Friday 9 February 2024

Chickin Chase / Cock' In (Prism Micro-informatique S.A., 1984)

Developed by JAWX
Written by Francois Lionet
Originally published as "Cock' In" by Prism Micro-informatique S.A. for Oric Atmos in 1984.

Amstrad CPC version by JAWX, released as "Chickin Chase" by Firebird in 1985. Also released in France as "Poule Position" by Minipuce.

Commodore 64 version by JAWX, released as "Chickin Chase" by Firebird in 1985. Re-released in France as "Cock' In" by Prism Micro-informatique S.A.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum version by JAWX, released as "Chickin Chase" by Firebird in 1985. Also released in France as "Cock' In" by Prism Micro-informatique S.A.

Thomson MO5/TO7 version written by Alain Fernandes, with graphics by Olivier Corviole. Published as "Coq'Inn" by VIFI in 1985.

Atari 400/800 and MSX versions by JAWX, released as "Chicken Chase" by Bug-Byte in 1986.

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GAME STATUS


This year's Firebird February will have to make do with only two games due to my constraining work schedules. First off, we have a French game from 1984 that wasn't originally even a Firebird release. JAWX developed Cock' In originally for the Oric Atmos, and got released by Prism Micro-informatique, but the game got converted for other platforms with various different names, with Chickin Chase being the chosen title for the Firebird release. This game has probably become more famous in the recent years thanks to certain online lists of the worst game covers ever, for which the original Cock' In cover has usually been chosen.

On the Oric Site, the online home of the platform of origin for Cock' In, the current score is 3.2/5.0 from 5 votes. The two Amstrad scores to be found are 16/20 at CPC Power and 7/10 at CPC Game Reviews. The old archived World of Spectrum site had a 6.50 from 18 votes, which is not too far from the current score of 6.3 from 4 votes at Spectrum Computing. At Lemon64, we see a relatively massive increase in the number of voters, with a score of 6.21 from 38 votes, which suggests the game is the best known on the C64. At AtariMania, the score is 7.2 from 6 votes, and at Generation-MSX, they've got a whopping 4.5 stars out of 5 from 3 votes. Such strange scores do make the comparison of such a game as this an interesting starting point, but all we can truly gather from this information is, that Cock' In (or Chickin Chase) is not particularly well-known outside from bad game cover aficionados.

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DESCRIPTION & REVIEW


Chickin Chase, in all its various alternative names, is a single-screen arcade action game, with a fair amount of design similarities to old Game & Watch games. You play as Rooster, whose job description includes defending the hen house from your natural enemies, as well as keeping the hens producing eggs. In other words, when you are not patrolling the hen house and using your beak to attack all sorts of critters and eating worms for energy, you must do your other roosterly duties behind the closed door. You must also take care not to let the egg hatching area go empty, or the mother hen will get rather miffed. You have three lives to get as much done as possible and get the highest score.

Cover variations from various platforms.
Aside from the slightly questionable, yet entirely natural subject matter, Chickin Chase is a solid arcade-like game that plays okay. The only awkwardness in its proceedings comes from a slightly more random pacing than absolutely necessary, making it sometimes next to impossible to time your actions in a necessary manner. All in all, it's an entertaining little game that has enough of content and humour to it to get you hooked, and worth revisiting every now and then. But if it has any sort of a status as a classic, it will be more thanks to its bad cover art than anything.

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LOADING


Keeping up with the traditions here, comparing the loading times always becomes much more interesting, when there are more than the usual three versions to compare to each other. I'm not entirely certain, whether or not there exists alternative loaders for other than the C64 version, but at least every computer has been taken into account here. Well, to be more precise, every computer has been attempted to be taken into account here.


AMSTRAD CPC: 6 minutes 24 seconds
ATARI 400/800: 12 minutes 49 seconds
COMMODORE 64 - Original Firebird: 5 minutes 29 seconds
COMMODORE 64 - Silver 199 Range: 4 minutes 47 seconds
COMMODORE 64 - Super Silver: 5 minutes 23 seconds
MSX: 2 minutes 25 seconds (+)
ORIC ATMOS: 5 minutes 24 seconds (?)
SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM: 4 minutes 5 seconds
THOMSON MO5/TO7: 6 minutes, approx. (?)


