When I first read Mirrorsoft's rather spartan description on the packaging of its latest release, my first thought was that it looked like a rather simple game which would have all the appeal of a plate of soggy cabbage. Yet after only five minutes I was hooked. It's a very long time since I have sat up all evening, playing just one game.
First you enter your skill level - between 0 (novice) and 9 (superhuman). I would suggest that you have a few practice games at the novice level first. But be warned. By the time you've finished practising, you'll be well and truly addicted.
One slightly annoying aspect is that immediately you select the level, the game starts. I would prefer a short countdown period first - just two seconds to position my hands over the correct keys would be useful, particularly at higher levels when things tend to be fast and furious.
The challenge starts with a shape which appears at the top of the playing field and begins to drop towards the bottom. As it is falling you can move it left or right or rotate it so that when it reaches the bottom it is positioned where you want it.
Now dexterity and quick thinking enter the scene. Immediately the first shape reaches the bottom, another - which can also be manoeuvred and rotated - appears at the top and starts to fall.
The idea is to manipulate the continuos supply of seven different shapes so that they fit together almost like a jigsaw puzzle - the object being to form complete, unbroken lines horizontally across the playfield.When a line is completed it disappears and everything above it drops down into the empty space.
The difficulty lies in the fact that if a line has a space in it, it won't drop down. The game ends when the shapes have reached the top of the playfield, which is twenty lines high.
The scoring system is arranged so that you get a number of points for every shape which fits into the playfield and extra points for forming complete lines.
Your score is also modified by the level of the game - the higher the level, the higher the score. The lowest level is slow and you have plenty of time to manoeuvre the shapes - the highest level is so fast that you hardly have time to realise what shape has appeared before it reaches the bottom.
As well as your score several other statistics are constantly displayed and updated on the screen. The useful ones are the total number of completed lines, the number of shapes which have been placed and the current level.
The inclusion of a table which tells you how many times each shape has appeared seems pointless. My guess is that when the game was prepared for release, someone decided the screen looked a bit empty so they decided to fill it up with something that would make things look more complicated than they actually are.
The level of play increases after you have completed a number of lines. For instance, if you start at level zero the game automatically speeds up to level one once you have completed 11 lines. Level two starts at 21 lines, and so on. You can increase the level yourself by pressing the A key.
There are three other useful keys which you can use: X shows the next shape that will appear, Z drops the current shape to the bottom extremely quickly and S allows you to turn off the sound, which comprises just a simple beep when a shape reaches its resting place.
I noticed a small glitch when I tried to type my name on the high score table. The delay before a depressed key started repeating must have been reduced for some reason and, when typing in DESMOND, I tended to end up with DESSMONND or some other strange mutation.
My only real criticism, however, has nothing to do with the game itself. I would like to know how Mirrorsoft can justify the exceptionally high prices for a game which looks to be a relatively simple piece of coding. And it's only fast enough to be fun on a Turbo Electron.