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Mirrorsoft Ltd
Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K

Luke C
Chris Bourne

Well, I'd just like to be the first to say sorry for harping back to the Jet Set Willy classics but, although this game is completely different, its very similar. (I'm sorry I'll write that again!) What I'm getting at is that the JSW games were an exercise in getting Willy to just the right place at the right time, jumping at just the right moment, and it was the same each time you negotiated that screen. Yes? And it's the same with Action Reflex, only this time you're controlling what looks like a football...

The scene is set in a series of underground caverns, full of strange obstacles, and its your task to get around 25 screens before the time limit is up. Once you've done that, you set out on the next of the three mazes. Don't ask me what happens on the third maze - I've yet to get there!

The movement of the football is wonderful - whatever algorithm the programmer has used mimics the real thing perfectly. You can move the football left and right, and bounce it up and down. It does take a bit of getting used to, though, as the ball slowly accelerates and decelerates according to an exponential or parabolic curve, gathering momentum as it moves - ask your local mathematician if you're not sure what I'm talking about. Whatever... you'll soon get the hang of it within about five goes.

Moving around the screens, there are all sorts of things to watch out for - like the ball disappearing into lakes, being destroyed by fire burst, being punched up to the ceiling and shot with an arrow, hitting overhead magnets and, of course, the various coloured wobbly meanies that shuffle about generally getting in the way. Within the time limit, you have an infinite number of lives - but each new life means that you lose a couple of valuable seconds ... making it very difficult to get around all 25 screens before your time runs out. Points can be picked up on the way by 'walking' the ball through them - these are then accumulated so you can gain objects, such as a ring, hammer and key. These'll come in handy later on.

Which brings me around to my original point about the game being a little bit like JSW and, in particular, Manic Miner (if you can bring yourself to remember that far back). When I first played Action Reflex, it took me my full time limit to get through the first five screens of the first maze. After five or six attempts, I'd sussed out a 'safe' route and managed to get through about 12 screens... and so on... until I'd cracked the first maze. But the most frustrating bit is having to get through the screens you know well, especially if you keep making silly mistakes, until you get to a screen you haven't seen before.

Yes, it's very clever, and it's one of the most addictive games I've played ... but I think a better title would've been 'Learned Response'.