I haven't been able to verify the loading times for the Oric and Thomson versions, because for one, the known tape conversion tool for Thomson always gets identified as malware or some other garbage, which my virus scanner always quarantines; and two, the Oric emulator always starts loading the tape image by identifying the boot block, not prior to that - so, the two uncertain ones are marked with question marks. They should be pretty close to the truth, though, if that is of any consolation. Also worth noting is, that the MSX version loads up in two chunks, making a pause after about 40 seconds of loading to present you a "Bug-Byte presents" screen before drawing in the actual Chickin Chase loading screen and continuing to load the game - all of which takes about 15 seconds, so in actuality, the MSX loader takes about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, which is still the quickest one of the lot.

Loading screens. Top row, left to right: Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
Bottom row: MSX (x2), Atari 400/800, Thomson MO5/TO7.



Cock' In a.k.a. Chickin Chase has the unfortunate status of a single-screen game, so there isn't much to look at apart from the loading screen, if available. In case there is none, chances are, that there is a title screen of some sort. The ORIC and AMSTRAD versions have no loading screens as such, although the latter one uses a Bleepload loading scheme, which features a loader block detector and the game title in basic CPC system font. The C64 and ATARI versions share similar loading screens, featuring the developer team and the publisher as the main graphics, but the colours are very different. The MSX version also uses a similar screen as the first thing you see in the mid-loading pause segment, and then it goes to show the actual Chicken Chase screen with the rooster winking at you. The only version to use a more traditional loading screen with the rooster, a title, a copyright, and logos of the publisher and developer is the THOMSON version, which isn't exactly pretty, but it's funny in its stylistical cheapness. The SPECTRUM version goes with a completely unexpected loading screen, displaying a sun shining over a grassy field, with the yellow text "Once upon a time..." slapped at the bottom in a red rectangle. Considering the MSX version features two loading screens, and is also the quickest one to load, I cannot but think it's rather impressive.

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PLAYABILITY


Unless your chosen version to play is the THOMSON version, upon finishing loading, the game will launch into a title screen/sequence, with the original ORIC version and the MSX version featuring two screens for the intro, and the others featuring one title screen. The SPECTRUM version boots up into a fairly basic control options menu, which makes it the only version, in which you need to push something else than the fire button to start the game. The ATARI version also has a unique feature: a two-player game mode, which is played in turns, so it offers nothing of actual gameplay value. The difference in the aforementioned THOMSON version is, that the game starts immediately after the game has loaded.

The great thing about a simple game like Cock' In / Chickin Chase is, that because there is a very limited amount of things to do, there is not that much that can go wrong in the process of converting the game to other platforms. You either have a joystick, cursor keys or redefinable keys (SPECTRUM) and a single fire button (Space bar on keyboard) to control your rooster with - so far, so good. However, already in controlling your rooster around, we can see some differences across the different platforms, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In the original ORIC version, you have only the four cardinal directions in use. It wouldn't be too much of a problem otherwise, but going into stairs - or maybe they're ladders - requires absolute precision, and going a bit wrong requires you to do a down-and-turn-back-up sort of a maneouver. The only other version to not have diagonal directions included is the SPECTRUM version, but using the stairs/ladders is slightly less awkward. Having diagonals doesn't necessarily mean easy access to stairs/ladders, though: in the ATARI version, the bottom entrance for the ladders or stairs can get you stuck very easily, and the THOMSON version requires some experimentation and precision for using the stairs, even though they seem to be more than wide enough upon sight.

Since your score counter acts also as some sort of a timer - if you want to view it that way, that is, since it can - the more score you gather by mere walking around, the more exhausted you will become and thus less able to walk around. As a matter of fact, as you grow more exhausted, at some point, you will also become unable to perform in the bedroom. The French really know their stuff, don't they? So anyway, in order to replenish your energy, you need to wait for a worm to appear on the ground level, and eat it up. You just need to be quick, because the worms do not like to hang around indefinitely. Because the worms appear quite randomly, you can never tell, when to wait for one. In the original ORIC version, worms appear very rarely, which makes it an unfair game even before we start talking about your enemies. The SPECTRUM version, which is starting to reveal itself as the closest translation from the original, has the worms appear almost as rarely. The only version to top off the original in its impossibility in this regard is the THOMSON version, which, while having the worms appear just about as rarely as the original, doesn't always seem to have the supposed effect on the rooster. Instead, the rooster walks around infuriatingly slowly all the time, and occasionally he gets brief speed bursts after having fended off an enemy. At least, that's how the speed bursts usually happen. Also, the THOMSON version's slowness extends to the rooster's time spent in the bedroom to get anything done. From what I can tell, the MSX version has the worms appear most often, the ATARI second-most, and the AMSTRAD and C64 versions follow. This is directly related to how difficult the game is, but not the only factor.

