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Arcade: Maze
ZX Spectrum 48K
Unspecified custom loader

Marcus Berkmann
Chris Bourne

What? A CRL megagame? You're pulling my long dangly bit. But no, this is an excellent game, if you like this sort of thing, and I do, I do, I do, I do, as Abba once commented.

Sophistry uses all the old 3-D isometric Knight Lore-ish techniques, but to new ends. At first devilishly complicated, it soon turns into a fascinatingly diverse and addictive arcade adventure, that in its complexity rather resembles Bobby Bearing with knobs on (fnar).

The idea is to reach the 21st level of an enormous network of interlocking screens, each of which is covered with blocks that you bounce along on. Most blocks score you points when you hit them, the precise number, (ranging from 1 to 84), being determined by the little black shape on the block. Other important blocks are exit blocks, which lead off onto the next screen; target blocks, which give you extra points whenever you land on them; and neutral blocks, which don't score you points but remain safe when all else fails. These are very handy, because there are complications aplenty throughout the game. On many screens the Decrement Status (abbreviated to DEC), is switched on, meaning that every time you hit a block it drops in value by one point. Harmless enough, until it drops in value to no points at all, whereupon it disappears. This can make life hard if you wish to get back the same way.

Equally nasty is when the Tracking Status is switched on. Then you can only land on each block once, until you hit the target block, which releases all the other blocks you landed on. Nasty, huh? Try coping with both DEC ON and TRACK ON.

Then there are the various types of screen, like Freeway (where nothing stops your progress), Countdown (where you must leave before the time runs out), and about a dozen infinitely nastier ones, like Inertia, where you keep on moving, changing direction as you go, until you hit the target block. Finally you might find some of the screens 'locked', which stops you getting off the screen, until either a certain time has elapsed, or you have amassed enough points.

Each of the 21 levels, has its own maze of levels, and although you get a rough map, there's no way of knowing which screens really lead to which, let alone the hazards you're likely to encounter on the way. As well as Map Mode, there's Comptrol Mode, which offers you data about seekers, inter-level locks and so on, plus the option of exchanging points for all sorts of extra little useful things. Yes, 'cos points make prizes (What do points make? Prizes!) Some info, though, is marked Restricted Access, which means that you information access level (which ranges from D8 to A1, and is determined by how well you're doing), is not high enough. So there are always new treats in store.

All in all, a lot of thought and care has gone into the design of Sophistry. I'm told that after its deal with Electronic Arts, all CRL's games will be this good. Well, that would be a pleasant surprise, but while not counting chickens, let's just say that this will happily keep me going for the time being. If you took like your games to have a bit of brain content, I'm sure you'll dribble all over this, especially if like my you though B Bearing had the right idea, but wasn't quite there. A cracker.

Brillo multi-screen arcade adventure, that proves that there's life in the old 3-D dog yet (woof howl).


Screenshot Text

A nasty one, this. The Track is on, so you can only land on each block once before you hit the target. Trouble is, the target is on the other side of an unbreachable chasm. And the exits to the south and east are scorelocked. Worra palaver! Best tip: avoid this screen next time round!

Pursuit screens are also tricky, though at least they're solvable - in theory. Each move you make is timed, and within (in this case) those five seconds, you must either be where you started (not hard - just stay still), on the target (in this case on the right), or off the board. Well, the latter's out of the question, as the board is scorelocked. And you'll never get right over there in five seconds, so just stick where you are. You'll need solid judgment and quick reactions to get off this board in one piece.