As Christmas approaches, Virgin Games are on the warpath again, with a new batch of games (of which this is the first), new programmers and a totally new look in packaging. Gone are the broad stripes, in comes a game-specific cover and detailed instructions, very free of hype.
Strangeloop is certainly an auspicious start — a mammoth arcade adventure style game with 240 rooms to explore. Your mission is to regain control of a robot controlled space factory which has been taken over by aliens who are reprogramming the robots to destroy Earth. No maps of the factory exist, indeed no man has stepped foot inside for over 100 years. All you know is that the environment is desperately hostile, no oxygen, no gravity, very high temperatures and razor sharp industrial waste (swarf). The object is to reach the central control room, but this isn’t just a case of stumbling around until you find it. There are many obstacles to overcome, many objects which must be collected to help you on your way.
Your equipment is a space suit and a laser which fires straight ahead or diagonally upwards. The laser can carry a maximum of 99 charges, and these charge packs are one of the more vital objects that you could find lying around. Another is the jet cycle which has been left behind from a previous service of the factory. This is a bit old and thirsty on fuel, so keep an eye out for fuel cans. The swarf, being razor sharp, creates leaks in your suit, which releases your precious oxygen even faster than it should. But patches are something else that is to be discovered.
The screen display is split into two unequal halves, the larger, at the top, being the playing area representing one of the 240 rooms. These have a variety of industrial equipment in them, all robot controlled of course, various exits which are indicated as semicircles cut from the thick screen edge wall, and the razor-edged swarf flying about. Here, also, can be seen ‘you’, a large character in your space suit.
Below the playing area is the status panel. On the left is the suit status showing numbers of leaks and patches held. Then the laser status showing how many charges are held. In the centre is a pockets indicator. Here any useful objects picked up are shown and may also by used by selecting them with SPACE and the direction keys. Fuel level is indicated for the jet cycle if you are using it, your lives left and a compass which always points in the direction of the control room. Finally, there is 5 by 5 grid of the rooms immediately around you, with yours in the centre. This shows the exits in the 25 rooms. A magenta room indicates Megaswarf is present, one with the jet cycle symbol indicates the presence of the cycle, and a yellow one is the control room.
Each life starts with you in the teleport, a square which may be moved with the direction keys to the place where you want to materialise on the screen. Because of the size of Strangeloop, a SAVE and LOAD facility is provided.
‘Strangeloop has a wonderful loading screen which appears very quickly because of the ‘Flash Load’ system. When you start to play the game you’ll find it hard to describe because it’s not a platform game and it’s not really an arcade adventure as such. It’s a — well, I’ll let you decide. Even though it’s a baffling game at first, it’s very good and smooth and the sound is good too. This game is certainly fun to play and addictive if somewhat difficult to understand at times. It’s sure to be a hit with almost anyone. All in all, a great program and a turn about from the people who brought you Yomp!’
‘Strangeloop is one of those games that take a long time to find out everything. It comes with very detailed instructions, but these only scratch the surface. They don’t warn you, for instance, about the vile vats of green liquids that kill, nor the floors that open up beneath you. They don’t tell you about the various tempting things that could be useful like the Vend-o-matic machine (but where’s the money to put in the slot), and although they tell you that robots can be given objects you may be carrying for them to use, they don’t tell you why you should want to. In fact, it’s a great mystery of a game with colourful, varied and well animated objects that makes you want to find out more. In play, Strangeloop doesn’t let you down, because it’s immediately exciting and fun. One for a long time playing and therefore addictive.’
‘The teleport start to each life is very useful an addition, as it avoids you entering a new life in an instant death position (like in Jet Set Willy), and actually offers an advantage because you may position yourself up above an otherwise impenetrable platform that before you died you couldn’t get around. So there is actually, at times, a tactical reason for getting killed off! It would be hard and unfair to criticise Strangeloop in a short space because there is a lot going on, and it will take me quite a bit of time to get to the bottom of it, but I will, because I want to. This is the very best game Virgin have ever put out for the Spectrum, both in content and in looks. There are nice touches too many to mention, including the comic style written comments. Highly recommended by me anyway!’
Control keys: preset as cursors with 1 to fire horizontally, and 0 to fire diagonally, but all keys are user-definable, SPACE to activate
Joystick: almost any via UDK, but a twin-fire would be useful
Keyboard play: responsive — control takes getting used to (no gravity don’t forget)
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: very good
Skill levels: 1
General rating: an involved and involving game, with plenty of playability and challenge.
|Use of computer||86%|
|Value for money||86%|