Hanging in nether space, a region only recently discovered by the dimension dabblers, is Hangworld, a place of incredible wonders just waiting to be explored. And yes YOU have been chosen from a list of millions to be the lucky soul who gets the chance to take part in a journey of adventure and excitement charting out a brave new world. Not fooled? Okay, you'd better have it short and sharp then: Your government wishes to inform you that you have been conscripted to serve in the military Cartographers Corps. Make your way immediately to the local Cartography Office where you will receive further information. Failure to conscript will result in dissolution. You have been warned.
So, you pack up your belongings and prepare for a stint in nether space under the watchful eyes of the army. Nether space is the place where boys become men and men become dead. A rather hefty chunk of space is designated for your exploration - no less than 385 sections - but only a ridiculously small amount of energy is allocated to your exploration craft. Nervously sitting within GERALD, your craft's familiar name, the transducers hum and reality flickers out of view only to be replaced with Hangworld, a place of major danger, just waiting to destroy those who venture there.
As Cartographer Private, your Cartographer's Handbook explains, you have been allocated an area of Hangworld and must explore as much of it as you can. Such exploration is rather expensive, owing to the large amount of energy used by the reconnaissance craft in your command. Consequently, recruits are encouraged to find and collect energy crystals that are to be found around Hang world. As the reconcraft comes into the immediate vicinity of a power jewel, its plasmagrabs are automatically activated and the crystal is collected and converted into pure energy.
Sitting within your craft, the view of the outside world comes via a computer monitor - an image showing the surrounding section from above with GERALD displayed on screen. Obviously, the image presented to you is computer interpreted, and as such is a bit lacking in detail, though there's enough visual information for you to negotiate the obstacles that encumber progress. The scanner is quite a versatile bit of equipment and its viewpoint can be rotated through four different vantage points. This is a handy feature if the craft is out of view behind some Hangworld scenery. If GERALD is guided off-view, then the scanner automatically flips to another section.
Controlling GERALD shouldn't present too many problems, even for a rookie cartographer. Four directional controls are supplied to propel GERALD along the ground. While GERALD is really designed for terra firma, it's possible to take to the air, though gravity quickly returns you to land. The fire button activates GERALD'S turbo unit which greatly increases your maximum speed. With a little practice, you can use the many inclines and ramps in Hangworld as jump off points for acrobatic feats - such manoeuvres are important if you are to map out the entire sector that has been allocated to you and GERALD.
GERALD has polymorph capabilities. At a mere keypress the person in the driving seat can change GERALD'S form into a ball, tetrahedron or gyroscope. Each incarnation has its own particular quirks when it comes to response to the controls, and though no one form has any strong advantage over the others, personal choice usually soon decides on one of the three you'll stick with.
Another aid to exploration is the lift system to be found around Hangworld. Left by an ancient civilisation long since departed, the system comprises a number of lift activator pads each bearing an insignia. Wander over one of these and all the lifts bearing that insignia are activated. Only two different types of lifts can be activated at once, and a scanner at the bottom left hand side of the view-screen shows which lifts are operative.
Another handy on-screen window reveals how many sections remain unmapped. Pressing the map key draws up a screen which details the sections of Hangworld which have already been mapped out.
While Hangworld is under exploration, a time indicator shows how much time remains before GERALD's energy supply runs out. Extra time can be won by collecting power jewels, but a large chunk of exploring time is lost if GERALD is guided off the edge of a section into the oblivion in which Hangworld is suspended, as an enormous amount of energy is needed to transport you and GERALD back to safety. Falling off ledges or leaping ramps over-enthusiastically also results in energy losses.
Should time run out, you are regenerated on Earth only to be sent back to Hangworld once more to restart the mission. If, however, you return with your allocated section completely surveyed the Government allows you to resume the life of Private Citizen rather than Private Cartographer, and an Honourable Discharge from the Cartography Corps is your reward.
