Electron User

Play It Again Sam
By Superior/Acornsoft
Acorn Electron

Published in Electron User 5.03

Despite what many people think, Bogey never uttered the words "Play it again, Sam". However, I suspect that if he'd been around to see Superior Software's latest compilation he'd have been sorely tempted to say "Let me play them again, Sam!"

The problem with compilations is that all too often they seem to be a vehicle to make money from useless games that didn't sell well the first time round, embellishing them with pretty packaging and offering them at bargain basement prices.

Superior Software's latest release escapes all of these criticisms because it really does contain what amounts to four of the best arcade games available for the Electron. And what's more, they are now available on disc too.

Citadel starts this excellent collection of classics with a bang. The scenario casts you as an intrepid adventurer charged with destroying the teleport system created by Marduk the Dictator. He has established a base in a deserted castle and will soon be using his teleport system to bring his invasion force to Earth.

Your task is to prevent the impending invasion and you will have to do battle with the guardians of the castle. Some you can avoid, but the strange wandering monks can only be destroyed by a well-aimed magic spell between the yes. They soon reappear, however, so you mustn't hang around too long in any one room.

The castle itself consists of over 100 individually illustrated locations and the Mode 2 graphics are detailed and very colourful. Each room is complete with its own set of bad guys and useful objects to be collected.

Much of the game involves plodding around, collecting things and carefully planning your next move. For those of us whose fingers are not quite what they used to be, I have to admit this is a welcome respite. Fear not though, lightning reflexes do not go unnoticed.

The sound employed is a little basic and the graphics are starting to show their age slightly compared to others on this release.

This is most evident in the garbage that appears at the top and bottom of the screen - the game is so big it won't fit in the memory. This is something you'll just have to live with and you soon get used to it.

Despite that criticism though, the game still stands up remarkably well and is guaranteed to provide hours of fun and entertainment.

Second in the collection is Thrust. Not one for the faint of heart or slow of pinkies, it's a game of subtle control and careful manoeuvring. Your job is to plunge into the depths if a high gravity asteroid and recover an energy pod vital to the resistance movement.

Pitted against you are the nuclear-powered automatic Limpet guns forming the asteroid's defence. By careful shooting you can either disable the reactor for a while or destroy the guns. Too much energy punched into the reactor will cause it to explode and destroy the entire asteroid. This results in a loss of bonus - but it's a nice way of skipping screens.

There are 24 different asteroids and over seventy levels, some with increased gravity, reversed gravity and even invisible landscapes.

On the face of things, the graphics appear to be quite simple: This in fact disguises their real elegance. The scrolling is faultless as you manoeuvre your little spaceship around the tightest of corners.

This is one of those games which always seems to have just one more challenge lying in wait around the next corner and no matter how many times you get killed you always want that one last go.

Next in the line-up is Stryker's Run, the game that took the charts by storm. You are Commander John Stryker. Your mission is to return top secret information to the allied forces' HQ.

While Stryker comes equipped with just a laser pistol and grenades, the Volgon enemy have mortars, mines, rocket launchers and SAM missiles so your task is going to be tough.

Stryker can run, jump and duck and you'll need these abilities to avoid the barrage of enemy fire, though along the way you may utilise the enemy's helicopters to complete your mission.

The scenery is breathtaking and what it lacks in playability is made up for by sheer fun. If you missed this one on its first release, don't miss it now.

Bringing up the rear is my old favourite Ravenskull - an arcade adventure of the highest calibre. You haven't lived until you've been killed in Castle Ravenskull.

At the start of the game you can choose to be a Wizard, Adventurer, Elf or Warrior. Your choice doesn't affect the way the game plays, it merely selects the graphics for treasure.

The object of the game is to collect and assemble the pieces of a silver crucifix. You start outside the castle, faced with the first puzzle of how to get in. This can take some time, not least because of the sheer size of the map.

Each level is no less than 64 times the size of the screen. Needless to say, with a map this large, getting from one place to another can take quite some time.

The inside of the castle is filled with a variety of objects and obstacles. Some - the pickaxes for instance - are helpful, but others are either a nuisance or just downright lethal.

The puzzles in Ravenskull are nothing less than complex: Make one mistake and you'll have to start again. There is only one solution to each level.

The overhead view graphics used are beyond belief and the four colours of the Mode 5 display used to excellent effect.

In conclusion I have to say that since every one of these games achieved number one in the software charts at the time of their release, this package represents unequalled value for money.

Although most people probably have at least one of the four, this is a stocking filler that everybody should have.

Julia Forester

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