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Ronny is an errand boy. Not just any old errand boy, mind you, but a rollerskating errand boy who used to be a circus clown and now doubles as an undercover agent for Scotland Yard. I'm beginning to get a headache already...

The town of Fieldington has been rocked by an audacious jewel robbery. Luckily, the vicious-but-stupid thieves were nabbed before they could escape, but the jewels weren't recovered, having been fiendishly hidden all over the town in small, gaudily-coloured boxes. (Nurse! The aspirins!) In order to avoid a public outcry at their security lapse, Scotland Yard hire the inconspicuous Ronny to rollerskate around town and retrieve every last jewel box before news of the theft leaks out and outrages the general public. In a surreal twist, a recent explosion at the headquarters of the Fieldington Magic Circle has caused some of the local wildlife to become mutated and many of the local drivers to go just a little bit off the rails, which means that our Ron will have his work cut out to avoid being clobbered or run over.

As if all this wasn't enough, stingy old Scotland Yard haven't furnished our hero with an expense account, so in addition to all the jewel-collecting malarkey Ronny has to perform all his usual errand-running duties in order to earn enough money to pay for the bus rides between the various areas of the town where the boxes are hidden. It's not all bad, though, he can also find useful items like smelly cheese, powerful bicycle horns or ultra-dangerous sneeze bombs lying about which can save him from some of the bad guys' worst attacks, or he can buy them in shops using coins he's obtained by throwing various items of fruit at flying books and falling stars. (Right, that's it, I'm off for a lie down in a darkened room with some mashed bananas. Wibble wibble.)

Well, that's enough plot for one lifetime. What it all boils down to in the end is a horizontally-scrolling platform-leaping escapade which has quite a bit in common with Ocean's forthcoming Bart Simpson licence. Ronny skates through nine lengthy levels avoiding baddies, collecting the tiny jewel boxes, and running backwards and forwards delivering messages to make money for his bus fare. Fieldington is displayed in bright, colourful cartoony graphics accompanied by bouncy music, and the screen scrolls quickly and smoothly. At first it's all very enjoyable, although not very demanding - apart from the odd car or hard-to-spot hole in the ground there really isn't a lot getting in Ronny's way - with the simple controls and fast-moving play making everything flow along at a fair old rate.

There's a nagging feeling at the back of your mind all the time though, and it's a feeling that there's something missing. Everything you need for a good game seems to be present and correct, but it doesn't quite all gel together properly, that magic gameplay element just isn't there. By the time you get to the second level though, the shallow-but-fun platform action has been replaced to a large extent by a puzzle-based idea, which at its most basic amounts to a simple matter of working out which of the various power-up devices is needed at which point. At a blow this takes most of the pace and enjoyment straight out of the game, leaving a tedious amount of traipsing back and forth over the same old ground discovering by trial and error what the correct course of action to get through each section is in its place. Later levels are the same only more so, and by the time you're halfway through the third one you'll more than likely be wishing you'd never started the whole sorry affair.

And another thing. Now, I'm pretty new to all this C64 palaver, but are all you tape users out there always treated like something the programmer stepped in in the street? Rolling Ronny takes quite a while to load in, coming in three bits at first - the title sequence, the front end, then the first level. If by some unhappy accident you get yourself killed in that first level, you have to rewind the tape all the way back to the beginning of the second section and hang around for another two or three minutes while it loads in the first level all over again before you can continue play. This seems so completely inept and unfriendly to me that I have to suggest that tape users take 20% off the mark at the bottom of this review, because they'll spend far more time hanging around watching little white lines than they do playing the actual game, and that's not allowing for the C64's notoriously unreliable tape loading system (it took me some two hours and three tape decks to get this up and running, and when I finally did it crashed the first time I completed Level One).

Rolling Ronny is a promising idea which looks fun at first, but very rapidly becomes incredibly boring, even without all the faffing around with the tape. I wasted an entire Saturday playing this game when I could have been happily sitting at home watching horse racing or old black-and-white movies on BBC2 - don't make the same mistake.




Pretty graphics

Reasonable sound

'Interesting' plot

Funny manual



Very repetitive

Lacking in thrills

Hellish tape multiload

Initially too easy to get you hooked

More of a puzzle than a platformer

...but without the real cerebral pull

Depends entirely on the right choice of powerups

Much tougher later stages, but you'll have fallen asleep long before you get to them

A waste of a nice idea

The levels are too long to maintain interest

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