by Colin Grunes, Stuart James Fotheringham, Steve Parys, Barry Leitch
Thor Computer Software
Crash Issue 33, October 1986   (1986-09-25)   page(s) 119

ICUPS, the International Commission for Universal Problem Solving, are looking for special agents of the highest calibre. Obviously, they feel they have to test the ability of any prospective agent and so this prominent organisation has devised two tests designed to assess just how well a would-be agent functions under stress. It's no good having any Tom, Dick or Harry or even a Wally when there's an important mission to complete. The game falls into two sections, both of which are designed to test you to the limit.

The action begins in a space tunnel with you in control of an Interstellar Escort Ship. The screen scrolls downwards as you travel up-screen through three sections of space which ultimately lead to the enemy starship. Along the way you must dodge and weave a way through swarms of remote control alien craft. At times it's very much like aerial bumping cars as enemy craft, not lethal in themselves, try to nudge you into the concrete walls either side of the tunnel or into the more lethal yellow craft. A collision with one of these is enough to lose one of your four lives, and there are the usual torpedoes to avoid. The yellow flying saucers cannot fire but must be avoided as collision is fatal. The other yellow craft cannot be destroyed so it's really a matter of keeping clear.

As you proceed through the three sections the score and the area (either A. B or C) are indicated. The tunnel walls of each section are different in colour so it's clear when one section has been completed. A small window in the right hand corner shows a laughing face when you lose a life just to rub it in. Lives are indicated by icons of the Interstellar Escort Ship in a panel on the left-hand side of the screen.

Following the straightforward shoot em up of the first part comes the second test. Having reached the enemy starship, you find yourself in control of a DEEN Mk II a Hostile Environment Anthrobot no less. Four parts of a bomb which have been secreted somewhere within the enemy ship must be found. Insect-like nastier we determined to get in the way and need to be avoided or zapped with your laser gun... There are 64 screens in all so there's a great deal of exploring to do and you can move in any direction using the same keys as previously. In the weightlessness of the enemy spaceship there's an altogether different speed from the previous section. The robot floats up and down, turning this way and that in his attempt to find the four parts. In addition to the flying insects, he meets a Jaw-Head, a Bolt-Head, and a duck that sproings about in kangaroo fashion.

At the end of the two tests, an assessment is given of overall performance as well as a total score. Only by completing the tests to the examiners ' satisfaction will you be accepted as an elite member of the ICUPS team. Good luck!

Control keys: top row fire, second row thrust/accelerate, third row decelerate, alternate bottom row left/right
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: fast and responsive
Use of colour: very good, with limited amounts of clashes
Graphics: nice sprites, and good scrolling
Sound: ace tune on the title screen, with spot effects during the game
Skill levels: one
Screens: three areas in the first part of the game, with 64 in the second section

'THOR have really let me down. Their stablemates ODIN turn out really respectable games like Heartland and Nodes, now there's (CUPS. Of the two stages the first is a very boring shoot em up, very similar to Spy Hunter and the second is like a very basic arcade/adventure resembling Sabre Wulf. I found both these stages uninteresting to play and not the least bit addictive. The graphics on bath stages are detailed and large, and this is the only part of the game that is the least bit decent. The presentation is smart, and accompanying the bright title screen is another superb multi-channel tune. Not much game though'

'The first stage is easy, after a little practice, and the second part is better, with your android wobbling around the place with really excellent inertia effects. I think, though, that the game is let down by the necessity to play past the scrolling section to get onto the maze part. The blast em up bit is a little boring and, although looking very good, during play doesn't quite move as well as it should do. Overall, (CUPS is not a bad game at all, but I really do expect something with more addictiveness and playability from a company associated with such classics as Nodes of Yesod and Robin o' the Wood'

'At long last ICUPS is here and what a let down it is too. All in all, it isn't a bad game but it just isn't as original as it could have been. The first bit plays quite quickly but is very difficult to get through. The second part looks and plays a lot like the Yesod games although your character's jet pack and its realistic inertia adds a novel touch. Graphically (CUPS is excellent on all counts: the backgrounds are well detailed, the characters are very nicely animated and there is plenty of attribute free colour. The sound is also first-class, with a great tune and some admirable spot effects. This game lacks a little in addictive qualities and playability, otherwise it is well worth its relatively high price tag.'