Control keys: redefinable
Keyboard play: responsive, but tricky!
Use of colour: neat
Sound: erm... pardon
Skill levels: one
"Spindizzy is one of the most addictive games I've ever played on the Spectrum. The game rates high on originality owing to some very nice features, such as changing shapes, speed control and very fast changes in viewing angle - of course all these meant that the sound had to suffer, but the writers still managed to get in some good effects whenever possible. I loved trundling around the area and just seeing what all the places in this strange world looked like. All the other little features are very well animated - the lifts are especially good. Spindizzy is one of the fastest maze games I've played, and flicking between the screens is very smooth. Electric Dreams' latest release will keep all sorts of people attached to it for ages. Buy it, and see if you're one of them."
"Well thank heavens for that! Electric Dreams have finally put out a good Spectrum product. Spindizzy almost makes up for the crime of releasing Winter Sports (nearly but not quite). Spindizzy really is very good indeed and is even original to some extent, though it does look like it was ultimately inspired by Marble Madness. The control, animation and graphics are all top hole, especially the 3D effect that adds a new slant on the Alien 8 style of game. While it's immediately great fun to play, there's a lot in Spindizzy to keep any Spectrum gamester glued to the screen. Overall a game that is not worth missing."
"Brilliant! Spindizzy is by far the best maze game I've played on my Spectrum. The graphics are superb, and the over-responsiveness of the controls really adds to the game. It represents a really big challenge, and plays very well indeed. I don't think I can criticise it much, apart from the fact that it would have been even better if the character set had been altered. Beginner's levels, playability, addictiveness, good packaging: Spindizzy is a really nice game. Buy it: I think it represents State of the Art on the Spectrum today."
Ah! Innit nice when you finally see a really good game, eh? Rekindles the old passion of the early days, dunnit? You remember, the thrill of loading up a new game, the wonder of a new world to explore, of maidens rescued and hi-scores attained... snort! Uh! Wurr... sorry, I was daydreaming there.
What am I so fired up about? Why, Spindizzy, naturellement. This is the closest thing yet to Marble Madness (that old slot-op fave rave) on the small yet humble Speccy. You are a Reconnaissance Land-Mapping Device called Gerald, and you have been sent by the Corporation (grrr) to map a new dimension. Time is money, and you must whizz around the narrow platforms in search of power crystals to prolong your life so you can finish the mission.
This may sound like a supercharged pac-thing to you but once you see this game in action you'll change your mind so fast your eyebrows will catch fire with the friction. This isn't a new computer game, it is the computer game on the Spectrum. Which ain't bad considering how stiff the competition is these days. So why is this so good, and why is this guy so excited about it, hmm? Well hang on a minute and I'll tell you.
Firstly the 3D isometric (corner view to you), standard in such games as Fairlight and the Ultimate type games, is the way you view the Spindizzy world. Not only that, but you can change the viewpoint any time you like with the touch of a key. Useful if you want to look around any bits of scenery that may be blocking your view. You can also change the form of Gerald from top, to gyroscope, and yes, to marble at the touch of another rubber keypad. (Mmm!) The speed and quality of the graphics are truly incredible, as is the realism of movement. Your Gerald has inertia, so when he starts moving it takes equal pressure in the opposite direction to stabilise him (I'm sure you've heard of Newton!) There's a sort of brake pedal too which stops you dead on any surface except ice or water - handy on those tight curves. There are interesting puzzles too, in the form of floor switches you must activate to start the lifts going between levels.
The biggest reason I can think of to recommend this game is the fact that it is addictive I could barely drag myself away from it to write this review... in fact... yes, I can see the start screen from here... perhaps just one more go...
If you like games that simultaneously tax your intellect and exercise your joystick hand, then you're going to love Spindizzy, the latest from Electric Dreams.
