ALL you have to do to get through Atomix is link a few jolly old atoms together so that they form some jolly old molecules. How? Simple. Just select the atom you want to move with the joystick and shunt it around the screen till it drops into place.
What? You don't remember anything from chemistry lessons? Never mind - we'll give you a piccy of the required molecule in the bottom left corner of the screen, and put letter codes on each atom so there's no need to regret whatever it was you were up to when the rest of the class was paying full and undivided attention.
Well, that's the plot. Even with journalistic embellishments (did you notice?) you could write it on the back of a postage stamp. Literally. Actually playing Atomix, however, is another kettle of dishcloths.
As I mentioned, the main action in this game is the movement of atoms around the screen so that they combine to form molecules. Control of each atom is severely limited, however. Atoms can be "pushed" in a vertical or horizontal direction, and they just keep on trucking till they hit something that, erf well, makes them stop. This is totally frustrating, and in later levels you find yourself planning five, six, even seven moves ahead.
As if this brain mangier isn't enough, each molecule has to be formed within a time limit. The first few time limits seem fairly generous, with a minute to join a couple of oxygens to a hydrogen and form water. But by the time you are trying to form propene on level four you'll be yelling "Stop the clock!"
Of course, the quicker you complete a molecule the more points you score, and points mean extra lives (probably something quantum). Which will come in very handy when you lose the single one you start the game with.
Then there are the mazes. Didn't I mention them? Every molecule has to be completed inside a maze, and there is usually only one place the molecule will fit. So you can expect to spend a good portion of a first attempt at any level working out just where to placc the molecule.
Then, just when you are about to place the last atom, you realise it is stuck in a corner of the maze and its position makes finishing the molecule impossible. Aaargh!
Every five levels you will encounter a bonus level. These often require speedy thinking and fast reactions, but are just different enough from the molecule forming to give your brain a tweak in a new direction. The first bonus screen has you adopting sliding puzzle techniques to arrange nine jars containing different amounts of liquid in order of increasing "fullness".
Atomix even has a two player mode. Both players work on the same screen, one taking over where the other leaves off. You only get 30 seconds each, and its up to you whether you play together to build molecules or tactically to destroy each other's attempts.
So often good games are let down by sound. Atomix has a fabby intro tune - make sure you listen to the whole thing - and some great effects.
Just for the record though, I do have one or two gripes. The main one is that when you're dead, you're dead. Now this is OK in real life, but in a computer game we kinda like passwords to later levels, or save game options. Atomix has neither - which means its back to the beginning every time. Pesky. Especially when the game seems to take ages to load from disk.
My only other gripe is a graphical one. While the colour and graphics are good, they never quite live up to the expectations generated by the intro screens. Still, what do you expect from a mind-bender?
Atomix is without a doubt one of the most frustrating and enjoyable games I've played in a long time. So good is this game that this review only just got written (oops, sorry!). Despite the lack of passwords or save game options, I predict that this will be one of those play, and play, and play again games.
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