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THE 14TH ZX MICROFAIR

Microfair Stands

THE 14TH ZX MICROFAIR was held at Ally Pally on the weekend of 17/18th November.

There was initially a threat of it being overshadowed by the MICROMARKET which originally was scheduled to be held at Ally Pally, but was then moved to the Wembley Conference Centre. The result was a very poor attendance in Wembley and the usual crowd gathering at the ZX FAIR — old habits die slowly (which should please Mike Johnston the organiser). Less positive was the line-up of software houses. Very few of the biggies showed up, most stands being occupied by high street dealers and smaller software houses. Amongst the noteworthy exceptions were DK’tronics with their usual 5th Avenue stand, Automata with their entertaining fairground activities, Fantasy, Microsphere and CCS. Fantasy were displaying their latest hit Backpackers Guide to the Universe, priced at £7.50, which has generated hefty sales figures within the first week of its launch, as Fantasy boss Paul Dyer told me with pleasure. Also just recently out is Drive In, which is another shoot’em up space arcade game selling at £5.50. CCS have no less than 12 new titles lined up. The Prince is a role playing strategy game which has won the Cambridge Award. It costs £7.95. Other strategy games all priced at £5.95 are War Zone, Superpower, Air Defence and Insurgency. Blue Riband is an arcade style strategy game, while Barrow Quest and Mission 1942 cater for the adventure players, again at £5.95 each. Tomb of Akhenaten and Nuke Lear are further games in the ‘Charlie Charlie Sugar’ budget range and are both arcade games costing £2.99 each. Realtime Softwares stand was being run over by arcade freaks trying to get a go at Starstrike, the ultimate Star War game with excellent 3D graphics (price £5.95). ‘We are being flooded with mail orders and distributor enquiries’ Realtime Softwares Andrew Onions said elated. Softstone was making itself heard above the din of the crowd with the excellent tune of Fahrenheit 3000 written by Perfection Softwares Timothy Williams. A sequel is already in preparation. Odyssey 1, Force Fighter and Turtle Timewarp are now being marketed as budget games for £2.99 each. Also available from Softstone is American Football at £6.95 and Word Seeker and Super Bandit as a combo for £2.99.

More Microfair stands

Softstones Tony Knight told me that two further Spectrum arcade/strategy games are being developed. One is based on the Milk Tray TV ad and the other on the Dune novel and soon to be released film, with the player being able to choose more arcade or strategy content during play. At Red Shifts stand I met Chris Shafte, who has moved away from Microdealer UK to become Sales and Marketing Director of Red Shift and seems to be doing an excellent job of it. Just released is City of Dead, a role playing adventure game, and in preparation is the release of The Tripods based on the popular BBC series. It would appear more and more games players are turning to more intelligent and demanding strategy games and Red Shift has an interesting range. Apocalypse is now available as a complete set with 14 different scenarios. Stardreams appeared in force and were displaying their new adventure game The Sandman Cometh priced at £10.95, the presentation including a video ad of the game — a novel approach in this market. After their excellent adventure Waydor (price £7.50) IMS Software are already releasing Ghoulies (nothing to do with football), which hopefully will send you shivers down your spine (price £7.50). William Stuart was demonstrating his speech recognition unit with a lovely Meccano bridge crane, controlling it solely with speech commands and this above the roar of the crowd. The unit will recognise up to ten different commands at any one time, but the library of words can be extended and stored. His new product is Lifeline, a self analysis career counselling program, an interesting piece of software which no doubt CRASH will be reviewing shortly. The price is £14.95. Microsphere were dressed for the occasion in proper school fashion for their excellent Skooldaze (price £5.95). On display was also Skyranger, which is definitely not school material, but should nonetheless tax your intellect (price £5.95). Seeing an Act Apricot Xi at the ZX Fair is rather unusual, but upon investigation the reason becomes apparent. Steve Betts Software offers Crass 80, a Z80 assembler for the Act Apricot to produce machine code to run on the Spectrum with a ZX Interface 1 and Microdrive or any other Z80 system with an RS 232 port. Serious machine code programmers will agree on the many advantages of assembling the code on a separate computer such as the Apricot, but required is obviously a lot of capital with an Apricot and Crass 80, which includes a 3.5 inch floppy disc, a microdrive cartridge and a User Manual and is priced at £95. Among the many add-on keyboards appearing on the market is the MO184 from Mancomp Ltd. Costing £54.95 it has very legible keys, includes extended mode, delete and cursor keys and a numeric pad and provides space for the fully housed ZX Interface 1 and the ZX power supply. Despite the emergence of the Spectrum Plus the market for add-on keyboards should continue for all the many existing Spectrum owners and for those not too keen on the soggy Spectrum Plus key action. Several floppy disc interfaces are already in existence for the Spectrum, but none as complete as the surprise Timex FDD System displayed by Micromatic. It offers a complete operating system with disc and communications facility for the Spectrum and at £225.00 + VAT is competitively priced. The CP/M upgrade option should make it an interesting proposition for small business owners. On display was also a Spectrum keyboard upgrade from Timex with excellent key travel and feel. For the assembly it is necessary to remove the glued metal keyboard mask and the rubber membrane pad from the Spectrum. The new keyboard mechanism is fitted in place and secured with screws. At £14.95 this must be the most cost effective way to improve the standard Spectrum keyboard.

I’M AFRAID OF NO GHOSTS...

Screenshot

The Ghostbusters prepare to zap a slimy greenie — from the C64 version.

