Way back in the mists of time, when the SAM was but a hopeful glimmer in the eyes of MGT, the Spectrum market was fruitful and booming. Happy Spec-chums rejoiced with the bundles of excellent releases in 1988, and among them was this complusive title - Sophistry was released by CRL, amazing Spectrum owners with it's addictiveness and generally scooping up awards from the Speccy press. Now us Samsters have a chance to see what all the fuss was about...
Actually, the SAM version also has the Spectrum version on the disk as well - a rather brilliant idea, as you could compare the two and weigh up which is better. Actually, as conversions go, the SAM version is pretty damn identical - except for nicer graphics and lovely music!
The game revolves around a huge map of 21 different interconnected 3D game boards, your goal to "unlock" 20 of the 21 levels to a 100% open structure. The game starts on 20% open structure, and it's up to you to collect various keys located around the boards. Along the 3D isometric play area, you encounter different effects on the board section you are on - for instance, one board has a timer which will destroy you when it reaches zero - unless you escape.
Simple? On first loading up, you'll spend a fair amount of time wondering what does what and how different boards can be conquered. The lack of definitive instructions doesn't help, though you'll be spending most of your time looking at the on-line map and handbook. When you begin playing, you are in control of a pod-like hopper, which bounces from one tile to the next. Some tiles have key symbols, some have mystery symbols, some have exit symbols. All have multi-coloured symbols. The first aim, it seems, is to bounce to target blocks and bounce on them. This gives you another block to search for, and some dosh for your trouble, which can be used to buy stuff later on.
Pressing the SPACE bar will change all the multi-coloured symbols around you (an Upper), and recover blocks which have once disappeared due to the boards effect. Already it sounds like a bit of a mouthful to handle, though bear with me! Seekers are also rampant in some parts of the game area, sometimes released by a Mystery block, though always fatal!
Stefan Drissen is the man behind this, who last year voted it "the worst SAM game of 1994". Still, the negative publicity has since been forgotten, and we can bathe in the slick programming of this title. Graphics look sharp (after all, they are by Robert Van Der Verke) and sounds come from Craig Tuberfield.
Now, there is a little problem.
When you release a game of this magnitude and complexity, the last thing you need is a cocky bloke writing the instructions, who thinks he knows that you already know how to play the game. On the A5 (yes... A5) piece of paper, he even jokes "Oh, almost forgot - the Spectrum version is also on this disk!". Good job you remembered, eh, cocky bloke?! It would also be nice if you knew on boards which can only be escaped by a certain score, how many points you actually need! You spend most of your time wondering what's going on - all thanks to Mr. Cocky Bloke. If you played the Spectrum version to death, though, it's a breeze - and a nicely presented breeze to boot! Overall, a very nice little game indeed. There are some excellent touches to this, and anyone who has played the Speccy version would probably die of shock! Stefan has worked wonders, while it looks the business. If only the instructions were clearer, though this is indeed an ideal purchase.