Cholo (ZX Spectrum)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Ashley Pomeroy (233)
Written on  :  Dec 06, 2010
Platform  :  ZX Spectrum
Rating  :  2.67 Stars2.67 Stars2.67 Stars2.67 Stars2.67 Stars

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Paradroid in 3D

The Good

Cholo came and went in 1987; it was one of those big epic games that sold in a large box with a novella for £14.95, but unlike Elite and Driller and Starglider and so forth it vanished without trace. Which is tragic, because it's a minor classic. Too slow, and there isn't enough action, but the things it does right it does well.

On a conceptual level it's Paradroid viewed from a first person perspective. You are a man trapped underground, and you have to free your people by controlling a little robot on the surface. The robot can interrogate computers and also take over the minds of other robots, and you find yourself dumped in the middle of a radioactive city with few ideas as to how you should proceed. The adventure aspect is simultaneously complex but at the same time not incomprehensible.

It's interesting to compare it with Catch 23, a close contemporary with a very similar theme, which also used first-person vector graphics. Whereas Catch 23 wasted its technology with a bunch of crossword puzzle clues and sluggish attempts at action, Cholo had a more measured approach. The combination of stark black and white polygons and the almost total absence of sound were surprisingly atmospheric.

In most games of this nature you had to collect e.g. thirteen pieces of a nuclear reactor so that you could power a spaceship, that kind of collect-em-up nonsense, whereas Cholo had an inventive plot that ended with you piloting a bomb-laden airliner into the mine that plugs up humanity's nuclear bunker. I remember that bit. The endgame was incredibly satisfying.

The Bad

Even on the relatively fast ZX Spectrum, the graphics chugged along at a couple of frames a second during the fast parts. The draw distance was very low, and it was almost impossible to tell when you were approaching the ocean (the coastline was just a white line, one of many). There's a modern PC remake which solves the frame rate problem and adds some nice music, and as with The Sentinel, the remake is much more entertaining than the original, and faster.

There was combat, but unlike Elite it was entirely perfunctory. This was long before sidestepping had been invented.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately Cholo is one of *those* games, that sticks with you for years afterwards, hence this review. It's atmospheric, very slow, and for a while the city you are trapped in feels like a vast, living world, although it really only amounts to a few streets, an island, and an airport. Nonetheless it's a distant ancestor of modern sandbox-style games and deserves more props.

The game was programmed by a team called Solid Image, consisting of just two guys; it was their big break, but it didn't sell, and it appears they vanished from the gaming industry thereafter, which is a shame.