REVIEWS COURTESY OF ZXSR

Magnetron
by Graftgold Ltd: Steve Turner
Firebird Software Ltd
1988
Crash Issue 51, April 1988   (1988-03-31)   page(s) 24,25

KLP-2 is the little droid who made his first appearance in the citadel of Quazatron (Issue 28, 94%). His motorised skills are now in demand again: this time demon droids are in orbit above the planet Quartech which is being threatened by the eight armed satellites under their control.

KLP-2 is immediately beamed aboard the first satellite, where his task is to negotiate the multicoloured 3-D landscape of ramps and walkways which comprise each station, locate its four reactors and deactivate them. The stability of a reactor is entirely dependent on the combined charge of its positive fuel rods and its negative inhibitors. By swapping fuel rods KLP-2 can manipulate the charges sufficiently to cause the reactors to shut down or overload.

The droid inhabitants of the stations are completely unsympathetic to his mission and although KLP-2 doesn't have enough firepower to counter them directly, he can 'grapple' with other droids in an attempt to take control of their attributes. Three different sets of icons are aligned on a grid within a given time limit. A successful grapple discards the old shell, which then acts as a back-up life.

Once all four reactors are deactivated, the station shuts down allowing KLP-2 to beam boldly on to the next.

COMMENTS
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: an improvement on Quazatron - more colour combined with intricately detailed objects
Sound: only a few unimpressive spot effects


'Magnetron has the same old graphics, the same old ideas and the same old gameplay as that other Graftgold game, Quazatron. You can get a bit of fun out of it to begin with by zooming up and down the ramps and doing death leaps from the top of high ridges, but once this novelty has worn off you are left with a monotonous 3- D game. There are some reasonable effects in the game, like the pattern of Magnetron sprites making an oval shape in a starry sky at the start, but not much else. Grappling with robots is extremely confusing at first, and only having a few seconds to complete it makes the matter worse. Magnetron has little new on offer and doesn't really deserve closer examination.'
NICK

'Long ago, there was a Commodore game called Paradroid. This game was so successful that it was followed by Quazatron on the Spectrum, and its hero, KLP- 2, now returns to star in Magnetron. I know what you're probably saying, 'Surely by now this type of game is dead and buried?' But no; the same formula has been used to produce yet another episode in this Paradroidesque saga. However, I must say that I like the game: I found disabling the enemy droids and tracking down and destroying the power plants quite enjoyable. Admittedly anyone totally bored with this type of game won't find anything new in this latest offering, but if you have been off-planet, or stuck down a dark hole for the last few years, take a look.'
MARK

'Magnetron should have been called Quazatron II since it's merely an updated version of the prototype rather than an original game in its own right. The few elements which are significantly different actually spoil the playability of the game. Admittedly the monochrome Quazatron landscape has been given an injection of much-needed colour, but impressive graphics can't salvage insipid gameplay. In Quazatron the grappling sequence was exciting and unpredictable; Magnetron's icon puzzle lacks a competitive edge and becomes increasingly repetitive. Neither the reactor problem nor the grappling sequence are complex enough to sustain anyone's interest for very long. Trudging monotonously from one to the other is a process which is best avoided.'
KATI

Presentation72%
Graphics67%
Playability56%
Addictiveness49%
Overall57%
Summary: General Rating: Playable, but certainly not as good as Quazatron.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 28, April 1988   page(s) 50

It's a difficult thing reviewing sequels, no matter how good they are, 'cos you always find yourself comparing it to the original and that's bound to be a bad thing. It's going to be better anyway, 'cos it was probably written by the men who did the original, incorporating the things they couldn't fit in the first one. So how a sequel stands up on its own, had the first game not come out, is hard to tell. In the end comparison is inevitable, but let's see if we can get by without it... (whistle).. nope. It can't be helped. Here goes!

