Mirrorsoft Ltd
1986
Arcade: Action
£7.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

28
Chris Bourne

Another ballgame with a difference! The central character in this game is a chequered ball which has been trapped inside a linked sequence of three mazes. The sphere has to be guided through the whole course three times in all, each trip through the mazes more difficult to make, before freedom is won.

Like most balls, the star of Action Reflex can roll along the floor in this flip-screen playing environment, to the left or right. Bouncing is also in the repertoire: holding the fire button makes the Round One bounce higher and higher until maximum bounce has been achieved. The game is played against the clock, represented by a chart at the bottom of the screen. As time progresses a yellow pointer gradually moves towards the red danger zone, and if the current section of maze is not completed before the time limit expires, it's curtains.

A variety of static and mobile obstacles must be avoided or evaded: bullets are shot from the ceiling; boxing gloves punch the spherical hero skywards, impaling it on dangerous looking spikes; magnets lure the bouncing ball to the top of the screen and hold it immobile until a dart comes along. Nearer ground level, drains suck the ball downwards and pools of water lurk in which unsuspecting balls can easily drown. Air vents whoosh the ball upwards through a vacuum delivery system and suck it along overhead pipeways to deliver the reluctant prisoner back to an earlier part of the maze. Whenever the ball is burst, time is lost and play restarts from one edge of the current screen.

Some objects in the game can be of use to your little bouncing chum on its travels. These are not collected on the journey as in most arcade adventure games, but are awarded automatically according to the number of points that have been amassed. Points are dotted around the maze in a variety of denominations, and are collected by rolling through or bouncing onto them. Once five hundred points are nestling comfortably in your pocket, a rubber ring is thrown your way. This makes it possible for the ball to pass unscathed over a stretches of water. Seven hundred points is the price of a hammer that comes in very handy for breaking down one of the glass walls blocking off explorable areas of the maze. A key is slipped into your possession when nine hundred points have been collected, and can be used to unlock underground chutes that provide safe passage through tricky areas. These items can only be used once, and icons in the status area keep track of the quantity of each of the tools in stock.

When a direction key is pressed and held, the ball gathers speed and two sets of chevron arrows under the time display give a readout of the speed of travel. Releasing a key allows the ball to slow down and come to rest there are no brakes! The speedometer is useful when fudging large leaps or when avoiding bullets and spurts of flame which suddenly erupt from cracks in the floor. When time runs out, the game ends and a result screen pops into view to report on progress. Better luck next time, eh?

CRITICISM

'The preview copy of Action Reflex looked very entertaining so I've been waiting for the proper copy for a few weeks now. I am not at all disappointed. This game has a really good feeling about it that keeps you playing: there are lots of nice graphical touches which help, like the bulge in the pipe when you are shot up it. The graphics are very near perfect - all the characters are very well animated and the scenery is very well drawn. My only niggle is that there is a touch of colour clash on the more colourful screens. The use of colour is excellent throughout the game, and is never garish. The sound is fairly average but there are some nice spot effects. A very playable and addictive game which I can recommend strongly.'

'At first sight this game seems like Bounder, but viewed from the side. After playing a few goes, I soon realised that Action Reflex also has good depth to it that should keep any arcade player at the Spectrum for ages. The game is very playable and extremely addictive. Although Action Reflex has some old ideas, taken as a whole, the game format seems quite original, and is lots of fun to play. The ball moves around the screen very smoothly, although I feel it moves more like a stone. Action Reflex is definitely a move in a new direction.'

'Neato! Lots of colour and very nice graphics make Action Reflex very attractive visually. The loading method is very clever, but the loading screen is not particularly brilliant. I found it very playable, and despite the continual frustration, it also seems to be pretty addictive. The colour and graphic style is reminiscent of Chris Urquhart's last game, and very good it is too. Though not absolutely stunning, this game is a lot of fun: I like it.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: Z left, X right, SPACE increase bounce, P pause, Q quit
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: no problems
Use of colour: very attractive
Graphics: nice animation, lots of detail
Sound: good effects
Skill levels: one - gets progressively harder
Screens: 7
General Rating: A very good game, frustrating at times but addictive.

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Screenshot Text

Cameron's been practising his action photography - here's a snap of the ACTION REFLEX ball in mid flight, as it travels towards a set of ceiling spikes after being biffed by a boxing glove.

Another action snap. The unwary sphere landed on that trigger pad, which activates the magnet. A dart is then despatched to deal death to the spherical adventurer as it is held helpless...