FACES (TRIS III) Well, the Russians did it. They dismantled their bombs and lulled us into a state of false confidence, and then, when we least expected it, unleased Alexey Pajitnov and won World War III without firing a single shot. Now, every computer jockey in the country is too busy playing TETRIS and WELLTRIS to be programming missile tracking systems. To insure their victory, we now have FACES (aka TRIS III), the final nail in the coffin of Western society: Just as we feared, FACES is every bit as addictive as Pajitnov's previous games. (This review is based on the IBM-PC version.) Once again, the concept is simple: Falling pieces are placed by the player in a certain arrangement. Place them correctly and a space is cleared off so that you may keep playing. Place them wrong, and the screen gradually fills up until the game is over. Only this time, instead of abstract geometric shapes, it's (you guessed it) faces. Imagine a playing field five "spaces" wide. Slowly dropping from the top of the screen are two pieces of faces, side by side, separated by a space. Faces are divided into five rectangles: chin, lips, nose, eyes and "top." You may move these pieces from side to side (but only to a limited extent), swap the two pieces, or see what's on the reverse side. That's because, although you get points for any face, the game comes with sixty faces, and when you make a "perfect" face, it's worth more points. Feel free to mix and match, though; you earn fewer points, but some of the faces you wind up with are worth it! Completing ten faces moves you up a level, or you may hit the "+" key at any time. Drop a piece into an incorrect spot, and it becomes a slab of marble. The slab is fixed until you complete a new face on top of it, at which point you again have access to the pieces underneath. A row across the top of the screen tells you which "piece" of a face is dropping, and displays a number that indicates whose face it belongs to. FACES has ten difficulty levels; each level brings a new set of faces. Level 0 starts you off with anonymous "Universal Faces," but Level 1 adds World Leaders (Gorbachev, Thatcher, etc.). Other levels incorporate faces from art, science, music, history, and literature, as well as fun fantasy figures, like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Easter Bunny, and Uncle Sam. And in a delightful move, many of the parts of the faces are animated as they drop down: Gorbachev has shifty eyes. (Perhaps a wry bit of political commentary?) You can also choose between "regular" and "advanced" modes; in the latter, pieces drop even faster. Bored with those mugs? FACES will let you load in faces of your own creation. You must have your own graphics program to do so, and it must be one that accepts LBM format files, such as DELUXE PAINT II. FACES provides the needed templates for creating and editing faces. Tired of playing alone? Up to ten players can compete simultaneously, but only by swapping turns. However, if no one will come to your house, you and a friend can hook up via modem (a speed of at least 1200 baud is recommended), and play "head to head." An extra wrinkle is added to this mode for greater challenge: When you complete a perfect face, some or all of your "marble" pieces will be transferred to your opponent's screen. Spectrum HoloByte, the game's distributor, has chosen to ship the IBM version of FACES in a rather odd way that may prove problematic for some users. One 5-1/4" floppy contains the VGA, EGA, and Tandy versions, but it's a high density, 1.2Mb diskette. The second 5-1/4" floppy is a 360K disk, but it only contains the CGA and Hercules versions of the game. The box also includes two 3-1/2" diskettes (both 720K). In any case, the diskettes are not copy-protected, and can be installed on your hard drive (or copied onto another set of floppy diskettes). FACES relies on a manual copy-protection method. In a nice touch, you won't have to waste time matching up pictures from the screen to the printed page: When you're asked to answer a question about a character, you're also given the page on which the answer is found. As mentioned, graphics supported include VGA, EGA, CGA, Tandy, and Hercules. VGA graphics are terrific, with lots of detail and color. Besides the wonderful collection of faces (I love the purple alien with the glowing yellow eyes), the game's "board" changes with every level, displaying pictures of the classroom, a museum, a science lab, and so on. (These backgrounds are optional in CGA and Hercules modes.) If you have an AdLib sound board or the Tandy 1000, each level has its own theme song. If, like me, you're stuck with the PC's tiny internal speaker, all you'll get are sound effects as the faces are completed. The game can be played either from the keyboard or with a joystick. I found the keyboard to be just right. 512K of RAM is required. Well, that's it. I've already spent far too much time away from FACES while telling you about it. I definitely need another fix now. _Da svidanya_, comrades! FACES is published and distributed by Spectrum HoloByte. *****DOWNLOADED FROM P-80 SYSTEMS (304) 744-2253 