• Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
DeveloperKaroshi Corp.
PublisherMSXdev’06 Competition
ReviewShaun C. and Andy

Main review

Meet Malaika, a young woman living in the past (literally – we’re talking prehistoric times here) who returns to her village after a night away only to find that pesky aliens have nabbed all the local inhabitants, turned them into diamonds and scattered them across the countryside. Typical alien behaviour there. Undeterred, Malaika does what any self-respecting prehistoric girl would do: she rolls up her sleeves, sticks a bone through her hair, and sets off to rescue her mates in this smooth scrolling MSX platformer from Karoshi Corporation (AKA John Cortazar and Eduardo Robsy).

Wait a minute… smooth scrolling? On the MSX? Surely I must mean the MSX2? No, oh doubting reader, using some nifty trickery (most likely involving animating between pre-shifted tiles for the background graphics), Karoshi Corporation have coaxed some lovely smooth scrolling out of the old MSX, and this, along with the cute and colourful graphics and appealingly chirpy tunes, helps to make a great first impression. But no matter how great, a first impression can only carry a game so far, and in Malaika’s case it doesn’t take long for the initial thrill to wear off as repetition sets in. The main problem here is that this is platforming at its most basic. You navigate platforms, jump on enemies (or avoid them if necessary), and collect diamonds, and that’s really all there is to it. There are only a handful of different foes, and you’ll meet most of them fairly early in the game. Even the boss at the end of every world is the same cute little alien in a UFO each time, albeit a little faster and meaner with every encounter.

The repetition extends to the graphics. Although the six worlds offer some variety, the backgrounds, while nicely done, are generally quite simple, with next to no variation across the different stages within each world. This is presumably a concession made in order to have smooth scrolling, as I’m guessing those animating tiles would gobble up a chunk of RAM, but I feel the game would have benefited from cutting back on the number of stages or even the number of worlds in order to aim for greater variety — not only graphically, but also in regards to enemy types and gameplay elements in general.


The lack of checkpoints within each stage only adds to the feeling of repetition. A fatal slip sees you returned to the start of the current stage, and unfortunately a fatal slip is very easy to make. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the point at which Malaika drops off the edge of a platform seems to be a pixel or two before where I would expect. At least it’s consistent, so you can adapt to it, but it does make jumping from one platform to the next feel a little finnicky. What’s more, while there are incentives to collect at least one-hundred diamonds per stage, the diamond collecting itself isn’t particularly enjoyable, mainly because it isn’t so much challenging as it is time consuming. The somewhat fussy collision detection between Malaika and the diamonds combined with the large numbers of them scattered about means that you’ll probably find the game more fun if you just ignore them and only worry about grabbing the odd purple jewel for an extra life.

So the question I’ve been asking myself is this: “Who would be most likely to enjoy this game?” That’s a tricky one to answer. Those who aren’t big fans of platformers probably won’t find enough here to interest them for long, while those with plenty of experience in the genre will most likely find Malaika to be too bare-bones for their tastes. And yet, just as some people prefer the minimalist approach of Space Invaders over later, more complex entries in the shooter genre, perhaps this game fills a niche for platforming ascetics — those who like their platform games to stick to the bare essentials of running, jumping, and collecting. If that sounds like you, then there are hundreds of villagers just waiting to be rescued and a bunch of blobby little aliens that need to be jumped on. Better get to it!

Second opinion

It’s a shame the MSX range of machines weren’t as popular in the UK as some of the other machines of the era. The sound and graphic capabilities of the machine made it possible to create some really good looking and sounding games. And that is just what the creators of Malaika: Prehistoric Quest have done; they made a game for the MSXDev’06 competition (achieving second place no less!) that looks really eye-catching and sounds rather pleasant, what with its smooth scrolling, colourful backdrops and sprites and ‘cute’ sounding chip tunes.

So all is well with the world? Regrettably, no. I have two criticisms, minor perhaps, but criticisms that spoiled my enjoyment of this otherwise professional, polished platform game. Picture the scene: you control Malaika, a prehistoric character, whom you guide through different levels jumping on platforms and over gaps in the landscape while collecting gems and jumping on top of enemies to ‘pop’ them. Sound very familiar? Hmmm… ever played a little game called Super Mario Bros.? Yup, Malaika is a Mario clone. Now don’t get me wrong, this is quite a good clone, but it is a clone nether less and one which adds absolutely nothing new of it’s own into the tried and trusted platform mix. An opportunity missed there then.

And my other gripe? Well this game suffers from the same problem as some other platform games I’ve ever played – that of pixel perfect jumping being a seemingly essential requirement a little too often for my liking. Most of the jumps in the game can be made with no problem whatsoever, granted. But then, you will come across a slightly bigger gap and I absolutely guarantee that you will, with frequent regularity, either jump too soon, therefore end up not quite clearing the opening, fall into it and die, or jump to late and end up just walking off the platform. And die. Infuriating! Is this a failing with the game engine or my hand-eye coordination? All I know is that I can place in two clear groups all the platform games I have ever played. Those where this kind of jumping dilemma happens all the time for some reason and those where the issue never seems to rear its ugly head. I know which category Malaika ends up in.

So what we end up with is a professionally created, attractive looking and sounding Mario Brothers clone with no originality and issues with the jump control on occasion. If that sounds fine to you and you’re looking for nothing at all new or groundbreaking, then download and enjoy. Me? I’m off to play Super Mario Brothers.