Solomon's Key

by Probe Software Ltd: Raffaele Cecco, JPW
US Gold Ltd
Crash Issue 45, October 1987   (1987-09-24)   page(s) 133

Deep in King Solomon's mines lies a vast fortune, there for the taking - for anyone foolhardy or greedy enough to enter the subterranean world.

To reach the unimaginable wealth in this conversion of a coin-op original, you must make it alive through a series of rooms inhabited by menacing creatures like fat-tummied parrots, Michael Jackson llamas, jellyfish and fireball-firing heads. Not even the hardiest of souls can withstand their withering touch, and you have only six fragile lives ... but the unpleasant creatures can be disposed of with the fireballs you find in this underworld.

Each room contains coloured blocks arranged in patterns across the screen; these can be used as stepping stones to a key that unlocks an exit door. Finding a successful route isn't easy, but large open spaces in rooms may be crossed by laying further blocks to create a staircase. Take care, however - the inhabitants of the dark mines can destroy the block you're standing on, sending you tumbling down.

You too can destroy as well as construct, evaporating blue blocks that obstruct a horizontal pathway.

In each underground room, objects - handbells, angels, acorn crowns - can be collected to accumulate points. A time bonus can be added to this total - but if you overstay your welcome and can't reach the treasure before the deadline, then time really has waited for no man and money no longer concerns your corpse.

Control keys: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: small and not very colourful
Sound: reasonable spot FX and decent opening tune
Options: definable keys

'Solomon's Key has quite a lot of playability, and though the first screen is very easy the second is much more difficult and needs thought. With its small characters and bright graphics Solomon's Key looks like a budget game and probably should have been one - still, it's fun.'
MIKE ... 69%

'Despite its simplistic plot and gameplay, Solomon's Key has turned out very well indeed. The graphics are good, though they do get a bit cluttered when there's a lot going on. And though I doubt I'll be playing it in a few months, the game as a whole is appealing and fairly addictive.'
BEN ... 83%

'King Solomon must have been a pretty wealthy bloke judging by all the treasure dotted around here! Anybody remember Mastertronic's Rockman? Well, Solomon's Key is very similar but a bit better presented. The graphics are well-defined, the animation is good and there's plenty of playability. The idea of dodging nasties and collecting keys may not seem too exciting but I assure you you'll be addicted in a second.'
NICK ... 83%

Presentation: 81%
Graphics: 73%
Playability: 82%
Addictiveness: 78%
Overall: 78%

Summary: General Rating: A simple but enjoyable arcade puzzle game.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 23, November 1987   page(s) 40

Absolutely brilliant. That's the phrase that hopped, skipped and jumped into my brain after playing this game for a couple of hours at a stretch. Solomon's Key is a conversion, by Probe Software, of the fab and popular arcade coin-op machine by Tecno, a very addictive arcade strategy game. To be perfectly frank, coin pickers, it's as corking a rendition of an arcade as you'll find anywhere. And is it addictive? Well, I've had to stop writing this review at least twice for 'just one more go', so you can take it as read that it's more addictive than peanuts or digestive bikkies! (Yum!)

Although a sort of platform type, it's actually more strategic, as during play you can place the platforms and break them up as you go along. Choosing where you put the platforms, to allow you a leg up or let a baddie drop, is crucial and though this might sound like Slow City, it's actually a very fast process once you get the hang of it. You can pick up and drop platforms on either side, one up or one down any way you like. Except for the gold bricks, which are indestructible (tsk!), all of the bricks can be crunched or dropped anywhere on the screen.

Your objective is to get the tiny gold key, found in a hard to reach spot on the screen, and then go to the exit on that screen, whereupon you're whooshed off to the next level. (Yipe!) Now this seems easy when you explain it like that, but in actual fact it's very hard indeed. You'll need a lot of goes to learn the technique for each room, and it can get quite infuriating. But the amazing thing is you never lose your temper or get bored with doing it. No matter how close you were to the exit before the time ran out, you still press the start button for one more crack at it! Aaaagghhh!

