Living Guide to Spectrum Software


‘Oh no, it wasn’t the aeroplanes — it was Beauty killed the Beast,’ says the man at the end of the film King Kong. As television is said to have killed off the cinema, arcade games are said to be killing off television, but good ideas cross all the barriers, so it’s no surprise to see the famous Ape still going strong in the arcades.

Kong games are perhaps the best known of the platform games, but there are quite a few other types, all characterised by the need to climb ever higher either by jumping or climbing ladders and usually both. As with most arcade games joysticks are usually a help to higher scores.

Producer: Blaby, 48K £5.50
Author: G Capewell
Sound and graphics are strong points of Blaby games and this maddening sesame seed bun of a game is no exception from its delightful titlecard onwards. You’re presented with four platforms with the various elements of three hamburgers suspended from them. The task is to walk your chef over the ingredients which drops them level by level until they make up complete burgers: burger, cheese, lettuce and top half of the bun in that order. This would all be very simple were it not for the fried egg and two sausages which dog your footsteps. A blast of pepper will hold them up but there are only five blasts per life. The chef can move up and down the platforms using the ladders, but so can the pursuers. Each screen provides you with more eggs and sausages to chase. Three lives with points scored by releasing segments of the ingredients or squashing eggs and sausages between the falling burger bits. Addictive. Joystick: AGF or Protek and Kempston. Recommended.

Producer: Procom, 16K £5.50(1)
Author: David James
A bunch of five earthlings are trapped on a space station by loads of aliens. You must get them safely down through the floors to five airlocks at the bottom. At first you have only one monster to contend with, but as you go along, more and more appear. Each floor has a moving ‘lift’ through which you descend. The animation and detail are very good and the game gets extremely difficult. Our reviewers thought this was a winner. Cursor keys or E,S,D,X (which is a silly arrangement). Joystick: Kempston, Fuller, AGF & Protek. 5 lives, well over 10 screens, good sound. CRASH rating: 78% M/C.

Producer: Quicksilva, 48K £6.95 (1)
Author: Indescomp
One of the most colourful and maddeningly addictive games of the pre-Christmas period, ‘Bugaboo’ boasts feature film titles and an engaging hero in the flea. Bugaboo has fallen into a deep gorge and must hop his way out, by leaping from ledge to ledge. The strength of leap is determined by releasing the key when the bar indicator at the bottom of the screen reaches the desired level. As it moves extremely fast, this is not an easy task. The gorge is swamped with vegetation which gets in the way, and there’s an appalling yellow dragon which pops up and eats Bugaboo. 2 keys control left/right hops and the cursors scroll the screen. Excellent, colourful graphics with very smooth movement, good sound and highly recommended. No joystick option. CRASH rating: addictive qualities 90%, overall 91% M/C.

Producer: A+F, 48K £7.90 (2)
Author: N Alderton
Some games seem on the surface to be no different to other games of the same type, and yet manage in some hard to define way to be great. Chuckie Egg is one. In most respects very similar to ‘Donkey Kong’, you must guide your egg collector over many varied levels of platform, taking the eggs and avoiding the vengeful hens. Ladders connect the various levels and there are also lifts to negotiate. An element of strategy creeps in as you progress through the screens, as you find the best way round the screen to get at the eggs, often in very awkward places. The graphics are very good, smooth and responsive — some of the best jumping in any game. It gets to be addictive and frustrating. Excellent user-definable keys, works with most joysticks, good sound and progressive skill levels. The only drawback is the rather high price, but this game shouldn’t disappoint. Features speech with the Fuller Box and games for between 1 and 4 players. Overall CRASH rating 80% m/c.

Producer: Ocean, 16K £5.90
Digger Dan is armed only with a spade. He must dig holes in the four levels of platforms, using the ladders to get up and down. Four monsters chase him around, hopefully upending in the holes, which he promptly fills in to kill them. There are safe spots at the end of each platform but he can’t linger because the oxygen’s running out. An oxygen bottle appears from time to time but getting at it can be difficult. If the screen is cleared it returns with fresh and slightly more clever beasts. Only one screen and speed, but the graphics are smooth and nicely animated. Dan can jump down through the holes too, useful in a tight spot. The control key positions are sensible, but with six of them, a bit of a handful. Reasonable value for money.

