ACTIVISION'S latest may put you in the role of a hacker sitting at your Spectrum trying to break into the local NatWest computer, in a forlorn attempt to raise the dough for a new printer interface, but it's certain no hacker ever encountered what you face.
Hacker contains no instructions. The first screen asks you simply to log-on, but what's the password?
Once you've got through that, which is not too difficult as Activision does most of the work for you, you begin to work your way into a global conspiracy of mad multinationals attempting to take over the world by... well, that would be telling.
The game rapidly leaves the hacking environment of bleeps and teletext messages to send you round the world, supposedly as an agent for the bad guys. Essentially it's a strategy adventure, rather than a pure problem solving fix for hackers. System 15000 it is not - the plot of that classic game was realistic and gripping whereas Hacker seems artificial and unbelievable.
Arcade elements creep in once the company begins to realise there is someone messing about with its equipment, and avoiding satellite tracking systems as you piece the plot together will annoy purists but probably inject variety into the game for those with a more limited attention span.
Take notes of everything which happens and you'll find it simple enough to get into the problems posed - but completing them is another matter, and should take much longer.
Obviously, a review of a game which depends entirely on your knowing nothing about it has to leave a lot out. Whatever we write spoils some fun, but on the other hand, once you have penetrated to the main part of the game, it settles down into an unusual type of adventure which holds rather fewer surprises. Activision might have included a few extra events and less information about what to expect - contained within the game - than it has.
Meanwhile, just because this review is a bit thin on detail, don't be put off Hacker. We've left a lot out, and for those who like a bit of strategy mixed up with their adventuring, and aren't too fussed by the rather wild scenario, Hacker is good value. It's not as revolutionary as Activision claims, but it's still worth buying for the long winter nights.
Joystick: Kempston, cursor, Sinclair