Quazatron was a spiffing game, where a little robot called KLP-2 nipped round a space station, destroying the rogue robots inside, to make it safe for humans to board. Although it was very absorbing, I still left there was something missing in the gameplay. In Magnetron, the same little robot, this time with a "unique talent for taking things to bits," is doing a similar job on eight droid controlled satellites, orbiting the planet Quartech. Like Quazatron, the game takes place in a sort of 3D isometric view of the playing area, and you control KLP-2's movements along the platforms and slides of each satellite. His objective is to deactivate all four reactors on each satellite, rendering the megaplasma destructor beam weapons useless.

The method used for liquidating the robots is either by zapping them with whatever weapon you have to hand, or by grappling. Grappling is a concept unique to these "tron" games, whereby KLP-2 latches himself onto a robot of his choice, and then the player plays a little logic game to decide who wins the grapple. If the player wins, KLP-2 takes over the weapons and security clearance of the enemy robot. If the player loses the logic game, then both KLP-2 and the grappled droid explode and that's all folks! The logic/subgame is quite simple really, a bit like those little plastic number puzzles where you slide the tiles around until all the figures are in descending order. You know the drill. Well, it's like that, only you've got a time limit and if you don't get it right, you end up as a cloud of rapidly expanding metal shards and a nasty grease spot on the deck!

Magnetron is that ram breed of game, a sequel which is better than the original. The graphics and sound are the usual high quality we expect from Steve Turner, and enhance what is already a brilliant game. 'Delightful' is a word that springs to mind, but p'raps that's a bit prissy. Okay, so it just looks like a random shoot 'em up, but don't be put off by appearances. There's a lot to it, and it's an easy game to learn, but a very hard one to beat!


Graphics9/10
Playability8/10
Value For Money8/10
Addictiveness8/10
Overall8/10
Summary: An absorbing and clever shoot 'em up with all the hardness of Quazatron and more problems than the cast of Dallas.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 72, March 1988   page(s) 74,75

Call it a sequel and you'll end up flat on your batteries. Magnetron is a follow-up-in-concept to Quazatron, Steve Turner's last game, which itself owed a lot to Andrew Braybrook's Paradroid. But Magnetron is different enough to take it into a different class, packing so much into 48K that the Spectrum bulges at the seams.

Droid hero KLP2 is transported to a series of eight space platforms, under instructions to shut down their reactors. If you're at all surprised to hear that this task is complicated by hordes of heavily-armed guardian robots, then you obviously haven't been paying attention to the 'manual of standard computer games plots'.

Fortunately the game is twelve thousand times better than it sounds. The graphics routines have been completely re-written, the screens now flipping instead of scrolling, which means that the movement of the droids is even smoother. The backgrounds usually feature two colours, which contributes to the 3-D effects. Each of the eight levels consists of sixteen screens arranged in a four-by-four grid. The slopes, causeways and ramps are similar to those of Quazatron, but scattered around them you'll find computer consoles and reactor entrances which are your main objectives.

Reaching a computer console and logging on (just by standing still and pressing the fire button) will give you access to three screens of information. The first tells you the status of the reactors on the current level, the second lists the types and capabilities of the droids in the area, and the third (which you can only access if your droid classification is high enough) describes the weapons available to you. Your first task, then, is to pick out a weak droid, then return to the game screen, identify the droid by its code number, and Grapple it (Oo-er!)

This leads you into a fiendish sub-game in which you must solve a sort of sliding block puzzle by nudging three rows of symbols into the right place Big problem; you only have ten seconds to do it before your target explodes. If you succeed, the target droid becomes a back-up, so that if you die you are transferred into its chassis.

Always have a back-up ready, you never know when a sudden fall or a vicious cross-fire will drain your energy and destroy your current droid. If you don;t want to take over the new droid - if, for instance, its weapons are weaker than your own - you can just takes its energy and disarm its bomb.

Roaming the levels blasting or grappling droids is all very well, but your aim is to reach the reactor screens. Here you have another sub-game, ridiculously simple really, in which you have to balance the positive and negative isotopes in the reactor in order either to shut it off, or to overload it. The catch is that the left-over isotopes are carried away with you, and then affect your performance. Their weight slows you down, and their magnetic charge (so that's why it's called Magnetron...) causes you to be attracted to or repelled from certain areas of the floorway (so that's why it's called Magnetron)!