For most versions, your enemies start entering the chicken coop after the hen has laid her first egg somewhere on the two top floors. There are three exceptions to this rule: the ATARI version, in which the enemies start appearing before the hen has laid any eggs (but after she has come out of the bedroom); the C64 version, in which the enemies might start appearing at the same time she is laying her first egg, at the earliest, but the time is not set in stone; and the THOMSON version, which starts off with the first enemy already on the screen before anything has had a chance to happen. It should be pointed out, though, that the enemies in the THOMSON version are not particularly aggressive, so one game might easily last for more than half an hour - in fact, it's more than likely that you will grow bored of the THOMSON version before you lose your first life.

There are five enemies that I could count: a hedgehog, a rat, another rodent that I think is a raccoon or something of the sort, a snake, and a bit later in the game, a weasel will also appear. After the first four enemies have been seen at least once, the game will start shoving two enemies into the hen house simultaneously at random, and the fifth one will appear sometime later on. Generally speaking, each of the enemies are clearly different in their behaviour, and the game starts getting tough around the time the third enemy appears in the hen house, but the snakes are usually the ones that will get to devour the unhatched eggs, if none of the others get to them first. Just make sure you have as many eggs on the line as possible, so losing one or two won't get you whipped. If you're playing the THOMSON version, though, the snakes are just about as slow and unintelligent/unaggressive as the rest of them.

My final observation is probably the biggest factor in deciding, which version is the most playable, and that is the rate of enemy appearances. In the ORIC original, this rate is brutal, since most of the time, new enemies replace old ones before you have time to either replenish your energy or have a visit with the hen. The trick is to trap a slower enemy (namely, a hedgehog) at one of the top level corners while being energized by a worm, then hit the enemy once before running back down to the bedroom to have as much family extension time as possible. The same trick applies for most other versions, except the THOMSON version, which doesn't quite work in the same manner. The ATARI version has a rather brutal rate of enemy appearances, since you never really get a moment without one on the screen, but the enemies' aggressiveness is mostly lower, although weirdly random. The SPECTRUM version is almost as brutal, but is still much more playable than the THOMSON version, thanks to its general lack of balancing and optimizing. The AMSTRAD version isn't too bad, but the difficulty level feels uneven, particularly as the snakes have been made extremely quick - they're practically impossible to catch even with having just eaten a worm. The C64 version has a fairly balanced rate of enemy appearances and their movement speed, but perhaps surprisingly, it's the MSX version that feels the most naturally balanced from the entire lot.

1. MSX
2. COMMODORE 64
3. AMSTRAD CPC
4. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM
5. ATARI 400/800
6. ORIC ATMOS
7. THOMSON MO5/TO7

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GRAPHICS


While Chickin Chase / Cock' In doesn't exactly have a lot to offer in terms of graphics, the execution of them determines the overall mood of the game. Of course, this wouldn't be FRGCB as you know it, if I didn't do a thorough comparison, so let's do each version separately in annoyingly minute detail, with each set of screenshots including the title and high score list screens in addition to a few select in-game screenshots.

Screenshots from the Oric Atmos version.
The original ORIC ATMOS version starts off with a cyan text screen displaying the publisher logo, followed by an animated title screen with a picture of our happy, but largely monochrome protagonist, surrounded by yellow stars. After a short melodic introduction, the title logo is shown above the portrait, with three different colours sliding within the logo, before settling onto one, after which the rooster winks at you. Having done so, the screen gets wiped sideways by a star curtain, right to left, and the game goes into demo mode. The high score entrance screen is a black screen with a yellow text at the bottom, and the score table itself a red structure with blue and white text on it. Oddly, the high score table, when viewed elsewhere, seems to be buggy, since no names are displayed alongside the day's scores, and the background is assaulted by yellow and green raster lines.

The in-game graphics are very monochrome, with the main colours being black (background) and white. Only a few elements that are not in touch with anything else have been given some other colour: cyan for the number of lives display, green for the score display and the windows, and a little bit of red and yellow at the top of the room where the lamp and egg-laying hearts appear. Although the graphics are monochrome, they are well-enough animated, and every appearing animal is easily recognizable. The only thing that bothers me a bit is the strange black horizontal line that goes between the doors at the bottom of the screen. I have no idea, whether that is a natively Oric problem, or whether that is an emulation issue, so I cannot really give that any consideration.

