Author: Dave E
Publisher: RetroSouls
Machine: Spectrum 48K


Back in the Eighties, there was a disturbing trend. Very simple games, with concepts the player intuitively understood, were coupled with baffling instructions. Case in point: Arkanoid. What the heck were all those instructions about a mothership and "the streamlined Vaus"...? Now Spectrum games have gone to the other extreme. For example, Join has no instructions at all. Instead it starts with a screen stating the game controls and "get a heart to start".

On the intro screen, like in the game itself, you manoeuvre a bouncing ball within a boxed-in area, and to progress to the next sheet you must collect all the hearts on the current one. It's simplicity itself to grasp but it requires concentration to control the ball because it never stops bouncing. This means that it will fly up until it meets an obstruction and then fly down in the same way. As you can imagine, sheets are littered with overhead and ground-based spikes. You need to judge which areas are safe... and then plot how to grab the hearts without finding the ball impaled on a spike shortly afterwards. Collecting the last heart immediately advances you to the next screen; on some occasions therefore saving you from what would otherwise be a suicidal leap to grab it.

The game is an early Denis Grachev title, and is interesting not only for the game itself - which is reasonably enjoyable - but also as an early example of what became his seminal series of gravity and inertia-based games on the Spectrum. It sadly has neither the attention-to-detail sprites of his later games nor the thumping AY music of his later works (just the flip-flap sound of the ball in motion). Nevertheless, it hangs together well and is reasonably addictive fare.

Dave E

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