Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £5.95
Language: Machine code
Author: Hudson Soft
Eric and The Floaters sounds a bit like a pop group of the mid-Sixties; it also suggests an aerial game of some sort. Both guesses would be wrong, for this new game from Japanese Hudson Soft is an underground maze game. So the story goes: Hidden beneath the rubble of the Brick Lane (wherever they are) are the remains of a lost civilisation. Eric hopes to find part of them by blasting the rubble away with his bombs. But danger lurks in the Lanes, deadly inhabitants of the old system called The Floaters, will kill Eric it they touch him. He must destroy them using his bombs.
The Floaters are normally purple, but occasionally, like any arcade player, they lose their tempers and get red in the face. In this state they tend to actually hunt Eric down instead of placidly floating around. The screen display is of a large and reasonably complex maze form, each maze screen being separate. In stage one there is only one Floater, but these increase in number as the game proceeds. Walls may be blasted away by the placing of bombs, especially as sometimes there are totally closed parts to the maze. Objects revealed after the dust has settled may be collected for points by running over them. Once all the floaters have been killed in a stage, the bonus points remaining from the original allowance at the start of the stage are added to your score.
An element of strategy is required in the positioning of the bombs, which leave you about two and a half seconds before they explode. The game has 20 stages, during which the number of hidden items vary.
Control keys: A or J/D or L left/right, W or I/X or M up/down, SHIFT or SPACE to drop bomb
Joystick: ZX 2
Keyboard play: awkward key positions
Use of colour: average
Graphics: quite good, a bit jerky but your man 'folds' up well when killed
Sound: above average
Skill levels: 1 but progressive difficulty
Screens: 20 stages
Originality: maze games aren't new, but this one is a very different theme
This is a fairly original game from Hudson Soft. I liked the general layout and game type. Control was reasonable using the keyboard, but unfortunately Sinclair Interface 2 was the only joystick option. I think this is a little selfish of them. Of course they want to sell their own interface, but not catering for other interface key mapping is just unfair. The graphics were pretty good and the game proved to be "almost" addictive - the joystick option may have tipped the scales against them.
I enjoyed this game rather more than I thought I was going to when I saw it was another maze game. The idea of leaving bombs behind you to explode when you're safely round a corner, and hopefully the floater isn't, is quite original, and makes for a different maze game. There is also a kind of Pacman ghost angle in this one too. When there are several floaters after you, it is easy to get trapped in dead ends or between two floaters, so careful escape route planning is needed. When the floaters get "angry" is often the best time because they track you down, so you can lure them to their deaths more easily. Unfortunately the game lacks playability in the end because the keyboard positions are terrible, with a left hand and right hand cross of keys. I've heard the argument that this configuration allows you to use your hand like a joystick, rocking over the keys, but it isn't that easy with the Spectrum keyboard. On a programmable joystick I also found that the control was unresponsive which led to many Eric deaths by being blown up with his own bombs. A pity.
The graphics are quite large but a bit jerky and the overall use of colour is rather drab. The game idea is novel for a maze game but it is spoiled by unresponsive key control. Had it not been for that fact then Eric and The Floaters may have been quite addictive.
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