Action Reflex (Mirrorsoft) Review | ZX Computing - Everygamegoing

ZX Computing

Action Reflex
By Mirrorsoft
Spectrum 48K

Published in ZX Computing #28

Action Reflex

This is an odd little game. I'd seen a couple of pre-production versions of the game and it seemed like a fairly ordinary dodge-the-obstacles type program with a bouncing ball instead of a jumping Jet Set Willy character. However, when I finally got my hands on the finished version it turned out to be quite a bit more challenging than I expected.

You control a chequered bouncing ball that has to be guided around an obstacle course. Your controls are just left/right and jump, and to begin with the ball is left lying on the floor of the first section of the course. The motion of the ball is quite tricky to handle, and although this isn't an enormously fast game it can be quite challenging working out how to get past all the different types of obstacles - especially as getting past one tricky spot can send you hurtling out of control into an even deadlier one just a little further along the way.

The movement of the ball is fairly realistic, in that it has inertia which causes the ball to accelerate and decelerate quite slowly at first then the speed change increases more rapidly. To get the ball bouncing, you have to stop moving left/right and press the bounce button to build up the height of your bounces. The longer you hold the bounce button, the higher the ball will bounce (though obviously this is limited by the height of the screens themselves) and, once you've achieved the height that you think you need, you ccan then bounce off along the course. This requires good judgement on your part, since once the ball is bouncing, it's quite easy to misjudge the speed and height that the ball will be moving at, and if you hit something accidentally you can find yourself bouncing helplessly all over the place and getting killed by one of the traps lying in wait.

There are three mazes to complete, each containing 25 screens full of traps and obstacles, and each harder than the last. the course contains some goofy green monsters which wander back and forth and a variety of fixed traps that can destroy you in all sorts of ways. There are lakes that you can sink into, tubular tunnels that need to be smashed open with a hammer, flame throwers, magnets, flying darts and many other devices guaranteed to deflate both the ball and your game-playing ego.

There are also some obstacles which can't just be bounced past. These require you to collect objects that are scattered along the course (and normally in inaccessible corners guarded by monsters). The lakes can only be crossed if you've found a life raft, tunnels need a key to get through them and some locked doors have to be bashed down with a hammer.

Graphically the game is fairly simple to look at - and looks a lot like any decent platform and traps game - with lots of large colourful sprites and some quite good animation, particularly in the movement of the ball itself. There is no set number of lives as you play against a time limit, but each time you get punctured you receive a time penalty so you've got to try and make some quick decisions and you don't always have time to stop and work out exactly what your next move is.

Action Reflex isn't going to win any awards for the most original game of all time, but it is an addictive and tricky game that needs a combination of arcade reflexes and a little bit of planning and judgement. My only doubt about it is that three mazes might not be sufficient to give the game a very long lifespan.