Reviewer: Kati Hamza
Once upon a time (well, during that grey and rather murky decade they call the '70s actually) a horrible little factory somewhere began producing some equally horrible little lamps. These lamps were filled with mobile oil bubbles which floated in a bright orange solution of hideous greasy gloop, and they quickly became the most ultra-hip 'sitting room' accesory of the period. They were foul, they really were.
Well, E-Motion is nothing like that. (Well, okay, they've both got a load of floating spherical objects but nothing else.) In fact, E-Motion isn't really like any other game I've ever seen so describing the blooming thing might prove a tad difficult. Oh well, here goes.
(Long pause.) Imagine a big black space. Now put in a few round balls inscribed with different geometrical shapes and add a funny round little geezer as a control pod. Then link them together with funny string things (A bit like Klackers actually. Ed). A doddle so far. Okay, here's the tricky bit. The little round control pod has to zoom around the black screen bumping and shoving identical balls into one another. "Why?" I hear you ask. Because if it doesn't manage it in time the balls start flashing like crazy and explode, zapping all the pod's energy and leaving you minus one life.
And there's more. For starters, the pod suffers from inertia so unless you're a bit of a whizz-kld with the old twizzle-stick you're much more likely to go sailing straight past your target (whizz) and swearing (%'@!) than actually hitting the er... balls. Secondly, if two different spheres collide by accident (and this tends to happen rather a lot at first) they generate a cute little baby ball. These turn into bigger pubescent balls after a few seconds but if you get them while they're small they pop a bit extra onto your energy bar. Thirdly, the screen actually wraps around itself so the snappiest route from ball to ball isn't always the most obvious one. For example, if you want to get a sphere on the left over to the right, it might actually be quicker to shove it off the left-hand side of the screen (a bit like Asteroids actually). Clever, eh?
And there's even more! in the interests of some really major trickiness, those cheeky chappies at US Gold have conjured up loads of extras, like impassable barriers and natty little pick-up pills which have a sort of absorbent effect. Instead of going round bashing the balls you just kind of suck them up. And even more confusing are the pieces of elastic. These connect some of the balls and both the control pods to each other in two-player mode. Pulling one end usually results in the other sproinging like crazy all around the screen, making a general pig's ear of the whole thing.
It all adds up to an extremely spanky little puzzler with a multitude of levels and some very spiffy game design. There's not much to comment on in the way of sound or graphics but the crucial thing is the physics and, by crikey, have they got it right. The spheres move exactly like they should, especially when they're tied to the 'rubber bands', and the collision detection is absolutely on the ball. Unfortunately, there is one irritating tendency in that it plays a snip too s-l-o-o-o-w when there are lots of sprites about, but that's not too much of a handicap.
There are some people who wouldn't like a puzzle game if it jumped up and bit them on the bottom. E-Motion won't be everybody's mug of steaming Rosie Lee but with so much variety and manic action this is an excellent excuse to give your lil' ol' trigger finger a hard-earned rest.
Don't be a turkey - go check it out.
Cripes! You'd better look sharpish 'cos here comes...
THE COMPLETE YS GUIDE TO PUZZLE GAMES
Yep, readers, looks like it's time once again for another one of those Complete Guide thingies. This issue, for your delight and delectation, we thought we'd take a peek at the more puzzley sort of games. Y'know - puzzle games - those sort of weird ones where you have to use a bit of the ol' grey matter to solve, erm, puzzles and things. And who better to clasp you by the hand and drag you through the world of the mind-boggling than YS's resident 'heart-throb' RICH PELLEY. Hurrah!
BUT FIRST... THE RATINGS
As usual, the normal rating system seems a bit crap in these circumstances, so here's a different one instead.
How complex and difficult to finish are the puzzles? Are they a complete bummer to complete, or could you do it with your little finger stuck, er, wherever you want to stick it?
LACK OF SLEEP FACTOR
Will it have you coming back for more (and more) or will a few games be enough? (Who knows?)
PULL YOUR HAIR OUT FACTOR
Is the game easy to get into, or do you have to spend ages looking up various keys, and working out what's going on all the time? (The lower the mark the better the gameplay in this case.)
Are the puzzles varied, or are they all the same? (Er, obvious, really.)