Screenshots from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum version.

With the ZX SPECTRUM version, we have not only the closest gameplay equivalent to the ORIC original, but also one of the closest graphical equivalents. There is no elaborate title sequence here, and the title/menu screen really is a rather basic one. The game logo is nowhere near similar to the original, although the design isn't too shabby, really. The high score table is much more colourful, but instead of full screen bi-colour raster bars, you get more colourful bars on the borders.

Despite a similar monochrome approach to the in-game graphics as in the original, the SPECTRUM version does make more use of colours here. The view from the windows alone gives much more character and light to the otherwise black-and-white hen house. There is also a bit of blueness in the walls of the "action" room and in the doorways, and the ceiling is full red, which has rendered the hearts necessary to make into another colour, that being yellow here. The animals have been drawn a little more realistic here than in the original, and the lives and score display are much more stylish with a properly customized font. The dark blue border colour also gives a nice touch, and the scratchy effect when the mother hen hits you with a bat (?) also extends to the borders. Surprisingly nice.

Screenshots from the MSX version.
After the MSX version's two loading screens, there isn't much more to give in the title sequence, but it does have two screens there as well. The first one is nothing but white text on a black background, and the second one is just the game logo in the middle of the screen as you saw in the loading screen - also familiar from the SPECTRUM version. The high score table's name entrance version only features turqoise text and a cursor, whereas the display version of the high score table features practically all the colours the machine has to offer, frantically scrolling within the text.

The in-game graphics in the MSX version look very similar to the SPECTRUM graphics, with three notable differences. Firstly, the palette is different, but that's a given. Secondly, the border effect for when the hen is hitting you is gone, which is a bummer. Thirdly, the blueness from the doorways is gone. Otherwise, it's very much the same, which isn't bad.

Screenshots from the Amstrad CPC version.
Now we get to the land of blocky colours. The AMSTRAD version starts off with what should have been the loading screen, where we see the smiling rooster facing the right side of the screen, where you can see the Firebird and JAWX logos. At the bottom of the screen, we see a slightly different rendition of the game logo, which uses some designs from the original, but goes with its own, more angular way, and uses no changing colours. After the intro melody is played, the rooster winks at you and the small copyright appears above the word "Chase". What I have been wondering about is, why the rooster's head is turqoise here, when in the game it's clearly white. The high score table uses no real special effects (apart from the achieved score, which flashes in two colours when you are typing in your name), and only uses a red background with mostly white text.

With the big blocky colourful graphics comes a necessity to make some re-designs to the hen house. Gone are the windows, but the doorways have been made higher, giving them a chance to display something more than the ground. In this case, we see some blue sky in addition to the drab grey ground, although I do like the shading made inside the house, as if there was a window on the side of the house, where we are seeing the action happen. The walls use a couple of shades of pink, there are splashes of green, black and yellow here and there, and all the animals use reasonably natural colours. The animations are good, and there's a surprising amount of detail in the animals, and the score and lives display has its own distinctive, oddly somewhat futuristic look here. Apart from a few odd choices, I do like the graphics in this version.

Screenshots from the Commodore 64 version.
The C64 version takes us back towards the source in some ways. The title screen has a very close equivalent of the original picture of the rooster, now with some proper colouring, albeit in blockier pixels - and the wink is included, as well. The title logo is placed where it originally was, and the three colours scrolling within the title logo scroll smoother. There are no stars surrounding the rooster, but you get the JAWX logo at the bottom right corner, and a nice faux-hand-written "Created by" in the bottom left corner, which are displayed after the theme melody has finished playing. The high score table is a simple brown-on-grey table with black text when you are typing in your name, but when you are only displaying the table, the brown table is surrounded by a blue rectangular animated vortex thing.

If you're looking for a version with earthy tones and super blocky animals, the C64 version is a good option for that. Although the animals are realistically enough coloured and adequately animated, the super blocky style makes the game a bit uncomfortable to look at. The hen house uses shades of brown and pink, with a bit of white, black, yellow, blue, red and green thrown into the mix here and there. There is some attempt at shading here, but the perspective is different from the CPC version, this time the sunlight appearing to come almost straight above. The size of all the elements has made it necessary to follow the same house design principles as in the CPC version, but there's not as much detail here. Also, the score and lives panel feels like it was made for a Disney edutainment game instead of something as, in a way, raunchy as Chickin Chase is intended to be.

