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Greg A. Holmes, SP
Arcade: Adventure
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Steve Cooke
Chris Bourne

Gremlin present He-Man.

Our Lord gave us Christmas. Cannon gave us the movie, and now Gremlin have come up with the turkey.

Masters of the Universe takes place on a sizeable city map, across which your small HE-MAN figure makes his way, blasting SKELETOR'S henchmen, who materialise on each screen and pepper him with bullets. Your strength drops each time the baddies score a hit and can only be replenished by picking up the occasional sword found in the street. Your objective is to retrieve 8 'chords' before confronting SKELETOR.

The action is about as uninteresting as it could possibly be, but to save the game from instant consignment to the rubbish bin there are other scenarios. For example, every so often a small panel flashes onto the screen, showing one of your two companions TEELA and GWILDOR. They will give you a brief, scrolling message, telling you where they are and inviting you to join them. Get there in time and you'll be propelled into a game-within-a-game to alleviate the monotony.

Unfortunately, these mini-games are pretty atrocious as well. One of them features a punch-and-kick combat sequence. It's slow, unconvincing, and unexciting. There's also a 'shoot-out', which puts a cursor on the screen that you move over the front of a building, shooting figures that pop up in the windows before they shoot you. Hardly original.

Other scenarios include a "disc battle", which has you flying around the streets, shooting air-borne assailants, and the final confrontation with SKELETOR where you have to shove him into 'the abyss'. Neither of these is likely to have you on the edge of your seat with excitement.

What you're left with then is a lot of Robotron-style shooting, in eight directions only, against unintelligent opponents, and spiced up with the occasional change of scenario. Gameplay is appalling, with the direction of North changing each time you flip screens, forcing you to re-orient yourself constantly. The action on the Spectrum and Amstrad versions is desperately slow. Furthermore, the graphics on all versions are uninspiring and repetitive.

Its debatable whether this product should ever have been on sale in the first place, but the best thing for Gremlin to do now would be to bin the entire stock and start work on something better.

Reviewer: Steve Cooke

C64/128, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Out Now
Ams, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Out Now
Spec, £7.99cs, Out Now

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 70/100
1 hour: 30/100
1 day: 28/100
1 week: 25/100
1 month: 20/100
1 year: 0/100

Glossy packaging and licence raise your hopes - the game soon dashes them.


Banner Text


Worst of the lot. Some of the screens on this would have looked dismal in 1984. In 1988 it's simply unforgivable.


Slow gameplay, reasonably colourful, poor sound. Nothing here to compensate for the weak design of the game and the lack of addictive quality.

Graphics: 3/10

Audio: 2/10

IQ Factor: 2/10

Fun Factor: 2/10

Ace Rating: 394/1000

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 80/100

1 hour: 35/100

1 day: 30/100

1 week: 25/100

1 month: 20/100

1 year: 5/100


The best of the lot, with faster action, decent intro music, and better graphics. You can even get an on-screen map by pressing the space-bar. Even with all these improvements, however, it's still not worth getting.

Graphics: 4/10

Audio: 5/10

IQ Factor: 2/10

Fun Factor: 2/10

Ace Rating: 439/1000

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 90/100

1 hour: 45/100

1 day: 38/100

1 week: 30/100

1 month: 28/100

1 year: 10/100


Gremlin are obviously cagey about passing comment on a game that, reading between the lines, they are unhappy with. Richard Barclay, speaking for the company, said 'We could have put more money into the project, but then we couldn't have recouped our costs. If you spend ten times as much money on a game, you don't sell ten times as many.'

If this is the case, then Gremlin's overheads need to come down. Perhaps the message is that the market just isn't big enough to support the degree of hype, overhead, licence fee and programming costs that the larger companies are committed to. Time for a reappearance of the Jeff Minter style of attic-programmer. perhaps? Certainly it's a possibility as far as the shrinking 8-bit market is concerned.

Speaking for the programmers, Greg Holmes of Gremlin was refreshingly honest about the game. "We didn't necessarily want to do the product," he said, "we were told to aim for the younger market... And after all, there isn't really a lot in the film either, is there? We're not 100% happy with it, but for the kids we think it's good."

Kids? What kids?

Screenshot Text

C64 - Robotron-style blasting in the cemetery, a part of the city with paths instead of roadways.

Amstrad - more colourful than Spectrum, of course, but just as slow. There's about as much gameplay in this scenario as there would be in magazine type-in.

Spectrum - Punch, kick, and dodge here. No tactics, no excitement - just keep hitting the buttons and waggling the stick.