CRL Group PLC
1985
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£8.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

54,55
John Gilbert
Chris Bourne

WE'RE only just months into 1986 and CRL have already found a new way to be pretentious. The company has licenced the Blade Runner film score and built a game around it.

Once loaded the game plays nearly two minutes of the film theme music. There's no way to break into the game; your auricular sense is force-fed, presumably because CRL paid a pile of money for the music - quiet though it is.

The game bears some resemblance to the film plot and almost none to the classic Philip K Dick novel which inspired it - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By the 21st century robot designers have created the replidroids - human droids used as slaves in the conquest of space.

These designer robots don't take to the idea of being slaves and a revolt in an off-world colony ensures that they are banned from Earth. Any replidroid found on Earth is to be eliminated. The job goes to a special unit of bounty hunters.

As a bounty hunter you have a company car, called a skimmer, which flies to its destination - this makes sense in a city which looks like a reject from a geometry set.

The most prominent feature of the dashboard is the map showing the sector in which you are cruising. It indicates the robots - coloured yellow - and their creators - cyan. Your car is shown as a yellow diamond. A scanner at the top right of the screen shows the direction your search for replidroids should take while, at bottom right, another window provides text information about robot locations.

To retire a droid - a polite 21st century term meaning annihilate - you must land in its vicinity. You take your car there by moving the diamond cursor over the map until you are over the replidroid's marker.

Press fire and you are treated to a display of the skimmer descending to street level. It gives an opportunity for the program to show off, in all its stunning glory, the plodding graphics which are a feature of the game. The car takes all of a minute to land by which time the robot should have made good its escape.

No such luck. You hop out of the car, taking your droid scanner with you and find that it is either one or two screens ahead of you. You will easily spot the replidroid. It's the only other figure running in a street full of zombies all of whom are walking in the opposite direction.

The droid can knock people to the ground but if you get onto the pavement and run into someone you will also take a dive. It's easy to get up and continue the chase. The replidroid will move out of scanner range and your car will come to pick you up - another unsuccessful mission completed.

If you follow your quarry onto the pavement wait for a clump of people to move off the screen. You should, by the law of averages, get some breathing room in which to work. Make a dash for innermost part of the pavement. Few people walk that way and the replidroid will often stray into that lane while on the pavement.

When your scanner flashes it's time to press the fire button of your laser weapon. If you're within range your quarry will fling its arms into the air, its knees will bend and half of it will disappear - more as a result of attribute clash than CRL special effects.

Your bonus, scored in an unspecified monetary denomination, ticks away as you chase the robot. If it reaches zero you've bombed out again but anything left on the financial clock will be added to your bank balance.

When you've nobbled a replidroid your car will pick you up and you go hunting for others. If you thought that the descent sequence was slow just wait for the skimmer to ascend.

By the time you've retired three or four droids you'll be ripping your hair out waiting for the next small part of the game where you are granted some participation.

There are six stages of replidroid which you can choose to chase. They are progressively more difficult to catch and stage six can be very vindictive when cornered on the street.

As the game progresses you will find the replidroids start to congregate at the sectors where the creators have their hideouts. If a droid gets near a creator you're in trouble. The elimination of the creators is another way in which you could lose the game.

The sequences between the action are well put together but, after you've seen them more than once you'll get an irresistible urge to smash up your Spectrum. Programmer Andy Stodart, the resident at CRL responsible for Rocky Horror Show, should know better than to betray the player for artistic self-indulgence.

John Gilbert

Publisher: CRL
Price: £8.95
Programmer: Andy Stodart
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, programmable

***

3/5

Screenshot Text

Spot the replidroid, then retire it.