Both of Artex Software's
previous commercial releases, space strategy game
Exodus and point-and-click
adventure Ankh, have been superb
titles worthy of their five star awards. It's a fair bet, then, that they're
hoping that their latest release, Botkiller 2, goes down just as
As the '2' in the title implies, Botkiller 2 is the sequel to an
earlier game. Both are platform puzzlers with pretty much the same gameplay
elements, but in this follow-up title the single-screen levels of its
progenitor have been expanded into large scrolling arenas and the scale of
your view has been greatly increased to match. It also now costs money - the
original was free.
The original game (left) and Botkiller 2 (right)
Botkiller 2's main character has relatively few actions - you can
walk, jump, duck or fire one of five different guns. The game world itself is
mainly just a bigger version of that in the original game, centring around
transporters, lethal beams, consoles, locked doors and reaching the exit.
Even many of the enemies look and act pretty much the same as in the original
game. Puzzles generally centre around discovering blocks which you can
destroy to access new areas, finding keys to open doors and activating and
summoning the various elevators and transporters to travel around the level,
whilst avoiding those lethal beams. The enemies are just there to get in the
Nicely presented, with well-drawn and animated graphics, Botkiller 2
is a fairly enjoyable game. A bit more variety in the level decoration
wouldn't have gone amiss, but at least what's there has some animation to
liven things up. The tracker-based music is fairly atmospheric, albeit
eventually repetitive, and the sound effects are reasonable if a little
unsubtle. A mysteriously loud footstep effect as you walk is guaranteed to
annoy, and bizarrely you cannot disable the music and sound effects
individually. The overall sonic effect, however, is to make the game seem
and the new:
Botkiller 2 does make a good first impression. It is nicely packaged
in a glossy colour CD case (although it actually comes on a single HD floppy)
and starts with a brief but adequate title sequence which is followed by an
attractive menu and help screen. The status display during the game is
nicely designed, and there are a few graphical gimmicks here and there
(although nothing especially impressive - the small, transparent explosions
simply look odd and it would undoubtedly look more convincing without them).
The levels scroll smoothly and there is a 'filtered' display mode which
apparently makes the display look a bit better - it actually just makes it
look a bit blurred and it slows the game down on my ARM710 machine, making it
an odd choice of default.
If you enjoyed Botkiller then chances are you'll enjoy this even more.
The puzzles are generally more involved, although there are still many
difficult jumps and beam-avoidance timings to get right. Botkiller 2's
graphics and scrolling levels are so much bigger than the single-screen, small character ones of the original that you sometimes need to spend some time
just exploring each level to work out how it all fits together, a process
made more complex by the frequent use of teleporters to take you to another
area. This removes some of the instant playability of the original game and
also means that on some of the more empty levels you spend a lot of time just
wandering around in the hope of finding a missing key or some such. At some
points in the game this is a serious problem - you can't save within a level
and their sheer size means that even after playing a level for a long time
you can lose all your lives and need to play through from the start again.
Some of the levels also have design flaws where making one mistake means you
have to deliberately lose all your lives and then start again.
You can buy upgrades in the shop:
The shop assistant has had a makeover since the original version:
As you play through the game you inevitably get stuck, and often it is
necessary to attempt certain jumps many times until you manage to work out
how to time them correctly - or even discover if they are possible at all. Because it can take so long to play through to a
particular point this can be a frustrating and seriously time-consuming
process. Annoyingly, jumps that look perfectly possible sometimes aren't because of the strange physical rules that allow you to redirect your jump whilst in the air but not to enter gaps in walls whilst falling. Successive perfect-timing manoeuvres might be tolerable in a
single-screen environment but within large levels they're a serious
annoyance and Botkiller 2 is sometimes far too fussy. If you're
jumping up to a platform it is much too easy to accidentally double-jump, and
the game is very unforgiving when requiring you to jump from platform to
platform. It's an old school title that needs some new lessons.
The sprawling size of some of the levels is a serious annoyance not only
due to the need to continually repeat a series of actions but also because
unfortunately your character walks at a remarkably slow pace and there is
no option to run. It can take minutes to walk across a level and sometimes
you may need to go back and forth several times in order to complete it.
This can seriously hamper the pace of the game and discourage you from
further attempts to complete a level. This is bad design and there's no real
excuse for it. You are given a password between levels but this doesn't help
Speed and size problems aside, the levels vary wildly in quality. Some of
them - almost without exception the smaller ones - are excellent fun, but the
larger ones are frequently tedious and dull. There are also many examples
of careless level design, with restart points sometimes mindlessly placed,
positions where you can fall off the bottom of the level when temporarily invicible and get stuck, and occasions where a tiny mistake can make the rest of the level
impossible. There are also far too many long walks which have no gameplay purpose at
all. 'Botkiller' could almost be a comment on how much sitting around you
have to do.
The game features four bullet-firing guns and one rocket launcher, but
bizarrely you can walk faster than your bullets. Equally strangely the
bullets bounce off walls, damaging you in the process. This is frequently
rather unfair given that you are forced to randomly fire at walls in the hope
of finding secret passages (unless you spot the clues which indicate them).
Another frustrating element is that you have a limited number of bullets, so
often you find yourself having run out of bullets and only able to fire
extremely slowly. This rarely makes the game any harder but simply forces you
to procede at a pace that even a snail would find slow. It might have worked
if the levels had been planned more carefully and you weren't forced to
attack random walls in the hunt for passages, but as it is it simply annoys.
There's a good game inside Botkiller 2 that sometimes peeks out, and
on the levels which are nicely compact and carefully designed it is
fulfilling and rewarding to play. Luckily there are enough of these sections
to keep you playing through most of the boring parts, but it's a fine line
that Botkiller 2 teeters on the edge of breaking. With more care taken
over the level design this game could easily have been superb, but as it is
it's merely competent. It is fun, however, and £15 is a very
reasonable price - because of this budget price it just scraped four stars
instead of three. It's also considerably better than many other available
games, and easily the best release of the moment. It won't set the world
alight, but then it clearly never intended to.
Botkiller 2 will run on just about any machine - it requires RISC OS 2 or above, 4MB of RAM and a harddisc.
A demo version is due for release 'soon'.
Unlike previous Artex games, Botkiller 2 is only available for
purchase direct from:
Wag Software, 5 Queens Close, East Markham, Near Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG22 0QY
It costs £15 inclusive. Payment must be by cheque payable to 'Wag Software'.
You can download the original Botkiller game either from Acorn Gaming or from Artex Software.
...this page last updated: 4/7/99...
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