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1991
Arcade: Platform
£3.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
None

59
James Leach
Chris Bourne

Aha! I've been waiting for this to appear on budget. The last time we saw Switchblade it was in issue 63. Andy Ide (that old hippy, remember?) gave it a Megagame and 92'. And it well deserved it.

The idea of the game is to explore a load of underground passages and chambers, populated by baddies, traps and various other sorts of unpleasantness.

You play a little character called Hiro, who happens to be in the special Switchblade gang. Everything was going brilliantly until a dude called Havoc wandered along and nicked your sacred Fireblade thingy. Fed up, you decide to go and get it back. Or rather get all the bits of it back, because as he half-inched it, Havoc managed to bust it into 16 pieces. Silly fool.

So you wander along the surface of this weird planet until you come to a mineshaft. Drop down and you're into the realm of the Switchblade.

Instead of the usual fighting techniques, Switchblade forces you to learn a whole new system. You've got a power meter which, if you hold down the fire button, winds up to full strength. When you release the button, Hiro kicks out with all his might. Aliens, stoneware bottles and even some sections of wall will fall apart when this happens. This method of doing violence takes a wee bit of getting used to, but once you've mastered it, Robert is your father's brother.

As you chug along, each section of the labyrinth reveals itself out of the darkness bit by bit. It's a clever little device, and makes Switchblade dead atmospheric. You're never quite sure what will be round the next corner. It could be a secret cavern, it could be a massive alien or it could be Jeremy Beadle in a stupid disguise, trying not to snigger.

But, we have to ask ourselves at some point on our long quest-like journey, what makes Switchblade a spectacular and entertaining game? Why do I enjoy playing it so much? Can we define this so-called quantity of 'playability' in spatially aware terms?

The answer is, er, yes and no. Probably Switchblade is a most excellent game because it's tough but not too tough, it's fast and smooth, it's got loads and loads of rooms and it's dead satisfying to explore. I mean you wouldn't believe the number of Switchblade maps we've been sent by you lot. It just goes to show, doesn't it?

Finding the bits of your sword will keep you glued to your screen for ages, mind. This is one big game. How they managed to cram it into only one Speccy will forever remain a mystery, unless the programmers decide to tell us. There are plenty of dead ends, loops and false corners, so prepare to be frustrated as well.

If you're into high-quality platform games, you'll probably be the proud owner of Switchblade already. If you haven't got it, the best thing to do would be to rush out to your local bakery, go into the cooling room and check underneath all the freshly-made baps for a copy of the game. Also, while you're there, could you pick up a French stick for the Shed?

Yep, Switchblade was a Megagame before and it's a Megagame again. Three loud cheers for it!

93%

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MAKE YOUR OWN SWITCHBLADE

1. Using an industrial laser beam, carefully etch out the shape of the blade you've chosen into some high quality Swedish steel.

2. Set up a metal-cutting lathe (you'll find one at the Ford factory in Dagenham).

3. Carefully cut round the etch-line you made with the laser. If you make a mistake now, you'll have to do it all again.

4. Smooth the blade with a sand-blaster, and gently lathe the sides into razor-sharp cutting edges.

5. Fashion a handle out of finest Madagascan ebony, edge it with gold leaf and - hey presto! A Switchblade fit for presentation to the Royal Family!

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Follow this diagram for removal of the carburettor. Make sure you keep your hands clear of the helicopter's spinning blades.

Marky Mark is currently appearing as Widow Twanky in King Lear at the Playhouse.