Game Review: Mr Puniverse (Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic)

Mr Puniverse, Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic - 2C0103
  • 8/10
    Score - 8/10
8/10

Summary

As a standalone platform game with multiple screens arranged in a maze, and a sequel to More Adventures of Big Mac – The Mad Maintenance Man, Mr Puniverse is more of the same excellent action.  There is more depth with the twenty-five screens in a maze, and some tricky puzzles to solve, although the back tracking in parts may get a little tiresome.  Nonetheless, another excellent Tony Kelly game, and both this and its prequel are definite must haves for Commodore 16 and Plus/4 owners.

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User Review
8/10 (1 vote)

The sequel to Big Mac – The Mad Maintenance Man only appeared on the Commodore 16 and Plus/4, and in the blurb Mastertronic seemed to want to tie it in with the Noel Edmonds Late Late Breakfast show, which pulled in large television audiences on BBC One in the United Kingdom at the time.  There is nothing concrete to say whether it was official, but there was a section of that show called Mr Puniverse, a play on words of Mr Universe, but with thinner weaker looking men, that some may have called puny.  In hindsight, the blurb is the only mention to tie in the game, and given the unfortunate events which would lead to the show’s cancellation later in 1986, it is probably for the best that it is not mentioned any further.

Long in a faraway land, says the instructions, a new breed of man was born. Wimps, their destiny to have sand kicked in their faces! Lead by the weakest, weediest, most pathetic of this new minor race: Mr Puniverse.  Undernourished and barely alive, Mr Puniverse has to solve 25 problem filled locations in his search for the vitamin that will keep him alive.  In effect, this means you need to negotiate those twenty-five screens and find the vitamin pills, of which there is one per screen, to complete the game.  And straight away from the get go, when you load the game, the graphical style does remind you of the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version of Big Mac – the same pseudo 3D effects on the blocks, and tweaked status display, with one and two player options on joystick or keyboard – it is consecutive turns in two player mode.

Weakling Wandering

You start at the top left of the twenty-five screens and need to work out a way to get back to this starting screen to pick up the vitamin pill in the bottom left.  To do this, you must make your way through the screens, collecting the vitamins as you go.  Some are easy to get, some are more difficult, and some do involve some tracking back and forward to find the right path.  Needless to say, mapping out the game helps enormously to find a way through.  Once you get past the second screen (note the “ha ha” message hidden within) you can progress along to locate some more vitamins, and then after a long fall have various options to take.

Energy Bars

One thing you may not notice straight away but is useful is the fact that some screens drain your energy quicker than others, and some screens increase your energy to full power – again some quicker than others.  The appropriately named rest room in the game is a perfect place to take stock, although throughout there some dashes through screens to find another path and to avoid energy dropping.  If that drops to zero, or one of the many cannons shoots a bullet which hits you, or a plunger drops on you, it is a loss of one of your eight lives.  That might seem a lot, but wait until later in the game and you will soon find out you wished you had more.

Some of the screens can be reached by jumping up from a particular point and into the lower parts of the next, such as the ones near the top right of the maze.  Once you get the hang of that, it opens up the game well with some fiendish challenges involving switches to turn off barriers that block your way.  Some of the cannons fire bullets at random left or right, which can sometimes make the game trickier if you need to time your jump well.  Others are a case of diving down and jumping out to avoid a bullet, and one screen with multiple plungers and a cannon can be quite tricky to master – and some leave it until later in the game when you can jump into the bottom of it and make the retrieval of the vitamin easier.  Like Big Mac, you can use the D key for death if you get stuck, and you normally are put back in a safe place on the screen to continue.

Big Mac, Fries to Go

The graphics are bright and colourful throughout, really using the colour palette well, really popping out at you.  The sound effects are the same as Big Mac – a rise and fall sound effect when jumping and a fall when falling, and a white noise if you die.  The title tune is a little quirky ditty, but the memory went on a large playable game, with tight controls that are responsive and feels like your fault if you make a mistake.  The screen designs are well thought out and they are all completable with practice. An earlier version of the game can crash with the timer going beyond a particular point, so the race against the clock (and yes, there is a timer, so you can aim for a completion record time) may be a little more frenetic if you have that.

Final Thoughts

Mr Puniverse takes all that was good about Big Mac, and makes it a larger platform and maze challenge with twenty-five well designed screens and more of a completion task with longer gameplay.  The back tracking can be sometimes a little repetitive and you may get bored in some screens waiting for your energy to top up, but patience does reap the rewards here with a game that is fun, playable and has an emphasis on being a bigger challenge, hence the eight lives to play with.  It is another winner from Tony Kelly and if pushed to ask which of the two I like best, I would say they were equal, because Big Mac made the game formula work well and that same game engine is used to good effect here for a larger challenge.  Both are essential purchases in my view.

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You know what we think but why not share your thoughts on this game! Let us know what you think of it in the comments below, or add your own score using the slider in the summary box at the top of the review!

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