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Adventure: Graphic
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Ben Stone, Paul Sumner, Mike Dunn
Chris Bourne

Gargantuan is an over-used adjective, but 40 billion mappable locations seems to qualify, so using it one more time to describe Explorer won't do any harm.

The RAM JAM CORPORATION has ever been a source of oddities, from its first and marvellously humorous Valkyrie 17 adventure. In this new quest, the cosmic joke is that your second-hand space vehicle has broken up over the Emerald planet. To make matters worse, fragments of your craft have scattered around nine of its 40 billion locations. Sounds like you've got to find them all before escape is possible. Some cosmic joke, huh?

Several vital instruments have survived the crash. There's a Compass, a Homing Beacon, Direction Finder, a Laser Pulse Gun and an all-important Sonar. Recovering the ship parts is a problem, but at least the sonar makes life sound brighter - by bouncing an echo off an object, its bearing and rough distance is revealed. A short walk through the jungle is okay, but you're told if the range is too far for a stroll and it's then time to take to the trusty jet-pack.

When within range of an object, travelling can be done on foot. Pressing the forward key brings the front view into sharp relief and shows the next planet section. Left and right movements (or even a full 180 degree turn) are shown as a bearing at the top of the screen.

The Emerald Planet is largely uninhabited, except for a strange breed of energy-sapping robotic bugs. Energy loss can be fatal, and although there is a means of replenishing it, killing the robots is a far better method of staying alive. A Laser Pulse Gun is a handy extra when it comes to bugs - it's accessed through Weapons Mode.

Swirling patches of colour are encountered deeper in the jungle. These act as doorways to locations elsewhere on the planet. Remember there are 40 billion, so almost any name will do for a destination. Mind you, you can get lost too, so this is where the homing beacons come in. These can be dropped anywhere to be used as useful reference points - they're seen from the air as flashing squares.

The energy available to power all the equipment is limited, and the level of reserves is shown as one of the menu options, which can be accessed at any time by pressing FIRE and then the first letter of the required option.


'This isn't a game... it's a nightmare - 40 billion locations is awesome (for awesome read ridiculous!). I've been playing for hours simply trying to find the game, and I've come to the conclusion that there isn't one; at least not one compelling enough to keep me playing any more. 'Mapping games' have never really been much fun, and the extremely short arcade sequences aren't good or frequent enough. Visually poor, Explorer's initial prettiness wears off as the locations are all very similar; there's a lot of colour clash too. I'd stay well clear of it if I were you.' BEN

'It's a hefty task to find nine missing pieces in a play area of this size, even with the radio beacons. Do they really think that some poor player is actually going to trudge around forty billion locations? RAM JAM write some pretty weird and original programs, and this is their weirdest yet. Explorer is well presented with good magnify and wobble screen routines. The backgrounds are very originally drawn, and look like nothing I've seen on the Spectrum. Unfortunately, what could have been a good idea has been drowned by a massive play area with little variation.' PAUL

'Okay, a game with a name like Explorer ought to have a lot of locations, and the way in which RAM JAM have written this means that it isn't difficult to get through a heck of a lot of them, but even so; 40 BILLION! One billion would have been enough! The graphics are pleasantly coloured, if a little monotonous, but (unsurprisingly) the game has a tendency, to get boring after a while. Explorer isn't a stunningly good game; I reckon that a bit less dedication to size, and more attention to gameplay might have worked much better.' MIKE

Control keys
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Use of colour: very jungle-ish
Graphics: attractive, but it's sometimes hard to see what's going on
Sound: very little
Skill levels: one
Screens: would you believe - 40 billion?
General Rating: Gargantuan, awesome, actually quite fun for a while, but devastating in the end, and ultimately a bit monotonous.


Screenshot Text

The Explorer discovers a teleporter - will it help in the quest for spaceship parts?

A jet-packing explorer's view of the Emerald planet.