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Piranha
Don Priestley
1986
Arcade: Adventure
£7.95
£2.99
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

62,63
Phil South
Chris Bourne

Possibly the weirdest programme on the telly this autumn is now being weird on the Speccy. YS's resident berk, Phil South opens the Trap Door to see what' s cookin'...

Life as a lowly Berk can be a bit trying. Like when He Who Must Be Obeyed wants his fried eggs and the stupid Bird doesn't lay. Or when you're trying to make boiled slimies, and the flippin' slimies don't want to be caught. Or when you're trying to get a can of worms together and that divvy Drut keeps eating them before you can can 'em... tsk! There he goes again!

And now Him Upstairs wants his eyeball crush, but the Crusher keeps missing the vat. You went to all that trouble to grow the eyes, pick them and put them in the vat, and now the daft beggar can't even crush them for you. Time's run out and Him Upstairs has changed his mind! That does it. It's time to end it all by throwing yourself into the inky depths beyond the trap door... Ahhhhhhh.

It's a well known fact that if you present the best programmers with a computer that has limitations, they'll make it their business to push their games so close to those limits you can't stick a fag paper in the gap. Witness the quantum leap in graphics between the first games on the Speccy like Manic Miner and the latest offerings like Starstrike II and Heavy On The Magick. So, you may have thunk to yourself, that's as far as the attribute-stricken Spectrum can be pushed. Oh ye of little faith. If I told you that I d just played a game on my Spectrum that wouldn't look out of place on an Amiga, would you believe me? Fortunately you don't have to take my word for it. Check out the screenshots for yourself, and see whether you can tell the difference between this and an animated cartoon...

Based on the forthcoming plasticine peopled TV show of the same name, The Trap Door is the story of Berk and his encounters with the beasts lurking under the door in his kitchen floor. If the series is even half as funny and cleverly done as the game, then it should be good indeed. And you have to look very closely indeed to pick out any attribute clashes at all; even more startling as the sprites themselves are enormous. Some are at least a third of the screen high! The amount of animation in each single sprite character, not to mention their artificial intelligence, is more than most games have in the whole program!

You have a series of tasks to perform for your hungry master upstairs, and not only do you not know what they are beforehand, but the tools you need to do the job are scattered around your dungeon. Some are small and hidden within others, but the problem with most of them is that you have to suss out the task they're most suited to first. I say most suited, because you can use almost all the items in more than one way. This comes in very handy if you lose the proper utensil to complete a particular meal; a spot of lateral thinking and you can usually use another to the same effect.

Berk can move every object in the dungeon; those which are too heavy to lift he shoves along the ground. You don't have positional problems picking things up either, as Berk zeroes in on objects and doors. In a lot of other games the first hour or so of play is spent learning how to cope with the sprites. No such problems in Trap Door. Everything you want, you can get. Just gently push Berk in the right direction and he'll get the idea and carry out your wishes.

Even the music and sound effects match up to the graphics and playability. For the best effect try passing the sound through your stereo from the EAR socket, or even listen to it with a pair of headphones! Don't believe anything else you hear, this is the game for the Speccy. And don't be put off by the packaging either. Yes, I know it's a bit naff, but ignore it, especially that sticker. Height of bad taste, I call it. Brush all these obvious turn offs aside and buy it. For my money, this is one of the best arcade games ever on the Spectrum. (And yes, Piranha, you can quote me on that.)

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SHUT THAT DOOR!

Ah yes, the crux of the whole matter is the Trap Door itself. How to use it, when to open it, and how much Mr Sheen to polish it with... a Berk who knows his Trap Door and when to close it is clearly a Berk to be reckoned with. Here's a closer look at some of the utensils you can use in the game, with a few tasty tips for those culinary cook-ups so beloved of Him indoors.

Alas poor Boni, I knew him well... Boni is a helpful sort of chap. In fact, if you pick him up, he might give you the benefit of his advanced age. He is a help mode in a skull - keeps it all in his head. And he ain't got no body but you!

No, it's not a waste paper bin. It's a basket. A very expensive one actually. It's always a good idea to look inside things like this, 'cos you never know what useful little weapons might be hiding within. Once you've finished using it as a storage jar, you can go squishy eyeball gathering.

Beaker, beaker glowing bright, like a toothmug in the night. Nice waterproof beaker, this. Such a nice colour too. Where'd you buy it, Berk? Big Boots Cookshoppe? Hmm. Good for putting wet slimy things in, you say? But surely you wouldn't fit in there? Oh, don't sulk.

I'll give you a tip. If you're gonna tip, tip from the balcony. If you've got a load of stuff you want to unload, skip up here, Skip, and tip the skip over the lip into the vat to the very last drip... (phew) Cauldrons and vats are too high to tip into on the floor, so get up here.

Vat's entertainment! Eyeballs can have a lotta bottle if you crush 'em in the vat. But its position has got to be just right... Mind you, I've seen Berk catch the liquid in the bottle just by standing next to the tap. He didn't even have to put it down!

You Berk! Yes you. You're the slave hereabouts. So get the job done. How many steps back can you take from here? Three, isn't it? Handy to know there are four positions you can stand on across any given room, eh? Well, if you want to position anything precisely on the floor it is. You Berk!

It's a race against time, Berk. THis is a very accurate index of how long it will take He Who Must Be Obeyed to change his mind about what he wants. So you've gotta work fast. And you've also gotta get it right, or else face His displeasure. And there's a lot of slimies ion the cellar who used to be Berks.

Number one with a bullet. If there's something you can't upset 'cos it's out of your reach, then shoot it down... you haven't got a gun? Oh, that's easily fixed. Put it on the Trap Door and open it up. Wang! Right in the parson's nose! That'll teach him to whitewash your floor.

(cccrrreeeaaakkk!!!) Here it is. The Trap Door itself. Beneath the knotted and gnarled wood lurk the weirdest creatures. If at any time you open it and come face to snout with the wrong creature, snap it shut again. Next time you open it, another beak will be sticking out.

Cauldron? Hey, aren't you in the wrong game? Oh, that's your brother and he's a Cauldron Too! Oh. For boiling things, you can't beat a good old iron pot. Well, you could but it'd hurt your hand. Blimmin' solid they are.

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The well stocked kitchen from MFI, in stone effect blocks that you can assemble yourself... with judicious use of a little magic or a JCB. Well, Berk, everything you need to make a lot of awful... er, an awful lot of meals.

It's a send up! For sending food up to the Master, that is. You wouldn't dare to send up Him Upstairs... dear me, no. People end up as frogs that way. Just cooks things in the oven, put them in the dumb waiter and go up the stairs to pull the lever. Get the job done!

The Master sent for a long weight... and you're still waiting. Still, if any fire breathing machines trundle this way, you can always lure them under the weight. Or anything metal for that matter. Hmmm.

Your eyes could be on stalks... if you grow them in these pots. From little beady seeds, great mince pies do sprout. Collecting them's not easy, carrying them about from room to room. Perhaps this is one time to put all your eyes in one basket.

In the Cellar? Heh, heh, I'm not falling for that old one... ahhhhhh! Urgh! What's that slithering around in the mud? It's all slimy... oh, it is a Slimy. Slippery little beggars, especially when wet, like most things really. If only you had a cup to put 'em in...