Thursday, 12 October 2017

Bill's Tomato Game (Amiga)

BIll's Tomato Game title screen
Developer:Bill|Release Date:1992|Systems:Amiga, Atari ST

It's the 30th anniversary of the Commodore Amiga 500 home computer! I mean not today specifically, it seems like it hit the Netherlands in April 1987 and the rest of Europe shortly after. But it was released in the US at some point during October, and that's all the excuse I need to make this month on Super Adventures all about AMIGA GAMES!

For the next few weeks it's all Amiga titles, nothing else. Wall to wall Amiga. Though don't worry if you're not keen on that idea; at the rate I've been writing about games lately you're likely to only see two at best.

I started by checking top 100 lists to put together a set of classic titles that really define what the system is, the most Amigary of Amiga games... but then I realised that they'd have me playing things like Sensible Soccer. So I scrapped that plan and decided to play a few of the games that have stuck in my head for whatever reason. Like Bill's Tomato Game for instance! It's a game about tomatoes made by a guy called Bill Pullan. Though it definitely isn't named after him, at least according to the manual, which I definitely didn't check just now out of curiosity.



I always appreciate it when a game developer plays around with the opening logos, even if it's just to stick a tomato over the Psygnosis owl's head.

Here's a link if you want to listen to the music while I go through the intro: YouTube Link.

The intro begins with a tiny farmer loading a crate of tomatoes into an even tinier truck, which then drops off a load of its own and heads into town. He should've seen it coming though really; Acme products always backfire.

Actually, I shouldn't say that as there's approximately a million other companies outside of Looney Tunes also called 'Acme' and many of them are real. Some even sell tomatoes! Seems that it made a lot of sense in the days of phone books to be alphabetically optimal and I guess people expected that 'Acme' would sound more impressive to potential customers than 'Aardvark'.

The next part of the cutscene has the truck driving in front of a scrolling background, so I stitched it all together to show off the art.

I wonder if those are the game developers making a cameo in that window above the bakery. Actually now I'm wondering how they got in there through that tiny door. It must be half their height.

I scribbled some pants onto one of them and scaled him up using the walls of the alleyway as a guide to see how it'd look. If my maths and trousers are correct, the game's universe features giants living alongside humans! Or humans living amongst dwarves! Either way it's cool.

But the game then cuts to the inside of the van to reveal the horrifying truth about this world: sometimes tomatoes become sapient! Only two of them in this batch, unless the others all have their back turned, but surely the farmer must have noticed they have faces! I mean who else would've tied the bow on the girl tomato? He knew they were alive and sent them to their deaths regardless.

Neither of them are called Bill by the way. The one on the left is Terry Tomato and the one on the right is his girlfriend Tracy. Fortunately, Terry has just come up with an ingenious scheme that could get out of this prediciment, though it may require 100 levels of gameplay.

Or not.

Nope, they just leap out and bounce all the way back home. A mile of bouncing. I kept expecting something to happen to Tracy, but she makes it home just fine. So… catastrophe averted I guess.

Unless these are killer tomatoes and Bill's the one who has to stop their reign of terror.

Suddenly SQUIRREL DRACULA!

He's kidnapped Tracy to drain her tomato juice! Or to make her his vampire squirrel thrall! Or something. So now Terry has to get to the top of the vine to defeat the sinister monocular squirrel and save his girlfriend. Kind makes that whole ‘stuck in a truck’ thing seem entirely pointless.

Hang on... Tracy's bow just changed colour. It was green before and now it's pink. Am I meant to believe that she changed clothes off screen without hands?

She doesn't have a bow at all on the box art. Though she does have gloves and trainers. And creepy lips. Man, look at all those dead tomatoes behind them, it's horrifying.

At least Nosferatsquirrel, the vegetarian vampire, looks right. Though I should start calling him Sammy Squirrel, because that's his name.

Okay now that the hero's quest has been established, the game's left it up to me to pull it off.

