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Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

Nineteen hundred and eighty-seven! What a year! I remember it well - flared trousers, riots in the streets and ration books! (Pull yourself together, lad - JD). Oh yes, 1987, the year Sigma Seven was first released, was famous for the discovery of metallic bas-relief graphics, originally on the Commodore 64. Within seconds, every programmer in the world was trying to get the same effect, with extremely mixed success. Sigma Seven was one of the very mixed ones, and now it's out on budget so you can judge for yourself whether there's more to it than pretty graphics.

I suppose it's a fair conversion of Ron Jeffs' CBM 64 original (or "origonal" as it says on the intro screen), but you can't help thinking that it's more of a Zaxxon rip-off than anything else, especially since the first stage consists of nothing more than taking off from a throbbing big pink space platform and flying through the cosmos blasting pointy alien ships.

With the Spectrum's basically monochrome graphics it's a bit hard to get any impression of perspective, so it's mainly a matter of moving left and right, zapping away and hoping you wipe them out before they dive straight at you.

This isn't too difficult and you should reach stage two without breaking into a sweat, coming in to land automatically on another big pink space platform. It might have been a bit more fun if there was the danger of coming in too low and slamming into the superstructure, but no such luck.

Stage two comes as a bit of a shock, because it's nothing other than a sci-fi version of PacMan - manoeuvre around a walled maze, collecting dots and avoiding the ghosts - sorry, spacetanks.

The big bonus is that you can blast them to smithereens with your energy-spurting death cannon, which is an element I always thought was missing from PacMan.

The maze section is pretty good fun, if unoriginal, and gets progressively more difficult as you clear the dots and more tanks appear from the tank generators at the end of cul-de-sacs. Clear the whole maze of dots and return to the entrance of the maze, and you get to phase three. Back into space for another shooter? No, not at all.

Stage three is a peculiar kind of puzzle in which rows of coloured lights flash in sequence as a pyramid-shaped alien chases you around a sort of cosmic chess board. I never quite got the hang of what I was supposed to be doing on this stage, which is probably why I can't tell you anything much about the subsequent sections...

Decent scrolling, slidey between-section logos, reasonable bleep-bleep sound effects and dreadful 2001-style music all add up to a bit less than the sum of the parts.

Sigma Seven might have been the last world in multi-faceted spacey arcade adventures when it appeared, but now it looks more like a few second-hand game concepts cobbled together into one title. That isn't to say it's not worth a budget price, but don't expect anything extra super special.

Label: Encore
Author: Mike Richardson
Price: £2.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Fairly tired-looking collection of game concepts strung together in space.