Sinclair User12th November 1990
Published in Sinclair User #108
It's yucky! It's squlshy! It's great! Yes, Exterminator is one of the best titles to emerge from Audiogenic since the year splat.
Not that the intro is that promising... Imagine if you will something that looks like the intro to Caterpillar, circa 1985; little crawly bugs scuttling across the screen trailing instructions behind them, followed by outline floorplans of a house you have to clean up in your role as a fearless bug exterminator. It all looks a bit awful. But wait until you select all your control options and get into the game... BLIMEY! Your eyes will pop out like a cockroach in a French restaurant.
Exterminator is a conversion of a Gottlieb coin-op (no, I've never heard of them either, but they were responsible for the classic Q'Bert). It's a sort of cross between xenophobe and Klax. Each of the seven houses you have to clear has a number of rooms, shown in perspective 3-D in gorgeous monochrome full of authentic details; the kitchen has a fridge, washing machine, cupboards and shelves, the basement has garden tools, dustbins and rows of containers, and so on.Floating in a rather spooky disembodied way in the foreground is your exterminator's hand; in two-player mode, there are two hands controlled independently. The floor is divided into tiles coloured black or white, while toward you fly hordes of disgusting bugs. Your task is to squash, poison and mash them, choosing the position of their death so that as they fall they turn the tile below them black. This is made easier by the shadows they cast beneath them as they flutter about.
Complete a line of tiles, and you're transported to another room in the house; the next room connected to each row of tiles is indicated at the bottom of the screen. If you accumulate too many insect stings, you've got no chance of becoming an old hand at the game. Death is painful but only semi permanent with four continues available!
What's amazing about the game is the realistic animation of the hand, which clutches, shakes and files realistically (or as realistically as most common or garden hands can), and the speed and excitement of the bug-hunting. Before entering each room you're given a run-down of the wild-life you're going to encounter, and instructions on how to deal with them; mosquitoes, for instance, can normally be squashed in your hand, while wasps are more dangerous and must be shaken off with a wiggle of the joystick then squirted with bug juice (of which you have only a limited supply). To squirt, you have to move to the far side of the screen, open fire and direct the jet of poison up/down/left/right.
You can also change the colour of a tile by squashing ground-crawling objects such as tin cans, ants and toy tanks as they roll towards you from the far end of the room; to do this you move your hand towards the top of the screen and hit the POUND button, making your hand fly downwards and mash everything beneath it.
As you progress you face additional hazards like bottles of bug squirter which turn against you, toy tanks which shoot at you, and frogs which flop out their sticky tongues and flob you to death. On certain levels there's a bonus round where you get to shoot rats for extra points, and a Warp function activated by shooting into a fridge jumps you to another house.
It's the little details like the look on the face of the nosey mosquitoes when you mash them, the great 128K rendition of The Flight of the Bumble Bee, the sampled shouts of beleaguered householders begging for your help, and the whirling skull on the credit page, which make Exterminator stand out above all the other 3-D perspective bug-squashing multi-level arcade games released this week.
Label: Audiogenic Price: £10.99 128K Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Die, bug, die! Non-stop insect-squashing action. A brilliantly insane mix of fun and thrills. Superb.