The trick, then, is to take over the correct droid to give you the weaponry needed to defeat the guardians, pick up the right isotopes to allow you to complete each level without being pushed off ledges by magnetic forces, and to shut down all the reactors and make your way through the darkened level to the transport pad to the next level.

There are some great weapons available, including a flying disc, a boomerang bomb (watch out for the returning flight!), a bouncing bomb and a round-the-corner shot. You'll find that powerful, slow weapons are pretty useless against weak but fast droids, so choose carefully if you don't want to be battered to bits by gangs of softies.

Quazatron was an SU Classic, so Magnetron must be a Classic Plus. The gameplay of the main section is more exciting than most programmers could come up with, but both the addition of the sub-games and the complexities of the strategy necessary to complete all the levels make it even zippier. It will be great to see Steve Turner coming up with a brand new game concept, but for the moment Magnetron will keep you happy whether you like a good think, a good blast or a good plot.

Label: Firebird
Author: Steve Turner
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins


Overall10/10
Summary: A wonderfully engrossing game of strategy, fast reactions and forward planning.

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 8, May 1988   page(s) 51

Can Firebird spare the rod?

Lawyers may end up making more money off it than programmers or software houses do, but this one's got to be a nice little earner for someone. Programmed by Steve Turner, this 3D droid-em-up's got all the playability of Turner/Braybrook classics like Paradroid or Ranarama, and it's every bit as addictive too.

The plot's simple enough: eight enemy satellites are endangering Earth's spacefleet, so you've got to disable them by shutting their nuclear reactors down. As game tasks go this one's no picnic, given that each satellite has four reactors and a wide range of very unpleasant defence droids. You start the game with a decidedly weedy KLP-2 droid, so you're clearly in for a rough old time of it. In fact, you won't survive very long at all unless you can beef yourself up a bit.

Self-improvement's something the KLP-2's very good at mind you. Just switch its grappling device on, ram an enemy droid, hack through the blighter's security system and you can cannibalise it for spare parts. These form a new improved droid with better weaponry, defences or power systems, depending on the type of droid you grabbed - and you've still got the KLP-2 to fall back on if the new model gets destroyed.

Grappling's not the push-over it might sound like, however, thanks to the all-important enemy security system. This nasty little anti-tamper set-up takes the form of a sliding block puzzle linked to a self-destruct device. Solve the puzzle completely within a given time limit and you get your brand new droid; get only the bottom row right and you recharge your current droids energy banks but fail to do even that and the enemy droid explodes, taking you with it.

Droids come in different categories from zero (strongest) to eight (weakest - KLP-2s an eight) and the time limit for the puzzle depends on the relative strengths of your own droid and your target: attack a strong droid with a weak one and you'll have very little time indeed.

Once you've mastered grappling you're ready for the game proper, with its exploration, combat and reactor-bashing. The game area's 100-plus isometric 3D screens have ramps, ledges and drops rather in the Marble Madness style, plus teleports and those all-important reactors. Though you can't fall off a screen entirely you can easily fall from one ledge to another, taking damage in the process. In places, magnetic floor-tiles and steep slopes threaten to send you over the edge. At first these present few problems, but as you start disabling reactors your droid becomes harder to handle, with weight and magnetism both affecting you far more.

It's the rods that are the problem, you see: each reactor's got four rods, and each rod's got a positive or negative charge. The total charge across the four rods determines the reactor's status: swap rods between reactors and you can send the charge too far one way or the other, shutting the power off. Unfortunately, rods are heavy things, so carrying them up slopes can be a problem. What's more, the charge on the rod you're holding alters the action of magnets on your droid: the higher the charge, the stronger the pull.

Once you've cleaned out a satellite, you can teleport to another one and continue your reactor-cide. With only 32 reactors to do the game's not going to be impossible to finish, but as the difficulty steps up you'll soon see just how tough the task is. Nicely paced and very challenging, with great in-game information displays and varying droid abilities to add depth, this one manages to be enormously compulsive despite being made up of some pretty standard game components.

