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Ubi Soft Ltd
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

Take a splash of Boulderdash, a twist of Tetris and a pinch of Puznik and you get Pick'n'Pile, Ubisoft's latest arcade effort. It's one of those addictive challenges to your reaction speed and forward thinking which is supposed to be so absorbing that you forgive the crummy graphics - well, we all know my opinion about that sort of thing - why can't it have good graphics too?

Still, you have to admit the basic idea is simple and absorbing. After the title screen which features catchy South American music, you samba to the play screen which contains - nothing! Not a banana! Lives remaining, elapsed time and score are shown at the top of the screen, but the rest of it consists of nothing but a blue background divided into columns Then, just as you begin to think that this is going to be the most minimal game ever, the screen fills with a cascade of objects which fall from the top of the screen and land in huge heaps at the bottom, then start exploding in a mystifying manner.

It's all quite simple really; your aim is to completely clear the screen of objects before the timer runs out, by moving them around so that similar objects stand on top of each other with the bottom one on the ground, at which point they explode. You do this using a gunsight-style cursor; move it over the object you want to select, press fire, move it to the destination and press fire again. The object selected swaps places with the one on the destination square, and if you've calculated right the result should be an explosion, or series of explosions if your calculations are sufficiently fore-sightful.

The objects include green, purple and blue spheres; you can't pile them up too high, because they tumble off the top of the pile, and the trick, of course, is not to leave yourself with any unpaired objects at the end. To help you with this, there are some bonus tokens which can be used to explode any sort of object. If you score enough bonus points in this way you earn a diamond, which is a GOOD THING apparently, but which just goes to stress the similarity with Boulderdash.

On later levels you get oh-so-amusing divertissements including bombs which can be used to destroy large areas of blocks, chompy monsters, and golden blocks. On harder levels, you have to pile up more objects before they win explode, and there's a two-player (alternate) mode.

The main problem with Pick n'Pile is that it's very similar to Ocean's Puznik, though with inferior graphics. That being the case, I can't see many people PICKING it, so it probably won't make PILES of money for Ubisoft,

Label: Ubisoft
Price: £9.99 48K/128K
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Lacklustre-looking Frenchie fun finally fails on critical comparisons.