Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Rolling Ronny: The Errand-Boy (Amiga)

Rolling Ronny title screen amiga Orlando
Developer:Starbyte and/or Touch of Magic|Release Date:1991|Systems:Amiga, Atari ST, C64, DOS

This week on Super Adventures I'm playing an Amiga game about a clown on roller skates!

Why? Because the title Rolling Ronny popped into my head the other day for no reason and decided it was going to sit in my brain for a while. So I went looking through my memory for clues to why I remembered this name all of a sudden and realised that I have no idea what the game is. I'm sure I must have played it back in the day but what I saw on my flicking CRT TV screen was apparently so horrifying that my mind blanked it out to protect my sanity. Either that or it's just not very memorable. So now I'm playing it again so that I'll know one way or the other, for my records.

I'll give it an hour or two, take some screenshots and write what's going on underneath them as I go. Because that's what my site's about.


I don't usually take screenshots of the opening logos, but I'm a sucker for metallic writing. Especially if there's lens flares. Little multi-coloured squares on the other hand I can take or leave.

Wait. 'Orlando'... where have I seen that name before?

Clown-o-Mania title screen Amiga Orlando
Oh right, it's written on the title screen to the game Clown-o-Mania! Dude just likes his clowns I guess. Clowns, chrome text and shiny balls. Nice artwork though, the guy's got some skills.

But now I'm wondering if this is Ronny's dad. Or maybe Ronny 20 years later, still trapped in his abstract hellscape. Because that's what he deserves

Alright I've reached the menu screen and it's all bottles. Bottles that won't bloody sit still.

The game was also released on PC, C64 and Atari ST, and they've all got the drinks cabinet theme going on in their menus. It's utter chaos in the Atari ST version though as it's got several bottles all flipping out at once. The DOS version has its own unique feature: 4 player mode. But I'm only one person so I won't get much use out of it.

I suppose I should check out 'How to Play' seeing as it's right there on the menu. Just as long as I don't have to drink any of it.

But... why magenta?

Okay that's a really busy screen so I'm going to entirely ignore it for now and keep the screenshot as a handy reference.

Another screen full of information. Also look how thin Ronny's limbs are! He's got little stick figure legs.

But, uh, that's not how you hold a joystick. The buttons are meant to go at the top. Unless I'm supposed to play this with the joystick upside down? Either way I'll need to be near the keyboard as it uses the F1-F4 keys to activate

All this information and not even a paragraph of backstory letting me know my motivation for jumping on things! I guess the ways of a clown are mysterious and inscrutable. Let's see what 'Start Game' gets me then.

I picked up a spinny cube and then blew up an antique car with my rapid-fire fruit gun! You'd think that murdering motorists would be a bad thing, but I got a coin for it so it's apparently cool and good. Though when the car respawned I got nothing for killing it a second time, so it seems that I'm being encouraged to keep moving forward.

It turns out that I don't have to hold the joystick upside down like a crazy person after all. In fact the controls are actually pretty good; he's a very responsive clown. But the weird thing is that there isn't a hint of inertia or momentum. You'd think that a guy with roller skates would move like Sonic the Hedgehog, but nope if I let go of the stick he immediately stops.

Look at how precise the jumping is! It has to be really considering the tiny platforms and microscopic pickups.

I'm not impressed with how coins sometimes appear out of nowhere while I'm jumping around though. It means I have to keep going back for them! Then I have to hear the item pickup sound effect again, which sounds like, I dunno... a plasma bolt crashing into an energy shield. Still it could've been worse, they could've played a cash register sound every time.

Actually it is worse as there's also cheerful platformer music playing the whole time.

No, not the birds as well! What have I done? Well I guess it's their own fault for crapping on me as I walked by, making themselves my enemy in the eyes of the bomb. They sealed their own fate.

I couldn't kill the shiny balls by shooting at them so I decided to try the bomb gadget they were guarding. Turns out that it's a one-use screen-clearing smart bomb, effective against even indestructible foes. So next time I get hold of one I probably shouldn't waste it like this.

Oh I can shoot these falling stars for money? Extra cash is nice, though it is costing me some of my limited fruit energy ammo each time I blow one up. Also some of my time, as my timer's always ticking down while I'm screwing around.

I've just found a parcel in the street!

The game gave me a choice to either take it or leave it, so I decided to bring it with me. It's not like I'm using my gadget slots for anything else right now.


