Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Tracers'

Rating:5 User: Digital Prawn

The excellent score I award this game is completely in the context of it being a "minigame" of less than 1K in size and also an absorbing if simple-looking logical puzzler. Obviously, it's not a game laden with mindblowing audio-visual effects as it's just not that sort of title. If the accompanying instructions are read and the game is given a chance by the more patient player then you could find yourself wanting to complete the entire 100 levels, which for example took me almost a week of evenings to accomplish.

Each level consists of a 7x7 city grid which you (as a police officer) must patrol by visiting the maximum possible number of visitable squares, using QAOP keys. However, your own path through the city (suitably marked by a thick blue line) and also a small number of obstacles both block your progress onwards. Each level shows a number between 0-4 beneath the city grid. This represents the number of grid squares that are permitted to remain unvisited at the end of the level. Complete a level and it will satisfyingly become marked with a '*' character on the screen and you will automatically enter the next city grid.
What makes your task non-trivial is the fact that when you move in a certain direction, you keep on moving that way until you hit an obstacle or the edge of the city.

You can select any of the 100 levels simply by typing a two-digit level number in directly at any time during play. This is a nice touch meaning you can attempt the levels in any order you please. Again, like many puzzle games the underlying premise sounds simple enough yet can be fiendishly challenging. I don't know why, but some levels seemed relatively easy to me, yet for many of them I just could not see the solution for a long time, often in excess of an hour. I can't even put into words the nature of the skill you need to complete some of the levels, but perhaps a flash of inspiration to try completely new routes out now and again really helps the more determined player along.

Also, it's very easy to remain locked in a "closed mind" attitude, repeatedly retrying failed routes out of frustration. The player should avoid this behaviour whenever possible!

The game also allows (via SYMSHIFT-S) showing of the solution of the currently active level if you are really stuck. However, I personally prefer not to use this feature as I feel it would diminish the achievement of completing the game. Therefore I didn't use it whilst actually playing.

Colour scheme is a pleasingly light yellow and green background. The game is silent but of course this is largely irrelevant in a puzzle game and the code was designed to fit in 1K of code so space is very tight. For me, the impressive aspect of this game is that 100 levels were fitted into it and also the sheer number of entertaining playing-hours I got out of it.

Don't take lightly the task of completing this title though. If you want to complete all 100 levels then you'll be in for a significant mental challenge, quite probably spanning a few days!