SPECTRUM CREDITS: Programming, graphics and music by Fco. Javier Velasco. Additional programming by Jaime Tejedor and Javier Peña. Sound engine by Jonathan Smith. Music engine by Beepola. Translation by Jaime Tejedor and Yuri Potapov. Testing by José Juan Rodenas, Javier Ortiz, Iván Sánchez and Sandro Mestre.
MSX CREDITS: Original idea, design and graphics by Fco. Javier Velasco. Programming and additional graphics by José Vila Cuadrillero. Sound engine, music and sound effects by José Vicente Masó.
AMSTRAD CREDITS: Original idea and design by Fco. Javier Velasco. Programming by José Vila Cuadrillero. Graphics, Screen and Loader by David Donaire Sánchez. Sound engine, music and sound effects by José Vicente Masó.
MSX & AMSTRAD: Translation by Jaime Tejedor. Testing by David Donaire, José Juan Rodenas, Javier Peña, Jaime Tejedor, Manuel Pazos and Fran.
Released originally for the ZX Spectrum 48k and 128k in 2010 as English and Spanish versions.
Russian translation for the ZX Spectrum released in 2011.
The Amstrad and MSX versions released in 2012.
INTRODUCTION & GAME REVIEW
It's time to take another more recent game under inspection, and this time we've got one that hasn't got a C64 version (holey moley, that's the second non-C64 entry in a row!), at least not yet, nor does it have an official English title, so that's a first one. Also, this is a game that has sort of escaped my noticed so far, for some reason, so the first time I will be playing this one will be for the blog.
The plot goes something like this: Teodoro is a parrot-like bird, who lives in the castle of king Ruy (or Rui, depending on where you read it), very much a human-like character. For some reason, Teodoro has never learned to fly - hence the title, which is often seen translated to "Teodoro can't fly", and so instead of getting to be a soldier like his friends and family, Teodoro has had to become the court jester. One day, at a party, the castle is taken over by some evil strange-looking beings, and in the process have kidnapped the king. Teodoro manages to escape the evil nasties' notice, so he takes over the important role of the one who has to ring the fire alarm. Since Teodoro can't fly, he has to walk and jump all over the castle, avoiding those evil beings that have taken over the castle. The idea is to collect a bunch of extra abilities and keys to open locks in order to be able to get to the fire alarm, located at the very top of the castle.
Basically, it's a flip-screen platformer, and very little else. Without giving too much away from the gameplay mechanics, I would say that Teodoro combines old-school playability with modern sense of progression and achievement. This can be a good thing and a bad thing simultaneously, but there's a fine line when the good turns bad. I cannot honestly say it's among my favourites of new games for retro machines, but the sense of achievement as you progress might just be enough to get you hooked, and make you attempt at getting through the game. My recommendation is to try it out on an emulator, but at least I do recommend you to try it out - but which ones are the most recommendable, you will find out by reading further. You might be able buy the game as a physical copy from Retroworks, which would really be the ideal choice to make the retro community keep on producing new material, but it's only common sense to try before buying, since it's actually possible.
Good things first, since I'm in a good mood today. Controlling Teodore is practically idiot-proof, once you figure out how to control him, which isn't difficult. It's just using all eight directions of your joystick, or various combinations of your keyboard's directional controls, as well as the one fire button, that will get you through the whole game. The ease of moving also happens to be part of the problem here, but I will get into that very soon. Also, the way Teodore builds up his abilities is done in a modern collect-your-skills sort of way, which is nice, since it never gets too tedious, but on the other hand, it does make the game more linear than you would wish to.
You start with only a very preliminary jumping ability, which enables you to jump your own height. Getting the first two ability upgrades enable you to jump your own height doubled, as well as jump twice your own length when pulling the controller down and forwards. You will gradually open enough chains and collect upgrades to your jumping abilities, that you will get to find some more advanced abilities, such as the Great Fist and a hookrope. All the extra abilities in the game are of some importance, and need to be collected pretty much in a designed order. There are also bundles of coins in the game you can collect, which don't have much importance score-wise, since the game doesn't record any high scores, but from every three coin bundles, you get an extra life. Seeing as you start with 10 lives, it wouldn't necessarily be all that much required, but I can guarantee you, the extra lives are very much needed, at least on your first playthrough.