The graphics are brilliantly done, if a little anaemic in colour, but really well animated. The gameplay is, I s'pose, similar to something like Boulder Dash/Rockford's Riot, where you're hopping around the screen collecting treasures and keys before heading for the exit. The main difference here is that if you walk off the end of a brick you'll fall, but at least you can fall all the way down the screen and not die.

Oh dear! I can see that for the next couple of weeks I'll be sneaking off for quick rounds of Solomon's Key and I confidently predict that you will, too. If any game we've reviewed recently deserves to be a smash hit, this one does. Buy it!

Graphics: 9/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Summary: The most addictive game of the year, and one of the very few coin-op conversions which is every bit as good as the original.

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair - Article Re-review Issue 57, September 1990   page(s) 66

An extremely popular game back in '87 - and it still looks good today. At first glance it looks uncannily like your standard arcade adventure, but play it a bit and you may (just) be able to squeeze a bit of a puzzle out of it. Hopefully anyway, 'cos we are meant to be in The Complete Guide To Puzzle Games. (This is one of those wobbly, borderline, six-hours-of-argument-In-the-YS-office sort of games I was going on about at the beginning, I'm afraid.)

Right. The idea Is to collect the key on each screen to allow you to get onto the next one. You do this by moving this little chap with a strange hat on around the screen he can create blocks in certain places, and also disintegrate the ones he doesn't want. Graphics are cute city, and yet again it's another one of those 'just one more go' type games. A good 'un.

Fiendishness: 84%
Lack Of Sleep Factor: 77%
Pull Your Hair Out Factor: 16%
Variation: 88%
Overall: 85%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 67, October 1987   page(s) 23

This year's Boulderdash methinks. Solomon's Key has similar appeal.

The art of it is as much thought as speedy response (although you need plenty of both).

And the game is both mind numbingly simple and very addictive.

Where Boulderdash had boulders Solomon's Key has blocks. Blocks that may be destroyed by a well aimed head-butt or created out of nothing.

The game idea: from the bottom of the screen your little man has to climb up using blocks as stepping stones - building as he goes - to reach an exit at the top of the screen The whole thing is under the clock - the quicker you do it the more points you get and - also - on the way there are bonus items to be collected for even more points and a key to be found to open the exit to the next level.

To begin with the problem is time - just choosing sensible routes, learning the art of manipulating the blocks and getting the key within the time limit. After two or three goes you get the hang of it and the first screen becomes comparatively simple. On later levels though, things get more difficult. Assorted creatures start to wander around the blocks - you either have to dodge them or destroy them by collapsing a block from under them at a key moment.

There are firebomb bonuses to help which mean you can wipe out on-coming aliens when the going get really tough and other peculiar objects scattered around each screen which bump up your score by mysterious amounts.

As you progress it gets very, very difficult indeed.

It took me ages to figure out how to do the second screen - you hardly have time to think before what appears to be a fire-breathing fox and disembodied head hurtle down the screen at you.

The programming is excellent. True there isn't really anything very difficult involved - nice attribute grid-shaped objects and not too many moving objects - but nevertheless the end result is really colourful, smooth and fast.

The only significant criticism I can make is that, like adventure games, once you've found the solution to a level that's it.

After trial and error I cracked Level 1 so that I could always achieve a time bonus of more than 7000 - and the level soon became merely an irritating obstacle on the way to Level 2 which I hadn't yet cracked.

A 'choose your start level' option would have been much appreciated. A small point, though.

Generally the game is wonderful, it may be simple but could well be a seriously big hit.

Label: US Gold
Author: Probe
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

Overall: 8/10

Summary: Simple idea but a superb game in Boulderdash style. Good conversion from Probe, too. A hit methinks.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 2, November 1987   page(s) 74

US Gold, £8.99cs

An enjoyable arcade strategy game that was great fun on the Amstrad. The Spectrum version is just as playable, and every bit as addictive. Not quite as colourful as the Amstrad version but still an entertaining game.

Ace Rating: 755/1000

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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