Your Spectrum
Issue 7, September 1984 - Rapscallion
Home Contents KwikPik
New from Bug-Byte and tipped for the top comes Rapscallion - a multi-screen graphic adventure. Ross Holman finds out whether it lives up to the claims of being "the next Manic Miner " ...
First impressions of games can easily be misleading, and this was certainly the case with Rapscallion. Described by Bug-Byte as a "fully animated cartoon adventure", you play the part of a usurped king who has had his crown and castle stolen by Rapscallion the Rogue - and as if this wasn't humiliation enough, he's then incarcerated in his own dungeon.
But help is at hand in the shape of a handy Fairy Princess. Not only does she set him free, she also turns him into a bird - giving him the ability to transform at will into a fly, while suffering only the loss of one of his six lives. Once in this bugged state you, the player, can control the character, moving around the forty-plus rooms of the castle (actually, I found 41 altogether) attempting to re-capture his rightful inheritance.


The loading screen, now practically an art form for some companies, is not particularly gripping, but in its favour it does show some of the graphics used in the game. In fact, one unusual feature of much of the Rapscallion graphics is that they're drawn at half resolution - giving a similar chunky look as found on Commodore machines but without, of course, the multi-colour. It's hard to say whether this was done to create an individual style, or just used as a device to save memory; perhaps it was laziness! Anyway, after a long load, you're greeted by a page of instructions, followed by more and more. Sensibly, you have the option
of skipping past them to the control options.
Wading through the instructions, you'll find all you need to know about the game. You discover there are three distinct sections, called The Wilderness, The Magic Labyrinth and finally, The Castle itself. To progress on to the next level, you need to complete a set task; for example, to leave The Wilderness, you have to collect the key to The Magic Labyrinth. Some rooms contain large diamonds which, when touched, impart useful information; others have pixies jumping up and down on toadstools, who generously give you gifts.
You're offered a comprehensive list of joystick options - additionally, there are two keyboard control layouts. A nice touch is that you can SAVE your current status at any time during a game, then LOAD it in again to continue from where it left off. The trouble then is if you carry on to complete the game, you're only going to get a lease rather than full freehold of The Castle. One thing, though - you're only given the option to LOAD the SAVEd details once; just before the first game. If you want to play from the same point again, you'll have to re-LOAD the whole game, which is very tedious.


Off we go, and the first thing we see is the Dungeon, complete with skeleton and Rapscallion the Rogue placing the king in chains. Up comes the Fairy Princess who turns him into a bird and then buzzes
off (to coin a phrase). At the top of the screen, there's an indicator of lives left, current sector, and any objects you've collected or powers you possess; at the bottom is the name of the current room. Moving around, you soon realise that all the graphics move by cursor block stages and any animation only takes place over two frames - which is rather disappointing. With many of the timing and manipulative skills removed, Rapscallion is no Atic Atac or Jet Set Willy; even so, interest is maintained by the degree of complexity and variation - not to mention the large, colourful graphics.
Each room contains a number of large fixed graphics and sometimes large moving graphics. Cats, for example, are six by six cursors, and smaller Hi-res graphics (spiders, for instance) are two by two cursors. Gaps in a room's border signify doors to other rooms. Most graphics are harmless and you can move through them without damage; some (usually those falling from above) will slow you down ... touching flames or sparks will speed you up. There's subtlety too, because some graphics will kill or affect you, depending on the guise you're in at the time; for instance, cats kill the bird but not the fly - flies on the other hand, get trapped in spider's webs and the only way out is to transform into a bird, losing a life in the process.
If you're killed you turn into a ghost, a condition that allows you to explore to your heart's content (and in the knowledge that no further harm can come to you). The trouble is, touching the gems


or pixies will do you no good at all. To continue with the game proper, you just have to return to your physical form, via a press of the 'transform' key.


