HELLO. I WANT YOU TO PAUSE AFTER I COUNT YOU DOWN, AND
RECOMMENCE PLAYING AT THE SCREEN'S REQUEST! FIVE - FOUR
- THREE - TWO - ONE - PAUSE!
evening, after tea and compulsory prayers, the last
mouse tried to hide from Mankind, inside the Machine.
Just before it dies, as the nerve-gas eased its sphincter,
the last mouse dropping caused a slight accident You
may control the progress of this Accident, on my behalf,
and with my permission, and lead it up the telepath.
starts a game which can only be described as different.
What makes it different is the game idea in which you
control the progress of an accident as it grows, learns
and develops into a human being, and eventually dies.
Throughout the game you are given a percentage score
which gets higher and lower as the game proceeds. Deus
Ex Machina is unique, as much of a milestone in
computer history as The Hobbit with its graphics,
because this game has a synchronised sound track! The
cassette case contains two tapes. One is the computer
game -- two games, one on each side -- and the other
is the sound track, also on either side. The sound track
-- once -- synchronised plays all the while the computer
program is running.
sound is of very high quality and stars Ian Dury, Jon
Pertwee, Donna Bailey, Frankie Howerd, Edward Thompson
and Mel Croucher (Automata). In addition there is music
with a distinctly Automata-ish feel to it, but it is
definitely more serious in tone than usual!
game is not 'fun' in the usual sense, it's more of an
experience. Next follows a brief description of each
of the stages in the game.
the screen's a stage, and all the men and women merely
players. They have their exits and their entrances and
one person in their time plays many parts, their act
being seven ages.
first the infant mewling in the test tube's neck . .
stage of life consists of seven sub-games in which you
help create a baby (it's okay, all quite tastefully
done -- well fairly anyway). The machine (the central
controlling force of the UK), which rebels after witnessing
the accident (which is wonderfully animated), does most
of the work by stealing an egg. The graphics are quite
good here, as all the time the Defect Police (Frankie
Howerd) are out to get you because you are a defect,
as was the mouse.
the whining School Child, with cassette and shining
morning face creeping like a snail unwillingly to databank
. . .
stage consists of only one game in which the Defect
Police must track you, for that is their function. When
you are caught, you use your powers to parry their psycho-probes.
Throw up your shield, move it clockwise and anti-clockwise
to protect your entombed and revolving form. The graphics
are interesting and work especially well on 'yourself'.
This part is awe-inspiring and the sound track, as ever,
is well performed.
then the Lover, sighing like a furnace, with a woeful
video made to their lovers' hologram . . .
stage is similar to the last in which you must touch
the lips with your cursor (!) as they approach your
body; later on eyes replace the lips. As a game, this
stage is quite easy and it is the last program on side
one. The graphics are intriguing, with the sensuous
movements of the lips and the hypnotic track by Donna
Bailey as The Machine. At this stage you turn over both
tapes, reload and re-synchronise side 2.
a Soldier, full of strange oaths. Jealous in honour,
sudden and quick in quarrel, seeking hi-score, even
in the laser's mouth . . .
you are grown and as Frankie Howerd intones the chant,
'War crimes are easy', the ground moves under your feet
and pitfalls appear over which you must jump. After
a while the action changes and mental tortures sear
down on you. You must protect yourself by raising the
telepathic shields and reflecting the blasts. At last
The Fertiliser (Ian Dury) says, 'Killing is wrong, even
pretend killing on little screens. And people that sell
violent games to children should be put away somewhere
safe, 'til they yet well again.' At which point The
Machine rebels against the Defect Police.
the justice, in fair round belly, with eyes severs and
clothes of formal cut. Full of wise words and machine
code . . .
you are shown, fat and slow, your empire behind you.
Words appear on the ground coming towards you. The words
are mixed up, some good and some evil and some connected
with evil. You must jump over the good and stomp on
Sixth Age shifts into the lean and slippered pantaloon.
With spectacles on nose, their youthful clothes well
saved, a world too wide for their shrunken shank. And
their adult speech synthesiser turning again towards
a childish trebble, piping and whistling in its sound.
see your character old and broken. You must trace his
life is expressed as a percentage score. The screen
switches and you must split up the blood cells so they
do not clot.
the screen changes and again you must trace the heartbeat.
So it goes on until death and the end -- of the beginning.
scene of all, that ends this strange, eventful history,
is Second Childishness, and mere oblivion. Without keyboard,
without monitor, without power supply . . .
Ex Machina is not for people who want a straightforward
shoot em up because it simply isn't that sort of game.
In many senses it isn't a game at all, although there
are humourous little games within its scope. It becomes
an experience, aided by the hypnotic sound track and
the emotive words. In fact it's hard to decide whether
this is an extension of the computer video game by music,
or an extention of the 'concept album' by the addition
of games playing. In the end it doesn't really matter
-- Deus Ex Machina is a noble development idea,
which points towards a new understanding of what can
be done with computer games. It isn't perfect, but it
is a lot more fun than the idea might at first sound.
The graphics throughout are always interesting, and
sometimes absolutely excellent. The sound track is produced
to a high level of quality, so much so, that together
with its content, it's alone worth a considerable chunk
of the price.
may be over a year old now, but Deus Ex Machina is
as fresh and original today in its Commodore reincarnation
as it was when it first appeared on the Spectrum.
don't inherit the Earth from our ancestors.
borrow it from our children.
if we could begin out little life all over again.
Imagine if it was all nothing more than some electronic
Imagine if I knew then what I know now.
What did you learn?
I can't quite remember, but I'll try and be better next
time . . .
by Robin Candy & Roger Kean