Use of Computer78%
Getting Started80%
Addictive Qualities73%
Value for Money74%
Summary: General Rating: A good game, but a disappointment coming from such a well established stable as Thor and Odin.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 10, October 1986   page(s) 76

I grew up to learn that if you hold your breath and count to ten, hiccups would go away. This one didn't, which isn't surprising since the cassette case is a little hard to swallow.

The obviously cosmopolitan ICUPS comes with an instruction sheet in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Danish. That's nice, but it would've been nicer if there had been some instructions in English to aid people like myself who took absolutely no notice of what their French teacher was babbling on about. Maybe this is all part of the game?

So, armed only with a brief chat with the man from Thor, who didn't seem to get on with the game very well either, and an even briefer knowledge of German courtesy of the Ed who knows such things, I battled on through what seemed at first to be a simple shoot em up.

But things in life aren't that simple and one can never seem to cold-start a C5 in the morning. You see, in this Spy Hunter style shoot 'em up, the yellow meanies kill you on impact, the V-shaped meanies fire at you once you've passed them, the red blob meanies drop bombs on you, the meany with the two turrets is indestructable and you'll probably get as bored as I was if I go into that any further.

If you can manage to get past this first stage of ICUPS then a second and final level awaits you. I must confess that I've never come even close to that level, but if the man from Thor is to be believed, stage 2 is far more interesting. There you must avoid more flying meanies, but this time, at least you have an aim in life. Four parts of a bomb are scattered around the play area and you must steal them from their protective domes and then use it to blow up the station you're in. A little self destructive, maybe, but then computer games are like that.

Not the world's greatest game, but even if it doesn't cure your hiccups at least it'll take your mind off them.

Value For Money5/10
Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 54, September 1986   page(s) 28

ICUPS - international Commission for Universal Problem Solving - has got rid of the infamous Charlemagne Fortheringham Grunes, and has got another sucker to do its dirty work - yup, it's you.

Very different from the slick graphics of Nodes and Arc of Yesod, ICUPS is really two games in one, both shoot 'em ups - their only link being the rather tenuous storyline.

The first half is a straight 'Blast-everything-that-moves' as you fly up a seemingly never ending tunnel, beset on all sides by alien aircraft. These are colour coded and it'll take you no time to learn what does what and how it does it: yellow craft are indestructible and lethal on contact, green shoot down on you, blue fire up at you etc. Beware the ones that shunt you sideways into electrified walls where instant death awaits. It's pretty simple both graphically and visually reminding me vaguely of Imagine's now historical Arcadia. You get a bird's eye view of the tunnel with you flying up the screen and the aliens flying down. One word of warning: if you slow too much and hover at the bottom of the screen, yellow nasties tend to fly up from behind and zap you.

What saves the first part of the game is the difficulty factor. Some experienced zappers will, I'm sure, complete it almost immediately. But if you've got two left hands, like me, you'll find it a tricky job to get through all three tunnel sections unscathed.

Eventually I got there, and entered the space ship and the second half of the game. You've got to find four parts of a bomb and this time you control a sort of flying pig - described as a DEEN Mk II robot on the cassette inlay. It's even got a jet pack on its back and bounds around the maze avoiding robopods and hopping faces. The space ship is planned out in corridors with exits leading up and down. Very confusing as all the corridors look alike and it might be a good move to map this one out. The pig's got five lives and each ends when its energy, which drains away each time it comes into contact with a pod, falls to zero.

There's nothing spectacular about either of the two parts of the game. The graphics are very average and the gameplay is old hat. Embarrassing to admit then that I rather enjoyed it and I didn't want to stop playing.

Label: Thor
Price: £8.95
Joystick: Kempston, cursor
Memory: 48K
Reviewer: Clare Edgeley


Summary: Two games in one. Incredibly unoriginal joystick-destroying stuff but quite addictive for all that.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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