Arcade Software
Bruce Rutherford
1984
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£5.50
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

40
Chris Bourne

'Therbo (no I haven't caught a cold), is the first thing I've seen from Arcade for some time. AT FIRST I thought it was just a confusing mixed up sort of game. After a lot of playing I proved myself very wrong indeed. Galactic football best describes it, with you trying to protect the ball, sorry thermal ballistic object, and score. This alternative to war is a refreshingly original game which becomes addictive after practice. The graphics are smooth and 'practical', any more complex and they may have swamped this game. If you gave it a quick play in the shops you would probably leave it there; it is the sort of game that grows on you as your skills improve - a factor which is reflected in my 'getting started' rating.'

'This game took me ages to get the hang of. It is very difficult to grasp the ideal objectives. The instructions do try to make everything clear but just don't really cope with it at all. The graphics are clear and move very quickly about the screen. Colour is well used with no apparent attribute problems, with the sound being mainly spot effects, but at least meaningful ones. I think Therbo may appeal to quite a few people and although it is difficult to grasp the idea initially, it is well worth the effort. A good game that lacks a little for me in addictive qualities - strange and different.'

'I suppose if you had to describe cricket or football in about 500 words to people who had never heard of either game, you would also have difficulty getting all the subtleties across. A pity, because many people might put Therbo down before giving it a chance. It is a simple idea that is rich in playability once the objectives have been thoroughly understood. There are a daunting number of keys to play with, but not all of them are needed at the same time. The first stage of each goal run is quite challenging with a four directional tank to control and fire from, keeping an eye on the targets, the last depleted fuel supply and the essential fuel tanker (which darts about all over the place) and watching out that the computer doesn't knock your therbo out of play while all this is going on. The graphics are 'different' looking, effective and fast, and the result is an original, playable and ultimately addictive game which I enjoyed and will come back to.'

CRITICISM

Therbo (an alternative to war) is the name of a game, as is 'cricket' or 'football'. In fact 'Therbo' stands for thermal ballistic object with which the game is played, as a football is used in soccer. Consequently can claim to be the first computer simulation of a fantasy game -although being a fictional game, this does not look anything like a simulation in normal terms, but is in fact a genuine arcade oddity.

The scenario is set in the latter part of the 21st century, when America and Russia initially proposed the concept and finalised the rules governing the playing of the game. It was agreed that the winners of the conflict gain control of the opponent's land and that the game should be played, for safety reasons, on the moon. Whilst the track was cut on the lunar surface, the design of the weapons was perfected.

Your opponent is the computer, and is designated as the home team. The Therbo track in some senses resembles one of those huge particle accelerators. The screen display looks down from on top and shows both walls of the track, scrolling left or right (depending on which tern has control of the therbo) from the start point to the goal mouth. The therbo basically travels down the centre of the track and to gain control of it, it must be knocked into 'touch', or the side walls of the track. This is done by firing thrusters.

These are situated at regular intervals along the sides of the track and they fire a bolt diagonally upwards or downwards. When a bolt hits, it knocks it one nudge in the direction of fire. Each team has control of its own thrusters. The team in possession of the therbo may use their thrusters to keep the therbo in play, while the opponents use theirs to knock it out of play.

Another weapon is the Mesmo, which destroys the therbo outright, but this function may only be used three times in an game. THERE ARE ALSO Polarity Missiles, which home in on the therbo and will destroy it after a set period of time. But it is possible for the therbo to fire charges at the missiles, either negative or positive, and if you guess the polarity of the missile and send out a charge of the opposite polarity, then the missile will be destroyed.

There are two stages to each game. In the first stage the team controlling the therbo also have a tank which travels along with the therbo. The tank is used to destroy shapes that move across the screen by firing at them. The tank uses up fuel, but there is a large circular refuelling ship which moves randomly abut the screen. Running the tank over it will replenish fuel. In the second stage it is a straight run for the goal and everything except the therbo disappears. But the goal will be disallowed if your tank has not destroyed a set amount of shapes thus scoring the necessary points to enter the second stage.

The game lasts for nine minutes initially, but if you want more time you can select an extra thee minutes once, and only within the last three minutes of the game.

COMMENTS Control keys: Q/A tank up/down, O/P tank left/right and 0 to fire. W/S fires thrusters up/down, I fires polarity missiles, M for Mesmo destruct, and 1/2 fires positive/negative charge Joystick: Kempston, AGF, Protek Keyboard play: a lot of keys, but sensibly laid out and responsive Use of colour: not a lot, but very well used Graphics: smooth, fast and different Sound: poor to fair, mostly spot effects Skill levels: 3 Lives: N/A Screens: scrolling

General Rating: A good original game.

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