Producer: Temptation, 16K £5.95
Author: Neil Streeter
Despite the title this is a Kong game — the only one in 16K for the Spectrum, but sadly it shows. The animation is very poor and limited, the characters are small and the movement is jerky and ill-defined. There is a falling oxygen level for a time limit, but it appears to reach zero and stay there without ending the game. Control keys are badly placed with 1/zero for jump left/right, 5/8 walk left/right and 7 for up. Another irritation is that there is only one life and one skill level. Joystick: none. CRASH rating: 35%

Producer: Blaby, 48K £5.50 (1)
You’re Ernie, an old lag just broken out of prison. In the first screen you must escape from the prison compound, avoiding the guards and their torches, get through the opening and closing gates and into a life of crime in the second screen. This is a nightmare of platforms, littered with Hitachi stereos and other valuable goodies to be collected, but the screen is dissected vertically by 6 gates which ride up and down the screen, all out of time with each other. Once committed, Ernie cannot stop until he gets to the other side and climbs up a level. There’s also a mean copper on the loose who, if he catches Ernie, sends him to the bottom of the screen after beating him up! Timing is the essence in this very difficult and attractive looking game. Not one for beginners! Sensible control keys, joystick: Kempston, reasonably smooth compiled machine code. CRASH rating: overall 77% recommended.

Producer: Britannia, 48K £5.95
This is a lively game with attractive graphics and is really a variation on the Jumping Jack theme. Here the platforms are more solid looking and the holes open and close at random. Unlike Jumping Jack you can use the hold key to make your man hover over the holes. The various monsters jump down through the holes which makes timing an important feature of the game. On level three the Green Grinner appears, bouncing up and down, happily oblivious of the platforms or holes. Britannia is a relatively new company, so it’s nice to be able to say that both their games (Stomping Stan in this section is the other) are very playable and good value.

Producer: Imagine, 16K £5.50
Author: Albert Ball
At first sight the extremely simple graphics might be a disappointment — but this is a classic game. Jack’s stick figure is beautifully animated. The platforms are merely thin black lines. At first there are only two holes, one moving down level by level, and one moving up similarly. Each successful jump creates another hole, so it gets frustratingly difficult to progress. Should Jack fall down a hole he lies stunned, if he falls through two he’s out for even longer. If he falls all the way to the bottom he loses a life. Getting right to the top results in a line from a poem — you have to collect the rest of the lines, but the poem isn’t the real reward in this game — it’s playing the game. Subsequent levels add more monsters which must be avoided by using the wrap around screen. By the time you’re dealing with twenty holes and six monsters it’s a nut house. Quite simply one of the most addictive games around and excellent value for money. Joystick: Fuller, Kempston.

Producer: Phipps Associates, 48K £5.95 (2)
This, despite its name, is a ‘Kong’ game. Only here it is an evil black knight who has kidnapped your girlfriend. In all respects it plays like a ‘Kong’ game with barrels to jump, holes to jump, ladders to climb and soon. There is an umbrella to be used once per life or screen to help break a fall through a hole. The jumping action is highly finicky and difficult to time and unfair where there are three barrels in a row to be jumped. Graphics are small although bright and clean looking, but not much use of colour. An above average, difficult game, but in the end not very playable for long. 3 screens, 4 lives, 1 skill level. Overall CRASH rating 64% m/c.

Producer: Blaby, 48K £5.50
This is a very fine version with excellent graphics and plenty of screen variation. The detail is first class as well with neat animation. Mario’s girlfriend shouting for help but rewarding the successful climb with big kisses. Features lifts, trampolines, long narrow passages requiring expert timing to get through, a fairly butch looking Kong and probably the best sound on any program available. Joystick: Kempston or AGF & Protek. Recommended.

Producer: Ocean, 48K £5.90
Author: Paul Owens
Ocean’s Kong is a pleasing version too, with chunky graphics starting with Kong stomping up the screen and thumping the girders into position. The animation is good with fast and positive movement. Here, the objects tend to come tumbling down the ladders, whereas in the Blaby version the platforms are more broken up and barrels etc drop off the ends of the platforms. So it’s a little unfair to make lining up the man on the ladders such a critical business. Features a hammer which can knock out a few barrels. Keyboard positions are okay. Joystick: Kempston. Generally good value, but did we detect a tendency for the barrels to anticipate death? Five screens.

