• Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatCommodore 64
DeveloperCosine Systems
Price£1.99 (excl. P&P)
ReviewMark and Paul

Main review

Fancy going 500 feet underground and tampering with some rods? You got it! Rearrange the cores at the Wenley Moor nuclear power plant in this one player atomic puzzler from Cosine Systems. I first encountered this game in 1994, on the cover mount of Commodore Format 47. It was a time when the commercial U.K. C64 magazine scene was almost dead, CF subsequently folded a year or so later and things were bleak for the average C64-Joe. However, Reaxion was on this covertape and it was an original game. Not simply a free release of an old classic, but an original game and it was actually responsible for me probably still using the C64 today, because when I loaded the original I realised that I knew the musician, and in some way that pleased me – I wasn’t the only nerd still using a C64, so I couldn’t be wrong! Anyway I digress, let’s get on with the evaluation of this new version.

This release is actually Reaxion Extended which, as the name would imply, is simply an extended version of the original; it doesn’t improve on the gameplay in any apparent way. In the intervening time between the original Reaxion and this version an Amiga version was spawned, and Reaxion Extended encompasses the 69 extra levels from that version. It also replaces the music of the original Reaxion, and the game screen layout is slightly different. The graphics have also been slightly revamped.

On loading the game the instant feeling is deja vu if you have played the previous C64 incarnation; the titles screen is pretty similar to the original, save from slightly differing graphics and music. Both disciplines here are quite expertly executed; the logo is very nice, using an authentic looking PCB type background and nice 3D shading, while the title music is a great blues type jam. You are also furnished with a high score table and a scroller with some helpful hints. It’s time to press fire laddie! The presentation of the game arena is pretty neat. It’s quite simplistic and functional, and the shading is pleasing. Additionally the in-game music is pretty nice, although it begins to get slightly repetitive later in the game – perhaps a minimal sound effects option would have been nice.

When the game starts you will see the core monitor display. There are 56 rods in each core, each rod has a different binary state, represented by the colours blue and brown. The idea is to turn every rod in the core to brown in the fastest way. To do this you have a robot at you disposal (well, do you want to jump around in a nuclear core?). You control the robot with the joystick and press fire to flip the states of the rods. The behaviour of the robot is important here; out in the open away from the walls you may flip a 3 by 3 area of rods (the rod the robot sits on, and the immediately surrounding 8 rods), but as you move the robot towards the walls the area you can flip is reduced – the areas that can be flipped are 3 by 3, 3 by 2, 2 by 3 and 2 by 2 rods.

It may not make seem important or make sense initially, but this is perhaps the most important aspect of the game when you progress to the later levels, as the rod layout can be tricky and you must be quite selective as to which rods you flip. Allied to the inherent difficulty of the level layouts, there is also a dreaded timer; early levels begin with 99 seconds on the clock, but this is reduced on higher levels. If you act totally sensibly and make no mistakes the timer doesn’t really affect play, but it is all too easy to make a mistake, forget how to undo it and panic, creating havoc among the rods.

To begin with this game doesn’t appear to be much of an exciting prospect, but a give it a few goes and I guarantee you’ll be hooked. It’s one of those games that implores you to play again. Reaxion appears to be quite an original concept, I’ve certainly not played another puzzler like it, and I would say it deserves to be up there with the likes of Tetris. It’s fiendishly addictive once you get into it: testament to this is the fact that I’m still playing it 11 years after the original incarnation. There is also a formidable challenge in completing all the 99 levels – plenty to keep you busy for many moons to come.

Second opinion

First things first, the main menu; I Liked the logo and font but wasn’t overly keen on the colours scrolling behind it, whilst I was reading the scroller it sometimes made my eyes go funny. I didn’t like the explanation of the game within a scroller, I think maybe an “I – for Instructions” option, and have the scroller just to say hellos, even then, I wouldn’t do that, it makes it look far to “demo’ey”. The tune on the title page was nice and cheery, but does get a bit repetitive so I pressed fire, and there it was, the main screen, I had waited all the way through the scroller to see the instructions, so I principally new what I was doing.

One thing that puzzled me, I could get a score of “59” for doing nothing? I know this is good for some people, but I thought scores were attained from doing something? I think maybe a “Get Ready” would be nice too; it would give you an advantage of looking at the screen and possibly precalculating your moves. So I need to pause the game, so I pressed pause (Run/Stop), but there was no indication I had actually paused, it was only until I press fire did it continue and whilst it was paused the screen effects where still going, little be deceiving with no indication. The game itself, is pretty straight forward, I have seen something similar before, I think it was called Eoroid [quickly goes off to GameBase 64] – yup it was, and looking at it, there are quite a few of those type of games.

So, I have played the main game, and got a score (even thought I could get a score for doing nothing) I got to the “Enter User Ident Code” screen. Is this where I put the password in to jump to another level? Nope, my ident code is my name, and I’m hoping everyone only has 6 letters in there name, I feel sorry for “Alexandra”, “Michael”, and anybody else who’s parents gave them more than 6 letters in their name. I wasn’t over keen on the player ship above and below the name entry, I think maybe a half open box above and below, around the letter might have worked better, and there is those colours again, Ahh, I have just remembered where I have see that effect before, or a similar one at least. Colour effect 16 onwards on Shoot-Em-Up Construction Kit, and most games created with it.

Overall though, apart from those very few gripes with it (which I think could be sorted very easily if it was a custom copy just for me) I think the game itself should appeal to most people and most ages; it is simplistic but very addictive, the graphics are pleasing, and the music acceptable (most people have a volume control on their TV) and it does have you going back for more. Maybe if there was a level select it would be even better, I don’t fancy the idea of going through those easy levels again, and again, and again.

Would I own this game? I think price would determine that; I think if it was in the price range of the Firebird Silver Range £1.99 (which I now know it is, available from the Cronosoft website) I would definitely have this on my shelf, but if someone like Ocean would have released it, with a £9.99 price tag as with most of their games, I would possibly have skipped on it. I like to have some game for my buck.