Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tearaway Thomas (Amiga)

Tearaway Thomas title screen
Developer:Global Software|Release Date:1993|Systems:Amiga

This week on Super Adventures I'm having a quick look at obscure platformer Tearaway Thomas.

It might seem a bit weird that I'm playing an Amiga game called Tearaway Thomas right after playing an Amiga game called Rolling Ronny last week, but that's because they're both filed away into the same folder in my brain. I'm finally making an effort here to learn which is which and more importantly what they even are.

As far as I can tell this is the first and last commercial video game these folks ever made, presumably because it's such an incredible work of art that they decided that trying to follow it up would be pointless and it was best to quit while they were ahead. Or maybe it's real bad and it shamed them into exile. I can't remember, that's why I'm replaying it now.



Agh, pillow shading! It's like he's put together from bits of fabric; they've done a Plok on him.

On the plus side, if you ever wanted to know what Sonic the Hedgehog would've looked like if he was created by a European Amiga developer, this is probably your best clue. Only they would've called him Thomas the Hedgehog or Ronny the Hedgehog or something.

Not that Thomas here is a hedgehog. At least I don't think he is. He looks more like a green dog or something.

Oh we're going to that stage from the title screen first? For some reason I expected it to begin in a town (probably because I'm getting it mixed up with Rolling Ronny). So this has to be the first time I've ever been surprised to find that a platformer's starting with a forest level.

Oh, it wants me to collect gems. How very 80s.

I am required to search the level and find 15 of the things before it'll let me continue on to the next stage. Because navigating a series of obstacles an enemies within a tight time limit isn't enough of a challenge on its own apparently.

Oh damn I just glanced down to the next line and it really is a tight timer isn't it? I've got just 50 seconds to do what I'm doing here and then exfiltrate the hostile area. I'm a little tempted to hang around and see what happens when the timer runs out, but I get the feeling I'll be finding out soon whether I want to or not.

Uh, this isn't a Woodland zone, this is an Undead Woodland zone. The trees are all leafless and broken, and that one on the left is clearly a vampire. Vampire trees can't hide from the sunlight so they have to wear sunglasses instead. The tree on the right is apparently a Chinese vampire looking at the caricature face they've given it with the slanted eyes. Bit dodgy that.

Alright, the first thing I've learned is that it uses the 'fire' button to jump instead of 'up' on the joystick! Much better than the typical Amiga platformer control scheme. Though it does mean that I don't get to have a gun.

Second thing I've learned is that the game is SO FAST.

I've had to cut half the frames out of this GIF to get the file size down, so it doesn't quite get across just how slick and twitchy this game is. There's no momentum though, so Thomas comes to a stop as quick as he starts; it makes the game look like it's being played in fast-forward.

It doesn't seem like there's any hit points, health bar, etc. When I fall off a branch and run into a bear patrol the only thing I lose is time. But if you look at what the timer's doing while I'm dazed you'll notice I'm losing more time than it seems, so I can't afford to play with the bears too often.

Oh damn, now I'm trying to remember where I've seen "IN" arrows like that in front of a tree before.

It's Superfrog I'm thinking of. Has to be.

Shadow of the Beast (Amiga)
Actually no, I'm confused. Superfrog has you collecting coins to open the exit under a tree but it's Shadow of the Beast that has the arrows.

This is what an Amiga game can look like by the way, just to refresh your memory. Most aren't as pretty as this, but they don't typically try to burn your eyes out with their gradient backgrounds either.

I mean why magenta? Every game I've played lately seems to want to flood the screen with magenta!

That stage was pretty straightforward though. I got through it with all the gems and 14 seconds left on the clock! I'm so good at games.


STAGE 2: ITS LIKE FALLING OFF A LOG.


And then on stage two I immediately threw myself off a cliff at the start instead of stopping to consider why there was an arc of gems floating in the air. I guess the stage title was supposed to be a clue that if I'd waited a second I would've gotten a magical log to ride. Like this!

