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Squirm

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Released: 1985

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Commodore 16/Plus4

Publisher: Mastertronic

Developer: Tony Kelly

Submitted by: Clarance Frank

This game makes me ill. Soon after playing Squirm I had the first (and the worst) hallucinogenic experience of my life.  A truly terrifying coded hell was induced by Squirm, I had a couple of days off school because of it, and even now when I play this game there are flashbacks aplenty. Seriously – this game has some very strange properties that make me feel distinctly queasy.

Now although this game has a strange voodoo hold on me, it’s actually very playable. Squirm is a weird cross between Pac-man and Centipede. Your character whizzes around a multitude of mazes collecting eggs laid by the Queen Squirm. Touch the Queen, or any of the ‘worker squirms’ that assist her, and the maze collapses in on itself, you die, and the squirms will become trapped by the rubble at the bottom of the screen (although they still grin out to you, mocking your feeble abilities that have left them doomed). There is also a constant fear that all will fade to black – you must keep your ‘light power’ topped up by capturing small glow-worms that dart about the maze. You’ll know when your light is running out as an incessant banshee-wail repeats at a faster and faster rate until all becomes obscured. Collect a set number of eggs to progress to the ‘bonus run’, where your character can fly around the maze leaving a point-scoring dirty rainbow-trail in its wake. Then it’s on to the next level – and there are lots of levels, with 24,480 different ones being claimed on the attract screen.

I would really like to give this game more play time – unfortunately I simply cannot experience Squirm for more than ten minutes without feeling terribly uneasy. Maybe it’s the garishly designed mazes, maybe it’s the horribly tinny music, or maybe it’s the inane grinning of the squirms coupled with the screeching sound effects. Whatever it is, it genuinely makes me ill, which is a big shame because I can see that Squirm is a very playable game, and vastly superior to the Commodore 64 version. Getting flashbacks now… have to stop…