FormatCommodore 64
DeveloperThe New Dimension
ReviewDoug and Gordon

Main review

In Racked Off, you control a hungry bear called Barry who wants to eat all the fruit spread out on the floor in strange patterns over 16 different levels – but trying to stop you are four large, unfriendly mutant insects who are feeling rather possessive about the fruit. Oh, and obviously this is an Australian bear since he gets “racked off” at just about everything, which must be one of the poorest reasons for a title ever! Four of the insects patrol one edge of the garden each, traveling from side to side until they come into line with your bear at which point they’ll move towards you in a straight line and, according to the scrolling message on the title screen, one way of avoiding the bugs is to move out of their way. This seemed a little self-explanatory and as yet I’ve not found another way of avoiding them, except not loading the game at all.

The sprites are cute enough, but they lack animation – there are two frames for the bear, the same two irrespective of which direction he’s moving in which makes him look a little like he’s wobbling along in a kind of tractor beam. I’ve not yet found an explanation why the bear appears to be wearing a nappy either, although eating all that fruit would give any digestive system a run for it’s money! The insects look a bit strange, to me at least they look more like frogs and, while they’re drawn in all four directions, again there are only two frames for each and there’s no variety. Disappointingly these bugs are the same for all levels and it would have been nice to see different animations on death too and not just a single frame of the bear opening it’s mouth – especially when falling into the water.

The backgrounds are incredibly uninspired and are the kind of thing that a coder would use while he was developing the game and waiting for the final graphics. I didn’t even realise the water was a hazard until I touched it! The music on the title screen is rather annoying especially at the start; the melody suits the game, it’s just the overwhelming arpeggios. Things do improve for the in game music where it compliments the game and adds to the frenetic atmosphere.

While it doesn’t completely ruin the game, the quirky collision detection can make things a little unpredictable. There’s also a feeling that the coder isn’t entirely sure how wide his sprites are which causes some frustration when the row of fruit you thought would be collected isn’t. When moving vertically you clear fruit in a two character wide path, travel horizontally and you clear a path three fruits wide! (Which is bizarre as the sprite is actually wider than it is tall!)

Despite all this, the game plays reasonably well. It’s quick to get into the action – sometimes a bit two quick as occasionally you start inches away from an insect which normally results in a near-instantaneous death, especially when you’ve just started a new level and coming to terms with the layout. It’s even more annoying when someone’s put a rock right in front of you too! As a result the difficulty curve feels unbalanced, a common problem when only the author of the game has tested it.

In summary, Racked Off isn’t a bad game, it’s quick and simple to play and the idea behind it is sound. The most annoying thing, more annoying that any of the faults described above is that with a little more attention to detail and a some more play testing there was real potential to make this a great little game.

Second opinion

If I was to say that Racked Off was a bit like the 80s classic Mousetrap without the maze, doors and special items, you would be forgiven for not exploding with excitement. On the plus side though, at least this is one Richard Bayliss game you won’t be disappointed with, for Racked Off turns out to be just about as fun as it sounds.

The near-primary colour graphics and crudely animated sprites suit this game, which seems geared towards a kiddie retrogamer market, though the Rob Hubbard-meets-Chucklevision SID tune could be one dose of kitsch too far. The joystick control is a mite over-sensitive and the lack of a high score counter is disconcerting, but even so, after a couple of games Racked Off seems decent enough. With longer sessions however, the game’s title takes on a whole new meaning.

One later stage has a colour scheme that blends in with the food, making it hard to see what needs to be picked up. Sticky sprite syndrome rears its head too with boulders on some levels that your character just can’t get through properly. Not only that, enemy sprites can appear out of nowhere on the edge of the screen to kill you without any chance of being avoided. All this combined with that relentless CBeebies-inspired tune might not just have you feeling “racked off” – you could be so frustrated you’ll end up looking like a guy suffering from acute rabies.

Despite these criticisms, the game more or less does what it sets out to do. Considering that some of Richard Bayliss’ recent games have not even been that good, Racked Off can be considered a tentative step forward, and for that we should be thankful.