I must have heard the name "Time Bandit" for twenty years now, without having played it. I definitely remember reading a review of the Amiga version in ZZAP! that sang its praises very highly, but it didn't excite me overly as I didn't reckon there was much chance of me ever playing it. Of course, I didn't bargain for emulators back then, did I?
Snakes. Why does it always have to be snakes?
I haven't got the Amiga version of this, but I just fancied giving it a go, so off to the Steem Engine I went. On loading it up, I was a touch underwhelmed. It seemed like a cross between Gauntlet (which I quite like) and Tutankham (which I hate). A mixture of "quite like" and "hate" would not appear to be the recipe from which a good game is made. Still, I plugged away, wondering if there would be a bit more to it than that.
There is, and there isn't. The gameplay doesn't exactly change... you run around mazes, shooting critters and collecting keys and treasure. But it's not a soul-crushingly hard as Tutankham, and it's a bit more interesting than Gauntlet, as well as being less overwhelming. Although it's challenging, you're given a bit of room to breathe.
Waka waka... what's going on here?
Time Bandit is also set up in a more interesting way. To start with, you wander a small map which features around twenty locations, ranging from pyramids to amphitheatres to spaceships. There's even a Pac-Man area, which is a bit weird. It doesn't really fit, but it adds a little bit of variety, I suppose.
When you enter a location, you'll soon find that it doesn't take long to complete it. Initially that's a bit worrying, but you can re-enter a location once it's been completed and you'll find that you get an entirely new level. Yep... there are something like sixteen levels in each location. That's more like it.
Are you not entertained? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
It's not all simple blasting (or dot-eating), either. Certain locations add complications, whether relatively simple with the addition of ladders to split levels or more involved... for instance, once aboard a spaceship, the computer will probe you for answers or information before allowing you into certain areas, or outside you might find a farmer who appears to want to sell you a sheep...
Time Bandit is a good game, with enough of its own ideas to distinguish it from the games I mentioned earlier. It looks and sounds a bit rubbish, and the actual playing area only fills about half of the screen, but that doesn't matter at all. Once again, a lucky dip into an unknown past has proven successful...