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Supaplex – expect to be challenged, frustrated and rewarded
Supaplex was one of the first PC games I ever played. When I found it on the internet I downloaded it immediately and began collecting Infotrons almost as fast. Its based on Boulder Dash. As player, you control Murphy, a round, red, roughly circular entity who fits snugly into one square unit of game space. Murphy scoots along, at your command, merrily gobbling up circuit board in bites a single square unit in size, a la Pac-man, in search of Infotrons. Once the required number of Infotrons has been collected (it can be anything from five to hundreds in any particular level), you must direct Murphy to the level exit (orange, with a white letter ‘E’ emblazoned on it, one square unit in size).
Hazards and helps
Murphy faces a number of hazards. Most common among these are so-called Zonks, heavy round balls (one square unit in size) which can destroy Murphy by falling on him, and can block passages or bury Infotrons, making it impossible to complete a level, if they are not handled carefully. Quite a few levels depend on tightly controlling the formation of Zonk-piles. Murphy also encounters Bugs, flashing sparks in circuit board which zap him. Probably the most dangerous are Snik Snaks, nefarious pairs of scissors, one square unit in size, which charge about in empty space, often in packs. Thankfully they follow a regular path which is easy to work out, although in large numbers and in a large space, their motion becomes unpredictable, and can be destroyed by dropping Zonks onto them. Murphy will find Utility Disks in some levels. These come in three varieties – orange, red and yellow. The oranges ones are the most common. They simply fall if there is empty space beneath them, exploding on impact. The red ones can be carried and dropped anywhere, exploding a few seconds after being dropped. The yellow ones can be shunted around, do not fall, and must be detonated remotely at a Terminal. Utility disks are used to blast holes in walls to reach new areas in a level.
Pros and cons
Supaplex is long and difficult. You cannot save within a level, and some of the 111 levels are extremely challenging. Most levels will require multiple attempts. That said, it is extremely satisfying when you finally manage to complete a string of complicated manoeuvres and guide Murphy to the end of a long puzzle with enough Infotrons. The challenges are remarkably varied, given the small number of entities which the game consists of. The designers combined them creatively, producing puzzles which test logic, manual dexterity and (admittedly rudimentary) physical intuition. 111 levels is perhaps too many (I’m only on 49) but thankfully you can skip up to three at any given time, allowing you to put some of the more exasperating levels on hold. The controls are simple and responsive, and what frustrations you do experience will not be due to unresponsive controls (which, according to Wikipedia, plague similar Boulder Dash clones), but due to the puzzles themselves.
I recommend Supaplex to anyone who enjoys a challenging puzzle game. You will need to be patient and persevering, but can expect some satisfaction. I have also added a level which I built in the Content section. Inspired by a famous historical mathematics problem, I recommend that CGN offer a lifetime Premium membership to anyone who can solve it.