Okay, so I admit it - I'm crap at puzzle games. Come to think of it, I'm crap at most games really. And I'm not in a particularly good mood today either 'cos I've got a sneaky suspicion that this guide thingy is going to take absolutely ages to write. Even though Matt has reassured me "It won't take long" and Jonathan has informed me (much to my surprise) that "Honest, it'll really be a lot of fun to do" I'm a little dubious. Still, let's get on with it and see what happens, shall we?
For a start, I can see one big problem staring me in the face almost immediately. I mean, what exactly makes a puzzle game a puzzle game, eh? One man's puzzle game may another one's arcade adventure be or, um, something really. We've had countless arguments here in the office over it already (and for some reason I always seem to lose). For instance, Matt thought Arkanoid, Batty and the like might almost count, while Jonathan firmly disagreed. (In fact, if Jonathan had had his way, Tetris would be 'the only true puzzler ever written' and this would be the shortest Complete Guide on record!) Seeing as this is my feature though, and I'm writing it, everybody's going to have to agree with me!
And what is my definition? Well, it's fairly loose really. It's anything where you have to try to work out some sort of (perhaps totally abstract) mental problem against a time limit. Most great puzzle games are based on one very simple initial idea, which is then perhaps spiced up by slicking in lots of different ways that you can earn bonuses, die, get extra weapons or abilities (if it's a weapons sort of game) and so on. It's the simple initial idea that really counts though - if you haven't got that, you ain't got much really.
So what sort of puzzle games have we got here, then? Well, lots of different ones really - there are games where you must arrange blocks, make pictures, blow up balls, collect keys, and do masses more equally weird and wonderful puzzley things.
One good thing though is the scope - unlike in most areas of Speccy programming, with puzzle games you sometimes actually get a degree of originality. The games I've covered here are all good ones, and all still fairly easily available and - would you believe it? - no two of them are the same! (Well, no three of them at least.) And, erm, cripes, looks like I've run out of things to say. So, um, I'll stop waffling and get on with it, shall I?
THE FIRST PUZZLE GAME IN SPECCY HISTORY
Um, er, um. Now you re asking. Turning to the very first issue of Your Spectrum (ie Your Sinclair in disguise), I find one lurking in the first few pages. Traxx from Quicksilver is its name, and what seems to happen is that you move around this little grid thing collecting squares. Fun, eh? (Alright, I admit it. Of course there's no way that could be the first commercially available puzzle game, but it's the first I could come up with. Sorry and all that.) Anyway, on with the show.
NB Erm, actually, before we start, I'd just like to clear something up. You may notice that all the marks for the following games are quite high - there don't seem to be any crap ones. Now this isn't 'cos I'm a great puzzles fan or anything (in truth I hate them all) - it's just that unfortunately all the ones I've picked have been quite original and good. And keeping up my reviewer's credibility, I have to be fair. Hence the high marks.
Reviewer: Rich Pelley
This ones a bit on the weird side to say the least.
Basically it starts off with all these coloured balls simply floating about in space (some are on their own, others are connected together by elastic), and you're in there floating pathetically amongst them whilst in command of this little ship. Controls are of the Asteroids 'twizzle yourself around and fire to slow down or stop' type, and the screen wraps around on itself in a similar sort of a way as well (so, as you might expect, staying in control is always a bit of a fight).
The idea is for you to knock two balls of the same colour together and get them to disappear, otherwise they'll explode and you'll lose a life. It you knock two different coloured ones together by mistake a third one will appear. (Yikes!) Of course. there are squillions of different levels which get harder as you get better (if you see what I mean).
Graphics-wise, this one's a treat as the spheres rotate about and the elastic stretches to and fro. The two-player mode is pretty natty too - your two ships are tied together making things less than easy (ie hard). Yep - it's a bit weird, but brill all the same.
There we have it! As I predicted (and Matt and Jonathan got totally wrong) it took me absolutely blooming ages. And most of that time was spent arguing about what a puzzle game actually is and what qualifies and what doesn't (which is one reason why we don't have a giant list of all the ones ever made - we just couldn't agree what they were!).
Next month - Flight Sims. (Something everyone can agree on.) Hurrah!
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