Since the advent of the Spectrum Arcade Game Designer, it seems every Tom, Dick and Harry has found a few days to put together his own "collect the objects and avoid the patrolling nasties" platform game. In Circuitry, you are Nan'O'Bot, and you need to collect all the flashing items from each screen before jumping into the Exit panel to proceed to the next one. It's a formula that you're probably overly familiar with.
The blurb on the cassette inlay calls Circuitry "claustrophobic platforming mayhem"; a description that might use "mayhem" a little too readily but is otherwise pretty bang on the money. Every screen of the game indeed feels very claustrophobic indeed. This may perhaps be due to John Blythe's decision to pack it into a square area rather than make full use of the Spectrum's screen. Indeed, if you take a gander at the screenshots, you'll see a big part of screen real estate bottom right sitting completely unused. The thick "circuit-style" border reduces the actual playing area even further too, giving the game a real feel of restriction. There's rarely a choice of route through the screen, and navigation and jumping of the bad guys needs some real thought. Puzzles are arranged in such a way that the solution dawns on you after a few abortive attempts (or deadly failures).
Despite its description, this land isn't one of mayhem. There's no time limit and there's a generous helping of lives so, ultimately, there's no pressure to complete a screen quickly. Indeed, there are often some areas of each screen where Nan'O'Bot is safe from all harm and where you can take a breath and work out how to tackle the next bit. That this is maintained throughout the screens shows great creativity on the part of its designer; so too does the theming of the game, with all adversaries being IT-related. Platformers may well not be in short supply on the Spectrum, but marauding blobs of solder and blocks of zeroes and ones certainly are.
The skill with which the levels are put together in Circuitry also means it has a habit of lulling you into a false sense of security. Getting most of the flashing data items (floppy disks, etc) isn't very hard, and Nan'O'Bot is a very responsive droid. He skirts quickly around, can stretch out pretty far from each platform before attempting to jump to the next one and can fall from any height without dying. Yet despite this apparent ease, it's all a bit more difficult than it looks. It's all also insanely colourful, managing, quite ingeniously, to avoid any and all colour clash.
If there's one thing to criticise, it's only that it's sometimes difficult to comprehend what is a platform and what is just a background graphic. Even this though seems to have been expressly designed to make you wonder rather than to be an unwanted oversight.
Overall then, Circuitry is a cramped, but pretty cracking, little game. Of course, it doesn't exactly offer the seasoned Spectrum gamer anything new and it's not a game you're likely to remember for the rest of your life. But it's quirky, and that's admirable enough that it gets my vote. Shame about the lack of music though.
Circuitry was initially released on-line by Rucksack Games and recently given the physical treatment by the respected Monument Microgames. A physical version will cost you £9.50 from www.monumentmicrogames.com, and comes with the usual cassette, glossy booklet, badge, game card and CD with emulator version. Download the free version from www.rucksackgames.co.uk/circuitry.
- Very responsive
- Very colourful
- Very well put together
- No music, only spot effects
- Can be a bit vexing if you confuse a platform with a background.