Now here's a welcome surprise... a brand new graphic adventure for the Electron (and BBC). Yes, I know you're all probably already thinking surely the last thing the Elk needs is yet another graphic adventure, but Electrobots manages to not only be quite an enjoyable one, but also something a wee bit different too. Its USP is that it gives you control of three different 'bots' in three separate 'zones', and the ability to flick between them at will with the 1, 2 and 3 keys.

The on-screen instructions direct you to guide each bot to the exit portal and the usual ZX*? key combination will propel the currently selected bot left and right and, courtesy of the pipelines scattered around the environment, up and down. There's also a jump and a fire control. Jumping is needed to successfully negotiate the holes in the terrain. Firing presumably will take care of those perky moving-and-shooting nasties that exist in some rooms, although I haven't yet managed to get to the gun (although I can see it!).

Generally this game handles very well - it looks to be 100% machine code, and very, very big. The bots respond well to keypresses and generally glide around in an aesthetically-pleasing manner, from one flick-screen room to the next. It's rendered in Mode 5 which means it's nicely coloured, and the palette is different for each of the zones which are respectively land, water and space-based, with bot control differing with the zone's environment. Zone 1 (the land) handles like every other graphic adventure. Zone 2 (water) has the bot move more slowly left and right ("swimming") and the jump control works more like a float command. Zone 3 (space) has the bot able to fly, weave, duck and hover much like the masterpiece Exile.

Very generously, you have a life system and an energy bar, with both 'shared' between the bots (i.e. you can't kill one bot but continue to play with the other two). You lose energy if you are shot, fall into lava, fall too far or collide with one of the nasties. There are also moving platforms in some locations which will either carry you across chasms, or keep you out of the way of particularly aggressive adversaries. And don't trust those maze walls 100% either - in some locations you need to pass through them to make progress and you'll only discover that by testing them by running up to them and seeing if they'll let you through.

As with all the best graphic adventures, there are doors which bar progress and keys to unlock them. However, I found progress harder-going than most of Electrobots' stable-mates. Even after thirty minutes or so, I had failed to match a single key with a single door! Thus, it seems that making a map, optional with many graphic adventures, is pretty much mandatory in Electrobots... I found myself trying desperately to escape from the same twenty or so locations in each of the zones; some of the exits from the rooms are remarkably well concealed, or can only be got to by jumping from one location and falling into another.

Oh, and if all that's not enough for you, there are teleporters too, along with battery refills to top up that energy level.

And so, is it any good? Well, as a brand new graphic adventure it's pretty remarkable, and would easily have passed as a superior budget game on the Atlantis or Blue Ribbon labels back in the day. It's got elements of Citadel, Survivors and Exile, and even being mentioned in the same sentence as those greats is high praise indeed. It's also a fully-fledged game: it's big, and, although the mission to find the exit portal seems simple, you certainly won't discover everything the game has to offer without some serious head-scratching and exploration. The only area where it's really lacking is in the sound department (The boppy little anthems on the title screens of new Spectrum games haven't reached Elk world yet!) and I'm in two minds as to whether the difficulty curve is a little bit too steep (because I personally can't work out where to go and how to get the keys I need!).

Overall though, if you like graphic adventures, you're not going to be disappointed with this - because it's actually three graphic adventures in one!

Electrobots (BBC/Electron)