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Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back

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Released: 1986

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Palace Software

Developer: Steve Brown / Richard Joseph / Richard Leinfellner

Submitted by: Gavin Eke

 Ever bought one of those games which you really wanted to love but just couldn't?

Back in 1986, Palace Software released a sequel to the popular title called Cauldron, which featured a witch's quest to defeat the evil Pumpkin King. Highly acclaimed on the 8-bit computers, Palace then returned to tell the second part of the story. However, on this occasion you play the Pumpkin King eager to defeat the Witch who usurped him from his throne.  To be successful entailed a quest collecting the eight magical items to defeat her, therefore, regaining your castle & throne to boot. Such items included an axe, shield, cup, scissors, crown, book & finally a hair-lock from the sleeping witch. Not that I ever got that far though!

If I was to name this title, I would call it "Cauldron 2: An exercise in Frustration". Why? Well, it came down to how the game controlled. Pumpkin's don't usually have limbs to walk/run & certainly won't possess wings to fly, therefore, Palace came up with idea of bouncing to make his way around the Castle. Not that it was a bad idea,however, but it's how the mechanic was implemented into the game environment which made the task so challenging. Essentially, your Pumpkin had three levels of jumping height,  dependent on how long you held the fire button for. Platforms would be at various heights from your character & required plenty of patience to reach them.

A section of the gameplay would sound much like this; Bounce, bounce, bounce up to platform, ricochet off, fall back down to lower level. Collide with enemy, lose health points, bounce,bounce, bounce up to previous position, almost hit enemy, desperate change of direction. Bounce, try to reach upper platform again, bounce, " Oh arse, I've just hit that re-spawning enemy again", lose more health. Bounce, bounce, ricochet off upper platform, rebound in wrong direction, fall back down to lower level once more. "You ruddy stupid Pumpkin!" Repeat to fade…………

So that was Cauldron 2 for me. Unfortunately, my gaming dexterity was no match for re-pawning enemies which reappeared seconds after they were despatched & a Pumpkin harder to control than a Sinclair C5 on an Ice rink covered with vegetable oil.  The shame of it all, was that Cauldron 2  was a polished piece of software. Graphics were well drawn and fitted the Castle environment perfectly. Nice touches, such as the witch cackling upon your untimely demise (which happened a lot) and Gargoyles that would stick their tongue out at the screen, mocking your attempts to overthrow the laughing hag.

I've never seen a Pumpkin bounce, & now I know why………….