In Roland on the Ropes you play a cartoon-like tomb raider type character exploring a scrolling maze of platforms and ropes, looking for treasure and also trying to stop ghosts, mummies, and other creatures from killing you by shooting them with a gun. Your bullets are limited but you can find more ammo littering the cave to top up your gun. Ultimately your aim is to find the exit to the next level, as well as score as many points as possible.
You climb ropes, jump to avoid pink rats (that look more like hedgehogs than rats), and avoid chameleons climbing vertical tunnels by flipping from one side of a rope to the other. Shooting ghosts just makes them turn around in the opposite direction, but they can move through walls so have an annoying habit of walking into you when you’re on a rope and can’t shoot them.
There are green poison drips that drop from the ceiling in some places, which you have to time your walks underneath. Later on there are mummies which jump down vertical tunnels (again: annoying), and pink bats, which you have to jump to shoot and are very hard to hit (also annoying).
The scrolling is jerky, but at least the controls are responsive. When the screen is scrolling vertically upwards the information bar at the bottom flickers at the top of the screen, which is disconcerting. The bar at the bottom flickers badly too, which just makes me think that either the game was released unfinished, or that the programmers didn’t care to fix it.
Roland on the Ropes has way too many annoying dead ends and frustrating situations where you’re on a rope and a ghost is moving down towards you and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it, and generally the game just feels unfairly difficult. Having played the Spectrum version for many hours I can confirm that it’s nothing like this. Yes, it’s essentially the same game, but it’s not as frustrating as this.
Overall, Roland on the Ropes is a poor, frustrating and frankly buggy game and if it proves anything it’s that Amsoft‘s quality control was pretty shoddy. I did read that this game was mostly given away free with Amstrad CPC computer purchases, which goes some way to explain why it’s so bad. I would’ve asked for an immediate refund if I’d paid money for it (and I say that as someone who bought the original Spectrum version and was reasonably satisfied with it).