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Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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Chris Bourne

Spectrum +3, £14.99dk £9.99cs

Ever fancied kissing the Purple Saturn Queen? Well, if you win the annual Purple Saturn Day Games, you've got no choice, since sucking face with her majesty is the ultimate prize. This year, the Good Lord Exxos has randomly selected the four events for the game himself: Ring Pursuit, Time Jump, Tronic Slider and Brain Bowler.

You can choose any of the four from the initial selection screen. Ring Pursuit has you racing around Saturn's rings in a kind of slalom. Coloured space ships mark your route - you fly to the right of the red ones and to the left of yellow ones, all the time aiming to stay in front of your opponent to score points.

The Tronic Slider places you and your adversary on the orbiting energy field. Shoot the energy balls released into the game area and they yield fragments which are yours to collect. The player who collects the most fragments in the time allowed is the winner.

Brain Bowler is by far the most rewarding of the sub-games, because the random puzzle element makes each game different. You're placed on opposite sides of an intergalactic "brain", controlling an electro-ball which can alter switches, collect energy and allow electrical charges to reach six pins which activate the central Exxos. It's much easier to get the hang of than to describe, and would make a neat budget game on its own.

In contrast, the Time Jump is probably the most redundant of the sporting quartet. You have to jump as far as possible into the future by capturing energy sparks - a kind of Operation Wolf in space. These sparks provide fuel for a gravity catapult which launches you through time and space. Once you've catapulted, you're presented with an image generated randomly according to the amount you jumped - all very nice, but a bit pointless.

What this boils down to is a collection of four reasonably good sub-games, loosely strung over a scenario of competition. There are rounds leading up to a final with opponents of increasing difficulty, and there's a practice game against a robot - but ultimately, there are just four events.

Purple Saturn Day has a brilliant manual which lists such things as recommended diets (including Putrex Vomicus quince) and forbidden substances (good luck shrunken chicken heads), but even they can't save the game as a whole from being just on the good side of mediocre. If you want something a bit weird that's good fun for a while, check it out; if you're used to games with plenty of variety, leave it on the shelf.