Ocean Software Ltd
1987
Arcade: Adventure
£7.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

78
Jim Douglas
Chris Bourne

After a string of very wobbly tie-ins (Knight Rider, Street Hawk, Top Gun) Ocean was coming close to gaining a rather undesirable reputation.

Short Circuit - from the movie of the same name - should put all this to rights, at least for the time being.

In the game (and the film) Number 5 is a robot designed and owned by the wildly unstable and totally potty military people. As with all inventions of genius scientists, something goes wrong with the very core of Number 5 and it suddenly thinks that it is eek - human.

The scientists in charge of the project want Number 5 back on the workbench in order to find out what happened. The security people want to make sure Number 5 won't run amok and kill innocent bystanders with the wacking great laser it haS on-board. And No. 5's quite happy off on its own, and would prefer to stay that way.

Whether any of this info enhanced my enjoyment of the game is, I reckon, highly debatable.

Part 1 of the game (there are two sections) is a quasi-3D affair with thirty-six rooms filled with benches, tables, chairs, drawers, chests and palms. There are lots of palms. They're a little irritating in fact. The palms seem to have been used as a slower-downer by the design team of the game. As it's possible to examine or search any item of furniture or scenery, it's possible for an object to be hidden almost anywhere.

As a result, you have to search every possible receptacle instead of solely appropriate locations for the desired items.

And because robots are a bit thick, you'll have to find the programs to instruct Number 5 how to do things like pick up, drop, break, search etc.

The aim of this part is to move through the rooms, collecting the various items that you find and attempting to use them in an appropriate fashion enabling you, eventually, to escape the complex.

It shouldn't come as too much of a shock that this is really rather more difficult than it sounds.

Part 2 (which you can reach either by completing Part 1 or simply by skipping to it) is loaded separately from tape in 48K mode. Lucky 128K owners can load the whole lot and flip between the parts. This bit is far more aracdey and I preferred it.

Everything is viewed side-on and Number 5 trundles along from left to right. The background is a landscape scene which operated with pleasing three- dimensional effect.

As the screen scrolls from right to left, numerous cute woodland creatures crop up. Bunnies, squirrels and birds all appear from time to time. Being an environmentally sound robot, Number 5 isn't allowed to kill anything. Thus, should it run over, flatten, shoot or manage to kill one of these creatures, it will suffer a terrible mental trauma. Too much trauma and it's Game Over.

There are holes in the road which get in the way. You'll have to jump over them as running into/over them will cause you head to fall off. At the same time you are pursued by similar robots who are programmed to capture you.

Contact with such a robot will end the game too, but it's possible to blow them away by shooting them with a laser beam. Apparently other robots don't count as life-forms and so it's OK to waste them. The objective is to go as far as possible before getting caught.

Short Circuit is really rather good. There's the combination of adventure and arcade elements and some quite special graphics and entertaining gameplay.

Even the horrendous picture on the packaging of No 5 reading a book - which we've played around with here - almost qualifies in the it's-s- bad-it's-good stakes. Certainly a couple of tads above your standard licence deal.

Label: Ocean
Author: Paul Owens
Price: £7.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

*****

Reasonable amounts of variety coupled with a strong story and pretty graphics make this a very worthwhile purchase.

5/5