Reviewer: Andy Wilton

RELEASE BOX
Spec, £7.95cs, Out Now
C64/128, £8.96cs, £12.95dk, Imminent
No other versions planned.

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 65/100
1 hour: 90/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 82/100
1 month: 70/100
1 year: 20/100


Graphics7/10
Audio2/10
IQ Factor7/10
Fun Factor8/10
Ace Rating904/1000
Summary: Screamingly addictive, but you'll solve it eventually.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 9, June 1988   page(s) 84

Spectrum, £7.95cs
C64, £8.95cs, £12.95dk

A follow-up to the old Hewson title Quazatron, this Steve Turner droid-em-up blends Spindizzy-ish terrain with Paradroid action as you cannibalise enemy robots and destabilise atomic reactors. Finely judged gameplay and effective graphics should help make a name for this addictive little number, but it's probably better known for the legal wrangle it caused between Hewson and Telecomsoft, and the six month delay this caused.


OverallNot Rated
Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 5, April 1988   page(s) 52

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.95
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £14.95

PSYCHOPATHWAY TO THE STARS

Magnetron is Firebird's first Spectrum release from Graftgold since that company's founder-member, Steve Turner and Andrew Braybrook moved their licensing from Hewson. It is written by Steve Turner, long-standing spectrum developer, using his previous Quazatron as a departure point.

Eight orbiting satellites are currently threatening the planet Quartech. KLP-2, a psychopathic little engineering droid, whose favourite pastime is dismantling fellow robots, has been sent to disable the four reactors on each of the satellites - easier said than done, since they are guarded by 16 different types of droid. The main game presentation is in flickscreen, isometric 3-D, showing various levels connected by ramps.

There are several options when it comes to tackling enemy droids: they may be destroyed by the use of 'frisby' power disks, mortars and boomerangs, or by grappling with them at close quarters, and then using the dismantled parts to build a replica of KLP-2 incorporating the enemy's abilities.

The risk in grappling is that target droids are protected by a self-destruct sequence that counts down when the enemy droid is grabbed. Enter the subgame: a grid of nine squares appears, and three types of icon: bomb, diamond and box-shaped. To prevent detonation the three bomb shapes must be placed along the bottom row of the grid before time runs out. To purloin the salvaged parts, the other two rows also have to be completed in order. When the main game resumes after a successful grapple, the identification number of the droid you are controlling is displayed at the top of the screen.

If the replica is destroyed, KLP-2 returns to his previous chassis, This is a straightforward reworking of the transfer subgame Andrew Braybrook first used in his Commodore 64 hit, Paradroid followed through in Steve's Spectrum rewrite, Quazatron, and which since has become a programmer's standard library technique for beefing up games. It is, however, rarely used as elegantly in plot terms as in Magnetron.

Reactors are shut down by reducing or overloading their power. Each has four containers holding either a positive fuel rod or a negative inhibitor. Replacing them with rods KLP-2 is carrying shuts them down if the overall charge goes below one, or overloads it if it goes over five. When all four containers have been disabled, KLP-2 is free to teleport to the next satellite.

KLP-2's movement is affected by his own weight and the amount he carries - climbing and steering becomes more sluggish if he is too heavy - and by magnets, indicated by arrows, which either aid or hinder progress depending on whether the droid is positively or negatively charged.

With every action, energy is drained and can only be regained by grappling with droids containing good power units - usually lower numbered droids - but beware, these are the most difficult to defeat.

Computer access points on all levels provide status displays: sphere icons display current reactor status, which satellite the player is at (1-8), and grid coordinates of the current sector droid icons display KLP-2's current status, and if in replica form, its various parts can be seen if the security class is below or equal to that of the current replica; box icons - if a sufficient security pass is held - display available weapons and devices that can be acquired.


Overall80%
Summary: Great effort has gone into the detailed graphics, in an attempt to break the monochromatic mould of recent games, and it works quite well, with up to three colours on the screen at one time. Intricately woven gameplay elements neatly cover up the fact that this really is a very close reworking of Quazatron. The grapple sequence, however, is novel, using icons to battle for control instead of a circuit board. It is an old idea, but Magnetron is damned playable.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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