Circus Lido (1991)
By: Unipost Company Limited Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: ??,???
Also Available For: Nothing
I’ve always been a big fan of platform/puzzle games despite not being very good at them, so I’m always happy to discover a new one, and this is a pretty obscure one! I’ve been able to find out very little about it but it appears to be a Japan-only release which could go some way to explaining that. As you probably hadn’t guessed from the somewhat peculiar title, the star of the game is actually a chameleon! Under your control, it’s his job to clear each of the single-screen stages of insects. To do this, he must lick them up with his long, sticky tongue, and then regurgitate them into one of the carnivorous plants that also populate the stages. The insects are of course scattered around the screen in some awkward corners which necessitates our hero clambering around the many platforms. The only problem here is that he can’t jump!
Instead of jumping around the platforms, or even using ladders, our chameleon friend has a more novel approach – he can use his curly tail to pull himself up! He can only do this with certain kinds of platforms though (the smaller, spirally ones), and they are of course cunningly positioned, which is where the puzzle element comes in. Trying to work out how to get to certain parts of the screen can be a real test of the grey matter, even early on. Some of the platforms are moveable too. These are colour-coded and feature a small gap in them at which point the chameleon can climb up. Simply press the relevant button to move the platform left or right so the climbable gap is in the right place. Somewhat surprisingly (though mercifully), you are not burdened by a time limit here, and even more surprisingly, contact with the insects does nothing to our lizard friend. In fact, most of the insects will actively avoid him, but some are able to attack by firing or dropping projectiles. These do kill him, as does straying too close to the hungry canivorous plants that you have to feed the insects to, but the main challenge here lies in working out how to move around the screens.
And therein lies the both the good and bad sides of Circus Lido. It’s a novel approach to the platform/puzzle genre, and has some great, pretty original ideas. The only problem is, it gets too hard, too quickly! I like to play games all the way through before I review them here, but I simply can’t finish this one. In fact, I doubt I can get anywhere near the end of it! This, combined with the game’s obscurity resulting in little online reference material, means I don’t really know a lot about it. I’ve no idea how many stages it has, for example, and there may well be other things I don’t know about the game that might make it easier. For instance, when you eat one of the basic blue insects (I think they’re cockroaches or something), your chameleon can walk faster while it’s in his mouth, so it’s possible that eating the other kinds of insects bestows some sort of special ability upon him too, although my best efforts to test this theory have proved fruitless so far!
With all this in mind, it’s difficult to really know what to make of this game. Technically it’s proficient enough, though hardly pushing the Engine to its limits. The graphics are quite dark for the most part, tidy and nicely detailed, but don’t vary a great deal (as far as I’ve seen, at least), although the standard background style does at one point give way for a garish, multi-coloured one! The music is quite peculiar but catchy and enjoyable, and seems to suit the game well. As far as actually playing the game goes – I enjoyed it a lot… until I got stuck! Our lizardy friend moves rather slowly around the screen (much like a real one would, I suppose), and if you make a wrong move it can (and often does) result in the stage being unwinnable, so you have to give up and start again. Luckily each stage has a password though, so if you run out of lives you at least won’t have to keep starting from the first stage. When I first played this game I really liked it. It’s original, has some interesting ideas, looks and sounds fairly pleasant… It seemed like my sort of game, but it has just proven to be too hard. I’ll keep trying it as it is very addictive, but unless any of you know any tricks I can try here, I’m not sure how much further I’ll get!
RKS Score: 6/10