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Code Masters Ltd
Arcade: Adventure
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Jon Pillar
Chris Bourne

For the collector of bad game plots, Stryker is the equivalent of that Penny Black with the Queen's head printed upside down. True connoisseurs would kill for this game's blurb - all "vile monstrosities of blackness" and "warlocks armed with the secrets of bravery and the magic of order." Pricelessly awful stuff, and well worth a sneaky peek if you find yourself by the computer shelves in WH Smith's,

Anyway. Dispensing with the embellishments, Stryker is the story of a wiz and his stick, a magic pointer that he uses to thwack the bad guys out of his way. Called on to vanquish yet another ultimate embodiment of evil, ol' Beardy has to make his way through loads of flip-screen levels, zapping minions and guardians until he reaches the Nasty One himself. In the meantime, Stryker can collect weapons and energy icons, being careful to avoid the tricky power-downs that are liberally scattered around. You've got plenty to do - the levels contain ladders to swarm up, caverns to explore, traps to avoid and chasms to fall into. The action is picked out in small but colourful graphics, and the screen is always pleasingly busy. Probably the most impressive feature of the game is the 128K sound - as well as a wibbly music track, there are loads of clanky and fizzy FX.

The sharper among you will have realised that I'm trying to put off talking about the gameplay. Sadly, short of waffling on about the loading screen there seems little alternative, and as you've probably guessed, the gameplay is not that hot... In fact, it's about as cold and stodgy as a half-baked Yorkshire pudding that's been left in a quarry for three weeks, before being basted in uncooked fat and locked in the fridge. The blame can be laid squarely on the control system. To jump and obstacle, you sort of jerk into the air, and have to wibble Robe Man around in mid-air. If you hit a baddy you get knocked backwards - and the iffy collision detection means you will get knocked backwards rather a lot. Aarghh! What's the pint of writing a huge, playable game and then bunging in a feature that cripples the pacing beyond repair? The kindest thing to say is, if you're a patient fan of Switchblade-ish games, you may like Stryker. Then again, I am and I didn't.

A decent game, spoiled by a preposterous fault. Perseverance may pay off, but don't bet on it.


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