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Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Chris Bourne

ICUPS, the International Commission for Universal Problem Solving, are looking for special agents of the highest calibre. Obviously, they feel they have to test the ability of any prospective agent and so this prominent organisation has devised two tests designed to assess just how well a would-be agent functions under stress. It's no good having any Tom, Dick or Harry or even a Wally when there's an important mission to complete. The game falls into two sections, both of which are designed to test you to the limit.

The action begins in a space tunnel with you in control of an Interstellar Escort Ship. The screen scrolls downwards as you travel up-screen through three sections of space which ultimately lead to the enemy starship. Along the way you must dodge and weave a way through swarms of remote control alien craft. At times it's very much like aerial bumping cars as enemy craft, not lethal in themselves, try to nudge you into the concrete walls either side of the tunnel or into the more lethal yellow craft. A collision with one of these is enough to lose one of your four lives, and there are the usual torpedoes to avoid. The yellow flying saucers cannot fire but must be avoided as collision is fatal. The other yellow craft cannot be destroyed so it's really a matter of keeping clear.

As you proceed through the three sections the score and the area (either A. B or C) are indicated. The tunnel walls of each section are different in colour so it's clear when one section has been completed. A small window in the right hand corner shows a laughing face when you lose a life just to rub it in. Lives are indicated by icons of the Interstellar Escort Ship in a panel on the left-hand side of the screen.

Following the straightforward shoot em up of the first part comes the second test. Having reached the enemy starship, you find yourself in control of a DEEN Mk II a Hostile Environment Anthrobot no less. Four parts of a bomb which have been secreted somewhere within the enemy ship must be found. Insect-like nastier we determined to get in the way and need to be avoided or zapped with your laser gun... There are 64 screens in all so there's a great deal of exploring to do and you can move in any direction using the same keys as previously. In the weightlessness of the enemy spaceship there's an altogether different speed from the previous section. The robot floats up and down, turning this way and that in his attempt to find the four parts. In addition to the flying insects, he meets a Jaw-Head, a Bolt-Head, and a duck that sproings about in kangaroo fashion.

At the end of the two tests, an assessment is given of overall performance as well as a total score. Only by completing the tests to the examiners ' satisfaction will you be accepted as an elite member of the ICUPS team. Good luck!


'THOR have really let me down. Their stablemates ODIN turn out really respectable games like Heartland and Nodes, now there's (CUPS. Of the two stages the first is a very boring shoot em up, very similar to Spy Hunter and the second is like a very basic arcade/adventure resembling Sabre Wulf. I found both these stages uninteresting to play and not the least bit addictive. The graphics on bath stages are detailed and large, and this is the only part of the game that is the least bit decent. The presentation is smart, and accompanying the bright title screen is another superb multi-channel tune. Not much game though'

'The first stage is easy, after a little practice, and the second part is better, with your android wobbling around the place with really excellent inertia effects. I think, though, that the game is let down by the necessity to play past the scrolling section to get onto the maze part. The blast em up bit is a little boring and, although looking very good, during play doesn't quite move as well as it should do. Overall, (CUPS is not a bad game at all, but I really do expect something with more addictiveness and playability from a company associated with such classics as Nodes of Yesod and Robin o' the Wood'

'At long last ICUPS is here and what a let down it is too. All in all, it isn't a bad game but it just isn't as original as it could have been. The first bit plays quite quickly but is very difficult to get through. The second part looks and plays a lot like the Yesod games although your character's jet pack and its realistic inertia adds a novel touch. Graphically (CUPS is excellent on all counts: the backgrounds are well detailed, the characters are very nicely animated and there is plenty of attribute free colour. The sound is also first-class, with a great tune and some admirable spot effects. This game lacks a little in addictive qualities and playability, otherwise it is well worth its relatively high price tag.'

Control keys: top row fire, second row thrust/accelerate, third row decelerate, alternate bottom row left/right
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: fast and responsive
Use of colour: very good, with limited amounts of clashes
Graphics: nice sprites, and good scrolling
Sound: ace tune on the title screen, with spot effects during the game
Skill levels: one
Screens: three areas in the first part of the game, with 64 in the second section
General Rating: A good game, but a disappointment coming from such a well established stable as Thor and Odin.


Screenshot Text

Flying through the maze in the second phase of ICUPS, your droid is about to collect one of the bomb components - it lurks under that dome which has to be blasted away before you get you mitts on it.