Viewers of last year's epic Beatles documentary Get Back may have taken away several things. Maybe you though George was right to walk out when he did, maybe you thought Paul was a bit overbearing, maybe you thought Yoko was a bit weird actually, maybe you fell asleep in the middle of part 2 and never finished it. All understandable reactions. But, surely, everyone came away thinking that Ringo Starr was just a nice chap. Not making any trouble, just happily thumping away on his drums. Sound lad, and it's about time he got a game made in his honour. Paul had the Give My Regards to Broad Street game, John had Imagine software named after his song ( citation needed ) and George, of course, featured as his alter-ego Nelson Wilbury in Magnetic Scrolls' epic Travelling Wilburys game1.
'But this game isn't even about that Ringo', exclaims an impatient reader. 'Stop waffling!'
But! A-ha! Look - the little guy's called Ringo, and he's collecting Star(r)s! Too much of a coincidence. So I'm sticking with my theory.
'Well, whatever', huffs the impatient reader. 'You've tagged this as a Spectrum game, and Spectrum games don't look like that. You're clearly incompetent. I'm leaving.'
Here, we need to escape through the porous ceiling, and have just created a block to help us climb up
And who could blame him? He's right - Speccy games don't look like this : except somehow this one does. Technically it's a little marvel - switching screen buffers every 4 scan lines to create a multicolour effect. I don't know what that means, but the results speak for themselves. The sprites are big and colourful, and the level scrolls smoothly and quickly. All the while there's a jolly tune belting out over the sharp informative sound effects, with a solid beat that would make Mr. Starr proud.
Technical wizardry only gets you so far though. Thankfully, the game design itself lives up to the hype as well. It's a 2-D platform game, in essence, with little Ringo needing to find a key on each level to unlock the exit. Using a mechanic very similar to the often-overlooked arcade classic Solomon's Key, our hero can create and destroy platform bricks at will, and must do so to build his way through each level. The bricks can also block enemies, although some will break through in a couple of hits, and others just float through them all ghostly-like. Also hidden on each level is a collectible star. These stars are optional, but catnip for completionists. The levels are quite small, but feel bigger : because of the large sprite size, the visible play area is restricted - you don't get a full overview of the level. This seemed like it would be an issue, but the design takes that into account. After feeling initially claustrophobic, I quickly got used to the viewpoint and indeed it adds a constant sense of exploration that you wouldn't expect from a puzzle-platformer.
Just chilling on top of an electrozapper.
There's plenty of it too - lots of levels, with the environment updating every 10 or so to keep it looking fresh. The levels strike a satisfying difficulty level, with a good mix of having to puzzle out your plan and then having to perfectly execute it. Controls are snappy and flawless, so you'll have only yourself to blame when you goof it up. But you can restart a level as often as you like, so no pressure there.
All in all, this is a triumph, certainly amongst the best of the year. Take that, McCartney.
Go download it, or play in in the browser, at https://zxonline.net/game/ringo/
The author has also provided a technical breakdown ( in Russian ) at https://hype.retroscene.org/blog/dev/1092.html
1 I'm just making things up now.