There you are busy hacking into Ronnie's CIA account one day when the US Government decides to contact you.
The CIA knows you're the world's greatest expert on computer security or lack of it - and wants you to steal the top secret Doomsday Papers from a Russian military establishment in Siberia. The papers contain a blueprint for the destabilisation of western civilisation and the ultimate world supremacy of the USSR.
Yup, you guessed it. Hacker II: The Doomsday Papers is an American piece of software, produced over there on the C64 and now converted to the Spectrum. And as you'd expect the plot reads like a cross between Rambo and Mission Impossible. Somehow the CIA has smuggled four Mobile remote Units - dirty great unprotected robots into the Ruski base. These are connected to your computer, via a satellite link, and you have to use them to find the filing cabinet in which the Doomsday Papers are stored. Guards continually patrol the complex and a deadly killer robot, called the Annihilator, is put into action if any of the MRUs are discovered.
Fortunately, your computer is equipped with four VDUs and a copy of the latest hacking software, Actisource. Your VDUs are controlled by a strip of icons at the bottom of the screen which are selected using a hand-shaped cursor.
When you first select a screen its picture will roll until you get to alter the vertical hold. Once the picture's clear you can either tune in live to one of the bases' 38 security camera, or select the monitor option which flips through a sequence of all the security camera pictures.
The video camera display is pretty realistic. You can choose to view a tape from any of the 38 cameras. There's fast forward and backward options which speed up the display and an on-screen clock, which has been active since the beginning of the game, acts as an index as you scan the tape. Watching guards run backwards down a corridor is just as funny as running a real video picture backwards.
Make one of your VDUs display the plan of the base with the positions of your MRU's, the guards and any Annililators blipped on it. The plan is not particularly useful in determining where you are - you'll need to find a local security camera for that - but it does give an early warning of enemy patrol and will help you to plan escape routes to avoid discovery.
Stealth is the name of the game and you'll need to play Hacker II several times before you develop a feel for it. The best method of play is to move an MRU one room at a time around the complex. Guards rarely look into any of the rooms unless you're moving around a lot.
Take note of the monitor sequence while you are moving around the base. As you get further into the game you'll be able to spot familiar locations and list the locations of the security cameras. When you've done that you'll be able to find you way around the complex very quickly and reduce the risk of being found.
When you've found the filing cabinet which contains the security papers, punch in the security code and remove the documents. It's then simply (!) a matter of evading the guards, moving the MRU out of the complex and delivering the papers to a government agent.
Granted there's a lot to do in Hacker II but, once you've read through the technical documentation and learnt how to use the monitors you'll find the game is easier than you first thought. The snag is it can get repetitive with its search move, search/move mode operation.
Hacker II beats They Stole a Million, its closes competition, for action but, despite initial impressions, both games are let down by the staying power of their gameplay. Strangely, too, the play isn't that dissimilar from Electric Dreams/Activision's other recent release, Aliens. For mobile robots substitute a team of space marines. There's a ton more action in Aliens though, and it's a much more exciting game.
Reviewer: John Gilbert
Complex instructions but quite a simple game. It's got an intriguing plot, though there's a distinct lack of hacking.