A&B Computing

Play It Again Sam

Author: Dave Reeder
Publisher: Superior/Acornsoft
Machine: Acorn Electron

Published in A&B Computing 5.01

Despite what many people think, Bogey never uttered that immortal cliche "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 it, Sam!".

The problem with compilations is that all too often they seem to be a vehicle to make some money from useless games, embellishing them with pretty packaging and offering them at bargain prices. Superior's latest release escapes this criticism, containing four of the company's best arcade games.

Citadel starts this excellent collection of classics. 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 the teleport to bring his invasion force to Earth.

Success won't be easy 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 spell. Unfortunately they do re-appear.

The castle consists of more than 100 individually illustrated locations, each with its own set of bad guys and objects to be collected.

Much of the game involves leg work, collecting items 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. However, the game still stands up remarkably well and is guaranteed to provide hours of fun and entertainment.

Second is Thrust - a game of subtle control and careful manoeuvring. Your job is to hover into the depths of a high gravity asteroid and recover an energy pod vital to the resistance.

Pitted against you are 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 more than 70 levels, some with increased gravity, reversed gravity, and even invisible landscapes.

The graphics are quite simple but elegant. The scrolling is faultless as you manoeuvre your little spaceship around the tightest corners.

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

Third in line is Stryker's Run, the game that took the software charts by storm. You are Commander John Stryker: Your mission, to return top secret information to the allied force's HQ.

While Stryker comes equipped with just a laser pistol and grenades, the Volgon enemy have mortars, mines, rocket launchers and SAM missiles.

Stryker can run, jump and duck to avoid the barrage of enemy fire. Along the way he may utilise the enemy's helicopters to complete his task.

The scrolling landscape and scenery are 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 can choose your character - Wizard, Adventurer, Elf or Warrior. Your choice merely selects the treasure graphics, with the object being to collect and assemble the pieces of a silver crucifix.

You start on the outside of a castle, faced with the first puzzle: 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.

Once inside the castle there is a variety of different objects and obstacles to be found. Some - the pickaxes for example - are 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 and the four colours of the Mode 5 display are used to excellent effect.

In conclusion, since every one of these games achieved number one in the software charts, this package represents unequalled value for money. Though you may have at least one of these, this is a compilation everybody should have.

Dave Reeder

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