You, as Trainee Assistant Cartographer for Unknown Worlds, have to boldly go where to TACUW(!) has gone before, and use your remotely controlled scout craft (or Geographic Environmental Reconnaisance Land-mapping Device - GERALD for short) to explore a weird and wonderful landscape, full of fiendishly clever puzzles.
Gerald can take two forms - either a gyroscope or a ball. Whether there's any advantage to being one or the other I have yet to discover.
Anyway, your mission is to guide Gerald round an immense obstacle course, avoiding various hazards (of which more later) and collecting gems. Don't be fooled by the first screen, or by the 'beginners section' which lies to the east of it: most of the rest of the screens are guaranteed to give you brain-ache.
Each screen is eight squares square, like a chessboard, if you see what I mean, and in the early screens - the start screen and the beginners section - all of these squares are solid ground, which means that you can dash about all over. On later screens, though, you have to be very careful as the path can narrow to only one square wide, with voids of space waiting to either side.
Nor is the play area confined to only one plane; on some screens you can trundle along on two or three different levels.
Getting from ground level to the first floor is often achieved by going up a slope. Sometimes you have to use one of the many lifts which are dotted around - but to get the lift to work you have first to activate it by moving over a panel on the floor.
These floor panels, of which there are many different types, can also cause other things to happen: on one screen, there are two, and you have to touch both, in the right order, in order to create a path between two pillars. You do get hints, though, which will give you an indication of what type of panel will solve a problem.
Of course, like all the best games, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. There's a time limit - and not a very long one at that. As you fumble through screen after screen, the clock is ticking away. You do get extra time added on for each jewel collected and for each new screen you enter, though. Unfortunately, you also lose it every time you make Gerald do something stupid - like falling off the edge of the world.
You also have to watch out for various odd terrain features, like the ice (which means you can't slow down or stop) and the water (which means you drown).
The problems range from the simple - how to get enough momentum to get up a slope to reach a jewel at the top, without going so fast that you fly off the other side into the voids of space - through the merely difficult - how to get through a maze of passages to collect another jewel - to the downright impossible - how to get from one side of the screen to the other when there's no apparent connection.
To help you, you have a map which shows the way the screens are laid out and where the uncollected jewels are. Unfortunately, mine doesn't seem to.
You can also change your viewpoint, which is especially useful as on some screens Gerald has a habit of disappearing behind obstacles if you're looking from one direction.
When I first started I found myself flying off the edge an awful lot. Don't be too discouraged, you can learn a great deal about what's on the next door screen. The map only tells you whether there is an area which you might be able to enter next door. If you manage to leap off the side of one screen, you get shown the adjacent screen for a couple of seconds before falling to your doom. This means that you can map it properly and begin to work out exactly how the screens interconnect.
One thing worth remembering is that your fire button speeds you up and the freeze button - the F key - stops you. When I started playing the game I didn't know that, which made everything a lot more difficult! Using a joystick it's sometimes a bit difficult to reach the F key in time, but even so it's easier than using the keyboard throughout.
To add further confusion there are also some aliens knocking about: all you have to do is avoid them. If they hit you, you begin losing energy.
It's easy to look at Spindizzy and say it's another Marble Madness type game, following on from Gyroscope and Quazatron.
But with a fair crop of new twists it is easily one of the best Spectrum games I've played recently.
And for Electric Dreams it's a major improvement on Back to the Future.
Label: Electric Dreams
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Amstrad, £9.99.cs, £14.99dk
C64, £9.99cs, £14.99dk
Created a huge stir a couple of years ago when it was first released - on the CPCs, of all things - and is in many respects the definitive Marble Madness spin-off. You have to steer a spinning top over a variety of tough obstacles, collecting jewels on the way, while up against a nasty time limit.
The game is played on a vast landscape of ramps, walkways, towers, slides and trampolines, all surrounded by lethal drops into nothingness. Floor switches activate lifts and bridge the many gaps, but activating them in the right order is easier said than done. One of the most infuriatingly addictive games to appear in recent times.
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