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Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

S.O.S. stands for Save Our Souls, the international distress signal. You may already know this, but if you don't the learned intro on the cassette blurb will tell you. In this case the S.O.S. is coming from stranded astronauts on a planet surface and it's your job to fly a shuttle down to the ground and rescue them. From this you will already have gathered that what we have here is another 'Rescue' or 'Lunar Lander' type of game.

In this version the animated mothership is quite large. Your shuttle is equipped with a thruster and laser fire which shoots a beam out in the direction of vertical movement. It's needed because there are asteroids in plenty on the way down and firing aliens on the way back up.

Each astronaut, there are six, must be rescued one at a time by landing on one of three platforms on the planet's surface.

With each landing the platforms are reduced in usefulness, thus reducing your choice of landing sites as each rescue is carried

Progressing to harder screens, there are more aliens to dodge and pulsing stars appear at the edges of the landing sites, making the final approach more difficult. Points are scored for space debris shot to pieces and for the rescue of the stranded astronauts.


'It does get a bit hard to determine the value and worth of a game like this because one has seen so many versions of it. I remember Silversoft's one being quite good. This version does have some nice animated aliens with plenty of variation and colour. The shuttle moves rather well and can put on quite a turn of speed when necessary. I would say this is the hardest to play I've come across. I thought, perhaps, it was a bit unplayable in fact, but once you get used to the alien movement it improves. I find 'Lander' games of medium addictivity, and I suppose it's a matter for personal taste really, but I think this is a pretty good version for the Spectrum.'

'At first this looks like a normal 'Lunar Lander' that has been jazzed up a bit with animated graphics, but as it turns out, it is an exceptionally aggressive version. This game isn't fun at first because it is too difficult, but as your skill improves, so does the fun. I think they've made the first screen too hard to be enticing. The graphics are unusual and varied and colour has been well used. But essentially this is a 'Lunar Lander ', and if you like the game type, you'll probably enjoy this tough version, but generally I would say it isn't worth bothering with otherwise, because the game isn't original enough.'

'The best version I've seen on the Spectrum, with colourful aliens and meteors that move smoothly in all directions. I particularly like the way your rescued colonist falls out of the shuttle if you fail to dock accurately with the mother ship! Very painful. S.O.S. is quite tricky to play because of the proliferation of aliens, and therefore manages to hold the attention well. Quite addictive.'

Control keys: Z/X left/right, N to fire. M to thrust
Joystick: Kempston, ZX 2
Keyboard play: reasonable layout and responsive
Use of colour: good
Graphics: good
Sound: in space no one can hear you scream, but these aliens are fairly noisy
Skill levels: 1 but with progressive difficulty
Lives: 3
Originality: there have already been at least four versions before this one
General Rating: Generally considered the best version for the Spectrum of what is now an old game.


Screenshot Text

Like a jaws-agape Grouper fish, the mothership hovers over the shuttle as it takes off in S.O.S.