Two things struck me in particular. First is the annoying, illogical way you leap from room to room. In The Wilderness sector there are 20 rooms to move through, each with a number of exits. But leaving (for example) the top left of one doesn't mean you'll appear in the top right of the room that should theoretically be next to it. You could appear on the bottom right of the room below it! These jumps from room to room are always the same, so mapping can be done (Thank goodness. Ed); it's just difficult to do graphically. The best approach is probably to make a list of rooms, their exits and where they lead to.
Then there's the humour ... well, I suppose it has a 'silly' appeal. If you liked the idea of chomping toilets in Manic Miner then I'm sure elements of Rapscallion will go down well. One of my favourites is the Concorde's nest, showing two baby Concorde planes hatching from eggs and then growing in size as they zig-zag up the screen; then there are rooms where you
find yourself in a game of blow football, or snakes and ladders.
Fast reactions and good co-ordination are not exactly de rigeur here, but that said you can't allow yourself to relax completely. Losing lives early on in the game must be avoided because some transformations between characters are unavoidable and it's very annoying to find further progress blocked for want of a couple more. You can, however, gain extra lives by finding and touching one of the pixies; the trouble is he won't always be in the same room. In fact, there are 16 different layouts for the gems and pixies, which supposedly mean 16 different adventures. In practice, though, the variation didn't seem to make much difference; as long as you seek out all the pixies on each level, there's no reason why you shouldn't progress fairly easily.


Collect your key in The Wilderness and you'll gain instant access to The Magic Labyrinth - where your quest is to gain the power of the Magic Eye. Get that and you'll make three wizards visible, ticklish gents who have to be approached while resting. The rooms in this sector are more difficult to negotiate but there are fewer in number (just 14). Only when all three wizards have been enlisted to your cause can you enter The Castle.
That's when things really get confusing. Not only does each of the seven rooms have a number of standard exits, there are also secret passages which lead
to different parts of the other rooms, many of which are partitioned off into small and restricting areas. And to make life even tougher, Rapscallion the Rogue has a habit of appearing in some rooms, should you hang around too long. He doesn't directly attack you - after all, why should he care if a bird or fly is roaming around his castle? Anyway, things like that definitely make the going tough once you start investigating The Castle itself.
The object you're after here is a Magic Wand and to help, first you'll need to dig out two genies. That may seem difficult as you jump randomly through the passages, but try taking it systematically and you'll soon learn the routes needed. Once you've gained the Magic Wand, all you have to do is find Rapscallion the Rogue and touch him. Do that and (assuming you didn't LOAD a SAVEd game) you'll have the freehold of your castle back and be restored to the throne. As permanent proof of your wondrous achievements, you can enter your name on the title deeds and SAVE it off as a SCREEN$.


Rapscallion may not have the wonderful graphics routines of so many of its contemporaries, but it's still fun to play. I managed to finish it after a few goes, so I'm not sure that true hardened games players will find it durable. On the other hand, it does have qualities which make it worth more than a passing glance.



As you may have gleaned from the above maps, the sequence of room positions is hardly what you would call logical In fact, it's all a bit of an elephant's ear. The best way to familiarise yourself with your surroundings is, once you've fallen foul of one of the baddies, to have a wander round in your ethereal form; remember where you left your body though - you'll need it to continue the adventure. In the first level - The Wilderness - your task is to unearth the pixies and then touch them; they provide extra lives as well as the power to make visible the key to The Magic Labyrinth. Once that key is found, you can make your way into it and start searching for the three wizards; again, the best approach is to scout out the path ahead as a ghost.


Once you've battled your way through The Wilderness and The Magic Labyrinth, you'll find your way across the drawbridge is no longer barred and, throwing caution to the wind, you can now enter The Castle, gird loins, and get eyeball to eyeball with Rapscallion the Rogue. There are four main interconnecting rooms within The Castle: Battlements, Bedchamber, Banqueting Hall and Library. And if you get fed up with wandering through doors, try going through a window or the like - you'll find yourself spirited (sic) away into another room; in fact, this is the only way you can get to three particular locations on this level - Castle Cellar, Mouse House and Secret Passages. Zipping through the rooms using this high-speed system, you'll soon find your way around. The accompanying illustration shows some possible routes through the castle's rooms - just keep moving and you're bound to end up in the right place eventually! Actually you may not find it quite that simple - even with the help of our map; to our shame, we've still to see the freehold deeds to the crumblin' ole pile! See how you get on ...
Home Contents KwikPik