ANOTHER tired cry of 'Save the Earth!' and Charlemagne 'Charlie' Fotheringham-Grunes leaps into a spaceship for the fourth time to destroy the elusive monolith - an alien eavesdropping device.
The Arc of Yesod, sequel to Nodes of Yesod - Sinclair User, August 85 - takes Charlie's adventures one step further. Having failed to get rid of the giant stone slab in Nodes, Charlie is given another chance and this time finds himself on the planet Ariat.
Both Nodes and Arc are very similar in storyline and gameplay, and other than the addition of speech and sound the 128K versions of both are practically identical to the 48K originals.
And now for the game. Drop down manholes into a maze of subterranean caves and chasms to search for alchiems - the keys to a successful mission. With luck those will neutralise the monolith, providing you can get to it in time.
While searching the caves take care not to bump into any aliens - you'll lose energy at an alarming rate if you do. The patrolling nasties have several characteristics: floaters tend to make you lose energy but disappear on contact, chickens and mechanical objects patrolling the levels send you tumbling out of control when touched, and red creatures reverse your controls - rather like the purple flower in Sabre Wulf.
Each section of the maze is distinctive in its scenery, and each differs in size and the number of chasms and ledges to jump down and explore. If you find a teleport machine, leap into its beam and - on the 128 - you'll hear a muffled 'Beam me up' as you are launched into space and to another section of the maze. There you might find a new alchiem.
The cassette inlay is not much help when it comes to working out what to do. However, hidden in the menu screen is a smidgeon of information in a dreadful rhyme. If you wait long enough the scrolling line starts to roll. 'Charlies on the job once more, searching for a secret door... Collect the keys and he will be able, to keep the earth's future safe and stable,' and so on. What keys? I didn't see any, but perhaps it means the alchiems.
Like Nodes, your somersaulting spaceman has a little extra help. In your backpack is a sphere - like the mole in Nodes - which can be taken out and used to open hidden doors in walls and kill off any nasties. In addition, there is a smart bomb which eliminates nearly all the aliens on a screen.
It may be the fault of our television, but the 128 speech sounded as if it were coming from the bottom of a deep pit. When Charlie falls a long way the TV comes up with an unintelligable splutter. If you listen hard you'll decipher 'ouch!' or 'that hurt'. However, the 128 music more than makes up for any limitations in the sound. It is very professional and the opening jingle has a definite disco beat which had me jigging in my seat for a minute or two (not a pretty sight. Ed). Thankfully, you can turn the sound down - an added bonus as it mutes Charlie and his pleas for help.
Graphics, sound and movement are excellent. You may think twice about getting it if you already have Nodes, but if it's a sequel you're after, then Arc does offer a new, if similar challenge.
Memory: 128K and 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, cursor