Zorro (1985)

Zorro (1985), developed by Datasoft, published by U.S. Gold

Wicked Sergeant Garcia kidnaps a beautiful senorita in the front of Zorro and he can't have that, how can he? Donning his mask and trusty sword, Zorro has to find his way to the fortress to rescue his lady love (as the blurp back of the cassette tells us). And that's for the story of this action adventure, where you need to navigate the masked swordsman through several puzzles and fights.

The game world consists of 20 different screens, you can run between pretty freely after you've managed to open them all up. The first main puzzle is to open a way to the fortress, which happens by bringing two bells to the local church, which opens up a dungeon.

The second task is to find three treasures, which unlock a way deeper into the dungeons, allowing you to travel inside the fortress. After this, you need to rescue prisoners, who then help you to go further down the fort.

When you finally get to the senorita, she tosses you away like a wet rug if you don't have the rose, which you then have to get from the local hotel, which is the location where most of the items needed in the game miraculously appear.

The item puzzles are relatively clever, considering the age of this 8-bit game. While there aren't that many of them, you still do need to think for a moment some of them. On one occasion, you have to push a guard over the edge, which makes him fall on a chandelier, which then rises up a box that was blocking a way to one passage. On another, you have to bring a branding iron to a forge, heat it and bran an ox so it moves away, letting you take a treasure it guarded.

I don't think I ever played Zorro through when I was a kid, as the final piece of the puzzle reveals itself only after you do things in a specific manner, as far I know. I had to watch a youtube playthrough before I finally got the rose that was the vital piece of the final puzzle. Before that, I got to the senoritas dungeon, like I had many times before, but never did I actually rescued her, as apparently, she doesn't want to be rescued without Zorro bringing her flowers.

And it's just not having to do thins in a certain way, I've never been sure if Zorro actually works as it was meant to work. For example, despite you should be opening pathways with keys and so on, you can bypass good many of them by simply pressing yourself against the obstacle, jumping a couple of times and shaking yourself through them. This even lets you skip some puzzles, so again, I'm not certain, if this is intended behaviour or just plain buggy code. You can even sink through floors a bit at times (and this isn't just in the emulated version, I recall always wondering this, even back when I played this on genuine hardware).

At places, the frame rate drops noticeably as well. While on most screens, the game pretty fluid, there are a handful of screens, where the gameplay slows to a crawl. These are the more puzzle or action heavy screens, which isn't really an excuse, as Amstrad should be able to handle a far more excessive amount of action than what is shown in Zorro.

Almost worse offender than that technical issues is the music of the game, which consists of a single, eternally looping song. Luckily, you can turn the annoying ditty off before it drives you bonkers.

Graphically the game is passable. It's far from being the pretties Amstrad game and the colour palette it uses is very, very limited. The same goes for character design and animation. Still, all passable, but not very exciting.

Technical issues aside, I did like Zorro when I was a kid. I always liked the character, so a game based on him, especially when it was an action adventure, was right up my alley. Even now I do kinda like it and I can appreciate what it tried to do despite it wasn't always very proficient at it.