Though a little-known monster from the beloved Japanese television series Ultraman was named "Gomola," the protagonist of Gomola Speed does not resemble a city-crushing lizard with horns. Rather, the game developers likely borrowed "gomola" from the Polish word for "round" and this is appropriate because "Gorm," our worm-like hero, is not only made up of segmented spheres, but must circle itself like an ouroboros (mythical snake that eats its own tail) in order to eliminate enemies and capture certain items.
Like most addictive games, the premise seems simple. Find pellets, ingest them by circling your body around them, and then exit the level with your entire body intact. Part of the challenge lies in actually finding the segments of your body since they are scattered across the various playing fields. The shorter you are, the harder it is to circle enemies and pellets. You start each level as just the head - the vital part of your body - and when it is touched by an enemy or a bomb blast, you lose a life. If any other part of your body is hit, the affected spheres simply fall off and scatter, leaving you to scramble to recover them. Ironically, sometimes it's strategically advantageous to stay small, making you a less conspicuous target. The "II" button speeds you up, and the "I" drops timed grenades from your tail. Timing your bombs is key as their repercussion can harm you as well as your foes. When an enemy is temporarily stunned by a bomb, you may circle him for points, but in a few moments, it will regenerate, faster and smarter than before. Sometimes its best to live and let live.
While you can get away with passively skirting most enemies, there are intermittent bosses throughout that must be eliminated in order to advance. These bosses will remind you that you're not playing a simple puzzler, but rather an overhead dungeon crawler. And then after playing through a few more acts, you realize that this game defies classification and that you're okay with that.
If the gameplay described above seems confusing, you'll be glad to know that Gomola Speed provides an in-game tutorial (years before such things became vogue; back in the 1990s one used to have to read instruction manuals). And luckily, for all us yahoos not willing to learn Japanese, the entire text of the game is in English! Whenever you make a successful maneuver, a textbox lets you know what you had just done, which seems backwards, but it's appreciated nonetheless. So, play around with the controller and you'll eventually do something right and have it confirmed by the PC Engine. Easy-to-understand pictographs activated by touching golden genie lamps also help you find solutions during the larger levels.
Crisp graphics, quick sprites, diverse levels, and its blend of genres makes Gomola Speed a sound buy for PC Engine enthusiasts. It will frustrate at points, but not to point of discouraging one from finishing all twenty-five acts. Short saves code and three continue credits make finishing the game feasible, but there are no save codes for the last five levels. (Be sure to stock up on lives in Act 21!)