Mastertronic Ltd
1985
Arcade: Platform
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

114
Chris Bourne

Remember Nonterraqueous? The game with the name that everyone practised pronouncing in secret until they got it off pat and then amazed their friends with lines like "I was playing Nonterraqueous the other day."

Soul of a Robot is Nonterraqueous Two in Nonterra One you failed in your mission to destroy the evil dictator computer controlling the planet Nonterraqueous. The little rotodroid fellow didn't get through, and now the evil computer that runs things is getting really mean. The computer is becoming more and more unstable as time goes on and the planet's inhabitants are getting more and more worried the computer's threatened to self destruct any day now, and if it goes up, so does the planet. Sudden death for everyone, so Plan B swung into action.

The people of the planet built a robot, a robot with a built in bomb and the mind of a man. That mind the robot's soul is in torment. All it wants to do is end the mental pain by exploding its on-board bomb and destroying itself. Cunningly, the people who built this robot programmed it to self-destruct only when it was very close to the nasty computer. Close enough to destroy the machine that threatens the very existence of the planet. Your mission is to guide this tormented, bomb-carrying robot through the maze to the evil pile of binary bits.

The playing area is a 16 x 16 maze, dived into three sections. You can only move between sections by teleport, and you have to find the transporter key to activate the system. You're cast into the first section and you must find a way through to the third section, where the evil hardware is lurking. Each of the cells in the maze occupies several screens, so the game takes place in a large environment. As you might expect, there is a host of obstacles and creatures which bar your way, and apart from route planning, some pretty nifty manoeuvres are called for.

As you pass the edge of a screen the display flicks to the next location. Only the top two thirds of the display is taken up by the interior of the current cavern the bottom third displays status information, including how many of the five lives you began with are remaining, the level of the maze you are in and the amount of 'psyche' remaining. Psyche is a measurement of your robotic energy when it runs out, it's time to start a new life...

The robot has a number of different modes of transport. Its most basic movement is left and right along the floor of the different caverns. Jumping is in true Underwur/de style, with the hero taking a flying leap every time you press up or run off the edge of a platform. The force with which you jump can be altered with the W and a bar in the status area indicates how powerfully you are set to sproing. If you wiggle the joystick up and down in a Decathalon style frenzy, the robot waves his arms manically, and he takes flight each arm stroke pushing him higher into the air. The trouble is that this somewhat jerky flying method drains psyche… so should be used sparingly. Taking to great a tumble can prove fatal, too and once you start falling it's too late to flap your arms.

When you start the game, pressing fire has no effect. You've got a gun, but no ammunition, so if you want to make life a little easier for yourself, Task One should be to find some ammo and pick it up.

CRITICISM

'Controlling the robot is the only thing that spoils this game, as jumping without being knocked off course is exceptionally hard. As a result, the game is rendered a bit unplayable as it takes s good bit of trial jumping before you get anywhere. Graphically, Soul of a Robot is good - your man moves fairly well, although things slow down when there is a lot happening on screen. The backgrounds are very good, colourful and, as far as I can tell, each one is unique. I think you would have to put a lot of practise into this one before it became much fun'

'I was pleased to find an excellent loading screen: unusual in £ 1.99 games. The game too is excellent - a good follow up to Nonterraqueous, which was one of the first good cheapo games to appear. Lots of big colourful graphics bounce happily around the screen, which, despite the clashes, look very neat. Lots of rooms are provided for those who like a big game, there's plenty of opportunity to bounce around just for fun. Overall I found the game pretty playable and addictive - well worth £1.99.'

'I wasn't overly impressed with Nonterradoobries but as budget games went at the time it was above average. Soul of a Robot is quite an improvement over its predecessor. It's somewhat similar to Underwurlde and games of that ilk, but if you enjoyed them then you may enjoy this one. Graphically the game is quite good but not superb. Games of this type prove very playable but not always addictive and the same goes for this. Then again, at £1.99, it provides excellent value for money. Mastertronic have brought out a game which is very enjoyable but not taxing, worth buying if you've got £2 spare.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: Q jump, O left, P right. W change leap strength, A pick up, E's to fly, SPACE to fire
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair and Protek
Keyboard play: responsive, but can get awkward
Use of colour: cheerful, with a few attribute clashes
Graphics: some very nice touches on the backdrops
Sound: spot effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: hundreds and hundreds
General Rating: A worth follow-up to Nonterraqueous.

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