There will be many readers who will raise their eyebrows ceiling high on seeing a review of Acornsoft's Boxer. They will feel that as possibly the most abundant title for the Electron, and certainly one of the earliest, Wal Mansell's platformer (which, let's face it, has very little to do with boxing at all!) has already done so many rounds that it should be truly exhausted.
But interestingly enough, simply because it was so quick on the scene, Boxer missed out on an appraisal by a Software Surgery and, with versions across all machines and all media formats, other readers probably reckon a review is long overdue. Seconds out, then...
The match, as indicated, is a platform game; done nicely in Mode 2 and including several rules swiped from the sport to give it a sense of individuality: You are a boxer fighting an opponent; three falls and you're out; survive one "Round", which is how levels are termed, and you go on to the next one. It's a simple game of ladders, ropes and rafters, huge hulking boxer and sundry sprites and a high playability factor thanks to machine code programming.
Yet your scene is not a boxing ring but a gymnasium. Or so the inlay would like you to believe - When was the last time you went into a gym with four floors, ropes connecting them and dangerous boxing gloves and dumbbells hurtling across each? Digression over, the object of the game is not to compete with your opponent for the World Title but rather for the Miss World collection of pixels standing on the bottom platform.
However, impressing this particular girl is strange. Evidently of a camp thinking two men pulverising each other for entertainment is a bit cruel, she has elected that the two instead try to catch balloons she releases! So what we have here is a gym where floating balloons become stuck in rafters above her and it's up to you to both reach and head-butt [Is that allowed in boxing? - Ed] them before they free themselves.
Sounds simple and, once you've got the hang of it, it is...for a few "Rounds". In contrast to you though, your opponent doesn't need to 'butt five balloons to become the hero of the hour; it is simply enough that you let five balloons get away to the top of the screen to ensure his victory! It's also worth nothing that he is completely unaffected by all the gym instruments whizzing to and fro. And is carrying a big, infinite stack of weights (They look more like pies when he drops them!) for the sole purpose of depositing them on your head if you're on the rafter beneath him!
Anything that moves in Boxer is no touchy-touchy. Failure to obey the rule results in your boxer crashing to the ground. This even includes the balloons themselves which cannot be headbutted until they become lodged somewhere. As the game toughens up, the length of time they stick around dwindles and, with increased numbers of gym instruments flying across at foot, chest and head height, you are less likely to be able to have time to consider a risk-free strategy for reaching them all.
Control in this game is very simple. Z, X, * and ? are used to walk left and right and climb up and down ropes whilst RETURN punches and SHIFT jumps. None of the fiendish gym equipment is unavoidable with a combination of each - although look out for the unexpected fast-flyin boxing glove after you've been knocked down once and try to get back up - and punching any object successfully will make it disappear. If you wish, you can opt to use a Plus 1 joystick.
Each time you collect five balloons, your boxer falls in love, i.e. little red hearts appear around his head, and you move to a harder gym. The situation is reversed should you miss five (and you lose a life). When a game is over, you are shown the High Score table and, if good enough, asked to enter your name. Pretty standard stuff but nicely done in that same way that all Acornsoft arcade games seem to share.
Boxer may be old [Released in 1984! - Ed] but it's worth having. The Electron version is unfortunately too fast on a BBC (and the BBC version too slow on an Electron!) but each version is exactly the same and shows just what comparable speed an Electron can achieve when games are correctly converted. It's also reasonably addictive and, as it's also on ADFS (PAGE at &1D00 ok) disk, deserves to bound about a bit longer.