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Topo Soft
Arcade: Maze
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

Other Links

Marcus Berkmann
Chris Bourne

One fascinating development of the last few months has been the sudden emergence of Spanish software houses as a force to be reckoned with. Ocean signed up Dinamic, whose Army Moves and Game Over have already made quite an impression. Alligata nabbed Opera Soft and released Livingstone I Presume. Now it's US Golds turn - Topo Soft is the latest bunch of Manuels to be given UK distribution, and Survivor is the company's first game to hit the shelves.

Wossit like? Well, not unlike Army Moves, Game Over and Livingstone I Presume, to be frank (I thought you were Marcus. Ed). The Spanish have already developed an easily recognisable style in their Spectrum games, one that pushes the machine to its limit in terms of graphics and size, but which in my opinion is less convincing on the ol' gameplay front.

In Survivor you play an Alien - capital A because you look very similar to the slithery funster who munches through so many innocents in the fillums of the same name. Your object is to perpetuate the race by insinuating ten pods that you have lying about your person Into incubators that can be found all over the ship. It's a big ship - 142 screens divided into four zones, each of several levels, that you move between via a network of lifts. Levels are connected by doors and air vents that are not immediately obvious. Nasties patrol the maze, and unfortunately the only weapon you have to dispatch them is your saliva - which just happens to be sulphuric acid. You can spit this about if you like, but it's hard to aim and always ends up hitting some totally harmless alien which then rears up and attacks you. Energy dribbles away constantly - more quickly if you insist on hitting things. The only ways of replenishing it are to drop a pod in an incubator or to nosh on one of the little engineers who wanders around, seemingly waiting to be noshed. (This is a particularly gruesome and entertaining graphic, as your alien devours his snack.)

As you can see from the screenshot, the graphics are lovely - large, colourful and detailed. Considering this, the game's not as slow as it might be. Even so, gameplay is monotonous and hardly subtle. Too often you find yourself having to judge a jump to the last pixel, and although there's loads to map, it all looks much the same. Air vents are fun, but as soon as you get to level 2 you get killed by all the millions of patrolling nasties, so what's the point?

Comparisons? Well, Alien's an obvious one, if only for the design of the main sprite. The platform screens are like Underwurlde, but harder and duller. And the graphics are very much in the style of Game Over and those other Iberian spectaculars - everything huge and attribute problems ignored.

Not that these are bad pedigrees, but I still thought Survivor a failure. Perhaps it's because there's no coherent character to the game, nothing special or unusual about it, just too many ideas half-inched from other games and cobbled together randomly. There's nothing here to suggest that Survivor's a survivor.

Beautifully colourful maze shoot 'em up which fails badly on the gameplay front. Seriously unaddictive.