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Reaktor
1986
Arcade: Maze
£8.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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37
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Deactivators is a game that doesn't really lend itself to comparison with any other program.

I suppose you could call it an arcade strategy game. Actually it is just itself. A curious phenomenon seldom met in the 'lets do Frogger again' software industry.

Not merely original, however, Deactivators is also very entertaining and tests parts of your brain you didn't even know you had.

What is it? Well this is the difficult bit. Nominally it's all about saving a building by chucking bombs out of available windows before they explode. Imagine however that the house was designed by a madman and features abstract rooms with windows and doors in all the wrong places. Imagine also that to empty a building of bombs you will have to think in at least three dimensions, develop lightening reflexes and master trajectories. Imagine that the screen is divided into two sections depicting adjacent rooms in which bombs, guard droids, bits of circuit boards and your own team of droids are located. And, finally, imagine you have a time limit and that the game gets harder and harder as you reach each new building level with more and more bombs to be discovered and, most bizarre of all, changing gravities which make it very difficult to judge exactly what effect your bomb throws will have. It takes a lot of getting used to.

That's Deactivators. It's a very, very strange game and I love it.

If there has to be a point of comparison I suppose Spy vs Spy is the closest I can think of. Although this is not a two-player game, the way you have to keep your eye on several things at once and keep you wits about you is a bit similar.

All commands are issued via a joystick - it's icons again but not too many of them. Mostly the game is played out in the compartments of a building. You control a number of droids which begin each level scattered around the different rooms. As you switch control between droids the central screen will show both the room pieces of computer circuit board) are shown, as are enemy droids, transport pads, windows and doors.

Icon options allow you to switch viewpoints among your droids and scan the overall layout of the building. This is vital.

Having selected a droid it may be moved around between any rooms which are connected by a door or by a transport pad. The first task is to find a piece of computer circuit board and place it in a computer. This opens a window or door between rooms without which it will be impossible to complete the level.

The strategy element of the game is really sneaky. It's simply this: you may find that no one robot droid can both collect a bomb and reach one of the building's outside windows. What this means is that you must find a droid that can reach an outside window and a droid that can reach a bomb and then arrange for these droids to meet - except that they can't. What you must do next is get them in rooms adjacent to each other and throw the bomb between them through a window or door. Droid control will switch between droids in mid-air and you must catch the bomb with the other droid - bombs are not good things to drop, although you may get away with it once or twice in the early stages.

On later levels adjacent rooms may not even be' on the same horizontal ie the floor of one may be a right angle to the floor of the other - this means figuring out what is going on and turning the joystick accordingly - working out the correct way is very difficult.

Graphics don't need to be astounding but are not bad at all and the there are some nifty sound effects here and there as well as some clever music in the opening stages.

Deactivators is absolutely superb.

Label: Ariolasoft
Author: Reaktor
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

*****

Utterly strange, completely original, totally addictive. A number one if there is any justice in the world.

5/5

Banner Text

HINTS AND TIPS

Scan first, you must plan your routes carefully.

Test gravity effects by tossing something harmless like the circuit board.

Respond quickly: just switching control to a droid may be enough to activate a guard droid.

You can out-run guard droids and they can be destroyed by making them fall through hatches.

Use Pause to give yourself time to think.

Screenshot Text

Two rooms at right angles to one another. What is up and what is down? It could drive you up the pole. Your droid currently has one bomb (bottom right-hand corner icon). It would be a good idea to get rid of it. The map layout has two rooms currently on screen highlighted. Somehow you have to figure out how to get that bomb to one of the outer rooms. How's your multi-dimensional logic?