Friday, 12 July 2013

Obscure Retro Gem - FRAMED (PC, DOS)

The great escape!

Framed is an obscure DOS platform game from 1995 that not many people have heard of, let alone played. Essentially a clone of the famous Dizzy games, made famous on the 8-bit home computers of the 1980's, Framed puts you in the shoes of a Joe Everyman, who has been locked up for a crime he did not commit. Having no confidence in the legal system that put him away to begin with, he decides he must escape, and find the real perpetrator of the crime so he can clear his name.

Those of you familiar with the aforementioned tumbling egg's adventures will know what to expect. A scrolling platformer that takes place on a large map, with certain areas only accessible once the necessary item has been located (usually miles away). This could be a simple case of finding a key to open a locked door, or acquiring a crowbar in order to open a manhole cover. As usual, the hero can only carry a certain number of items, but Framed gives you a generous 16 slots in your inventory, so there is nowhere near the same level of backtracking as required by games with 3 (or less) slots. 

Graphically, the game is easy on the eyes, though very dated for a game released in 1995. However, as it was an indie game produced by two guys, this is forgivable. Besides, the visuals have a certain charm about them, and are quite similar to those seen in the early Dizzy games on Amiga and PC - albeit in a less colourful, real world setting. The animation is very basic, though, but does the job (just about). Sound is also pretty weak - the small amount of music used in the game is dreary and monotonous, and the sound effects consist of little more than bleepy bloopy fart noises.

Thankfully, gameplay is the most important aspect of any game and Framed manages to deliver an enjoyable and engaging adventure that will keep you interested until you reach its conclusion. The prison is a large and satisfying environment to explore, with kitchens, cells, shower rooms, exercise yards, and laundry rooms to investigate as you seek new items to assist your escape attempt. There is plenty more to see once you break free of the prison walls and make your way through the surrounding forests too.

The jumping is very bouncy, but you soon get used to it, and the protagonist moves at a decent pace which makes exploring the large map less of a slog. Enemies come in the form of guards, dogs, and multiple projectile types such as fireballs (who designed this prison?), and must be avoided as they sap your health bar. You only have one life, but you can save whenever you like, so this doesn't present too much of a problem. However, the control system is needlessly complicated, with separate buttons for picking up, dropping, throwing, examining, and interacting with items and the environment. Framed could easily have implemented a far simpler (maybe two) button system much like the Dizzy games, and it would have been much better for it. However, once you get used to the overly-complex method of choosing or combining inventory items, it no longer presents an issue.

Framed is a great little game that will definitely please fans of 8-bit style platform adventure games, and is worth seeking out. The shareware version is easy to locate, but is now impossible to register after all these years, so finding the full version may take a bit of effort. Sure, it is rough around the edges, and could have used extra polish in the presentation and controls departments, but it is still an enjoyable adventure that will keep you engrossed.

Title : Framed

Developer: Machination

System: PC (DOS)

Year: 1995

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