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Virgin Games Ltd
1987
Arcade: Action
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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56,57
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Rebel manages to be a strategy game disguised so effectively as an arcade game that it may simultaneously appeal to both strategy fans who like to think about game moves and the most brain-frazzled joystick junkie who gets bored if something doesn't happen every .001 seconds.

All this and a highly original game concept too!

Rebel is all done with mirrors, the basic game plot being so astoundingly simple that a complete dunderhead (even me) could grasp the game mechanics in about thirty seconds - getting it right however is another matter entirely.

Never mind all the details of the plot the gist of it is this: There are ten levels and on each the idea is to escape. Now the exit is pretty easy to find despite the fact that each level is patrolled by fiendish (but very square) robots which zoom back and forth along predetermined lines. The robot movement patterns are predictable so it is possible to learn their routes and avoid them (in theory - actually you crunch into a wandering security robot surprisingly often) but none of this is the point of the game.

Getting out of the exit involves persuading a laser beam to hit it. The laser is in one location and the exit in another, and the laser is powered up by standing on the exit. So far so good - find the exit, stand on it and... Zap. Well, no...

The only way to get the laser beam to strike the exit is by bouncing the beam around the screen using a series of mirrors. Your droid (which looks remarkably like a tank) can pick up, put down or turn mirrors by 180'.

The strategy therefore is to work out where to place each mirror and what direction it should be facing so that the laser beam bounces around between the mirrors and ends up at the exit. Mirrors can only be placed in special squares and only one combination of mirror placements and orientation will work.

It may sound awesomely difficult - and it is - but you can work out placement strategies that will help. For example the last mirror must go in a square directly north, south, east or west from the exit, the next either north, south, east or west from that one and so on ending up at some point with a square which is directly north, south, east or west from the laser. Get the idea? All this whilst dodging roving robots.

Having got through the first level (I just thought I'd mention it) I can exclusively reveal that the second level is harder and features, along with roving androids, droid trains hurtling along railway lines. Having also ventured into Level 3 (thought you might just like to know); I can warn you that the exit is across a river with one bridge which is seriously guarded by robots.

Despite the simple idea a Rebel is extremely well programmed. The relatively simple (OK then, square) shapes means that there is essentially no attribute clash noticeable at all.

And despite that the backgrounds are detailed including touches like shadows formed by trees and walls. Sound is tolerable but hardly matters on a game like this anyway.

So, is this a 100%, no compromise, rabid enthusiasm review? Not quite. It would have made an absolutely fabulous budget game game but at full price I can't help thinking that the total of only ten different levels is too low. The problem is then when you solve a level you've cracked it - you are more or less (subject only to avoiding androids which have, anyway, fixed movement patterns) assured of always completing that level every time you attempt it.

I can see some people finishing this game in about a week with a bit of diligence.

Nevertheless for originality alone Rebel deserves serious praise.

Label: Virgin Games
Author: Gang Of Five
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

Inventive mixture of arcade and strategy - the only doubts are how much of a long term challenge it is.

8/10

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PROGRAMMERS

Two of Virgin's in-house Gang of Five team worked on Rebel.

Martin Wheeler: responsible for most of the game design and the crystal-clear graphics. he joined Virgin, aged 14, and wrote the chart topping Sorcery.

SOFTOGRAPHY: Sorcery (Virgin, 1985), Dan Dare graphics (Virgin, 1986), Falcon graphics (Virgin, 1987).

Link Tomlin: helped Martin with the game design and did most of the actual coding. Rebel is the first arcade game he's worked on.

SOFTOGRAPHY: Scrabble PCW8256 and Macintosh versions.