Better than clockwork

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CRYSTALLOGRAPHY is a fun subject. No, really it is. Packed with useful and everyday concepts such as Burger Vectors and Peierls-Nabarro Stresses. It's riveting reading for insomniacs.
This gem of a subject (wit, or what!) doesn't exactly spring to mind as the plot for a particularly mindless shoot-'em-up, but Firebird has tried.

What has happened is somewhere, somehow, a crystal lattic has come over all unstable. This has been deemed a Bad Thing, so a suitable bozo has been found (viz, you)., plonked in a small space fighter and shrunk down to be small enough to fit into the crystal.

To get a rough idea of the required size, think of the weeny side of very, very tiny, and then some. Even now, you're still out by a couple of hundred angstroms, which are nothing to do with what a depressed artificially intelligent system might have. A rouge nucleus is causing all the trouble.

It's big enough - relatively, of course - to cause you real problems with your standard issue weapon, so you must stroll about the nucleus, blasting open quarks to capture the valuable neutrinos inside.

Now a neutrino is an incredibly small and fast thing. Travelling through the Earth doesn't cause a neutrino to even blink. But that's only in real life. Once you're caught enough of them in Quartz you can use them to synthesize new and more destructive weapons.

The nucleus does its level best to get rid of you with an orbiting electron cloud. The more you shoot the nucleus, the faster it spins. Until it splits. Once the nucleus is destroyed, you fly off via an enormous change of scale, through a meteor storm to the next crystal.

Quartz has been put together by Paul Shirley, he wrote the 8 bit classics Spindizzy (clever) and Mission Genocide (violent). All his games have some feature that's neat. The new thing in Quartz is a multi-level scroll, with shadows between and above levels, and a parallax starrfield behind it all. The actual play area is small, and the screen is shorter than it has any right to be, but the effect is generally quite neat.

The tune is palatable too, if you haven't had too much of electropop already. There is but one problem. This type of game, though fun and well presented, can't really justify its £25 price point, especially since some companies are trying to release bearable games for a fiver.

Quartz is certainly good. The lattice level is strongly reminiscent of Sinistar, while the meteor storm hit tastes of every scroller you've ever played, so it isn't exactly original.