Some time ago Logotron released a fiendishly designed puzzle game called Xor which attracted a modest cult following amongst devotees of the genre. Now Astral Software, creators of Xor, have come up with a sequel called Quadralien which, they hope, will appeal to many more mainstream gamers.
Although by no means abandoning the puzzle influence of its predecessor, Quadralien is an attempt to woo the more arcade-minded punter with slicker graphics and lots of moving thingies with the added attraction of being able to trash most of them with a laser.
By the middle of the 21st century, man's insatiable appetite for energy has necessitated the deployment of a number of huge nuclear power stations in permanent orbit around the Earth.
As luck would have it, some inconsiderate alien lifeform has chosen one of these power stations to live in, feeding off the raw energy being produced by the core of the reactor.
The action takes place in the four levels of the power station and is viewed from above through a multi-directional scrolling window. Having selected two out of the six droids available to you, your task is to guide them through the six locations on each of the levels, mopping up all things radioactive as they go.
But life is never that simple and many of the locations have either been devastated by fire causing all the lighting to fail, contain hidden contamination which only a Geiger counter can expose, or are such sensitive areas that lasers are automatically disabled.
In fact, every location poses its own special set of problems so it's imperative to select the droids best equipped to deal with each new set of circumstances as it comes along.
Apart from vast quantities of radioactive contamination, each room is packed full of various elements, some static, others moving or movable, but all of which pose one problem or another to the mobility or life expectancy of your droids.
Elements include force fields which restrict movement to a single direction, and Attractors (A's) which were originally the robotic work-force on the station, but which now are charged so that they are drawn together, when in close proximity to one another.
Repellers (R's) are the exact opposite to attractors preferring where possible, to keep their distance to each other. A's and R's can be pushed around the room and destroyed by laser fire. But, because of the way they react to one another, moving one of these highly-charged ex-robots often causes many others in the immediate vicinity to move as well.
Predicting what effect moving an A or R will have, is one of the more challenging aspects to Quadralien.
Each successive level presents you with a fresh set of ever more devious problems to solve, as well as a new rash of aliens to blast. As you progress through the game you'll learn what droids to use where, and will soon recognise all the different elements automatically, rather than having to continually use the console readout screens to remind you of what they are.
Having progressed this far up the learning curve you can concentrate fully on the task at hand which is both enjoyable and challenging to brain and trigger-finger alike.
All in all, a fine marriage between arcade and puzzle game, rounded off by some nice David Whittaker music, worthy of a place in any thinking person's software collection.