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Mastertronic Ltd
Geoff Foley
1986
Arcade: Maze
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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128,129
Chris Bourne

Planet 54.7 has suffered an attack with deadly chemicals weapons, leaving only twenty-six survivors. They are all suffering from severe brain damage and, to make matters worse, are lost in a reactor maze. As the Commander of Octagon Squad it's your job to rescue the survivors by beaming them out through the teleport fence. Luckily, you have at your disposal a team of Equadroids that must be used to block off maze exits and channel the zombie-like humans in the right direction. Tables can be moved to block corridors and doorways opened with the appropriate keys.

The display is split up into a number of sections. A dozen control icons occupy the bottom left hand quarter of the screen. A window at the bottom right gives a detailed view from above of the section of maze occupied by the character currently controlled. A wider view of the maze is given in the top right hand map window: a green square identifies the moving character; corridors are indicated by black areas, and walls or obstructions are shown in a light blue.

Selection of the multiple arrow icon allows you to move up, down, left and right depending on your position in the maze. Other icons allow you to pick up an object, take a drink (which counters the energy sapping chemical residue), and unlock doors providing you have the appropriately coloured key. There are also pause and quit options. The first icon however, makes it possible to select any of the seven available Equadroids and they can be identified by name when the face icon is accessed.

A multi-coloured bar across the centre of the screen indicates a character ' s strength, and a variety of windows display the current mode, score, and the number of survivors still in the maze. Scrolling text messages appear on a horizontal window.

So, get your team together and get to work. Strategy and the coordination of the Equadroids is all important. Twenty-six people are in need of treatment and are relying on you to save them from the deadly toxic gas!

CRITICISM

'Oh no! After Molecule Man and Universal Hero, I got the idea that MASTERTRONIC had changed their tune, and started producing good games. Why then, do they bung out a game like Octagon Squad? One of the game's worst features is the traditional MASTERTRONIC instructions, or lack of them. If more had been explained about the game, then maybe it would have been more enjoyable, but as It stands, it is very hard to get Into, and even harder to play well. Though original to an extent, very little about Octagon Squad sticks in the mind, apart from its distinct lack of playability and addictivity. Even for £1.99, Octagon Squad is one game that everyone who likes good games should keep well clear of.'

'Remember in the good 'ole days when people could write? Well, those days have been forgotten by the folks at MASTERTRONIC - I can't remember the last time they gave some decent instructions. I'm sure that the game has some good bits in it somewhere, but whether or not you'll play that far is a different matter altogether. The game seems to be a classic 'I wonder if that will work,' or 'Well.... what do I do now?' game. The graphics are very mixed, with a good character set and border graphics, but the maze and play area are very basically designed. Once you realise that you can actually do things in this game then it urges you for another go - keep at it and you will be rewarded.'

'I'm sure that I'd find this one immensely playable if I knew how to play it, but as it suffers from the inevitable MASTERTRONIC 50 word scenario-come-instructions, there isn't really much to go on. It all seems very complicated, so getting into it would probably take a ages and require a fair amount of patience. The graphics used are colourful and large but they are not animated at all well and the 'microscreen' scrolls diabolically. The sound consists only of spot effects. There is no tune, which is a shame as it would have added to the atmosphere a little. After the initial confusion of playing this game had subsided somewhat, I found myself quite enjoying it. If you like a challenge (and believe me, working out how to play this one is) go out and give it a try.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: Q up, A down, N left, M right, 0 fire
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: fair response times, but the fire button is too far from the rest of the controls
Use of colour good, lots used
Graphics: very jerky and hard to follow, but with nice characters
Sound: spot effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: very jerky scrolling over a fairly large maze area
General Rating: Difficul to get into, and it's doubtful whether the effort is justified.

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