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1987
Arcade: Maze
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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63
Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

This is a classic case of the 'if only' syndrome - as in, 'if only they'd spent the time and that bit of extra effort, this could have been great.'

The idea's novel, at least. You control a service droid on an outer-space outpost, responsible for a multitude of tasks, from planting the mushrooms to summoning supplies. This would be a nice cushy number for your android Percy Thrower, if it wasn't for the dreaded alien plant pests.

Outer space may not be inhabited by little green men, but it's swarming with galactic greenfly... and ants, ladybirds and other mushroom-munching parasites. They're not even too choosy about their diet, so watch out for your solar panels! If they eat enough of those your bulbs won't even light, let alone grow (ho ho!)

To combat the menace, you can swop your green fingers for something far more deadly, but beware, because the laser runs down very fast, forcing constant trips back to an outhouse to recharge. You'll need to locate this pretty quickly among all the other buildings which contain seeds, solar panels, fences and traps.

You can hold four objects at once apart from your gun, so stock up with some of these basic supplies. That way, when you find that a beetle has nibbled through the barrier, you can replace it instantly. The strategy comes into play when you're forced to cut back on the size of the compound. As it shrinks, you grow less produce.

Now the whole thing becomes something like A-level Economics. You trade your mushrooms for further supplies with a visiting spacecraft, which you can summon at any time. But to get the best bits you need to have a good turnover, and that means you must maintain a healthy economy. So don't get into siege mentality too early!

Sounds fun, doesn't it, but what could have been a frantic exercise in iand management is let down by a lack of playability. Objects must be placed precisely, which can make it extremely difficult to drop a fence when theres really no time to lose. Accuracy isn't helped by the sloppy pseudo-3D graphics. The playing area also feels wrong, as if there's too little on a single screen, and too much outside.

It's a pity, because at heart this is a clever arcade-cum-strategy game. But strangulation of the roots has stopped it blooming.

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