Puzzle games can drive you loopy. You see the pieces in your dreams. Here then is a classic of the genre that many people might have overlooked – LOOPZ by Audiogenic.
The basic premise of Loopz is simple. A series of pieces are given to the player and they must connect them into a loop. A completed loop disappears and scores points. But to add variety Loopz has three different game modes.
Game A is an “endless” game, with a ticking time limit to place each piece – run out of time and a life is lost. A set number of loops will increase the game level, adding to the difficulty and speeding up the timer. Two players can play simultaneously at different difficulty levels.
Game B is the “target” mode. To complete each level, a target score must be reached. The longer the loop, the more points it scores. In two player mode, the players alternate playing a piece.
In Games A and B the “gopher” is a special piece that allows the player to clear an incomplete loop. There are also two bonus modes, earned by creating very large loops. The first requires you to place a series of pieces to gain as many loops as possible, the second presents a random puzzle from game C to complete.
Game C is “puzzle” mode, with passwords to give access. A completed loop is shown to the player and pieces are gradually taken away. The player then gets the pieces back in a random order and must complete the loop exactly as it was shown.
My main experience of Loopz is the Commodore 64 version, programmed by Nick Pelling and Gary Liddon. The atmospheric music was created by David Whittaker, with a choice of three different tunes. The menu allows the player to choose the tune, the game mode and the starting level. The higher the level number, the more difficult the challenge and the larger the pieces given.
The graphics are functional and do a nice job. The background attempts to look like stone, and the pieces are clear. Rotating a piece is done by pushing fire and right, placing a piece is done by pushing fire and left – at times of stress this does seem a difficult method, but does give freedom to place the pieces. Sound effects give good feedback to the player on where a piece cannot be positioned and on the success and failure. The rest of the presentation works well.
Loopz can become very addictive, like all the best puzzle games. The graded difficulty allows an experienced player to feel challenged. The passwords for game C’s puzzles make that much more fun to play through instead of having to repeat early levels.
All in all Loopz is a game that more people should play, especially fans of Pipe Dreams (Pipe Mania). You can play the game on C64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, IBM PC, NES and GameBoy. Conversions also appeared for Japanese formats – PC-98 and Sharp X68000. The follow-up Super Loopz appeared on SNES and Amiga CD32. The delayed Atari Lynx conversion was finally published in 2004. So you have plenty of choice for where you want to play it!
Audiogenic was based in the UK, a software house originally formed by a company specialising in duplicating and distributing cassettes for the music industry. Perhaps its most famous game was Krusty’s Super Fun House. This was in development as an original game called Rat Trap, before Acclaim (then holders of the Simpsons license) suggested adding Krusty.
Ian Upton designed the Atari ST version first before Audiogenic began converting it to other computers.
Mindscape undertook several of the conversions for the international market, with Argonaut Software creating the GameBoy version and Bits Studio the NES game. Imagineer published the SNES sequel.
The planned Apple Macintosh and Atari 800XL versions were not completed.
Capcom licensed the gameplay and concept for an arcade game, but it was never completed.
Loopz was available in a compilation, entitled The Loopz Collection. This had three games – Loopz, Helter Skelter and Emlyn Hughes’ Arcade Quiz. Helter Skelter was a puzzle-based game, with a bouncing ball squishing enemies (but squish the wrong enemy and it split in two, making things more difficult). Emlyn Hughes was a famous British soccer player and gave his name to Emlyn Hughes International Soccer by Audiogenic; the company then used the name and likeness again for Arcade Quiz, based on a pub trivia machine.