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Paul Hargreaves
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Andy Smith
Chris Bourne

Mastertronic (Added Dimension) bounce you down the road to oblivion.

Plexar is the name of the planet on which this game is set. and the natives are round, bouncy, and extremely vulnerable.

As a perky young Plexarian you have been elected by your fellows to venture forth along the planet's crystal roads. These consist of a network of highways, connecting the various continents (which, incidentally, do not appear in the game) constructed by an ancient and now-defunct race of Miracle Engineers. The primitive Plexarians regard these highways with religious awe and annually elect one of their number to follow the yellow brick road to oblivion. This year it's your turn.

The object of the game is to travel all 16 connecting roads that span the planet, each of which is connected to the next by a 'warp-bridge' - effectively a stretch of landscape viewed from above. The gameplay on the roads themselves can be divided into two parts, the first of which has you bouncing along a continually scrolling highway in Trailblazer style. Initially you're given a choice of three roadways and you can choose which one you'd like to start on. You have a limited amount of energy and must travel the length of the road losing as little of this as possible.

The crystal roads in this phase are made up of different rectangles that affect you in various ways. Black squares suck energy whereas others will knock you sideways, bounce you forward two places (or backwards) and generally mess you about in practice, however, you don't have much control over the ball in this section. The road scrolls inexorably towards you without much variation in the obstacles and all you can do is cope with the effects of the different squares as best you can. Gameplay isn't a strong point here, but luckily this part doesn't last long.

The second phase of highway hi-jinx gives you complete control over the ball's progress and the roadways are varied in both format and challenge. You may find yourself on a single-square-width highway or having to choose between two different roads that may lead to different obstacles, swapping from one to the other. You may also find yourself bouncing happily along for miles, only to find that you've reached a dead-end and must bounce all the way back. There's a time limit, so a lot of practice and road memory is essential here.

Again there are a number of different rectangles in this phase with varying properties. Some switch you from one roadway to another, others grab hold of you and whisk you from side to side, at which point you must choose at which point to bounce off carefully and quickly. Running out of road loses you one of five lives, as does running out of time (but with the added annoyance of sending you back to the beginning).

The warp-bridge' phase is viewed directly from above as you move over a landscape that scrolls from top to bottom, avoiding hazards ranging from black holes (bridged, but only for a moment at a time) to nasty flying objects overhead that deplete your energy on contact. Again you're up against the clock, and at various points you have to choose your route carefully as the wrong one could have you up a blind alley.

The graphics are good, though the rectangles tend to strain your eyes alter a while and colour is used simply but effectively. The atmosphere of Plexar is obviously not suitable for sound transmission, other than the occasional blip, but this doesn't detract from the game. Gameplay is simple enough and it's easy to get involved, but a little luck and hard work are needed if you wish to do well. A thought-provoking gem that should provide quite a few hours of fun and frustration.

Andy Smith

Spectrum, £2.99cs, Reviewed
C64/128 + other formats, Undecided

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 68/100
1 hour: 80/100
1 day: 80/100
1 week: 70/100
1 month: 60/100
1 year: 40/100

Getting to know the roads keeps the interest level high.

Scrolling is smooth and everything is well-drawn.
Effects are short and sweet.
You'll have to have your brain in gear most of the way.
Entertaining frustration.

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Plexar brings a new dimension to bouncing ball games with the addition of the overhead roadway - a real brain teaser since all the action on it is effectively upside down. Good hand-eye co-ordination are a must when the going gets tough, and the disorientation on the overhead highway can trick you into jumping forward when you mean to jump back - a topsy-turvey experience that often ends in oblivion.

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This rectangle will send you to the top roadway.

This section of the bridge could disappear at any moment so careful timing is essential.

Your energy remaining.

There you are - obviously pleased with yourself.

Swapping between the roads is essential in this part of the trek as one is bound to lead to a dead end. Keep on the straight and narrow at all times as a jump into the black will send you back to the start.

Your overhead view of the 'warp bridge' that carries you from one zone to the next. Steer clear of the flying nasties and disappearing bridges and just hope you're headed the right way!