Game Review: Prospector Pete (Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic)

Prospector Pete, Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic - 2C0148
  • 8/10
    Score - 8/10
8/10

Summary

Prospector Pete pays a suitable homage to O’Riley’s Mine on the Commodore 64, but has a charm all its own. The action soon becomes fast paced in nature as you attempt to collect all the minerals and gold before the mine floods, with responsive controls, simple but effective animation and sixteen levels of increasing challenge with a fair difficulty curve.  It is a solid and playable game and one that is well worth checking out.

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Back in 1983, Datasoft released O’Riley’s Mine for the Commodore 64, a game in which you needed to collect all the treasures from the mine before the mine flooded and time ran out.  In absence of a Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version, it was clear that any game paying homage to that and getting the playability right would be a winner.  Step forward Doug Turner, who programmed the Plus/4 only version of Icicle Works for Commodore, to produce what would become Prospector Pete.

Mine, All Mine

The title screen allows you to choose joystick or keyboard controls by pressing RETURN to toggle.  The keys are not mentioned at all in the instructions (which state joystick only), but they are A – left, S – right, P – up, L – down and SPACE for the fire button.   One nice touch is that you can also choose the starting level you wish to play, so if you want to go to the last level and give that a go, you can do so.  This gives you a chance to work out ways of conquering the increased speeds of the game all round as it can get frenetic much later.

The game starts with Prospector Pete at the top of the mine.  A stick of dynamite is at the bottom centre, and set to go off, which will allow water into the mine.  The water will only travel as high as the part of the mine you have dug into, so it is imperative not to dig right at the top, or else the water will flood your way out.  Moving Pete around the mine and collecting the various objects, from rocks to oil to gas and so on, gives you several points, with the mystery icon (with a question mark) also giving you extra points and bonuses.  You will also note the mine meanies which roam the mine and the tunnels you have dug.  Colliding with one of those is a loss of life, but you can stop them in their tracks by pressing FIRE to drop a stick of dynamite, and when it explodes, it either kills them on contact or blocks their way.  The water douses this though, so bear that in mind.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Earlier levels are a nice introduction to the game play, with the water not moving too fast and allowing Pete to get around the mine.  More mine meanies do get added, and then there is an added twist – some of the treasure turns into skulls which kill you on contact, so you must time the run to only touch these when they are treasure.  Later levels also get much faster – Pete himself goes quicker but that means you do need to be accurate on your way round to ensure all the treasures are collected and you have not missed one out, especially with all that water surrounding quite quickly.

Working in a Goldmine

There are some sensible tactics when playing – first, get Pete as low down the mine as possible before the dynamite explodes and head either side of the central mine shaft so that the water will move around the new tunnels you are digging.  You can also touch a treasure by pressing the joystick in the direction it is, handy if your tunnel is right next to it and you do not want to go any higher.  I found this useful for those treasures near the top so could keep the maximum water level at a safe distance, meaning the exit can be found.

At the end of the level, you are awarded a bonus for any sticks of dynamite you have left.  You do get one extra stick when you complete a level, but it is sensible not to use any of these early on, which helps accumulate a nice bonus, and that means when the mine meanies come at Pete quicker, you can tactically deploy these as needed to give you some more time.  You only get three lives too and no extras, so you must keep the wits about you and not run into or get trapped by any water, or that is a loss of life.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics are nicely drawn, although the mainly brown coloured mine dirt could be accused of being too much Commodore 64 brown.  The treasures are all what they are, so the rocks, diamonds, gas, and the skull are all recognisable. Pete himself has a nice little animation as he walks around the mine, and the dynamite explosions are well animated too.  The top of the mine starts with a blue sky during the day and becomes night as you play the level, a nice touch with the above ground graphics neatly drawn.  The screen scrolls smooth too.  There is not that much sound, apart from picking up treasures, dynamite explosions, bonus scores and a level complete bong – I do wish there was some title tune of sorts but in the scrolling text on the title screen Doug Turner did mention about running out of memory.

Final Thoughts

Prospector Pete has a charm all its own even if it is playing homage to O’Riley’s Mine.  There is a good high score challenge to be had here, and the ability to start any level you like does give you chance to practice as you wish before going for that score.  The nice increase in gameplay elements, speed and difficulty make it always fun to play as you progress, and the later levels are frenetic and fast paced enough to match any arcade game on the system.  Doug Turner’s games were always playable and this is no exception, making him a programmer that you could trust (under his guise of British Software as a developer.)

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