Faster Than Light
1987
Arcade: Adventure
£7.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

23
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Sweevo's World was one of the great underrated peculiar games of our time. Now we have Hydrofool which is funnier, cleverer and, if there is any justification in the world, destined to be not underrated but instead lurch to number one with a bullet.

There are not many 3D games set underwater, this is the first point in Hydrofool's favour. The graphics are marvellous, this is another. And it's funny, this is a third, the music on the 128K version is by Rob Hubbard - yet another and - well that's enough to be getting on with.

Faster Than Light has effectively dispensed with plot on this, one, the scoring system is beyond human calculation - all you need to know is that you are trapped inside a giant goldfish bowl looking for the various objects which will enable you to pull out the four plugs that will drain all of the water out of the bowl. On your way you do battle with assorted denizens of the deep including an extremely cute baby whale and some extremely aggressive seahorses. Other elements include garden gnomes, these can be collected to advantage and spoons. The spoons appear to be a means of attack but whenever I chuck them at the fish they seem to be singularly unimpressed.

The central hero of Hydrofool is, again, Sweevo although clad in a diving suit he looks very much how I always imagined Gollum from Lord of the Rings looked. Bumping fish and generally the time spent in the water causes rust. This is measured by a rustometer at the bottom of the screen. Rust can be resisted collecting cans of Oil. This is logical in a way - as logical as anything else in this game.

Movement between screens is up via a passing bubble or down via a whirlpool. In the best traditions of 3D games some rooms are seemingly impassible others contain hidden secrets or are themselves hidden. The bubbles are not merely lifts - as you enter a room you gradually sink to the floor. Sometimes to get past obstacles you'll need to leap on to a lesser bubble - these only travel up half the screen or so before bursting but hitching a ride gives you enough height to over passing stalegmites and rocks.

The graphics are superb - particularly if you like fish - large, smoothly animated, and detailed. Unlike most 3D games, rooms in Hydrofool do not reset when you go in and out - no chance to correct mistakes - worse still, sometimes the gigantic fish you managed to avoid in the previous screen follows you through a conveniently placed porthole and comes after you.

There are various problems to be solved - some exits remain closed awaiting some special action (but what?), there are various weapons scattered around but few of them seem to be up to serious death-ray quality. Sometimes useful objects are effectively guarded by a monster fish - you need to skewer it somehow.

The music on 48K is passable blips (and nasty fairground music at the beginning) and the 128K stuff by Rob Hubbard is excellent although more jovial and less funky than some of his previous work. The game is an absolute winner.

Label: Faster Than Light
Author: In-house
Price: £7.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

*****

Follow up to Sweevo's World. It's a beautifully animated 3D puzzle game with some of the slickest graphics around.

5/5