Stela II - The Secrets of Doctor Malfario - Steve Trower's latest review of a new ZX Spectrum game

When our illustrious editor said he was sending round a Stella or two, I was fully expecting a Christmas bonus fresh from the Artois brewery in Belgium. Obviously he realised that wouldn't make for a particularly relevant review, so instead I got Stela II, fresh from La Moderna software house in Spain.

Stela II is, in fact, a new puzzle/maze game in which your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to guide Doctor Malfario through five different worlds and back to his comfy mansion. The back story, apart from presumably involving Stela I, is explained to you by way of a small but perfectly formed pixel art intro - at least in as much as to say it involves the spacecraft Stela, time travel, parallel universes, and suchlike...

In order to get Doctor Malfario home you must, in theory at least, navigate the pixel-sized Stela through increasingly complex and puzzle-filled mazes at about a million miles per hour, like some monstrous hyperactive variant of Snake.

The main game graphics are... a little strange, at least after a couple of imported lagers, but they do the job, albeit at times with a degree of pixel perfection that would drive Matthew Smith manic. Admittedly, there is the turtle power up which allows you to slow down for a few seconds, but invariably runs out at the most inopportune moment, catching you off guard like when you get your shoelace caught on your accelerator pedal. There's also some light relief provided by a little mini game, perfect for when your Tempus getting a little frayed and you want to say Fugit.

Unfortunately my reflexes have proven insufficient to get me out of Pink World so far, but from the screenshots released by the creator it looks like there is a Pac-Man inspired world, and one with a maze occupied by weirdly cute Imperial Stormtroopers.

It's probably slightly less addictive than European beer, but could well leave you with a bigger headache. But don't take my word for it, you can download it free here.

Review by Steve Trower

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