Product: Micro Power Magic 2
Publisher: Micro Power
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #58

Classy Classics

There aren't many compilations that can boast ten titles of which all ten are pretty classy. Micro Power Magic 2 is the exception. All of the games that are present on this second double-tape pack are extremely popular and were very well known when released individually. It is not uncommon to find second-hand Micro Power titles still labelled with prices of £5.99 to £7.99 so, at £7.95 for the ten, once upon a time this compilation offered superb value for money too.

The familiar created-on-screen grid of squares background, the little Micro Power logo and the stylish customised graphical title to each game are all there as they load in. And across each you can be assured of colourful graphics, a high standard of gameplay and even a fair amount of sound. The titles will probably come as no surprise.

Bumble Bee

The first one listed on the inlay is Bumble Bee, one of the Elk's variations on the Pacman theme - given a new lease of life by huge sprites and revolving walls to effect your escape from nasty pursuing spiders. It's a fast-executing little number with lots of nice features like an arcade-hall style high-score table like no other (Don't want to spoil the surprise!), quadsized text on the title screen, stylish presentation and pollen pods that flash to signal imminent danger. The play is good yet not very demanding, suitable for all ages from 4 up.

Gauntlet

Next comes Gauntlet, a merciless "Defender" clone with all the lovely features you'd expect, done in very high resolution Mode 4/1 (Yes, a mixed Mode feature - Very rare to see!). You patrol a landscape of wire-frame hills, preventing the green meanies from carrying lifeforms from the bottom to the top of the screen by shooting them, catching the lifeform and returning it safely to the ground. The game is a tough one, and one which continues to introduce harder and more impregnable Space Invaders indefinitely.

Rubble Trouble

Then it's onto Rubble Trouble which contains one of the best pieces of music you're ever likely to hear your Electron jingling. On top of this, the game itself is a blockbuster; an overhead maze of pushing rocks at super-fast moving mutants in a post-apocalyptic maze which is addictive in the truest sense of the word. It's a super-hard arcade challenge when Turboed! The graphics, again both multi-coloured and high quality, give the game a very professional feel. Shame about the drab options screen though.

The Mine

The Mine is the worst of the bunch. Basically this is Repton without the scrolling and toting a short-range gun. Burrow about in the earth (viewed from the side), link your passage with that of where a monster is trapped then try and lure said baddie into weapon or falling rock range. Do this over and over without any real increase in difficulty.

Frenzy

Next, the "intellectual/arcade" classic Frenzy. For a game which, at one time, had a lot of hype, it hasn't aged too well. The idea, an "interesting" one, is to create rectangles by dividing an arena into ever smaller parts, and attempt to capture a bouncing string of pixels in one of them. Sadly, the winning method is easily mastered and it quickly gets rather repetitive, despite its ever-increasing levels of difficulty. It once hung on me when I reached a particularly high level and, although that was near ten years ago now, I have never forgiven it.

Felix And The Fruit Monsters

Felix And The Fruit Monsters is Pacman territory once again. Here, a Pacman style maze is drawn but there are no pods to collect. Instead, three pieces of fruit float randomly around the maze and your job is to keep them from being eaten by the four monsters. Many of the sprites (also used in the best of the Felix series, that In The Factory) are nicely designed but the game lacks any 'oomph' and the keys required leave something to be desired. That said, it's worth a few goes!

Danger UXB

You're treated to a strange interlude in Danger Uxb, a maze game where you create the maze and can slide backwards and forwards along its 'walls' to reach timed bombs - and where you're under attack from stomping boots. Again, a nicely presented game with novel features such as a tune that only plays only note by note when you move but, because your scurrying about should be constant, chugs along at quite a pace!

Swoop

Swoop is the Micro Power contender to Arcadians' crown, and is just as smooth-scrolling, fast and addictive. Typical Invaders stuff, you are charged with single-handedly blasting a plethora of aliens floating overhead to smithereens. The graphics are nice but they appear a bit 'cheesy' through lack of care and an unnecessary boring scroll routine.

Positron

Another Invaders romp is Positron, an early work from the celebrated Gary Partis. It's a rather randomised shoot-'em-up, where surviving is often a question of chance and one where you must remember to disconnect the Plus 1 (before loading) to progress beyond level nine.

Killer Gorilla

The final game, Killer Gorilla, is a Donkey Kong style platform and ladders game, displayed in all its colourful Mode 2 glory with some very clever coding. It has a limitation, which can actually be dispensed with creating a much improved gaming experience with the upgrade tape Killa (from Bit Twiddlers), in that you cannot hold a weapon while climbing. This has the effect of forcing you to choose whether to waste lots of time smashing up barrels for no reason (until it disappears!) or whether to just jump over them to reach the captive girl in time. There are also only four levels and a very flickery rampage by the gorilla which makes the game feel quite dated.

Plus 1 Joystick Utility

You will also find a Plus 1 Joystick Utility on the tape, allowing all the Micro Power Magic 2 games to be joystick-controlled (apart from Frenzy). As the games were originally coded before joysticks were even available for the Electron (1983), the software company was to be complimented for this effort to make their software compatible later but really the games should have been recoded - and had routines embedded by their original authors. Loading this utility first is clumsy and is a "quick fix" solution that freezes out the keyboard.

Verdict

In every other respect, the compilation gains a thumbs up. It's of an exceptionally high standard, is very nicely packaged/presented and will provide many hours of Electron gaming pleasure.