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Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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Marcus Berkmann
Chris Bourne

Revenge of Doh? Doh, a deer, a female deer, Ray, a drop of golden sun...

Me, well that's very much a name I call myself, and when this sequel of sequels turned up in the office, it was the work of a moment for me to bag the reviewing chores and so settle down to a happy afternoon's brick-bashing.

Of course I'm preaching to the converted here, but the bottom line is that if you liked Arkanoid and you went a bundle for Batty, you'll blow a gasket at this latest variation on the Breakout theme. 'Cos blow me down if it isn't the best of the lot.

Okay, so you don't believe me. Well, neither did I to start off with (Eh? Ed) as I was originally handed a 128K version. 'Gor lumme' was my initial reaction, tempered by the realisation that they'd only be able to fit all these graphics, all this game, all this everything into the heftier Speccies. But no - the 48K one is identical, except for the music.

So, to the details. Arkanoid II is a remarkably true conversion of the relatively recent (in fact brand new) Taito coin-op, and it's almost as great an advance on Arkanoid I as that was on Breakout itself. There are still 33 levels, but after the first screen (and before the last screen) you have a choice of two screens for each level, making 64 brainblenders in all. The graphics are much improved, with backgrounds for every screen, extra colours. and shadows for each brick, a la Batty. And best of all, there are loads of jolly new capsules to keep you zipping around the screen like a camel on heat.

So as well as all the old faves - S (go slower), D (ball multiplies - fnar - and by a few more here than in the original), E (extended bat), B (warp through to the next level), C (catch the ball every time you hit it), P (extra life), and L (bat turns into a laser) - you also get R, which reduces the bat (bad news, but if you pick up another one it'll return you to normal size); G, which gives your bat a ghosting effect as it shoots across the screen, and so increasing its size for a split second every time; T, which'll give you twin bats (but be careful the bail doesn't drop between them!): M, which gives you three balls to knock around (fnar, fnar) as long as you can keep at least one in play; and SC, an addition to the Speccy version that wasn't in the coin-op, which scrolls the backgrounds up the screen, leading to watery eyes and a splitting headache if you don't get another capsule fast (like an Anadin or something). Phew! You'll need a brain the size of Colchester to remember that lot.

Moving right along here, we also have some wacky new blocks to deal with. You'll remember the silver blocks, which need two or more hits to be destroyed, and the gold ones, which are completely indestructible. Now we get blocks which move from side to side (indestructible too, I'm afraid), and blocks which re-appear a few seconds after you thought you'd seen the last of them. Fiendish!

I've not mentioned one capsule, though, which will help you sort out these obstructions. Shaped a bit like a fireball, its effect is random, but occasionally very powerful. For instance you may get an auto-fire laser - useful in the rush hour, I'd have thought. Or a sort of mega-multiply effect which gives you 20 or so balls - these will deal with all but the most cleverly hidden blocks. Then there's the equivalent of Batty's powerball, which crashes through and destroys everything, even the indestructible bricks. Or best of all, you can get 20 or so of these powerballs - and that's wicked!

There are also bouncy nasties, which won't blow up when touched by you or the ball, but simply boing around and get in the way, and there's the... but what am I doing telling you this. Go and buy this immediately. (I can say that in the confidence that anyone misguided enough not to have liked Ark I will have left us by now.) Ark II is, I'd say, a touch easier than the original, and much easier than Batty, and I've already got to level 9, thanks to a few timely B capsules. But this is a winner and no mistake. Take my word for it - Arkanoid it will drive you Batty!

Immensely impressive and chronically addictive sequel that takes the Arkanoid format into previously uncharted areas of excellence. A classic.


Screenshot Text

Screen one of the new version. Nice shadows, eh! And useful backgrounds too. The knobbly silver bricks are the old hit-'em-twice-and-they-naff-off style of bricks, but those two sleek silver jobbies on the bottom level are rather more fiendish and reappear a few seconds after disappearing. Smarmy beggars.

The easier of the two level three options. But it's not as simple as it looks on first sight. Those background-coloured bricks are of the mobile variety and will consistently be a thorn in your side (ouch!). And that wobbly round thing just bouncing into the left of the mobile bricks will divert your ball all over the place, often out of play.