Retro Mini – Grand Monster Slam

It’s Christmas! And what greater thrill is there than waking up to find a brand spanking new games machine stacked against the tree?

This retro mini review is taken from a feature looking back on the games that came with my Amiga as part of the Astra Pack.

Do you remember your first computer or console bundles? Share your memories with the community in the comment section.

Now this is a strange old game and no mistake.

Developed by Golden Goblins (nope, me neither) and published by Rainbow Arts, you take control of a dwarf, entering the tournament of the title, facing off against orcs, minotaurs and other staple fantasy characters. Win to earn the glory of your king, lose and you must suffer the ignominy of being named his fool.

The primary part of the game sees you tasked with kicking a row of ‘Beloms’ (effectively blinking footballs) down to the other end of the pitch whilst the guy opposite tries to do the same to you. Punt all your Beloms and you sprint to the other end for a ‘home run’ and advance to the next stage. Careful though, because in between bonus rounds sees the Beloms get their own back, circling you as you try to fend them off with a big stick. Mistime your jab and they fall in to give you a good kicking (well, bouncing I guess), fend off a required number and the King may grant you extra points.

Win your way through three rounds of Belom kicking and another bonus round pops up, which sees you kicking those poor Beloms again, but this time channelling your inner Beckham as you try to aim your kick down the throat of a set of Faultons (frogs, basically) perched on ever higher plinths. Land the number required to progress, otherwise it’s back to the minors for you. Win and it’s on to league two and another batch of competitors which sees more of the same but this time a little wall is erected across the field to make it harder to kick to the other side. Win through again and it’s onto the final league, a face off against a set of imperious ‘boss’ characters.

If it all sounds a bit bizarre then that’s because it is. But it’s also great fun. Graphically it’s fairly simple but it’s got some nice character to it. The various combatants are distinct and have little bios before each match whilst the assortment of Beloms and Faultons are suitably weird and wonderful. The Beloms tremble and blink at you before you drive your foot into their face, the competitors bang their fists on the floor in a toddler tantrum when they lose and pump their fists in the air in glorious triumph when they win.

There is a degree of repetition. The three leagues of three rounds each are effectively the same game, although the addition of the mid-pitch wall does add some variety. Control is fairly simple; just run up to the Belom you want to kick, hold down the fire button to determine how hard you kick and move left or right to set the direction. To succeed, you’ll need to balance your time between getting Beloms to the other side quickly and aiming at the other guy to knock him down, giving you precious seconds to gain an advantage. If either of you punt it into the crowd, the other player is awarded a penalty, which consists of punting a Pelvan (a bird to you and me) down the pitch that the opponent has to try and catch. If he fails to catch it, up to three of your Belom’s switch to your opponents side.

There are some frustrations. In the heat of the moment it is all to easy to miss your kick, uselessly thrashing in thin air. If you get knocked over, your opponent will often ruthlessly punt half a dozen more at you, each one knocking you down again. It’s frustrating, a bit like in a beat ’em-up when you get stuck on the end of a barrage of moves and can’t get out of the way. Still, it’s worth remembering that you can dish out similar treatment should the opportunity arise. And no two player mode is a shame.

This is a quirky, original game that, whilst it has its limitations, is also great fun in short bursts.

Grand Monster Slam ranked number 100 in Amiga Power’s very first All Time Top 100 games.

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