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

Okay, here was a Spectrum game on my "desk" again, so I decided that this time I'll play it on my real Spectrum. I don't have any permanent way of transferring files, so I proceeded to download "Taper" for the PC (it can play Speccy tape images back through the soundcard) since it worked last time I used it. However in the intervening time I've upgraded and nowadays this old DOS type program doesn't seem to recognise the onboard sound in my new PC, so a little searching later brings me to its currently maintained ideological cousin for Windows, "Tapir". So I'm all set to go. Or would be if there wasn't a problem with the Spectrum's power connector. A few soldering iron burns later, and we are ready to try again; I power up the machine and press "J" for a LOAD and... nada, not a sausage. So it's out with the screwdriver again and a few snips to some ribbon connectors. This time we really are ready to go: I connect the Speccy to my amp and Tapir starts playing back the Pamela The Zombie Hunter TZX file.

So with the stress of getting my Spectrum to actually work now behind me, I look forward to a nice game with Pamela. Presentation seems to be rather nice, with a decent picture giving some respite from loading boredom. And it doesn't stop there because, when we get there, the title screen appears with the same lovely script font from the picture and it looks very attractive. We also a get an option to read Pamela's background story, which isn't flashy but gives a nice touch. Aside from that we have the usual keyboard or joystick options (no redefine, but the chosen keys are fine) and a seemingly fitting but rather annoying title tune. And pressing the key to begin gives us a spooky scream sample. So initial impressions are higher than average, but unfortunately when the game proper begins things start to slide...

You see, there really isn't much of a game here at all. What you get is the challenge of walking, jumping, ducking and shooting. I say challenge but there isn't any degree of skill involved really. At the beginning of the game, two zombies approach from either side of the screen with our heroine in the middle trying to dodge the projectiles from their laser eyes or something. Which is easy. Then we have the necessity to kill these zombies before they touch you and, although multiple shots are required, this too is easy. The main object of the game seems to be to travel a certain distance through each level to reach the next, and presumably eventually the end of the game. Strangely I found this the hardest part as it seemed hard to remember to walk when I was shooting and ducking. You are against the clock too, so it is advisable to keep moving and there are rats that make an appearance later on and to avoid them you must jump over them.

The sound in the game, save from the weak title tune, is okay. A few blips here and there, but the sampled screams are nice. The graphics too are pretty decent; I particularly like the detail in the blue background above the playfield and, as I mentioned before, the script font used in the game logo is really pretty. Pamela seems to have a half decent level of animation too, she didn't walk out the doors of Epyx, but it's okay. I do have a feeling this game could have been better, for instance there seems to be no initial learning curve. When you begin for the first time the zombies respawn far too quickly when killed, and therefore approach Pamela again too quickly, so that as a player new to the game you don't get a chance to gain any of the satisfaction you get from being eased into a game, and making a few easy kills. It only takes one or two plays to adjust to this fact, but I feel if there had been a kinder learning curve I could have gotten into this game a bit more and felt some kind of purpose in my new role. There also seems to be a bug in the input routines somewhere too, since I got stuck in the same position once or twice which I'm pretty sure wasn't down to my Speccy maintenance skills. And as it was, the game turned out to be a bit like my experience of getting my Spectrum back into shape; a bit slow and a bit laborious. I won't say that you should avoid this game because I feel that many might enjoy it to some degree. It's really is not the best of games though, and you should be at least prepared for some possible disappointment in the event of giving it your time.

Second opinion :: written by Jason 

Despite the very obvious televisual vampire-dispatching influences, Buffy... oh sorry, I mean Pamela also seems to owes a vague debt to Martech's Vixen in that it takes a strong (albeit scantily clad) female lead and puts her in a scrolling landscape populated by a series of nasties that are just too damned hard to destroy! Except that Pamela The Zombie Hunter takes that difficulty level to whole new heights, the energy bolts our heroine flings around aren't particularly effective and three shots are required to send assorted reanimated corpses into the hereafter, whilst the zombies themselves need just one shot or even to merely touch Pammy in order for her to join them amongst the ranks of the living dead. Of course, that wouldn't be a good thing.

Sadly, unlike the aforementioned Vixen where the saving graces were the graphics and probably the cover art featuring a scantily-clad Corrine Russell squatting over a pot plant, the graphics here are weak with the scrolling eschewing the idea of platforms or anything complex in favour of a black area for the various protagonists to move through, bordered by some headstones in the distance and some small rocks in the foreground, presumably to give a feeling of depth that is then utterly wrecked by the motion of the game itself. The approaching cadavers have seemingly taken their cues from the Incredible Hulk with lots of green skin on show, clad only with the remains of a pair of trousers and who in their right mind would go vampire zombie slaying in just an off-the-shoulder mini-dress anyway?! Sound isn't much better, there's a beeper-driven tune for the titles page that is reasonable enough, but during the game itself there is a decent, blood-curdling sampled scream that seems out of place amongst the series of farts and burps used for the remaining sound effects.

The final nail in the coffin (if you'll excuse that rather poor pun) has to be gameplay though, more importantly the lack thereof. Walking along doesn't affect the positions or movement of the attackers (in other words, if you walk right the zombie to your left must be speeding up and the one to your right stopping despite their animation speeds not changing) and, due to the nasties lobbing bullets around at head height, most of the playing time will be spent at a crouch, firing into their guts like a mad thing whilst the time runs out! There is an option to make Pammy jump by pushing up on the joystick but it's almost always straight into the arms of an attacker or the path of a bullet and the joystick doesn't accept some movement commands when fire is held down. All of this and the sheer number of shots needed to kill a zombie means that actually progressing through the level is, at best, a slow and painful process and at worst frustratingly terminal. Pamela The Zombie Hunter certainly not the worst game we've ever seen at Oldschool Gaming but it really could have been so much better with some proper play testing and thought.

Information

PAMELA THE ZOMBIE HUNTER

Format Sinclair Spectrum
Developer Rafal Miazga
Publisher Spectrum Games Compo
Released 2005
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
6
3
3
   Overall 4
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