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Mr Puniverse

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Released: 1985

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: Commodore 16/Plus4

Publisher: Mastertronic

Developer: Tony Kelly

Submitted by: Barry Lendrum

This game is based on the BBC's old "Late, Late Breakfast Show". Here is the Basic storyline according to the inlay.

Long ago, in a faraway land, where dinosaurs ruled the earth, men were men – women were women – a new breed of man was born.
Skin and bones, pallid, harmless, tearful, timid, basically inept  – "Wimps" had arrived!
No more, would animals fear all men.
No more, would man be the hunter.
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 vitamins that will keep him alive.

Sounds like my kind of game. It must be one of the most outlandishly humourous plots ever. This is the official sequel to Big Mac (The Mad Maintenence Man) which also graced the C64, but Mr Puniverse is totally exclusive to our system, lucky us.

This is a multiscreen platform adventure. The simple aim of the game is to explore all 25 rooms and collect each vitamin pill from each. Once you've achieved collecting all of these then you've won the game.

You have the option of either joystick or keyboard control, and you can select one or two players which is turn-based. You start off with 8 yes 8 lives, for you will find that you'll need them. Mr Puniverse…ah let's just call him Eric, he looks like an Eric… Well, Eric may only move left and right but can also thankfully jump (otherwise there wouldn't be much of a game).

There is also a health meter bar. But depending on which room you are in, the meter will go either up or down and fast or slow. So whenever you are low on health, just find a room preferably with a fast health replenisher.

Each room poses their own set of problems such as crushers that go up and down ready to squash poor puny Eric. You also need to avoid cannon fire. Some of the cannons spit bullets randomly left or right and some just spit them out in one direction only, you need to  time your jumps carefully. There are also some electrified platforms you cannot land on or electrical barriers you cannot touch without losing a life.

Many pills are placed in such a way that you need a little logical thinking to get to them. 4 of the rooms require you to flick switches to turn off any electrical barriers, and another room where a switch lies to remove a platform. This may not sound a lot, but there are many other rooms with their own different set of problems which require some great dexterity to avoid, like cannon fire and crushers at the same time. Luckily, Eric is able to quickly change direction mid-jump for crucial timing when needed.

There is also a room with dissolving floors, one which may see you in an inescapable pitfall trap where you will need to press D to lose a life if you're unfortunate enough to find yourself in it. There's a few pitfall traps around so be sure to judge carefully how deep any drops are. There are a few ladders too which can only be ascended with the jump button, you can't go down them. Just make sure that the final pill you collect is the one back on the first screen otherwise it's game over no matter how many lives left, that's the ultimate trap. Finally there's a couple of exits in other rooms which will take you to another room altogether that's not directly next to it, one of these is very handy for a bit of tactical play. I'll leave you to work that one out.

That's the gameplay. But how does the game look, sound and play?

Well, the graphics are virtually identical to Big Mac as it uses much of the same code, although Eric (Mr P) looks far less defined. Maybe it's just a deliberate representation of his total punyness. But he and the rest of the graphics does look a little less colourful compared to Big Mac though.

The sound is OK. The music on the pretty nice title screen is pretty good. The white noise death explosions are OK, although the sound Eric makes when he jumps and falls is quite piercingly high-pitched so make sure you turn the sound down a bit, or you could just turn it right up so to annoy the dog.

The controls are at least nice and fluid. As I said before you can turn direction in mid-jump which becomes crucial for timing. Eric doesn't walk very fast though but not extremely slow either. Collision detection is very good. Unfortunately there is no scoring, just the total time played and the amount of limited 25 vitamin pills you collect.

Sometimes though when you enter a room a certain way, you may find yourself heading straight for an unavoidable crusher or cannon bullet. This means that if you lose a life this way then you will be placed back in exactly the same situation on your next life. This is the Jet Set Willy syndrome, so you will need some game strategy to avoid ending your game swiftly.

It is a pretty tough game to crack but I wouldn't call it overly difficult. It's quite beatable once you work out the map and with plenty of practice which will take a while.

Overall it's a very fun fine game and which becomes quickly addictive. I easily put it somewhere in my top 5 of platformers on the C16. It's a recommeneded game for every retro platform fan. An exclusive classic on our system.

One niggling question though. If he's the most weakest, weediest, pathetic and inept of them all, then how can he possibly lead all the rest of the wimps?

You can watch the full longplay video HERE!