Screenshots from the Atari 400/800 version.
Instead of a proper stand-alone title screen, the ATARI version boots up to a high score table combined with options, where the game title is shown rather unassumingly at the top of the screen, almost like an afterthought. The unnecessarily Atariesque shaded horizontal bars make the screen a bit uncomfortable to look at, but I'm sure it was considered a cool gimmick at the time, making use of the Atari's palette. We do see the happy rooster in a separate full screen appearance for a short while, when you start the game, and here, we see him facing straight at the camera, instead of in a profile view. For the second time, his face has a bluish colour instead of the usual white, but his appearance in the actual game is white as usual.

Thanks to the blocky and strangely ineffectively shaded graphics, it took me a while to realize that the hen house is actually shaped somewhat like a tube - at least, the way the ceiling and the floor are connected to the back wall suggest a shape like that. The two platforms for the birdnests look strangely angular, although there is no actual 3D-effect on the birdnests. You can see some shades of blue in the ceiling, while the floor is dark green, and all you see from the doorways is whiteness. The animals use no more colours than white, brown and/or occasionally yellow, apparently somehow restricted by the colours used by the house. Although the animals aren't quite as large as the C64 counterparts, they are still very blocky, but the relative lack of colour makes them less interesting on the long run. But it's the hen house and the lack of details therein that makes its appearance inferior to the C64 version. And I almost forgot to mention, that the info panel is wholly unremarkable (green background with wide yellow text), because it is so wholly unremarkable.

Screenshots from the Thomson MO5/TO7 version.
Coq Inn, as the THOMSON version was released, features no title screen, but it does have a high score table and a separate screen for typing in your name for it. Nothing fancy, just some colourful text to fill in the space between Game Over and starting a new game. After finishing loading, this version goes straight into the game, instead of let you grab a cup of coffee in peace while the game is loading, so you have to be vigilant here.

The THOMSON version's in-game graphics are an odd mixture of greyscale monochrome graphics and some extremely contrasting coloured elements. The birdnest platforms have a red-and-yellow pattern, the heart icon in the bedroom door is bright purple, the info panel is pink - and includes the eggs counter for the hen instead of showing hearts in the ceiling - and there are two different extremely colorful and detailed landscapes shown through the doorways closer to the camera. In the otherwise grey area, I like the wall and ceiling patterns very much, and the enemy animals look nice and neat - actually rather similar to those in the SPECTRUM and MSX versions. Also, similarly to the SPECTRUM version, the THOMSON version features the screen border effect when the mother hen is beating you. Too bad the animations are choppy and cheap-looking, making the game almost unplayable and unwatchable.

So based on the quality of animations and drawn objects, the number and usage of colours, and the additional graphical material outside of the very limited single game screen, here's the order that I have decided upon:

1. AMSTRAD CPC
2. COMMODORE 64
3. MSX / ORIC ATMOS
4. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM
5. ATARI 400/800
6. THOMSON TO7/MO5

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SOUNDS


Because I cannot claim to know what the ORIC ATMOS actually sounds like in the flesh, I can only trust my observations through the Oricutron emulator to be truthful enough. From the first notes you hear the original Cock' In play as it boots up, you will hear an awkward but certainly recognizable rendition of the first few bars of Le Marseillaise, making it clear that this is a French game. The awkwardness I mention has to do with the odd high pitched harmonics that are clearly unintentional, but probably something the programmer wasn't able to do anything about. This harmonics problem is present throughout the game, so I suppose it's either a problem with the Oric's sound chip, or emulation. After the "Prism presents" screen is done, we are greeted with another cheery short fanfare, probably an abbreviation of a longer well-known fanfare, to present our hero, along with the title screen. There are also a few in-game melodic inserts to mark certain important occasions: an excerpt of von Suppe's "Charge of the Light Cavalry" when you enter the bedroom, the usual opening bit from Chopin's "Funeral March" when en egg gets snatched by an enemy, a variation on the old "Shave and a haircut" diddle when the hen goes back into her room, and a couple of other melodic phrases that have no connection to any actual piece of music for when the hen is walking around the room (a rhumpty-dumpty bass line), for you losing a life (a two-note chromatic descent), and when a worm makes an appearance (that old taunting "nah-na nah-na nah nah" melody).

