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Mirrorsoft Ltd
David T. Clark
Arcade: Solo beat-em-up
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K

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John Gilbert
Chris Bourne

YOU'VE SEEN it done with fists, you've seen it done with feet, now do it with whacking great long poles.

Sai Combat it similar to karate but the combatants use long poles - rather like those used by Robin Hood and his merry men. In real life, the initiates of this ancient oriental art use short poles with carefully sharpened scythes at each end. They do not appear in the Mirrorsoft game, but that is not surprising as any extra detail on the screen, either in the animated figures or background, would make it almost impossible to see what was happening.

You start the game with a plain white belt and work up through 16 coloured belts, followed by eight gradings. A joystick is a necessity if you went to progress further than the second grade yellow belt.

A combination of all eight joystick directions, with and without the fire button applied, will be needed if you are to get the full potential out of your oriental warrior. Most of your opponents are a knockover if you remain on the button. You should, however, keep an eye on your Chi energy levels. depicted by a dragon which goes green as you get weaker.

And you should be careful in the higher of climes of the game when Ninjas arrive on the scene. These deadly fighting machines can have you on the floor with one or two blows.

There are three categories of movement - the stab, the kick and evasive manoeuvres.

Stabbing is done with the Sai and blows can be delivered to the chest, belly and shins - although my player went for the toes most of the time. The chest and belly blows are the most effective, while shin taps are worse than useless as it is difficult to get close to your opponent.

The high kick is also very effective, especially when delivered to your opponent's chin. The chin blow is extremely hard to block and will send the recipient to the ground very quickly. You can also twist your body and do a backward kick but that move does not usually have much effect, especially on the more skilful opponents waiting to be encountered on the higher levels of the game.

Evasive movements consist of backward and forward somersaults which, when combined with stabs and kicks, form deadly offensive moves - even computerised opponents can be taken by surprise. You can also jump into the air and duck to avoid stabbing blows, while at the same time delivering them.

Sai Combat beats all the martial arts simulations on the market, which include Melbourne House's Way of the Exploding Fist - the original karate simulation - and International Karate from System 3 - although that was late and heavily hyped, it proved to be an excellent simulation.

The game is a delight to watch as the figures leap, twirl and spin their sticks in almost balletic fashion.

Mirrorsoft's simulation contains smoother and more detailed action than the other games, and is set against colourful and atmospheric oriental backdrops, both inside and outside the initiates' temple.

It is a pity that Mirrorsoft could not make the sticks in the game look more like Sai weapons of this ancient art.

However, I am willing to forgive Mirrorsoft as it is easier to program a straight line than a curved one - as in the Sai scythe.

I think this is too good a game to be damned through such an error which, on the whole, makes the graphics less cluttered.

John Gilbert

Publisher: Mirrorsoft
Price: £6.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Interface II, cursor