Fortunately the game's not all that keen on spike traps or bottomless pits so it was just grass at the bottom. The time limit's so tight that just slowing me down is deadly.


STAGE 3: NUMBER 3 - THE LARCH.


Bit of a Monty Python joke for you in the stage title there. Also it looks like Tweety Bird's making a cameo on the right. He's freaking me out by not having an outline like the other enemies.

I'm a bit confused here because I'm sure I just bounced off that purple bird. There's 100 points coming out of him and I'm not dazed, but he's still flying. Also I haven't been able to jump on enemies at all until now. Every other time I've tried it I've ended up falling on my ass with a headache, so what's changed?


STAGE 4: THE WORM THAT TURNED.


Oh I get it now! The enemies are as invulnerable as I am, but I can use their heads as a trampoline and earn a few points as long as I hold the fire button down when I jump. I can't just tap it, I have to hold it, it's very strange.

I'm really flying through these stages by the way, mostly because they're tiny. At this rate I'll get through the entire first world in the time it took me to get through just the first level of Rolling Ronny and that's not an exaggeration.

Please be the last gem I need to open the exit, please be the last gem I need to open the exit!

I could really use another counter telling em how many gems I still need to collect so I have a better idea of how I'm doing. It'd be helpful to know whether I should to waste time grabbing the trickier gems along the way, or leave them to get to the exit in time.

This was the last gem I needed by the way. EXIT OPEN!


STAGE 5: FAMOUS FIVE.


I get that stage title reference too!

The game needs some hurry-up music. I want to be in an absolute panic when the timer's down to 8 seconds, like on the underwater levels of Sonic the Hedgehog when he's running out of air. Then again 8 seconds is an eternity in this.

Oh shit, the bird knocked me off the rope! I'll have to run back and climb up the branches again. Okay, I've got a bit of panic going on now.

Aww shit, I was so close! I'm only two gems short from getting the door open, I could've made it if I had another second.

Oh hang on, I'm still playing? It paused for a moment, subtracted a life, then let me continue where I left off. Well, that's good... except for the 'losing a life' bit.



STAGE 6: ROPE AND GLORY.



I love these arrows they've put everywhere. It would've been cruel for them to leave the route ambiguous when I've got 22 seconds left to finish. I found them especially useful when I fell down from a higher branch and had to get back on the path again.

Oh c’mon.

It's fine though, I can get out of this situation. Every enemy in the game continues back and forth along their pre-set paths, and these two have slightly different length patrol routes, so I just have to hang around the tree until they're out of sync again! I can watch my seconds disappear while I wait.

You can see how twitchy the gameplay is here. I don't quite have enough room on the screen to see what's coming so I have to edge forward carefully... but quickly. It's always another bird or a bear though (more likely to be a bird if I'm up the air like this). They've apparently wiped out all the other creatures living in these undead woods.


STAGE 7: WOOD BEE HONEY THIEF.


Well now I feel like an idiot for wanting more variety in the enemies.

It turns out that not everyone here's happy to go back and forth along their routes. Nope, once a swarm of bees catch sight of me they hound me everywhere I go. I can't even bounce off them like other enemies, they're real assholes. It seems I've got to lure them over to one tree, then dart to the other tree without touching them and try to get as many gems as I can there before they catch up. Then I've got slip by them and go back to grab the gems I left on the other tree.

Even with the bees sapping my time I still managed to make it to the exit with 19 seconds on the clock and 0 lives left! But it wasn't open yet so now I have to go back and face the bees again. What about all those spare gems I collected on stage one huh? Don't they count for anything?

Bees, man. They're like the wasps of video games. I lived next door to some bees for a while, they were very respectful, kept to themselves. One ducked inside my bathroom to get out of the rain once, but other than that they left me alone. Video game bees on the other hand are pure evil. You can tell by their frowny eyes.

Also the game didn't give me any continues, so now I'm back to the title screen. Joy.

Well as eager as I am to jump right back into it, I've just remembered that I have to, uh... oh right, the game has a manual! I should totally read that. Slowly.

Honestly? No.

