In our earliest issue we reviewed Gridrunner by Jeff Minter. This new game is subtitled Gridrunner 2.
It is ten years since the terrible Grid Wars shook humanity (Gridrunner) and now the terrible Droids have returned - and they are not alone. The droids now drop bombs at crazy angles and generate force fields which deflect fire, sometimes straight back at you. They also have a psychological weapon, which makes the pilot think he's seeing camels running down the grid. Your mission is to defend 20 sectors of the Grid.
The grid is tastefully designed to be easy on the eye for once - dark blue squares on a black background. The droids come down the screen, zig-zagging left to right, and, when hit, break their chain, the damaged segment forming a pod. They may drop bombs, and when reaching the base of the screen, begin to move diagonally. A pod will remain after forming until it has been blasted to smithereens, or until it has mutated into something nastier, in which case it will fall down the grid on top of you.
To the left of the grid, and along the bottom, there are two Zappers. These move back and forth, tiring into the screen. Where their beams meet they form a pod. The beam from the base Zapper is deadly. If the snitch is above you and the Zapper below, the Zapper will fire out of sequence and get you. Some screens have deflectors, big screens in the centre which deflect your shots, Cosmic Cameloids appear on their own and with droids. On their own they decrease your score while they're on the screen, but with droids they are harmless, although they get in the way.
Control keys: I/P left/right, Q/A up/down and 0 to fire
Joystick: Kempston, AGF and Protek
Keyboard play: quite good positions, very responsive
Use of colour: average, good use of contrast
Sound: fair to average
Skill levels: 20
Originality: new features to make an old game more complex
'I feel this is a good game. It doesn't have the most exciting graphics I have ever seen, but the game makes up for that. I found it very playable and relatively addictive. My main grumble is that after every game the menu returns to the keyboard option. This is rather annoying when one does not notice or forgets to select the required option. Perhaps on the pricey side at almost £7 - let's not have the Commodore people trying to increase the price of Spectrum software!'
'...This game is a cross between a "Centipede' and "Grid" game but it's much speedier. Graphics are small and quite uninteresting and fly about so fast that you can't concentrate on them or see them. Colour has not been used to the computer's full capacity, but the explosions are quite neat. Basically, I think there's much too much going on in the game all at once for it to be very playable or addictive - although some arcade mutations might be able to cope. '
'Centipede meets grid for the second time. I found this newer version more fun to play than Gridrunner because the droids do more, but the camels just seem to be there for the in-joke quality rather than any useful game reason again, the graphics are tiny and the game is super fast. I like the fact that you can enter any level between 1 and 6 and the snitch on the top keeps you on your toes more. But much after level 7 it all becomes very hard, with two droids and everything else happening at once.'
|Use of Computer||57%|
|Value For Money||52%|
MATRIX from Salamander is the second in Jeff Minter's Grid Wars series, and is based on the arcade classic Centipede. The centipedes move along a grid, which is gathering solar energy for Earth, and as well as attempting to collide with your spaceship they may also drop bombs on you.
At later levels the droids are aided by deflector shields which send your laser fire scattering in all directions except the one at which you aimed, and the now notorious cosmic cameloids, whose presence on the screen decreases your score until you have eliminated them.
Spectrum owners accustomed to the complex graphics and vast playing areas may feel dismissive about the Minter style. He writes simple games which are challenging and appeal particularly to zapper addicts.
The real strength of Matrix is its sheer speed of operation and the delicate game balance, which seems pitched at just the proper level to convince you that you could easily improve your high score if only you had another attempt. That is one of the core secrets of an addictive game.
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