But first I have to get past the level select screen. Terry starts off bouncing on the bottom right and he needs to reach those ABC blocks left teetering on the branch to the left. I know this because there's a big red arrow pointing to them.

I don't have direct tomato control though; instead I have to guide him around with the mouse cursor, and that's a little awkward when everything here wants to knock him off the branch and back the ground. Well, except for the worm, he's alright. The wasp and falling leaves are out to get me though, so I either have to dodge them or land on them from above to obliterate their physical forms and collect a star. What the stars are for I've no idea.


LEVEL 1.


Wow... was every business in this game established in 1990? First the bakery, now the toy shop.

The ABC blocks teleported me to a toy shop by the way, which is apparently a crucial step on the road to rescuing Tracy. I can't help noticing that it would've fit in a lot better with their escape from the town than it does with his ascent up a vine though.

Also, bad news, I've lost control of Terry entirely now. He's sitting utterly paralysed and helpless on a springboard, and worse he's only got 160 seconds left to live. It's lucky I came by with my three floating electric fans really. With a few clicks I should be able to place them in a way that will blow him over to the conveyor belt on the right. Then I just have to trigger the springboard and watch him go.

The first trial didn’t work out perfectly, he hit the blades and exploded into ketchup, but I got it on the second try!

The number next to the traffic lights, where my cursor's pointing, seems to be the amount of times I get to reset Terry and fire him off the springboard. The three tomatoes stacked up next to it is probably what I'll start losing if I run out of turns, seeing as launching him into a fan didn't cost me any.


LEVEL 2.


The game gave me a password as a reward for my epic success, then dropped me into an almost identical puzzle, except with some junk to collect along the way this time. I think they're just for points, but I'll see if I can get him to slide into all of them anyway.


LEVEL 3.


Man, I just can't get this tomato over the jack-in-the-box. I tried timing it so he'd land on it when the lid was closed, in the hopes that he'd get catapulted over to the conveyor belt, but that plan only ever ended in a splat.

It'd be cool if I got any indication whatsoever of how the fans are going to adjust his arc before I trigger the springboard, but the only way to see the results of an adjustment is to fire the tomato off. It'd also be cool if the music for half the Toyland levels wasn't The Grand Old Duke of York on a loop: YouTube Link.

Oh, wait, I'm an idiot; they've given me floating trampolines to play with on this level too! If I put a couple of those down in the right place I can bounce the tomato right over the jester hazard.


LEVEL 4.


Just to make things more confusing, level 4's given me my own jack-in-the-box to place, which does exactly what I wanted the one in the last level to do.

Also look at this asshole walking across the screen! When he touches the stuff I've put down he knocks it off screen, back into my toolbox! It's kind of hard to make tiny adjustments to refine my arrangement when he comes over and erases it each time.

Ah fuck it, I'm checking a longplay video for the precise item placement because I want to see what the other levels are like sometime today.


LEVEL 5.


Nice string effect on that giant yoyo; kind of annoying that I can't go through it though.

I guess I have get the timing right to bounce underneath it along the bottom when it's at its highest point.

Damn yoyo... I really suck at timing this right. And this game really sucks at keeping my items on the screen, as the springboard just erased one of my fans!

You know what this game is? I just figured it out. It's an ancestor to Bad Rats, that's what it is. Bloody trial and error physics puzzlers...

Hey I got a tomato in a car interlude! Does this mean I've finished with world 1?


LEVEL 7.


Nope, I'm still in Toyland. This level's not bad though. I just have to get the trampoline in the right place so that he bounces off it instead of sliding into the pit.

The most interesting thing about the stage is that it confirms that there are pencils in this world big enough for even the giants to use.

In fact my rough calculations indicate that they might even be a bit too big.

Sorry, I don't want to seem like I'm taking the piss out of the artist, I think the game actually looks pretty decent, I'm just a little bored with adjusting my trampoline and my attention's wandering.


LEVEL 8.


I wish I didn't have to put that bloody fan back every single time.