But now I know what kind of animal Tearaway Thomas is! The mystery has been solved! He's a tearaway.

Wow, I just assumed that the game was set on Earth. Shows what I know.

The manual explains that Tearaway Thomas actually takes place on the planet Cinos Eht Gohegdeh. You'd think it was named by an astronomer with good telescope and a sense of humour, but nope, those so-called experts don't actually know shit about video game mascot planets. They probably don't even measure astronomical distances in 'bits' yet, or know that space has a north.

The author of this manual is apparently from a more advanced culture which had to switch to using 'bits' to measure distance because a 'light year' has become a unit of time now. They're also really keen on calling Cinos a "prickly sounding planet" every chance they get.

The tearaways aren't alone on planet Cinos as they share their world with a mad doctor who's obsessed with being fast and cute... oh sorry, I read that wrong. He's obsessed with being cut, and in his jealousy he's infected every tearaway throughout history with an existential crisis.

Now Thomas is plagued by questions. What is he? Where does he belong. Why is he the only thing in this game to have a name that isn't an anagram of a Sega or Nintendo product? How hell do you get 'Minedto' from 'Nintendo' anyway? His only hope of finding answers lies in the future! So we're going on a platforming adventure through time to find the meaning of life. Seriously, that's the actual plot.


STAGE 8: NUMBER 9 - THE LARCH.


Okay, I've restarted from the beginning and I'm making good progress now. Trouble is that this first world seems to last forever! It's stage 9 now and I'm still here in the forest dodging purple birds on broken branches. I said earlier that I'd probably get past world one quicker than I got past the first level of Rolling Ronny, but that was before I knew it was absolutely endless.

Plus they've started pulling cruel tricks on me. Like here, where there's two ways to climb up. Which is the correct path though? The answer for me was both of them, as when I got to the top the exit was shut and I had to come back down again to get the gems on the other rope.

But I made to the exit in time to learn that I've finally beaten world one! If you subtract all the time I spent catching my breath at the 'PRESS FIRE' screens, it took me around 5m 20s in total... which is 20 seconds less than it took me to beat Rolling Ronny's first level. So I was right after all!

Felt more like half an hour though.


CHALLENGE LEVEL.


The world's not really over yet though as now I get to play a Challenge Level to win an extra life! They gave me 20 seconds to make it to the exit, and I went and threw them all away by missing the floating log again.

In my defence my eyes are just smoking holes in my face now after staring at these backgrounds for so long.

I've made it to Toyland! Woo!


STAGE 1: THE CAR FERRY.


Oh thank fuck they've got a sensible background this time! Shame they couldn't afford some variety in their LEGO bricks. Just getting some different colours would've helped.

Speaking of variety, there's been no powerups or other twists to keep the gameplay interesting so it's been really basic so far. Though the level design has changed at least, so now I'm jumping up through the floor from the bottom of the screen over and over again to get each trapped gem in turn. I'm just happy that it's different from what I've been doing. Plus there's finally some new music! Enemies are still incredibly generic though.

There's been nothing as interesting as Rolling Ronny's chain-smoking clown springs. Not that enemies have to be abstract and weird in a platformer like this, but we're in Toyland now! The place could use a bit more imagination on display


STAGE 2: THE CHOICE IS YOURS.


Now I'm going through these four teleporters to different sections of the level... to jump around and collect gems again. It feels different from jumping across branches and climbing ropes though.

Like this bit is just a snaking path to run around, without any danger of getting lost. In fact I'm finding Toyland easier than Woodland in general as I'm not put back as far when I slip and fall.


STAGE 3: THIS WAY UP.


Though sometimes I have to fall back down so that I can jump right back up again on the other side of the stage. It's strange level design, but that's a collect 'em up for you. They love to make you backtrack and waste your time.

I'm just happy I haven't seen any bees in a while.


STAGE 4: THE BIG WHEEL.


Oh I don't like this, I really don't like this.

All I have to do here is stay on this spinning wheel of bricks as it slowly makes its way around the screen and collect all the gems along the way. It sounds incredibly simple but I keep screwing up the landing every few gems and then I have to wait on the ground for the wheel to come down again. It's really frustrating!

