A&B Computing

Pentoms Puzzle

Author: Des Thomas
Publisher: Ega Beva
Machine: BBC Model B

Published in A&B Computing 2.08

Pentoms Puzzle

Pentoms Puzzle is a game of skill based on the Chinese game of Pentominoes - shapes made from five squares. The aim is to fill each grid with the pentom shapes, using each piece only once. In addition to an introductory program which gives the instructions, the cassette or disc contains two versions of the program: Kidtoms, which is a Pentoms Primer for use with youngsters (perhaps the inexperienced user might be more appropriate!) and the full Pentoms program.

Both programs use the same commands - numeric keys and - B will select an outline pent from the shapes displayed at the top of the screen. Either the cursor keys or U,D,L,R will move a pent. COPY or T will twist the pent round until you can fix it with the Return key, when the shape is coloured in. If you need the other side of the pent, you can flip it over with TAB or F, while pressing the Spacebar will drop any pent you don't want to use. Delete takes you into the "Delete Mode" - the number of the piece you wish to remove is pressed, followed by Return.

Kidtoms gives ten levels of difficulty, e.g. Level 0:3 x 5 grid (3 pieces); Level 5: 5 x 7 grid (7 pieces); Level 9: 5 x 10 grid (10 pieces) so this version of the game can be used by a wide age/ability range. Complete a game and you are offered the option of another game at the same or next level. How about a class or family Kidtoms championship?

In Pentoms, you have a choice of four grids, each giving a total of 60 squares - 10 x 6, 12 x 5, 15 x 4, and 20 x 3. Apparently, the first grid has 2,339 different solutions, so obviously the game takes a lot of time and thought (whether the school computer can be tied up for this is probably questionable). If the game were played on a board with cut-out pents, you could come back to it over a period of time; unfortunately, this version hasn't got a 'save' facility, but I suppose it's quite easy to make a note and re-enter the placements made at a previous sitting.

The program will challenge the most demanding games player. The excellent facilities offered and ease of operation together with the typical quality graphics from Ega Beva make this a very useful addition to any family's collection of games. It has a serious mathematical content, and the range of options available makes it suitable for use in all schools - infants through to secondary.

I found one little bug and one niggle. Pressing the Escape key at the end of the Instruction program is supposed to load the Index but my copy set my disc drive whirring to no avail. The menu page states: "Whenever you want to choose another program, press the Break key". I expected this to take me back to the menu page, instead of which I was taken right out of the program. This meant going through the Ega Beva logo and the address page, which seems to take an eternity!

Des Thomas

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