Rex is a smashing, fairly unknown platform shooter that was released for Amstrad, Commodore and Spectrum by the generally hit-and-miss Martech in 1988. The CPC version is so-so, unfortunately suffering from the MODE 0 swamp-speed blockiness that afflicted so many titles for that machine. I've not yet played the Commodore version, having only just discovered there is one by looking for screenshots this morning!
The Spectrum version however is sublime. The rather flimsy plot (but then, who needs any more?) sees you take Rex, a battle-armoured walking rhino, through an underground human installation. I assume some sort of oppression is taking place, as its your job to kill as many of the humans as you can while you make your way to the heart of their operations.
The first thing that will strike you about the game is the colour - full use of the Spectrum's limited palette has been put to use, with mottled red and purple caves, splattered with clumps of green vegetation. This contrasts with the white and cyan industrial machinery and railway lines. The second thing to hit you is the sheer detail in all the characters - your range of enemies is pretty comprehensive - and the animation is wonderful.
The best example of this is when you shoot a human soldier - they fall back under the weight of your gunfire, being peppered backwards until you stop, then they explode. Add this to rotating gun turrets, freight trains that you can immobilise by taking out the driver, armoured skull machines and some bizarre organic concoctions later on in the game, and you've got a nicely varied killfest!
Rex has many other strengths though - the map through the human installation has several different routes, indicated by arrows at the side of each screen. I've found five different paths thus far, but my favourite remains the railway line route. The game is also split into two parts, originally stored on opposite sides of the cassette. I don't know how much of the game I've yet to see, but I imagine it's a biggie. A password revealed at the end of Part 1 will allow you access to the rest of the game.
When you start the game, you are armed with a basic blaster, which is effective, but slow going for the better armoured enemies. You also have three smart bombs, which can be used to clear an entire screen. As you progress you'll come across brightly coloured rocket ships (you'll see one on the second screen) - enter these and you'll recieve additional weapons. However, you can't use these without collecting enough energy bubbles, which are dropped by enemies when you kill them. Pick up enough and you'll be able to access your arsenal, but keep your levels topped up before you decrease back down to the blaster. It's a strange system but it certainly keeps you busy.
You are also armed with a force field, which you can activate at any time. When this is in effect, it drains your shield's power at a fairly steady pace, but if you should collide with anything, it'll drop that much quicker. You can recharge your shield by standing on the flat green pads you'll come across through the game.
Also worth mentioning (although they don't seem so relevant in these days of state saving!) are the gateways you'll come across. You teleport in on one, and whenever you see another, you can stand in it for a few seconds to record your position. Should you die, you'll rematerialise at the last point you recorded. Make sure you stand in it for a good couple of seconds (and be sure the little knobs on the gates are spinning, otherwise you're not doing it right).
So, straining under all these weapons, features and utilities, how does a game written for a computer with a keyboard stand up on the GP32? Actually very well - with the Kempston joystick selected from the menu (and on the FZX32 emulator don't forget to map the joystick to Sinclair 1 on the Systems Option menu), the controls are as follows:
UP - Jump
LEFT and RIGHT - movement
DOWN - Activate / deactivate shield
A - Fire
B - Smart Bomb
As far as I've progressed, that's certainly all I've needed.
If I was going to raise any criticisms with the game, then I suppose the sound is a little lacklustre (although perfectly serviceable). The jumping is also a little too pixel-perfect at times for my liking. The 'mystery bonus' question marks you can pick up don't seem to be much help either, having a 50% chance of being something negative.
Since its original release in 1988, fan remakes have been made available for Windows and also Gameboy Advance - unfortunately the PC version doesn't run on Windows XP, so I've not been able to try it, and the GP32 GBA emulator won't run the latter.
In conclusion then, a very stylish platformer that combines the wow-factor of Turrican with the eye for detail of Myth, with all the silky smooth playability you could hope for.
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