Personal Computer News

Spectrum Special

Author: Mike Gerrard
Publisher: Vortex
Machine: Spectrum 16K/48K

Published in Personal Computer News #027

Another box of ZX tricks, and Shirley Fawcett squares up to fend off mutants and pulsoids

Spectrum Special

A handy little machine, the Spectrum - especially when it comes to saving the world. This current batch of new Spectrum games includes no fewer than three different opportunities to rescue this planet from a fate worse than... and all in the privacy of your own home.

Android One

The best of this batch by a very short head is Android One: The Reactor Run, from the Vortex stable. This proclaims itself to be just the first of a series of Android adventures, Horace-style - and rightly so, I think, since this game is going to make its way well up the charts.

The plot is nothing new - in fact, this is really a souped-up version of Berzerk. You have to charge through a heavily guarded enemy mutant warren in search of their reactor - which has to be destroyed, since it is about to... yes, end the world.

No problem, though - for you are in control of Android One, the Very Latest in Android Technology. How can you fail?

The graphics in this epic are faultless, and it is a very superior version of the old game. In place of robots to pot-shot, you are faced with four different kinds of mutants, all of which have different ways of moving about the screen and are worth different numbers of points if you do manage to pot them.

Groupies travel in groups of three or four. Wanderers potter about by themselves, generally.

Bouncers spring up and down the screen and can't be killed, but they can kill you perfectly will when they land on your head. Skaters slither unpredictably around, and are fiendishly difficult to hit.

This is an unreasonably addictive game. There are five levels of play, and at even the slowest there's enough of a challenge to keep you screenglued and bug-eyed. There's a long and varied series of chambers to explore, with random layouts of obstacles to get round each time.

You control your android by rotating it till it's facing the way you want to go and then running like the clappers.

This one will run and run and run.

Jungle Trouble

A close second to that one is Jungle Trouble, a Durell Software extravaganza. It's a mini obstacle course a la Miner 49er, but the objective is simply to get out of the jungle as fast as possible. You are a little explorer... three little explorers, in fact, since you get three chances to be eaten by crocodiles or hit by a falling tree.

You first have to collect an axe, then leap across a set of stepping stones in a river filled with crocodiles. Once on the other side you climb a ladder to get to the trees - rather cuddly oak-like things, these, and standing in a neat row. Oh well, who wants realism in their games?

You have to chop down the trees, remembering to get out of the way as they fall. But you will have to go back to the start at least once, since monkeys will steal your axe unless you manage to swipe them with it before it gets too blunt. Even then, it will get blunt just from tree-felling, so you'll have to fetch another.

Then, once you've done your bit to reduce the great wild places of the world, you climb another ladder and swing on a rope across a firepit, take a flying leap over a yawning chasm, and run for home. Eat your heart out, Tarzan!

Spawn Of Evil

Back to saving the world, or galaxy, with Spawn Of Evil by Dk'Tronics. What a title - just calls out to be said in a sinister Vincent Price voice. The cover is pretty lurid, too, with a queue of green amorphous blobs advancing on you through the trackless wastes of space. Great stuff.

The game itself doesn't quite live up to the title's promise, mostly because it isn't easy to get the hang of operating your spacecraft. There's an excellent set of instructions on the second side of the tape, which you can dump to a printer if you have one - there's a lot to remember.

In a nutshell, you have to beat the living daylights out of a - wait for it - Ectogenetic Galactic Gamete, the First Stage of a Breeding Process that prduces Mature and Dangerous Aliens! If you hang about, you'll also have to shoot its offspring: pulsoids, cycloids, aliens, that sort of thing.

Pulsoids fuse with each other to produce cycloids. Cycloids do the same, to produce aliens. Aliens are green and amoeba-shaped, and fuse to produce more gametes. Gametes wait till they number three, then turn the aliens loose on you in seek-and-destroy mode. In this mode, the brutes spit at you until your windscreen is filled with red goo and you are destroyed. Nasty!

Yes, there's plenty to cope with in this game, but the overall effect is just a bit incomprehensible. You have two viewer screens, one to show you a wide-angle view of approaching clusters of creatures, the other to give you a close-up of what's coming at you. You have to flip between the two, and shoot at the ones you manage to get in your sights.

Since the ship slides through space at odd angles, this isn't easy - and the keys you control it with are not at all easy to use, being S, D, W and A, and F, to fire.

All in all, good graphics shame about the game. Maybe it would be better with a joystick.

Bozy Boa

Bozy Boa, from CDS Micro Systems, is a bit of a puzzler. What does bozy mean? Sort of boozy and dozy? Anyway, this turns out to be a predictable and unambitious little game, the sort of thing you might choose to play for half an hour on a wet winter Sunday afternoon.

It's no more than a competently done version of that old game where you steer a snake around the screen gobbling numbers, and each time you catch a number, your tail gets longer - and you mustn't bump into it, or any of the walls and obstacles.

Bozy Boa's only novelty value is the fact that it is set in an English country garden, as the little tune at start-up tells you. And your boa has to eat beetles, snails and things that look like red dice but are in fact ladybirds, while avoiding the flowers - more of which grow each time you get your fangs into a beetle.

The cross-eyed snake on the cassette cover is the best thing about this one.

Hidden City

Hidden City is yet another earth-saving mission from Bytewell. This time, you have to pilot a ship into the underground alien cities which now infest the earth, and destroy them with a single well-placed shot in the reactor.

Your ship, says the instructions, can 'penetrate all known alien defences' - even the parts other ships cannot reach? - as long as you pilot it properly. You have to get through three screens - a cliffside, down which you fly to reach the cavern entrance under fire from three guns; a maze, from which you have to pick up cans of fuel; and the underground tunnel itself, in which cities and various odd satellites are scattered.

I found this one unimpressive. There are several levels of play, level 1 being slow enough to be usable as a practice mode and level umpteen being one long history of being shot at and shooting - but the graphics are fairly crude and it's too easy to get through the various screens, at least at the slower speed levels. Probably worth a few hours' play if you like that sort of thing, though.

Mike GerrardShirley Fawcett

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