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Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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Andy Wilton
Chris Bourne

Go down in history with Software Projects.

Antiquity beckons in this just game from Ocean splinter-group Special FX. Someone's meddling with the distant past, altering history to suit their own ends. You'll have to go back in time and stop this conspiracy before the present day is disrupted.

Hysteria's a conventional-looking side-on view scrolling game. You run along left or right, collecting objects and zapping nasties on each of the game's three levels your aim is to collect the pieces of a jigsaw and thereby flush out an enormous monster. Do this vicious beast in and you're onto the next level, somewhere else in history.

You start off armed only with laser eyes, the weakest of the weapon types and usable only at very short range. As you run past the classical ruins which form the first level's backdrops, you'll come under fire from statues and gargoyles above you. Leap up, shoot the statues with your eyes and they'll turn into useful objects for you to collect: either lemons, of which more in a moment, or those jigsaw pieces you need to flush out that big monster.

While laser eyes are OK for knocking out the statues, they aren't really enough against the game's many mobile monsters. They'll deal with skeletons, the most numerous nasties, but you'll need something rather more powerful against centaurs, knights in armour and the like. Extra weapons are available, but you'll need to earn them - which is where those lemons come in.

Along the bottom of the screen runs a row of five icons, each representing a weapon or piece of equipment. An arrow above the icons points to the weapon you're currently entitled to select, every time you collect a lemon the arrow moves along one icon, offering you something that bit more powerful.

Up for grabs here are laser eyes, the default weapon; laser arrows, long range bolts with good hitting power; guardian force, a small ball of energy that orbits and protects you; jet pack, which gives you sustained flight instead of just leaps; and the handy electric balls, a series of energy balls orbiting you like tiny guardian forces. You can use some of the weapons together but the more powerful ones run out after a while, leaving you with laser eyes again.

Even with this extra equipment, nasties pile in so thick and fast that you're bound to take some hits. Collisions with monsters or their projectiles wear down your life energy - a disintegrating portrait of your character represents this process on screen. You have a shield to protect yourself when things really hot up, but this too has limited energy and you can't use it while you're moving. There are no lives: run out of life energy and it's game over.

The monsters can pour in on you so thick and fast that surviving to face the monster at the levels end is more a matter of luck than skill. Though the levels do get tougher, you could probably see all three after a couple of hours' play if you got lucky. Equally you might not be able to consistently complete the first level after weeks of practice.

Hysteria's certainly an attractive game on the C64, and the monster's very striking indeed. It's original stuff as well, but the gameplay's rather too tough for skill to outweigh luck. That and the game's limited size - three levels and then you're back on the first one with even nastier nasties - make it an interesting curiosity rather than an essential buy.

Reviewer: Andy Wilton

C64/128, £8.95cs, £12.95dk, Reviewed
Spectrum, £7.95cs, Reviewed
No other versions planned.

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 70/100
1 hour: 75/100
1 day: 75/100
1 week: 60/100
1 month: 10/100
1 year: 0/100

With only three levels, the hysteria just doesn't last.

Smooth parallax and some subtle colouring.
Very tuneful but only average effects.
Very little grey matter required.
Frustration really mars the playability.

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Lovely parallax scrolling here, and a monochrome option to avoid colour clashes. Plays like the C64 version, with the addition of worms popping out of the ground: these act like lemons if you catch them!

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The monster revealed: leap and fire for all your worth, and you'll be through to the next level.

Airborne: the jet-pack gets you up level with the statues - for a while.