Capsoft/Softy
1986
Arcade: Maze
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Undetermined

24,25
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Hive is (very nearly) completely original. A 3D journey through the endless passages of an alien hive.

Endless geometric tunnels and constant attack from the hive's inhabitants. These include not only insect-like objects but the occasional TV sets. Bizarre eh?

What you think about Hive is going to depend an awful lot on how you felt about Gyron. They've both been designed and programmed by the same team, Torus (who, incidentally converted Elite for the Spectrum). As you will have gathered. Torus are 3D wire-frame graphics specialists.

Some people absolutely loved Gyron, true they were mostly brainy nuclear physics types but there is no doubt it was a game of extraordinary complexity. I liked it in theory but in practice gave it up after about a week.

Hive is not exactly like Gyron, though. It isn't quite so austere for one thing: it has things to pick up and find uses for, it has things to shoot at that aren't abstract geometrical concepts. And it has a definite goal to achieve - find your way through a vast maze of tunnels to the Queen's chamber and destroy her.

Having said all of that there is something very geometric about the looks of the all two-colour game - the triangular aliens, square TV's zooming at you and the tunnel that forms the 'playing area' of the game is mostly constructed out of circles so positioned that it creates the illusion of 30.

Hive, like Gyron, looks like it started life as a mathematical concept but got a little further than Gyron in the direction of a game.

The first time I saw Hive it reminded me of nothing so much as a sort of poor man's 3D Tunnel (one of the great ignored games of our time) by New Generation. Where that game created a tunnel effect using slabs of colour Hive features only circles.

The first impression was wrong, though. I began to realise just how vast the game is. It becomes apparent too, that there is a great deal more to the playing of the game than meets the eye.

It's a mapping job for sure. You'd better enjoy spending a lot of time, lost, confused and in the same cul de sac again and again and again.

One of the features of this aspect of the game are the various special ways you can help yourself not to get lost. You have three markers - literally numbers that you can drop wherever you want so that you will know when you've passed over that spot before. More useful still is a system of codes which change as you pass through 'gates' in the maze (a bit like checkpoints in a car rally). This code is automatically updated and by noting it down you may subsequently get back to the same spot just by entering the code again.

It was only through being armed with a dozen or so of these codes that I was able to investigate the later sections of the game. This revealed that though essentially you still get the same overall effect, the game livens up considerably with blocked exits and massed assaults from assorted alien hoards. Actually even the bee orientated alien hoards have a strongly geometrical look about them.

You are a sort of battle space hopper which can not only hurtle down the maze in the usual up-down-left-right-faster-slower manner but can also duck under stalagtites and jump over stalagmites, poison webs and other obstacles.

There are a number of special objects you can pick up which may be useful later on in the game. These are selected on a neat icon grid. Items include various sorts of shield, a 'freeze' device that stops insects in their tracks and long-range grabbers that enable you to reach for objects that are 'behind' areas of the maze shut off by steel bars.

Some of the later levels feature obstacles that aren't entirely bee related - like television sets. These hurtle through the maze and threaten to brain you. Television sets are rather geometric shapes. Even the giant faces that come towards you and can only be destroyed by several blasts to the eyes are em... well, you know.

Sometimes the graphics look very impressive, sometimes less so. the 30 effect is for the most part quite convincing. If the screen shots don't look too incredible part is due to the fact that the 3D effect is achieved by the constant movement - the concentric rings expanding from the centre to fill the screen.

The game is certainly a challenge. My star rating for this one reflects my doubts that somehow the gameplay doesn't quite crack it, that all that mapping is going to get tedious. But I'm prepared to concede that for those people who adore complex mazes and mapping the game might well be a classic.

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

*****

Technically brilliant 3D game. But the strongly map based gameplay may not be to everyone's taste.

5/5

Screenshot Text

The complete screen. You've found a bomb. could be useful for blowing away the steel bars which block your paths. Your markers are shown on the control panel.

Looks like trouble! Your about to be thrown in jail. Then you need a key. But have you got one yet?