You know what the sad thing about this level is? Even when I cheated and checked that longplay video again I still ran out of time trying to pull it off. It doesn't demand pixel-perfect precision, but getting the pieces in the right order is never enough. You gotta keep refining their positions until he can complete the whole run. And if you run out of time it wipes the board and makes you start from scratch.

The game relies on calm, patience, ingenuity and accurate timing, and I am very very bad at it.


LEVEL 9.


Oh damn, level 9 is amazing. The falling balls erase both my objects, so I have to use the pattern on the background to memorise where they were exactly to make adjustments. Either that or I just keep slamming them down anywhere and hope for the best.

This would be easier if that rabbit would stop staring at my tomato like he's thinking of eating him. It's distracting.

This is a trolling masterpiece. It doesn't seem to give me enough time to bounce on both objects before one of them gets wiped by a ball. I barely have enough time to place both objects because the level doesn't pause in construction mode.

I'm sorry, I wanted to at least get to the next world, but I don't have the reflexes or mouse precision to even pull off the first test run.

OH SHIT! I don't believe I just did that. I am the tomato god!

I'm so glad I caught that on video because I ain't ever pulling that off again. Managed it with just 8 seconds on the clock. One more level left now.


LEVEL 10.




Man, I'll never make it as a tomato wrangler.

With 10 stages completed, I'm now done with Toyland forever and I can move on to, uh, 'rainbow autumn forest land'.

Trouble is that getting around the level select screen is somehow even more of a pain in the ass than getting through the levels because I can't make tiny adjustments or long jumps. Terry doesn't seem to have lives on this screen, so I can keep on doing this forever, but I kinda feel like I don't want to. All that puzzle solving I just did will be for nothing if I can't get a look at the next area though.

This GIF's been motion stabilised to reduce its size by the way; in game there's scrolling when I reach higher branches. I haven't seen any scrolling in the levels though.

Oh, the manual says here that his jump height depends on what mouse button I'm holding down. Left for a medium jump, right for a small jump, both for a super jump. The game could've made that clearer but the instructions were given so I've no one to blame but myself.


EVENTUALLY.


Here's world two at last and man things have gotten dark all of a sudden. I've reached the 'destruction of the rainforests' zone. Alright, I'm done.

I remember liking this game very slightly more than I do now, probably because it's just so likeable, with its fun happy music and its bright cartoony graphics. But then the music became repetitive and the levels became gruelling and I suddenly found that I'd very much like to be doing basically anything else than rearranging fans and trampolines. I don’t know if it's really a bad game, but it’s not a good fit for me and my level of patience.


Come back next time for another weird Amiga game or maybe something else if I don't get around to writing anything else this month!

Or you could stick around a little longer and write a comment.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent, Amiga month! Although you played a lot of Amiga games over the past two months too, so, um...

    I remember this game! I also remember hating it because it was just as annoying as Lemmings 2 but nowhere near as fun.

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  2. I'm curious if there were any 'place things to make the machine work' games before Bill's TG. The Incredible Machine was 1993. Deflektor is kinda similar but you're rotating things instead of placing them.

    Does the box for BTG even hint at it being a puzzle game? I s'pose in those days comp shop owners would be able to tell you if you asked, and since it's a Psygnosis game everybody'd know about it.

    Heaven knows why Bill's TG has lives and score... I'd guess it was just Bill putting whatever worked together, and since it's a game it's gotta have a way to lose right?

    I'd recommend BTG to anyone who has an Amiga. BTG only came out for Amiga and Atari ST - not trying it would be like getting a Mega Drive and passing up on buying any Sonic games 'cause you don't like the colour blue or something.

    Just make sure you've got Complete Control handy otherwise the hideous difficulty (well, -likelihood-) spikes will turn your smile into a scowl no matter how hilarious you find 'SMURP' sound Terry makes when he gets crushed.

    http://amr.abime.net/review_19740
    http://amr.abime.net/review_18386

    Also, if you happen to find a version with a trainer... just sayin'...

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