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1986
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£9.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes

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23
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

One by the RamJam corporation, whose arcade games are usually inventive, if not technically astounding.

Both comments are true of Xarq which is visually a rather simple arcade game - dated even - but has a clever plot and plays well. I'd tend to describe it as infuriating, but one person's infuriating is another's addictive.

The usual nonsense but pretty good nonsense. A giant floating base called Xarq has been built on Xargon - a world with no natural land masses. The enormous base is self regulating and self reproducing, it grows. Now we all know what happens to vast computerised land masses when our collective human back is turned - you've got it - they go wobbly and start threatening all life as we know it.

With only your Nik Nik/Hi-Speed Hydraboat (complete with lasers, depth charges, guided missiles and mortars) to help you, your mission is to penetrate the Xarq defences and pilot your way towards the inner central power reactor.

The ship is controlled in the same manner as the spaceships in asteroids - accelerate, decelerate, turn clockwise/anticlockwise. Lasers fire in front of you, guided missiles have to be set a range by holding down a key but can be steered in the right direction, mortars work like guided missiles in ranging but can't be controlled once released.

Xarq is built in concentric tiers around the Zimmermand Trenches. To move into each level of Xarq you must first destroy the lock gates which hold back the sea, this causes the trenches to flood and so allows your boat to travel deeper into the land mass Things that can usefully be blasted are revealed by coloured beacons. Aside from the lock gates, there are power field generators which can be disabled, laser field generators and gun emplacements.

Xarq defences aside from gun turrets include torpedoes, sea mines, and air attacks. These defences are so good you may well become completely irritated with the game, as I did, but I guess if you stick at it...

Graphics and sounds are effective but very simple. Xarq is constructed from a vast number of large squares using a set number of designs. It looks a little like the maps associated with wargames. Sound is blips and whizzes with a sonar 'boing' when a sub is in the area.

Seekers of the state of the art won't be impressed.

Label: Electric Dreams
Author: RamJam
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: Sinclair or Kempston
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

*****

Quite original, certainly challenging. You'll find it either addictive or irritating. Note state-of-the-art, however.

5/5

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PLAYING TIPS

Stick at it. Eventually you will begin to last more than three seconds

Many of the defensive gun emplacements have a blind spot which they cannot hit you and from which you can destroy key installations

Subs reveal their presence by a sonar 'ping'. If you hear it drop depth charges immediately. You cannot outrun a torpedo for long

Pay close attention to the status indicators at the bottom of the screen - you may not otherwise realise that your shields are out

Learn the map of Xarq. In particular, take care to note the positions of the sea mines - don't rush into the next screen until you know what to expect

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The hydroboar lined up to start blasting at the deadly sea mines.

The spiral is a key site. Knock it out to flood the trenches.