Activision by P.A.W. Software (Tony Adams, Tony R. Porter)
As a 19th century scientist from a H. G. Wells novel, blending with a fantasy tale from Tolkien and such, you built a peculiar machine that somehow allows you to enter another dimension, where you ride through mazes of caves riddled with the most fantastic creatures, but not of the friendly kind. Anyway, your thirst of knowledge pushes you into exploring the caves and learn all their secrets - and you discover you can pick up coloured balls, mostly yellow or golden, which gives you some kind of energy. Some researchers think you simply turned into Pac Man. But there are no ghosts here, only Trolls, Rotoflies, Biter Birds and a HUGE DRAGON GUARDING THE EXIT OF THE CAVE. To defeat the latter, you have first to shoot some fireballs at the other creatures, until you have collected three jewels, which will disintegrate the invisible barrier protecting the dragon. Then you'll have to face the dragon in a furious duel. If you win, you'll reach the next level, more tortuous, more crowded and with new creatures. You ride your interdimensional machine from a subjective point of view, with a panel with various indicators occupying the lowest quarter of the screen. Graphics are black and white, except for the fireballs. The sprites of the creature are big and well drawn, blocky but in a nice way, and the caverns flow smoothly around you. Playability is very high, and you'll need to draw or check a map to really find your way through the mazes. I don't find it much addictive, but overall is an excellent game, technically irreproachable. Very nice three channel tune in the 128k version.
Ariolasoft UK by Orpheus Ltd (Andy Green, Jeff Philips, Stuart J. Ruecroft)
It's your run of the mill maze game with radioactive leaks. You're a walking and floating robot that must collect dozen of parts of a circuit that will help stop the leak, or something like that. You have a laser too, plus a very limited amount of grenades and a couple of other weapons, for the tougher droids. There are teleportation booths to reach new areas and try to complete the puzzle of circuit fragments. The game is very playable, graphics are nice, and your character is well animated. It's quite easy and not very challenging, so, lacking in variety too, can get boring very fast. It's a decent effort, anyway.
Thor Computer Software by Colin Grunes, Stuart James Fotheringham, Steve Parys, Barry Leitch
This is a typical case of as-a-budget-it-would-have-been-pretty-good. I.C.U.P.S., in fact, would have been a deluxe budget with its superb graphics, beautiful shadings and colours, perfectly drawn sprites, and very nice multi-channel music, but as a game, and moreover as a full price game, seems to be the scientific result of a Frankenstein operation: the union of two unfinished games in the attempt to create a whole one. The first is a sort of Spy Hunter set in space, you drive a spacecraft in a cosmic highway and you have to destroy or dodge other flying vehicles trying to crush you or shoot you. It's not bad. Once survived three sections of that, you gain access to the second, which is a very minor Nodes of Yesod style game [actually programmed by the same people of Odin Software], in which you, as a droid with vague insect-like appearance and motion, explore a starship walking and flying around flip-screens, in order to locate four bombs. There are 64 rooms only and they are all the same and slightly empty, although splendidy designed. It was quite easy finishing it, once discovered how to get the bombs. So, wonderful aesthetics thanks to Stuart James Fotheringham, but not much else - surely a disappointment for Odin fans, as Hypaball this same year but unlike Heartland.
Tantalus is a colourful maze game in which you explore a huge set of alien infested flip-screens while desperately looking for a gameplay. Paul Hargreaves seems to be a great programmer, but a poor game designer. The movement of the sprites is amazingly smooth, the graphics are flashy and psychedelics, your manoeuvrability is excellent, everything looks good and works fine: it's like a beautiful and bright palace with nothing inside. The programmer worked on the size and on the extras of the game, producing a 1000 screens maze [or at least that's what we can read in the mags], five or six different kind shootings for you character, more than 40 different aliens moving in 16 different patterns, but forgot about the substance: so the dynamic of the gameplay is reduced to an endless wandering in very similar rooms, chased by aliens, in a map so huge that it's very rare to find the elements that would allow you to end the game [32 locks to be destroyed to reach and kill a hidden deviant]. In other words, it's almost like opening a series of boxes without ever finding a content. In fact, it's so dull that this review has become a whiny bore. So, anyway, thanks to the technical prowess in display, the smoothness of it all, and the superficial playability, overall it's a
Electric Dreams by The RamJam Corporation (Simon Dunstan)
I sang in my mind The Kinks' omonimous song for all the time I've been playing Dandy, which luckily distracted me from the strident sound effects of the game - but it doesn't matter: a game awarded with a Your Sinclair Megagame, a Sinclair User Classic, a C+VG Hit! and with general very good ratings and reviews must be excellent! Well, not really. I think it's just good, maybe very good, and far from being the best Gauntlet inspired effort. It's playable as much as monotonous and lacking variety. Destroying a whole army of [creepy, well-animated, disquieting] spiders and, returning back to the same room, find it all again alive and ready to kill you is a bit tiring and demoralizing. Although, to be fair, there are a few spells scattered around which help to improve the flow of the action, and in some rooms you can destroy the lair of the spiders - chests full of bones - making them disappear forever. Still, I'm not captivated, engaged or intrigued. Nice and colourful backgrounds, sprites are often a bit confusing though. P.s. you can trade the treasures for energy.
Mr. Greg A. Holmes, taking a break from Gremlin Graphics, and Mr. John Holmes, taking a break from the pornographic industry, penned this universally panned budget game[*] under the label Central Solutions. [*] 5/10 from both Your Sinclair and Crash But to say the truth, it's not that bad, it's a maze game with neat and colourful graphics, in which you are driving a tank picking up pieces of something spreaded through various flip-screen rooms teeming with other tanks and lethal crabs. You have some bullets too, but you'd better spare them for the most difficult times because they're counted, and, anyway, shooting the enemy is not always the best choice, because they reappear immediately, and you could be right over their reappearance spot. Playability is okayish, although you can die with irritating frequency, even for some debatable reasons, for example, you may be ahead of a tank following you, but making a 90° turn [into what may be your only escape route], it will reach you, touching you a corner pixel of your shape. Also, it's rather easy to fall into little rivers crossing the screens and die. So, be very attentive to where you put your pixels. Anyway, contrary to the esteemed magazines cited above, I don't consider this little game insufficient.