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US Gold Ltd
1988
Arcade: Maze
£8.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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58
Tamara Howard
Chris Bourne

There are certain things that can be found in a computer game that are liable to make even this jaded SU reviewer sit up and take notice. What if it's a coin-op licence? Yes, I like a nice bash in the arcades, me. Supposing it were to be more than slightly reminiscent of Gauntlet? Yup, I go for Gauntlet same as everyone else. How about if tho hero of this coin-op licensed, Gauntlet-esque game were to be tall, muscular, well-oiled and fur clad? Phoar, nor'alf!!

Suffice to say then, that seeing as Shackled from US Gold manages to satisfy these three criteria in varying degrees, it's something of a success.

Shackled, for those of you who don't have the benefit of the simply enormous instruction booklet, is a Data East coin-op that promises to keep you 'shackled to the upright'. In layman's terms, I guess that all this means is that you're going to have to keep forcing little ten pences into it. Still, I digress, let's got on with the review.

Shackled is remarkably similar to Gauntlet gameplay-wise, which in itself is really quite acceptable. The blurb on the yet-to-be-seen packaging will no doubt tell tales of bearded warriors and long quests for truth, but the simple explanation is that the game revolves around rescuing prisoners from a large, multi-leveled dungeon crawling with armed guards and strange bonus symbols. Such symbols give you, predictably enough, bigger, better weaponry, more speed, keys to the next level and bonus points.

So gameplay-wise we're talking something thoroughly acceptable here. Graphically speaking though, things are a little disappointing. The graphics on Gauntlet admittedly weren't the greatest thing since sliced pumpernickel, but they were at least varied and colourful. Shackled is completely kitted out in tasteful monochrome. Don't be surprised if you find yourself slightly confused by exactly what your character is meant to be either. If you think you're playing the part of a badly drawn cartoon robin, no you're not going mad, but adjust your lateral vision slightly, and the chirpy little bird will take on the form of a hunky hero carrying a shield in front of him. A small point, but one worth mentioning if only to quell the number of telephone calls to the SU office that begin 'Here, you know that Shackled game? Well...'

Still, important points to note are that graphics are, if slightly ornithological, large and sprightly, and the levels are big, butch and complex. Finding the exits to each level is no easy task, there's quite often a lot of running up and down interminable corridors with large numbers of hammer throwing warriors up yer barkside. Once through the exit (and beware, you're really going to have to throw yourself at the door to get through) you'll be rewarded by a nice flashing screen, and the legend 'Free of the shackles at last.' Sounds like the byline for a hemorrhoids preparation to me, but there's no accounting for taste.

The important thing here, and this is a lesson for us all, is that although the pictures are not the sort of thing that you'd hang on your wall, the gameplay is marvellous fun and should keep you at it for hours.

Label: US Gold
Author: Choice
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tamara Howard

A fun-packed conversion that will keep all Gauntlet fans well entertained. Shame about the graphics though.

8/10

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PROGRAMMERS

Those responsible for the mighty Shackled are a group of people collectively known as Choice, not, as one member of the SU team thought, a dog food, but a team of programmers. Amongst their previous success are World Games and Kung Fu Master.

HINTS AND TIPS

Rule Number One - If it moves shoot it.

Remember to keep a look out for friends and to rescue them, they're worth valuable bonus points.

Don't stay too long on a level, a green blob will appear and drain away your energy.

Keep your eyes peeled for bonus doors through to bonus levels one quick way to bump up your score.

Giant enemies should always be shot if you can manage it, they'll drop keys which are worth lots of bonus points.

Never pick up a scroll if a baddie drops one. They won't do you any harm, but they'll kill off your friends and no questions asked.