19 SECONDS LATER.


Finding 13 Spencer Street didn't take long (it was a little bit to the right) and I got 35p for my trouble. That means I've made 45p so far! Hey there's a shop over on the right, I'll see if I can get a packet of crisps.

Wait, it says 'Rolling Ronny' above the text. Does that mean I'm just some clown who delivered a package to the actual Rolling Ronny? Or is he talking to himself.

Huh, why are the prices in cents when I'm collecting pence?

I can't buy crisps, chocolate bars or even a can of Coke, but I can add a minute of time to the day for only 10 cents, which seems like a reasonable deal. That's an entire day for only 144, uh, dollars? Francs?

I've ran into a friendly NPC who apparently has a job for me. At least that's the impression I'm getting by that giant three-dimensional thought bubble above her head. You know I don't think I've ever seen a thought bubble that looks like an actual bubble before.

She's offering me 40 pence to deliver a packet of fruits to 64 Spencer Street, and she's even given me directions, saying that it's the house right next to the factory building. That's more than you get in RPGs these days, with their quest markers and their map icons.

But I've got the option to bargain for more money, which is interesting. I can even bargain twice if I feel like losing the job for being greedy.

So my options seem to be:
  • Accept and have less money.
  • Bargain twice and have no money.
  • Reject and have no money.
  • Bargain once and have more money.
Unless things change later in the game I'm not seeing why I'd ever pick anything but 'bargain'. Assuming I'd cleared some space for the package in my inventory first.

An hourglass, thank fuck... is what I'd be saying if I hadn't wasted money buying extra time.

I would've made it here with almost two minutes to spare and the hourglass gave me another three minutes, so I haven't spent my cash wisely here.

This must be that factory building I'm looking for though. I'm suddenly getting an urge to drag the screen into a paint package and fix the mismatched shadows. Maybe draw a couple of new pipe tiles for the T junctions and corners. Though that's more because I'm looking for excuses to turn the game off and do something else.

Sure is lucky I struggled so much to get past that tiny gap, or else I would've forgotten to deliver the package of fruits! Wait, why does their front door open out to a train track... which goes nowhere?

Whenever Ronny gets hurt like this he wastes a few seconds being stunned and then wastes a few more floating into the air on a balloon. I can steer the balloon, but only back the way I came. It doesn't want me to get past obstacles with the escape balloon.

I've just figured out what this game reminds me of! It doesn't play anything like it, but it kind of almost looks a little bit like a zoomed out Soccer Kid. I wish it sounded more like Soccer Kid, this music's driving me crazy.

Man this level feels endless. It's lasting absolutely forever.

Huh, how am I supposed to collect those two blocks down there? I mean I can slip through the stairs to get down to them, but once I get down there onto that bit of concrete the only way for me to escape will be to slip on the grass, take damage, and float up to the bridge on a balloon.

Oh, I bet a super jump powerup would get the job done! So now I know that I need to hang on to certain powerups if I want to get all the collectables.

The level's never bloody ending!

Also what the hell is up with these flying books? They're immune to my fruit energy gun despite the fact that I shot some other hovering novels just fine a couple of screens back.

See, I blew that malevolent literature I met earlier into a cloud of balls!

It's bad enough already that there's no way tell what enemies types can be hurt or not, without them changing the rules on me mid-level like this.

Made it with 5 minutes 31 seconds to spare! So now Ronny has to wait for the bus I guess.

... what? I need to collect more money to move on to level two? Why can't he just roller skate there? There's no lives so it just kicked me back to the title screen again after this. So that's great.

I'm glad that this idea didn't catch on. It'd really make things awkward for Commander Shepard or Lara Croft if they had to save up £1.50 for the bus before leaving the level. Or however much I need (the game forgot to tell my goal.)

It seems that Ronny's trying to get to Scotland Yard here, but not the regular one in London, he's going to the other one in Fieldington City. He's apparently helping the police collect jewel-cases after a robbery. For some reason the jewel-cases are scattered along the road straight to Scotland Yard, and for some reason Ronny already knows exactly what route the thieves took. Hmmmmm. Also he's taken his clown gloves off to read the map and that's weird. Especially as his hands are absolutely identical.


BACK TO LEVEL 1.


Alright this time around I'm making an extra effort to collect every single coin I can get my hands on. I'm jumping around everywhere to make the coins fall from the sky, I'm blowing up every enemy I meet (but only once), I'm running every errand, and I'm staying well clear of the shop. There's no way they're not letting me on the bus this time.

