Electron User1st November 1987
Published in Electron User 5.02
The passion for resurrecting old games continues unabated, this time with a compilation from Audiogenic. It is, however, good to see that not all of the bundled titles are re-released oldies: Two of the games are making their first appearance.
The first of these is Saracoid, a superb shoot-'em-up. The sprites are large and colourful, the controls simple and the action smooth and fast. One point that impressed me is it gets off to such an easy start. So many shoot-'em-ups start hard and just get harder - it's a pleasant change to find one that anyone can play. In all, I cannot fault Saracoid in any way - buy Power Pack 2 for this game alone.
The other newcomer is Froot Raid, a fruit machine simulation. I have seen many such programs over the years, but none has really captured the atmosphere of the real thing, simply because there isn't a genuine element of risk.
While this implementation has probably the most comprehensive range of features I've yet seen, it too fails to convey the feel of a real one-armed bandit. Although it represents a technically excellent attempt at computerising an obviously uncooperative subject, without the aspect of real money it doesn't work for me.
Stix is a fast-moving stream of energy darting round the screen in a random fashion. You must fill in areas of the screen in order to trap Stix, but go carefully: One touch is fatal. You can choose either fast or slow fill. Slow gives you a much larger bonus, but is considerably more dangerous.
To make matters worse lethal blobs home in on you from all sides, making the game quite frantic. One maddening problem is the playing keys are located so closely together that it is virtually impossible to play the game with any degree of smooth control. Worse still, you cannot choose your own keys. This unnecessary flaw unfortunately detracts greatly from what is actually quite an enjoyable game.
Psycastria is an immensely - and deservedly - successful shoot-'em-up featuring the smoothest scrolling ever seen on the Electron. When you flip your ship left and right, the screen scrolls around you.
Although the Electron version is not quite as fast as the one for the BBC Micro, you do at least stand a chance of seeing what's about to hit you. Psycastria follows the great idea of "even if it doesn't move, shoot it anyway". In spite of what the inlay would have you believe, there doesn't seem to be any particular mission - it's really just kill, kill, kill.
The game features some wonderful special effects, including music, multi-player option and a demonstration mode. The only point I found annoying is that you must clear each level in one go, without losing a life.
This niggle aside, Psycastria is certainly an impressive piece of programming which has lost none of its addictiveness.
Drain Mania is a fairly standard platform game set in a sewer, of all places. This is, unfortunately, far from deserted: It's populated with a variety of deadly creatures out to do you no good at all.
Luckily they can be killed by a headbutt from below, followed by a swift kick. This can be somewhat hairy, since the platforms are very slippery. As you kill one beastie you will often find yourself sliding helplessly into the jaws of another.
There is recompense, as over the years many coins have been lost down the drains - yours to keep if you can grab them. Although Drain Mania is a game I have played on and off for years, I feel most modern game players would find it too elementary to hold their interest for long.
The last two games in the package come from the hand of talented programmer Peter Scott. Both are multi-screen arcade-adventures featuring brightly coloured graphics, lots of objects and mind bending puzzles.
Last Of The Free is essentially a combination of a platform game such as Hunkidory, another Scott offering, and an adventure game. You may run and jump around a number of screens avoiding a variety of moving objects only to find your way blocked by a door. To open it you must find the correct key.
There are many objects to help you on your way, but use them wisely as they can only be used once. Solving the game requires careful manipulation and time, but tread carefully and you will eventually be free.
Thunderstruck introduces Spreco, a cute little character who has since featured in a number of Peter's more recent releases.
A freak accident has tapped you in a medieval castle with a number of other robots, none of which is proving very friendly.
Thunderstruck is more complex than Last Of The Free and also far more of an adventure game, since your escape can only be engineered by bartering with the castle's other inhabitants. This frequently involves solving complex adventure-style chaining puzzles.
As with its predecessor, to complete the game you must give the right object to the right character - once again you only get one chance with each object. A better game with better graphics.
The Electron Power Pack 2 represents many hours of great fun with something to appeal to everyone. Great value.