Quazatron (Hewson Consultants, 1986)
Ah, Quazatron. I'm rather drunk as I write this so it may need redoing later, but I don't want to break the unbroken chain this close to the end of the calendar. Suffice it to say that I spent most of this afternoon playing this again when I should have been tidying the house up ready for some event or other that's happening tomorrow.
You play a robot, KLP2, tasked with subverting and destroying all of society, armed with nothing more than what you can steal from your betters. You can just shoot them, but you start with pretty much a peashooter, and the only way to get a better gun, or indeed better speed, power, strength, or sundries such as shields, is to switch to grapple mode, bump into a victim and outwit them in a battle of, erm, wits.
Almost always outgunned by your opponent, you have to ensure the balance of power tilts in your favour by zapping the colour bars in the middle of the screen, taking into account splitters, dividers, reinforcements and traitorous blobs. Picking the right side in a split second is three quarters of the battle, then you just have to carry out your nefarious plans. The more convincing your victory, the more parts you can steal - win by a single block and you'll probably find they're all burned out.
Without this part of the game, Quazatron would be a pretty simplistic run and shoot game; with it it becomes a strategic shooter par excellence. There are 32 different robot classes, from the lowly X9 up to AB and A1, and the lower you delve in the city the higher class you're likely to meet and die to. These robots provide 8 different drive units, 8 power units, 6 weapons, 8 chassis and 6 extras, leaving you to work your way up through the ranks, upgrading as you go, while keeping an eye out for ranks that bat above their pay grade - the humble X8 for example, which contains the Gravitonic Mk 2 drive unit that is found nowhere else in the bottom 12 ranks and isn't bettered outside of the top 12, or the midrange B6 unit which has an autocannon otherwise only found in the elite ranks.
Of course, everything you do takes energy, and if your power unit can't cope you'll soon suffer the same fate as if you'd lost a grapple, with all interfaced parts burning out and your defaults in dire need of a quick recharge or replacement before it's game over time. Energy pads will recharge you, but onyl sometimes (I never did work out quite why, although once you've cleared a floor it certainly pays to get out of Dodge as soon as you can.) Multi-level floors are shown on the map with a dividing line, forcing you to travel up or down and find another transport tube to mop up the remainder. Clear all floors and another city awaits - I think I did this once, back in the day; I certainly got nowhere near today. Simply immense.