right thickie.

Information

GROOPS!

Format Amstrad CPC
Developer Binary Sciences
Released 2007
Price Free
Review Andy and Shaun C.
Download Available
Screenshots
Titles Screen
Titles Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
Scores
Graphics
Sound
Playability
Lastability
8
7
8
8
   Overall 8
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