Well Nym I hope you’ve enjoyed your childhood as in a few days you’ll be an adult and be responsible for all ‘adulty’ things such as getting a job, finding love, paying bills and becoming cynical about everything around you. But before you get to be an adult, your going to first complete a challenge. You see from our world the transition from childhood to adulthood is marked by a rite of passage that requires you to go through Rubicon, the diabolical maze where you need to find the five Scrolls of Knowledge, the three crowns of Wealth, the Argus Ring and Amulet of Light. Only then will the Guardian allow you to enter adulthood and find your true love.
Rubicon for the ZX Spectrum is a flick screen exploration game that sees you take control of Nym as he enter a fiendish labyrinth that will test your puzzle solving skills and joystick control abilities to the extreme as you find ways to traverse across the maze collecting all the requisite items that will allow you to complete the game. The game features an extensive array of hazards, some of which will result in instant death upon coming in contacts, while others will drain your energy count. Some of these hazards can be quite frustrating to get around, especially where they require specific timing to duck into a small nook to get past as the hit detection between Nym and the maze environment requires precision to be lined up perfectly in order to maneuver your character through.
To help alleviate some of the frustration of getting around the maze, picking up a knowledge scroll will result in the passing of amusing wisdom such as how to make the perfect cup of tea or praising the existing of Sir Clive Sinclair and it is at this point you start to appreciate the game’s charm, quaint as it might be.
Some of the paths forward within the maze are initially blocked and you will have to locate access cards to get through, others will require you to pick up immunity shields to help you get passed ‘non-instant death enemies’ without losing your energy count. At times you will expend energy and lives through a path that leads to a dead end and it is at this point to start to appreciate the game play on offer and its addictive values. As you become familiar with the maze layout with every incremental game, the more you are motivated to see the game through to its conclusion.
Rubicon is a very colourful game with the cute Nym character well defined. Overall, there is not much really going on graphically with the game and the sound effects will be sure to grate on your nerves. Luckily, the music soundtrack on the 128K version is quite melodic and the general game play on offer more than compensates.
Rubicon has recently received a physical release via Bitmap Soft. This version of the game differs slightly to the original free digital version in that it has been tweaked slightly to make it slightly less difficult to play by removing some of the hazards from the maze.
Rubicon is a good example of not judging a book based on first impressions. What initially looks like a frustrating and average looking/sounding game blossoms into a rewarding experience for those that enjoy the exploration type genre though this will not be a game you will go back to once completed.
Digital Download: Rucksack Games
Physical Cassette: Bitmap Soft
What starts off as a frustrating introduction gives way to a charming and addictive exploration game that gets better with every play but may become repetitive for some.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Contributes to RetroGamerNation YouTube channel, RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Reset 64 Magazine, The 8-Bit Annual and various other publications.