Then we get to the bad things. There are two distinctly different versions of the game: the original SPECTRUM version and the slightly redesigned AMSTRAD/MSX version. In the SPECTRUM version, you and all the other moving characters in the game are built of four character blocks - two by two, and your movement is restricted by those very blocks. You can only move half of your own size at a time, which makes moving around very calculation-based, and makes the game lack a proper feel of an organic platformer. This unorganic feel comes even more across when turning and jumping quickly, because you need to turn Teodore on the ground before you can jump into the direction you want to jump into, and turning can take a bit longer than you would want for it to. Happily, this isn't really all that big of a deal in the end, since none of the enemies shoot at you, and all of them have their own designated movement patterns you can follow quite easily. While this makes the game balanced, it offers no challenge after the first playthrough, and can even get quite boring during it. It's only the progression what keeps you going through the game.
The AMSTRAD and MSX versions have dealt with all the problems from the SPECTRUM original as completely as possible, which basically means that most of the sprites move smoothly and you can also control Teodore in mid-jump. But, in case you are more comfortable with the restricted, mostly predesigned jump heights and patterns of the Spectrum version, the MSX/AMSTRAD version might surprise you in that the jump can be suited to your liking by keeping the fire button down for as long as you wish to (although of course it has its limits), but tapping the fire button just makes you jump only a bit. You can also stop your jump in mid-air by pushing the joystick down at any moment, although I never found any actual use for this feature. Once you have picked up the hookrope and the Great Fist, you can use the Fist by pushing the joystick down and diagonally into the direction you wish to use it in, and the hookrope can be utilised by just pushing the joystick up at a space where a usable platform is directly above you. In the SPECTRUM version, you need to press the fire button and move the joystick up to launch the hookrope, and fire with just left or right will use the Fist. It's nitpicking, but I know some people might find these differences a bit irritating - although I'm sure these changes were done to somehow enhance the experience.
Once you have gotten over the control differences, you might start noticing something else having gone through some changes as well - the enemy movement patterns, for one, and some screens have their platform layouts slightly altered. All three versions have some very small differences in a few screens, which is a bit irritating, since you need to learn every version separately, if you're planning to play the game on all three machines like I have done. Whatever the reason this has been done for, escapes my logic, which is why I'm suspecting merely a few lapses in attention to detail or perhaps something else entirely, which I can't see.
By far, the most irritating thing about the game is how often you need to pass through certain passages, most of which are the most difficult ones in the game, and have the most potential of eating up your extra lives. Sure, you can learn your way through the different timings of the fire mechanisms and enemy movements for each version, which are for the most part different for all three versions, but repetition is always tedious. Particularly in platform games, in which you need precision and patience. But then again, repetition is what makes you learn the maps and enemy patterns more easily, so I cannot complain too much about it.
If I were to recommend Teodoro no sabe volar just based on the playability, I would recommend you the MSX or Amstrad version - more likely the MSX one. But that's not really all there is to consider.
Although the market for games for retro machines is niche, and even as such rather selective and rarely profitable, there still seems to be some sort of quality standard for games that could be considered commercially viable. When these things are taken into consideration, graphics count as much as any other aspect. Teodoro no sabe volar wasn't originally released in a commercial capacity, so it didn't have any other goal than to be an enjoyable game for the select group of retrogamers who might enjoy this sort of thing. That's not to say that the graphics aren't good - it's just that some aspects of the graphics in the game could have been better.
|Loading screens and title screens. Top row: Amstrad CPC. Bottom row: ZX Spectrum (left) and MSX (right).|
Before we get into the "what's good and what's bad" part of this section, there is a matter of quantity in graphics to deal with as well. It's not much, but the AMSTRAD version has the biggest quantity of graphics to offer, starting from the exclusive loader menu, and continuing with the slightly needless, but nice developer and publisher logos. Too bad that's really all the extra there is to it, as the rest of the game is similar enough to the others.
The quality of these bits is almost directly related to each computer's graphical capabilities. First of all, when considering the original SPECTRUM version, the drawing style has been made to use wide black outlines (even slightly wider than in the cover art) to effectively get rid of the effects of the otherwise inevitable attribute clash, which works very nicely, even if it means that all the colouring is localized in a rather extreme manner. But there are some background details to be found in the Spectrum loading screen, such as a nice dark blue floor, some colour to make the presence of a back wall known, and a red-and-purple (magenta) curtain behind Teodoro. Apart from the coloured wall textures, all of this has been made to look similarly high quality, but very much more colourful on the MSX version, which is the closest screen rendition of the cover art you'll get on any of the machines. The AMSTRAD title screen has all the required colour, but the resolution makes the picture look blockier and messier. At least Teodoro is sitting on the top of a question mark box, which is missing from the other two screens - but then the Amstrad version doesn't have a curtain or anything else in the background. Strangely enough, the original SPECTRUM version is the only one that has a very different title screen, and makes the title look more spectacular than anywhere else.
