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Julian G. Todd
Arcade: Maze
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Phil South
Chris Bourne

Deep in the heart... yes, I say deeep in the heart of your Speccy wriggles the fattest worm ever to blow a sparky. Fat Worm is his name, and he's a Wormie. Now you may not know this (and why not?) but wormies are little microelectronic worms that inhabit your Spectrum, slithering and squirming around the circuits and busses (data, not No.79) looking for a disk drive. A what? Oh yes, one of them things like a microdrive only bigger, flatter and more reliable. Ho ho. Anyway, the purpose behind this questing is cloning, he wants a clone, or carbon copy of himself, 'cos as we all know "you're never alone with a clone!". Chortle snort wheeze.

You control Fat Worm's progress around the little silver solderings of the Speccy in question's circuit board; a cute 3D rendering, highly magnified of course, so that the chips are as tall as buildings. The game takes place on a number of different levels, allowing you to squirm up ramps and leap tall resistors in a single bound.

Life isn't all beer and skittles in the microworld, however, because there are bugs in the system (was it ever thus), and these ain't jest software bugs either. They're hard as snails. Bugs crawl the crevices and fly over you in their little "sputniks" - special flying machines, which they've evolved to chase wormies round the circuits. Wormies, in retaliation, have evolved the facility to blow sparkies, release a blast of electricity at the bugs to destroy them. Sparkies come in two varieties; the burper sparky and the blaster sparky. Burpers are like smart mines, waiting for a sputnik to fly overhead before they grab them and explode, while blasters fly from the wormie's mouth like bullets, to strafe the ground-based bugs. But these bugs are tough. If you miss 'em they fasten themselves to you and hang on tight... and if there's enough of them, they'll consume you... (urgh).

Help is at hand, though, because incorporated in all good computers there's a debugger (same to you) which can strip the little bug beggars off your back (get off my back!), enabling you to continue your quest. In order to clear the way of bugs so you can find the disk and gain power for your sparkies, you must eat 50 spindles. These are little power nodes, tiny rotating triangles, which you must seek and consume, and very nice they are too, warmed in the microwave and served with a little parsley.

Fat Worm is a very original concept - unusual these days. My mum always said that there's "nothing new under the sun". Well, she never looked under the hood of a Speccy, obviously. The graphics seem, on initial inspection, to be rather simplistic. But when you pass a tall building you start to see...wow...how much depth you've got to play with. This can be very unnerving, especially when you go to pick up a spindle, only to discover it's hovering in mid-air and you've got to jump at it off one of the buildings!

Fat Worm is a funny and absorbing game, requiring little effort to play, but some considerable skill to finish. Oh, incidentally, watch out for the pause routine, especially if you marvelled at the Atari ST or Amiga (spit) "bouncing ball" demo. An uncanny replica!


Screenshot Text

Here's Fatty himself, squirming his wiggly way through the Speccy circuits. Tight squeeze, this. To his right is a huge rotating black and white stripy thing. This little beggar is a de-bugger. If you're infested with bugs, just pass under it and it'll clean them off for you, although in this one you'll have to go through the little doorway, which is very tricky.

Now things really start to hot up. You're racing down a seemingly open stretch of ground, when suddenly you're being chased by a crawling bug. They're fast, so you'd better put the hammer down. Notice the sinister shadow of a sputnik, at the top of the screen, closing fast. The scanner, like all good scanners, shows a plan of the immediate area.