Mastertronic Ltd
Geoff Foley
1986
Arcade: Maze
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

53
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Octagon Squad is complicated. It uses icons - the user friendly front end system of graphic images that nearly always makes things very, very confusing. There is an additional problem with Octagon Squad - the instructions were written by a minimalist of some sort. Either that or someone who couldn't understand the game either.

In fact, there are instructions, they crop up at the beginning of the game, although you have to wait for them and they reveal just what each icon is supposed to indicate, this or squinting at the cover pics will save you around three hours of frustration. Handy tip eh?

After much fiddling I realised that Octagon Squad is essentially an exercise in map making, and coordinating several things at once.

The plot involves getting survivors out of a reactor maze via a teleport fence. This involves both finding the survivors and finding your way out of the maze. This is even more difficult than it sounds. You must also block off the exits to the maze using a series of tables which again, you have to find.

Sections of the maze are blocked by doors, you must find a key in the matching colour to open them. Gradually the energy of each of the members of your team is dissipated from much wandering around the maze - chemical residue according to the blurb. Restore energy by finding drinking fountains.

Using the tables to block off the exit revels another aspect to the strategic element of the game - it is quite possible to block your escape route - there is a way of getting past your own blocks but it costs points and makes you feel stupid.

The icons are confusing, the maze appears both as a simple overall layout and as a close-up detail of your current location. Either way it isn't much to write home about, but at least the scrolling is smooth.

Octagon Squad gets a lot of credit for being original but not much for anything else. I found that the icons and instructions conspired to confuse rather than explain and make things clearer. Those who enjoy having their brain addled may find more in it.

Label: Mastertronic
Author: Geoff Foley
Price: £1.99
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

***

An original program based around a complex maze. Strategic but needs more instructions.

3/5