Sadly my platforming talents weren't up to the task in the end and I threw away the last of my precious lives. Back to the title again. There's still no continues.

But if I leave the title screen on long enough it shows a demo of the later worlds!

Like Ghostland, which switches up the level design again and adds new threats like fire jets and Gomez Addams.

Then there's Iceland, which is presumably all slippery and slidey, and sells a range of frozen and chilled foods, along with household essentials.

The joke is that Iceland is a supermarket chain here in Britain.

Oh, it doesn't seem all that slippery or slidey at all. In fact it looks just like Woodland, except the bears all wear hats.

Finally there's Futureland, as after spending most of the game screwing around in the present collecting gems, Thomas finally decides to get on with what he was meant to be doing. I dunno, maybe he needed he gems for his time machine or something.

Futureland looks very empty, on this stage at least, and the demo shows Thomas bouncing through giant open areas.

I checked out a Longplay out of curiosity and the game doesn't end with a boss fight. It does reveal the secret of Thomas's existence though... by sharing a bit of trivia about how the game was made. The pixel artist used Deluxe Paint 3 if you were wondering. Then afterwards you get the message: "See you in Tearaway 2 or Super Tearaway on the SNES." What, no Mega Tearaway for the Mega Drive?

Doesn't seem like either of them got made though. Never too late for a Kickstarter though!


CONCLUSION

You don't need to read the manual to guess what the main inspiration for Tearaway Thomas was. But beyond 'mascot animal, goes fast, collects things' this and Sonic the Hedgehog don't really have much in common.

For one thing Sonic has a lot of momentum, so when he starts moving he's hard to stop and you can build up some real speed, smashing through enemies along the way. Thomas on the other hand hits full speed instantly and his enemies can't be killed, so gameplay is about making quick movements to avoid threats you only noticed at the last second because of how close you are to the edge of the screen. Also Sonic the Hedgehog has multiple paths through its stages and you're expected to try to keep to the best one until the end. Tearaway Thomas on the other hand has one correct path, it just seems like two sometimes until you have to backtrack because you don't have enough gems.

Tearaway Thomas is also a very basic game, with no powerups, boss fights, or anything going on to add a twist to the gameplay. Well aside from the bonus levels. This could be considered a plus though, as it's a pure challenge with tight time limits and no messing around. The controls are also good, it even uses fire button to jump! The trouble is that you have to remember to keep it held down to bounce on enemies, and I often forgot. On the downside the backgrounds will burn your retinas; I bet you can still see the screenshots when you close your eyes. After 9 stages the music will be burning your ears as well, though it's catchy enough.

There's 50 stages, though you only need to play 40-something of them to beat it and you can be done with the whole thing in less than an hour. If you're better at it than me I mean. There's no continues or passwords so I ain't ever seeing past world 2. Though honestly, I'm okay with that. It's not a terrible game and I'm sure a lot of people could find the fun in it, but it didn't grab me. Also fuck video game bees.


I've never struggled so hard to find a picture to use for the clue before. Turns out that the next game is the opposite of distinctive, but I think I've found something that'll give you a fighting chance. Good luck!

So you could have a guess at what the next game will be, share your thoughts about Tearaway Thomas, point out all my spelling mistakes... in fact there's so much you could write about in the comment box below that you'd be a fool to leave it empty and miss out.

6 comments:

  1. Lots of obscure nowadays amiga platform games. Not really interested into them really. Is the next one Atlantis III ? I really have no idea

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    Replies
    1. It's not Atlantis III and it's not an obscure Amiga platformer.

      Delete
  2. I don't understand. I thought this was Super Adventures in Amiga Gaming now, and the next game isn't an Amiga game. Or is it? OR IS IT? Etc.

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    Replies
    1. I played two Amiga games in a row and everyone starts freaking out...

      Delete
  3. The next game is Unreal 2 and I only know this becouse the preview pic shows the only two things that I have ever seen of this game :p

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