Oh for fuck's sake! I'm short of cubes now? Huh, weren't they supposed to be jewel-cases?

I've played a lot of collect 'em ups for this site over the last few years, games that have made me backtrack over the level finding all the hidden McDonald's arches, cool spots, Oscars, football cards, toxic barrels, marbles, baby trolls, sweets, drugs, passport pieces, star platforms, puppies, etc., but this has to be the first one that's made me hunt down two separate sets of items before leaving!

Alright, let's try this again. For the third time.


LEVEL 1 AGAIN.


Commodore 64
Rolling Onny? Wait, if Ronny has his own truck why is he so desperate to get the bus? Also why is it trying to kill me?

This is the Commodore 64 version of the game and it seems to play pretty much the same as the Amiga game. If there's any real difference between the versions besides the graphics and sound than I haven't noticed. Which is another way of saying that the Amiga version plays like a C64 game.

One weird thing about the C64 game is that Ronny's sprite has a higher resolution than the rest of the screen. Also he seems to have got his clown face paint mixed up with his blackface paint, which isn't making him any more loveable.

I finally did it! I've finally got enough cash and cubes to ride the bus down to the level 2: The Sewers! Wait, sewers? Seriously?

If I'd been playing multiplayer on the DOS version this would be the point where I'd pass the game over to player 2 so that they could have a turn trying to beat level 1. And so on. It's the perfect way to drag the game out so that it lasts four times as long!


LEVEL 2.


Eww a 6' tall unidentified glob monster, what the hell have these people been flushing down here? No wonder the streets are full of weird 80s video game monsters, they must all be crawling out of the sewers.

Well at least the game has let me keep 10p of my money from the last level! That gives me a real head start.

Aww look, it's a tiny wind-up version of those cars on level 1. I'm too bored to kill it though as it takes too long. I'm sure I'll find enough cash around without killing enemies, especially as there's still NPCs down here to do errands for. Plus there's some coins down there below me, along with a block and some cheese, though I'm going to have to find a way to drop down later and backtrack here to get to them.

Crap, I got down to the lower level and I was doing well until I messed up a jump and fell into the water. It's not an instant kill, but it did mean that I got airlifted out... all the way back up to the top ledge. It's really strange that I can't hit the fire button to make the balloon pop when I'm ready to be dropped off.

Atari ST
No way I'm going to be able to get those two cubes through clever platforming. Though I could always jump in and sacrifice some time and health (and end up smelling like sewage). Oh duh, I've figured it out: I've got a one-use magnet gadget that grabs every pickup on screen. When in doubt the answer is always gadgets.

This is the Atari ST version by the way, which is extremely similar to the Amiga game except it looks a little worse and has full clown music. It's got proper horizontal scrolling, which you can't take for granted on the Atari, but the screen is cropped and there's no vertical scrolling so the very top platforms end up just above the edge of the screen. You can often jump up there and walk around off screen and that's not typically what you want.

I was thinking of showing the PC version too but there's no point really. It's just like the Amiga version, except the Amiga game has a better sky and parallax clouds. When you're outdoors I mean.

Why is it that tiny sewer planes only ever attack me and not all these other pedestrians down here? Is it because I'm a clown?

At least I've got an opportunity here to take on another job to make some extra cash.

Uh... no. I've met a few policeman along the way but I don't feel like backtracking to find them again. Especially now that I haven't got the fruit power to clear the enemies out of my way.

But I'll say yes and hold onto the letter just in case.

In any other game jumps like this might seem tricky.

Unfortunately I used up all my fruit energy so I'll have to land on the deadly bubbles and just soak up the hurt. I can't jump on enemies to kill them in this, despite these heavy roller skates I'm wearing. Hitting a bubble isn't the end of the world though and they won't even knock me back into the water. No single enemy is a real threat to me, it's getting worn down by them all that's the problem.

I'm meeting some interesting enemies down here in the sewers. Like off-brand Donkey Kong and a... molecule? Plus a pair of floating clown balls in top hats that keep gliding in the way of my exit.

I waited for them to hover away for a moment and then froze them both in place with my cheese power. Then I began my long ascent up the exit ladder. If I'm lucky I can land on these ladders in a way which lets me jump up a few rungs at a time instead of triggering his painfully slow climbing animation, but otherwise it goes full Snake Eater. Without the music.

