Version tested: Retro
Whilst the legendary Elite is most closely associated with the venerable BBC Micro, it was also ported to the Spectrum, swiftly followed by a selection of Elite-esque titles. And, although flying the Cobra Mk. III taught us all how profitable arms sales could be, David Webb's own foray into wire-frame space combat switched killer business instinct for pure, intellectual rigour.
Foolishly entrusted with the only time ship in the universe, Starion players must visit a wide selection of historical eras and restore order to the space/time continuum, which has gone a bit wonky or something. Having selected an area of the universe to put right (space is divided into a 3x3 block, each segment of which is another 3x3 block), prospective time lords must duel with enemy craft and return their stolen cargo to the correct zone. It's a bit like Back to the Future, except instead of Christopher Lloyd it has a spaceship and some word puzzles. Wait ... what?
Yes, in the manner of a Sunday newspaper hastily filling a double-page spread, Starion features anagrams galore. Each vanquished fighter drops a letter, which must be deftly flown through in order to capture it. Once a predetermined number of these have been gathered, they must be correctly arranged to spell a word. Once your Carol Vorderman hat is on securely, you've still to choose the appropriate era to return your newly unscrambled cargo to. Blimey.
The dog-fighting sections are fast, furious and luxuriously smooth. Though obviously owing considerable debt to Elite, their arcadey nature makes for a slightly more accessible blasting session. Far more challenging are the brain-bothering anagrams and historical teasers - but it's hardly fair to knock a title for its educational standards. As a left-field take on the space combat genre, Starion largely spells success.
8 / 10