|Intro plot sequences, top to bottom: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC.|
There's not a whole lot you can learn from just looking at these screenshots, since all of the versions have the plot screens animated on and off. The SPECTRUM original handles this bit by doing a quick horizontal pull for each screen, after which you are instructed to press the Space bar to move on to the next screen (the green-and-blue flashy thing). When you hit the Space bar, the screen will fade to black. On the AMSTRAD and MSX, each picture is brought on the screen with a left-to-right revealing slide, after which the text is typed in one letter at a time, and then all of it is blacked out by a black veil pulled over from right to left. Although this is more theatrical and engaging than the Spectrum original, it also becomes boring more quickly, because you can't skip any of it. The ending screens are made in the same style, but I won't be showing them here, so you have something to look forward to, if you decide to try the game out for yourselves.
You could basically do most of the graphics comparison of this game based on these little screens alone, since the in-game graphics are similar. What we can see from here is quite a lot of the enemy sprites as well as Teodore himself, and some of the background graphics style, which is nice, considering there are a lot of games out there, which have the cutscenes made in a different style than the game itself. Anyway, the AMSTRAD graphics are as blocky as they have been so far, and this makes the in-game graphics look even messier, since everything is in a smaller scale than the title screen. Sure, there's a lot of colour in there, but the large pixels don't give way for much detail. The original SPECTRUM graphics are also fairly colourful, and look very detailed and vibrant, due to the better resolution and smaller pixels. However, the MSX version wins the lot with as many colours as the Amstrad version combined with the detail and quality of the Spectrum graphics - and having some additional screen width for the pictures. Perhaps the SPECTRUM version looks the nicest with all its border embellishments, but it won't make your experience any better when you're actually playing.
|The starting room and the room with the first upgrade item box.|
Left to right: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC.
You might remember the differences in movement having mentioned earlier... well, the way all the moving sprites move in the SPECTRUM version has probably been done so partly due to minimizing the effects of the attribute clash problems. All the animated sprites in the game are built out of four character blocks, each block featuring some particular colour against a black background, so you can't see the actual background graphics behind any sprites. That's one way to get around the problem, but it makes the game a bit more uncomfortable to play than necessary. However, I'm not sure if a traditional monochrome sprite system would have worked any better in this context; the fact that this amount of colours could be seen in a 48k Spectrum game was a bit of a marvel not too long ago, and you have to give the game creators credit for that.
The MSX version takes the Spectrum graphics and enhances them quite a bit in colour. Also, some details have been modified to look more natural and fitting for the environments. But even with all that, the most impressive upgrade, at least in my opinion, is that the sprites are proper sprites and can handle multiple colours within the occupied area. This allows for proper, pixel-based movement, as well as freedom from the black square shapes behind the sprites. A more blatantly obvious observation could be made of the ornaments around the score/lives/items display, which are clearly using a similar theme, but the MSX version looks more blooming, and gives the lower section of the screen a more complete feel.
The AMSTRAD version has been mostly made using the same model as the MSX version, but as I've said before, the overall look of it is very much messier due to the wider pixels. Somehow, I like the look of Teodoro in this version more than in the others, because here, he kind of looks more like the jester he is supposed to be. Also, to the horror of all Spectrum fanatics, the Amstrad version puts the brown colours to good use, which brings some often missed variety of colour into the game.
As for the little animation bits you can't see in the screenshots, I'm happy to say it all makes quite a bit of difference. While the SPECTRUM version can only do very harsh movements due to the block-based graphics, all the moving elements have some sort of animation in them. The enemy birds flap their wings and even turn direction, the coins circle around, the item boxes flash red and white, and the starry traps circle around themselves. Teodoro, on the other hand, only makes any changes in his pose when jumping, climbing a rope or punching. Just plain walking will only move him half his size at a time without any change to his look. But even so, the MSX and AMSTRAD versions make the Spectrum version look a bit... low-budget, I'd say, since both of them can do many more frames of similar animations. Of course, it's still 48k versus 64k, so it's no wonder.
|The screens with the red key and the red lock, left to right: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC.|
Here are basically just some more things to see from the game, such as fire traps, water traps, more different sorts of enemies, as well as keys and locks. Also, in the top row, you can see a rare look into an area outside the castle. The more you make progress in the game, the most interesting difference you might focus on, perhaps, is the different enemy design - most of the sprites look entirely different in all versions.
|Message boxes, left to right: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC.|
|Random screens where you can use the Great Fist or the Hook. Left to right: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC.|
Using the Hook looks a bit different on the SPECTRUM compared to the other two: Teodoro actually appears to be climbing the rope attached to the Hook, instead of just floating upwards along the rope. And yes, the Hook looks a bit different in all versions, as do the platforms designed for the Hook to be used on, but that's something I can't be bothered to explain in detail.
|Game Over screens, left to right: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC.|
Strangely enough, Teodoro no sabe volar has probably one of the nicest-looking Game Over screens I have come across in all of my years of gaming. Well, at least the SPECTRUM and MSX versions do. It shows a knocked out Teodoro, lying on his back, seeing stars, while an ornamented Game Over text is shown above him. The AMSTRAD version only has a boringly traditional Game Over screen with nothing but text on it.