By the way, check out his crouching sprite. He manages to duck down so low that his chin's resting on the pavement. He should feel low as well, considering that he ran off with that NPC's letter he was supposed to give to a policeman.

Rolling Ronny Fieldington City Map Amiga
I did it! I fucked up again and lost because I didn't have enough money for the bus! I guess it's my own fault for not delivering the letter.

Back to the main menu screen again, without a password or an option to save. The menu screen does give me the option to continue on the level I lost on though. Trouble is I can apparently only do it twice.

By the look of this map there's only about 8 or 9 levels, so the game's really not that long, but it's going to take me forever to get through it at this rate.


LEVEL 3.


I decided to stick with it and struggled through to level 3 because... because I don't even know, and it turns out that the third stage is basically the same deal as the first two, except it's giving me more of a gauntlet to run.

The hardest thing about the first two levels for me was getting to the end with enough cash and boxes to appease the bus driver, but now the enemies are giving me some trouble and I'm having to work to make progress. I've heard that the difficulty keeps on ramping up like this as it goes on.

Wait, aren't these things basically clowns? Why are they working against me? Us clowns should stick together! Sure they're chain-smoking clown heads on springs but in a world where a pair of scissors can work side by side with a bubble you'd think we'd be able to get along. But no, all these things want to do is sap the life out of my six hearts. Makes me want to just smart bomb the lot of them.

Anyway I got another game over shortly after this and quit forever. The end.


CONCLUSION

Rolling Ronny feels like a budget platformer made by talented people who'd never touched a Nintendo console. The controls are tight, the graphics are decent enough for what it is, the music's borderline bearable, and the sound effects... technically exist. But stick it next to the top tier platformers of the time like Super Mario World or even Sonic the Hedgehog and it looks like it belongs in a different decade. In fact I'm not entirely sure it isn't a port of the C64 game; it might as well be considering how identical the C64 and Amiga versions are in gameplay.

On the plus side I do like the very shiny, metallic, strangely three-dimensional looking sprites, and the camera's zoomed out so far that it's rare that I ever ran into one without seeing it coming. I also like the manually triggered power ups and I don't entirely hate that it's necessary to hold onto some until the right time else you'll miss some of the jewel-cases. It seemed to play fair with the items for the most part. Plus there's the occasional shop to stock up on what you need if you want to risk not having enough cash to finish the stage.

That's what really kills this game for me though (aside from the tedium): having to collect cash. And jewel-cases. And having to be quick about it. Also there's limited ammo, so you need to be careful with what you shoot else you'll not have enough ammo left when you find an enemy sitting on that platform you need to jump onto. You have to use the right things in the right places and it's all a bit too much of a memory test for my liking, especially considering how keen it is to kick you back to the very start. It doesn't seem like there's any boss fights either, but that could be good or bad depending on what you want out of a platformer.

Also you play as a clown with roller skates, so there's another negative. The back of the box calls him "The coolest dude in town," but this is a lie.

If you want to check the game out for yourself, from my experience it seems like the Amiga version is the one to go for. The Atari ST version is cropped and comparatively ugly, the C64 game is a loading nightmare from tape and it looks like a C64 game, and the PC version is moderately inferior. Either way it feels like it should be the demo game from Platformer Maker '91: the hit platformer creating tool that I've just made up and doesn't actually exist. I'm tired now, can I stop?


Thanks for reading!

You apparently have a little spare time on your hands at the moment so why not waste some more of it by leaving a comment in the box below? You could share your thoughts on Rolling Ronny, or my website, or even guess at what the next game's going to be.

6 comments:

  1. Argh. The character designs in the Next Game look familiar, and I can picture the sprites in motion, but I can't quite place it. How annoying. I'm going to kick myself so hard when you reveal what it is, I'm going to end up in hospital. Probably.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, it's Tearaway Thomas! Another Amiga platformer. You're a masochist.

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    2. I couldn't help it! The names Rolling Ronny and Tearaway Thomas have been tied together in my brain for years, even though I could never quite remember what either of the games were like.

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    3. I have played Tearaway Thomas, It's fun until the second world where the level design was clearly not made with Thomas's ridiculous speed in mind.

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  2. Try Franko the Crazy Revenge for something more .. peculiar

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    Replies
    1. I think I'll be taking a break from peculiar for a while.

      Looks epic though. Like Streets of... Timeslaughter.

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