We can’t build our dreams, on suspicious minds

Trap ‘Em is kind of like Rodland mixed with badger baiting, minus the fairies. Both titles are very laddery affairs, except now you can jump! With a “weeee!” in fact.

The one-man, shareware, AMOS project will set you back a whole-whopping British pound (plus p&p) or £3.50 for the full game, so please ensure you consult my review before investing your hard-earned cash.

If your time machine is on the blink and you can’t travel back to 1995 to order it from 17-bit Software before they become Team 17, try snagging the floppy image from some scuzzy pirate website or other instead. Don’t tell anyone I said that though.

Created by 17-year-old Paul Clarke from Watford following a four-month toil with his A1200, the cutesy single-screen platformer offers nothing particularly ground-breaking, yet given how slickly it has been assembled, you can’t help developing a bit of a soft spot for its cartoony zanyfication (OED approval pending).

You play as one of two stunted, neckless, jump-suited and booted Bub and Bob-esque characters named Louis and Pug, who following a farming accident (somehow involving hot dogs) have been cast out of civilisation and forced to cultivate a rhino conservation unit. I’m not making this up as I go along, Scout’s honour.

Anywho, your chum Colonel Poppy is tending to them when all of a sudden a pink Cadillac descends from the sky, and the three opera singers therein mercilessly shower the poor blighter with meat products. Incapacitated and defenceless, they nick off with the rhinos, squirrelling them away in Trap ‘Em Towers on Chaos Island. Your mission whether you like it or not is to rescue them!

You achieve this somehow in a roundabout sort of a way by racing against the clock to capture alien critters in bear clamp traps and then painting the walls with their grey matter having loosened it with your laser gun. Though anything that jumps or flies can be blasted outright. “Die scum bag!”, you exclaim, squeezing the trigger, sending them to meet their maker. There’s not a rhino or opera singer in sight throughout the main game mind you.

The more gribblies you splatter, the more cash you earn, pegging you as some kind of intergalactic bounty hunter I suppose. This blood money can be swapped in the shop for useful power-ups such as extra time, lives, gun or trap power, speed or energy.

Once a level has been cleared you’re prompted to “get out of there” via a funky digitised voice sample. A teleporter exit then appears to whisk you on to the next level.

There are three towers to conquer, each harbouring ten stages so you’ll be plugging away for quite some time.

You’ll encounter a number of inventive enemies along the way (and some can even lay traps of their own), my favourites being the decrepit, hunchbacked demons who drag their top-heavy, oversized heads across the floor, and the bouncy yellow space hoppers that look suspiciously like expats of Rodland. The Honey Monster rock droppers also deserve an honourable mention. Slaying any of them elicits the same battle cry from our tubby dynamic duo. “Wasted!”

The standard of animation on offer is superb, ranging from an ascending holy angel character who replaces the protagonist sprite whenever you die, to the bored expression idle routine that kicks in when you stand still for a few seconds. ATD baby, innit!

Equally impressive is the stature and wackiness factor of some of the enemy sprites. In particular, the brown and yellow special edition Twister (TM) lolly with an orange paint splodge for a head wearing a green skull cap is really something. It’s definitely something alright. I just can’t put my finger on what.

Following every fifth level you’re challenged with a bonus jetpack course – a horizontally scrolling, obstacle-dodging, points collectathon without an enemy in sight.

A 90-degree flip later sees you tackle a Pang-inspired shoot ’em up where the targets are all ’90s style acid house yellow smiley faces. Aciiiiiiiid!!!

Of course, raining sheep and pigs are never far away if point-chasing is your predilection. Then that’s true of every walk of life.

The final boss is some kind of levitating digitised bald bucktoothed homunculus head with manicured eyebrows, mounted on a baby’s legless body. It has a mildly oriental mien, and bizarrely hovers without a single frame of animation in effect making it infinitely more creepy.

My guess is it’s a scan of Paul’s face that has been mutilated via Deluxe Paint. No idea though how duffing him up does anything to tackle the opera singer dilemma or recover the stolen rhinos.

Nevertheless, it does and you’re hailed as national heroes. With all the rhinos rehomed, Louis and Pug are once again welcomed back to civilisation.

We’re then greeted by an apology for there being no proper conclusion outro sequence owing to the author’s upcoming holiday.

Instead, there’s a novel sound simulation gizmo you operate using the number keys that mimics a toy xylophone. Your sprite rises to the top of the screen with the expression of each note, and then descends once again when you hold back. Which is… erm, fun?

*Fat lady sings*

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