As for the rest of it, I guess you will just have to find out for yourselves. For my money, the MSX version beats the other two quite clearly, but I can't deny that both the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions have their own specific charms. Much as it ever has been, it's mostly a matter of taste.
Considering that the original SPECTRUM version was released in 2010, it seems a bit strange that there is only a 48k version available, although it's at least compatible with the 128k Spectrum machines too, which is nice. However, being only a 48k game does not present too much of a problem in sounds, since the Spectrum beeper has likely been utilised to very much its full potential, when you consider the memory restrictions. The sound engine was designed by Jonathan "Joffa" Smith (RIP) and the music engine comes from Beepola, and F.J. Velasco has certainly used both to the advantage of the game. There are only two tunes in the original game, which are featured in the title screen and the Game Over screen, and both of which feature some nice thematically fitting, rarely used byzantine (at least I think it's byzantine, but do correct me if I'm wrong) scale melodies.
From the rather unexuberant set of sound effects on the Spectrum, the one that clearly sticks out from the rest is Teodoro's death noise, which sounds surprisingly close to a chicken screaming in pain. That's not to say the other major sound effects aren't very good - there just aren't that many of them. The most prominent ones are Teodoro's jumping noise and picking up items, both of which are a bit unusual but certainly Spectrumesque. Walking and falling are only indicated by almost unnoticable tick noises, a different pitch for each action.
In the AMSTRAD version, you can only hear the original theme tune in the loading menu screen, but the AY-chip gives the tune a much more wholesome feel, as you would expect. You get a nice percussion track along with a high-pitched melody track and one channel for the low-end melodies. Once you have selected your preferred version from the two languages, a short, fairly Nintendoesque tune is played to sort of give the game a permission to move on. The AMSTRAD title tune is an interesting, rather melancholic waltz with some baroque ideas, which loops after a minute or so. With more memory to use, the Amstrad version has much more tunes in store: a slow, almost sorrowful tune for the intro plot sequence; a dark, but more energetic tune for the actual game, and another short little sad tune for Game Over. Also, that short Nintendoesque tune from earlier is played in other bits within the actual game. The Amstrad version can also boast of having more sound effects than the Spectrum original, all of which are played on top of the background music. However, none of them really make as much of an impact as those in the original, but strictly looking at it as a quantity and overall quality thing, the Amstrad version beats the Spectrum by a few square miles.
Since the MSX version was only released as a cartridge ROM, it has less of a chance to play as many tunes as the Amstrad version, but what has been left in, are very similar to those in the Amstrad version. Basically, this leaves out a rendition of the original theme tune, which is a bit unfortunate, but since the game is filled with other tunes and sound effects in any case, you probably wouldn't miss it unless you knew it.
There is something in these new games for old machines that seems like a rule in development. The first released version is usually a bit more primitive than those released later on for other machines - sort of like a prototype for the final releases. Of course there are those other sorts of games out there that will be fully developed before their first release, but when it comes to games that get multiple conversions, this seems to be the usual form. And why not, since the modern retrogame programming community is much more open and possible to collaborate and develop things in than how it was in the olden days. What I'm getting at here is, if the score for the Spectrum original seems a bit low in comparison, it's because it's simply not as fully developed as the conversions.
So, there you go, another modern retrogame compared for the potential benefit of the communities - hope it was worth it. Teodoro no sabe volar is just one in a great amount of good examples of how strong these computers are still going in Europe. Particularly in Spain, where at least three or four groups of retrogame coders (to my knowledge) have been very busy for the past decade or so, and still are. And Teodoro is very much worth taking a look at, just don't take my scores for granted - you can easily download all the versions from the internet and try them out for yourselves. Who knows, you might enjoy some version more than I did.
On a final note, according to this link, the game seems to have been in development also for the C64; I wonder whatever became of it? The few screenshots on that page make it feel like an exact cross between all three released versions, which is intriguing. Although the post was made in January of 2013, I'm still hoping that someone out there is still working on it.
That's it for today, hope you enjoyed it! I'll be a bit busier than usual for the next month again, so there will be less entries to expect, but I'm planning on making the long waits worthwhile. But for now, toodle-pip, and leave a comment if you feel like.