Producer: Bug-Byte, 48K £5.95
This is the best platform game around, in fact it’s probably the best arcade game for the Spectrum. From the moment the full colour title blasts onto the screen accompanied by what sounds like the massed Coldstream Guards band, it’s all wonderful. An amazing demo mode takes you through endless levels to whet the appetite. Control keys are simple; left/right/jump, and it seems incredible that Bug-Byte managed to pack so much animated detail into one 48K program. You must take Willie the Miner through the warrens of a long abandoned robot-worked mine beneath Surbiton, collecting keys at each level in order to proceed to the next. Jumping up the platforms is easy — avoiding the slime, poisonous pansies and manic mining robots is not. Some platforms collapse when you tread on them, but forward planning lets you use these on your way back down to the portal. Excellent quality all round and top notch value. Highly recommended.

Producer: Softek, 16K £5.95
Author: Martin Lewis
Above the flickering fires of hell are six platforms connected by eight ladders. Your man has a hammer with which he can knock holes in the platforms for monsters to fall through, or he can bang them on the head with it. All the while the power drain is enormous — visiting the flickering crosses replenishes it, but they move once used, so you can’t just hammer holes and isolate yourself from the monsters. Kill off 25 of the lesser idiots and the cleverer ghouls appear; ten of those despatched and the Mad Monk’s clones appear. Ghouls must fall three levels to die, clones four, but the next lot can only die in the fires of hell itself. While the graphics are attractive, the lack of screen changes could make the game boring to play after a while and it’s really a no-win game. Nine lives to help, machine code, no joystick option.

Producer: Automata, 16K £6.00 (1)
Author: S Curtis
Automata aren’t noted for bringing out arcade games, but true to the company’s mad hatter image, Morris is loopy and original. It’s also a very good arcade game. Morris (a car) is shut in a nightmarish concrete multi-storey car park with several ramps connected by two creaky lifts. The car park is full of hazards like tyre clamps, tin tacks, parking fees and carbon monoxide fumes, all of which make Morris feel very sick. Worst of all are the kamikaze bikers of the title, who roar around the place. Morris has a weapon — a magic horn. You must make him travel the car park to collect enough coins to be able to get through the exit barrier. Unpaid-for exits result in sudden death. Should you succeed there are eight more car parks, each worse than the other. A dubious bonus is the hit single ‘Leader of the Pac’ on the reverse side of the tape by Lady Sinclive and Pimen. User-defined control keys, joystick: Kempston or AGF & Protek via user-defined cursors. A good game with an overall CRASH rating of 74%.

Producer: Mikrogen, 16K
Panic is a standard digger-filler game, where you rove several floors with your spade trying to clean up the monsters by digging holes for them to fall into. A neat touch is that you must reach them quickly and batter them to death or they change colour and get out of the hole, which means you must mash em up through two holes before they die. The going gets tougher as you progress. Not bad and reasonably addictive.

Producer: Britannia, 48K £5.95
This is a three-part game, which starts off with moving platforms through which you must jump up when a hole appears above you, avoiding the monsters, some of whom are on their way down. When you reach the top platform collect the four keys to reach the next screen. This is a static maze populated by robots who are out to get you the moment you enter. Collect another four keys, which promptly takes you to a more complex platform game with bigger monsters and holes that open and close when you’re not expecting them to. Good graphics, positive controls and fun to play with a fairly high addiction rating. Joystick: Kempston.

Producer: Abacus, 16K £5.95
Author: Andrew Blackburn
As its name suggests, this is a Panic style dig-dug game, where you roam the platforms with your pick-axe, digging holes for the monsters to fall in. When they do, you dash up and bonk them on the head, killing them. If you fail to reach them in time they get out. Ladders connect the various levels and as well as going up you can jump the monsters. Our reviewers thought it was too simple a version to interest experts, especially as the 5 screens provide little increase in difficulty and there are only three monsters to contend with, but it is attractively animated and probably very good for younger players. Coming from Abacus, its simplicity is surprising as their games are usually fiendishly hard to play. Cursor keys, joystick: AGF or Protek, average sound, but good value with a free game on the reverse. CRASH rating 62% M/C.