Although it sounds like the music is played by a single channel beeper for the most part, you can hear two, sometimes three simultaneous melodies being played together, but without any particular attention to sound types or quality. Taking that into consideration, it is a bit odd, that some sound effects and single-note melodies cannot play simultaneously, while other can. Most of the sound effects are clearly based on the same sort of beeping as the jingles, but there are a couple of noise-based effects as well. While the sound quality isn't exactly interesting, all the various noises and melodies make the game a fairly rich environment for you to inhabit for a while.

The SPECTRUM version boots up into a completely quiet title screen, so the first bit of anything you will hear is the rooster walking up to the hen's bedroom, after which the "Charge of the Light Cavalry" is played in a more staccato manner. All the other pieces of music from the original from this point onward are kept in, similarly rearranged as the first tune. The sound effects are a little bit more pronounced, but offer nothing new and exciting. And of course, everything is rearranged into single melodic lines.

On the MSX version, we get to hear Le Marseillaise and the intro fanfare twice - first, upon seeing the two loading screens, and the second time when the game has finished loading and the two actual title screens appear. The set of sound effects and in-game melodies are almost exactly the same as you hear in the SPECTRUM version, only this time, we are able to hear two melodies being played simultaneously, although the one that starts later is played at a lower volume in the background. So, it's slightly better than the SPECTRUM version, but only slightly.

Of all the (mostly) monochrome versions, the THOMSON version has the soundtrack dealt with the worst. The only bit of music you will hear in the game is a phasered rendition of the intro fanfare when the game starts, and there are only three different sound effects: a multi-purpose high-pitched "tick" sound, a repeated low-pitched "toot-toot" when you lose a life, and a multi-purpose mid-range pitched "tick" sound. At least, now we have a clear low point here.

Now we move on to the ATARI version, which also boots up to a quiet title screen, or high score table if you will. Upon starting the game, the rooster's face fills the screen and is accompanied with the usual intro fanfare. The in-game music and sound effects are very much the same you hear on the MSX version, although the simultaneously played effects and music are now balanced to play at the same volume. Le Marseillaise is even featured here, but you will only hear it when you enter the high score table with your score. All things considered, the ATARI version is the best one yet. Which isn't really saying much.


When the common level of a game's sound design is simple, you cannot really expect too many wonders to happen on more advanced sound chips. I have been trying to decide upon the winner for this section, but both the AMSTRAD and C64 versions are just about equally advanced in their sound designs compared to the rest - perhaps with just a slight advantage for the C64 version, mostly thanks to the missing Funeral March from the CPC version. Still, both versions use their respective sound chips well enough with some new sound characteristics, more range used for melodies, certain sound effects are clearly using the noise channel with some reverb-like effect, and so forth. As is only to be expected, Le Marseillaise is missing from both versions, but taken into account the overall considerable upgrade over any of the others, it's a minor omission, barely worth noting, even if it takes the focus away from the game being blatantly French.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. AMSTRAD CPC
3. ATARI 400/800
4. MSX
5. ORIC ATMOS
6. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM
7. THOMSON TO7/MO5

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OVERALL + VIDEO


Giving scores to a game like this feels a bit like cheating, since all but one of the seven versions feel very close to each other in most ways. Visually, you can divide these into two main groups - the monochromatic ones and the blocky colourful ones, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Sonically, they're all very close to each other, with a slight advantage on the C64 and CPC versions. As usual, I would say it's playability that counts for the most part, and so the MSX version would come out as the winner, but there are other factors at play, which necessitates looking at the whole picture.

1. COMMODORE 64: Playability 6, Graphics 5, Sounds 7 = TOTAL 18
2. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 5, Graphics 6, Sounds 6 = TOTAL 17
3. MSX: Playability 7, Graphics 4, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 15
4. ATARI 400/800: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 5 = TOTAL 10
5. SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 4, Graphics 3, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 9
5. ORIC ATMOS: Playability 2, Graphics 4, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 9
6. THOMSON TO7/MO5: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 3


Now, I still think the traditional FRGCB method of giving scores is unreliable and often unfair, but at least the bottom three are more or less what I actually think they should be, and so are the top three, albeit in a strange order. Overall, my personal preference is either the MSX or the CPC version, depending on whether I want to enjoy the gameplay or the audio-visual side of it. The differences, while mostly small, are important enough to take notice, and to prove at least part of that point, here's the usual video accompaniment:

If that doesn't give you a fair idea of the differences, go ahead and play all seven versions yourself - you might have a different opinion so comments are welcome. But for me, I'm done with this game now, and will move on to finish the second comparison for Firebird February in the next week or two. Thanks for reading/watching; see you in the next one!

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