No doubt one of the main attractions of the Christmas holidays will be a visit to the cinema to see the new movie Ghostbusters — and if it isn’t on your list, write it down! It opened on the 7th December at 200 cinemas, so there should be one near you. Ghostbusters has become one of the all time top grossers in the States, where it has even beaten the whizz kid Stephen Spielberg at the box office. The film tells the story of three off-beat parasychologists in New York who are thrown out of the university where they teach and so set up a lunatic business to fight paranormal occurrences which are plaguing the city. The hosts come in all shapes, colours and sizes. Fortunately for business, the city is suffering a veritable plague of slimy, food-gobbling greenies, but bigger and fowler things are on the wing. The film culminates in a hysterical showdown with forces from another plane which threaten the very existence of the world.

What makes Ghostbusters a great film is the sense of humour and the special effects.

But more unusually, this is the first time that the movie has been preceded by the computer game. Activision acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to develop and market the game version of Ghostbusters from Columbia Pictures. David Crane of Pitfall I (and II) and Decathlon fame, has been responsible for the design of the game.

The computer game follows the story line of the film quite closely. The object is to avert a ghost invasion of New York and make sure your Ghostbusters survive long enough for the final dramatic showdown at the ‘Temple of Zuul’.

You have all sorts of amazing and sophisticated gadgets to help your task like Image Intensifiers, Energy Detectors, Marshmallow Sensor (The Marshmallow man is 100 feet high), Ghost Vacuum, Ghost Traps and a Laser Confinement System. It’s up to you to search for, catch and store the ‘slimers’ and ‘roamers’ through the streets and buildings of New York.

Ghostbusters for the 48K Spectrum retails at £9.99 and is also available for the CBM64.


Aztec cover

MacGIBBON’S QUEST

Two further adventure games have been launched by Hill MacGibbon, the company with the ‘Games to stretch the mind’ (sounds painful!) slogan. Both are on sale for £7.95 each. Aztec — Hunt for the Sun God is a mystical and complex game which challenges the adventurer to interpret a strange and disturbing dream. You wander through a South American landscape of forests, cities and volcanic mountains, encountering both problems and clues along the way. The adventurer’s task is to make for an unpredictable volcanic mountain, there to contend with the gods and find out what has happened to his village and strangely enough, the sun. Aztec comes complete with a full colour poster and instruction booklet.

In King Arthur’s Quest the player assumes the role of King Arthur, striving to free his country from the realm of an icy mist, issued by the Ice Dragon. The dragon is manipulated by the evil Morgana Le Fey, and the mist is slowly bringing the entire land to its feet in a lingering, frozen despair.

King Arthur lives up to his reputation by hacking his way past dragons, witches and unicorns and skirting over frozen lakes. There are also magic books to be ploughed through and secrets to overcome — all in the name of seeking clues to the location of Lancelot and Merlin. Once these two have been found Arthur can set about liberating the land from Morgana’s evil spell, thus fulfilling the quest. The game includes a full-colour poster and detailed instruction booklet.


Doomdark packaging

DOOMDARKS REVENGE

Slightly later than expected Beyond Software’s follow up to their spectacularly successful Lords of Midnight has just been released at the time of writing. Doomdark’s Revenge is as lavishly packaged in an almost identical box to its to predecessor. Much too late to be able to review in this issue, a copy has been rushed to Derek Brewster, who will be giving his comments next month. Meanwhile, for those who have not yet seen it (can there be any), here is the cover to gaze upon. Doomdark’s Revenge retails for £9.95 and is for the 48K Spectrum.

THE SOFT TOUCH

Softstone Ltd are looking to add yet another boost to their up and coming reputation with the release of several new games over Christmas and the New Year.

With offerings like Turtle Timewarp, Odyssey 1 and Fire Fighter under their belts (originally marketed by Perfection Software), Softstone have every reason to be confident. This London-based company, originally begun in Wales, only came into operation earlier this year, but already they have progressed to become a contender in the field of micro games creating and marketing, with growing operations both at home and abroad.

Perfection Software were one of the first companies to be taken under the Softstone wing, and since then the amalgamation has gone from strength to strength.

This Christmas sees the release of Super Bandit and Word Seeker, while over the next few months several new, more sophisticated games will be prepared for general release. These will include a graphic adventure for the Commodore 64 and an arcade game based around a much-loved TV advertising sequence.

Mikro-gen rally team

Banned from driving, Wally Week and the Mikro-Gen rally team prepare for fisticuffs with Kokotoni Wilf and his band of time travellers.

KOKOTONI WALLY

Wally Week, star of Mikro-Gen’s Automania and Pyjamarama is upset by reports that he’s been overtaken in the popularity stakes by arch rival Kokotoni Wilf. Elite Software has announced that Kokotoni Wilf has taken the title of best ever adventure arcade game from SP’s Jet Set Willy. But a defiant Wally Week claims that Pyjamarama is better than either of these two programs and he is willing to go to the polls to prove his point. He has issued a direct challenge to Wilf by inviting CRASH readers to send in their votes and determine who is really the public’s favourite.

Yawn, that’s if anyone is really bothered.

Meanwhile, the ever-active Wally has moved into the field of motor-racing sponsorship following his rise to computer fame. Mikro-Gen Cars are featuring Wally as their logo, so don’t be surprised if you see him whizzing past at 100 mph in the Grand Prix at Brand’s Hatch this month. But Wally hasn’t got it all his own way: ‘I really wanted to drive,’ he laments. ‘But it was felt that for the health and safety of the other drivers I should only appear in a sponsorship and advertising capacity.’ Never mind, perhaps Mikro-Gen will come up with a new game featuring Wally Week on wheels.


PRESENTING THE KET TRILOGY

Just in time for Christmas, Incentive Software are distributing a presentation gift set of the popular Ket Trilogy adventure classic.

The Ket Trilogy is a fantasy adventure in which you have to fulfill the quest and liberate Ket from Vran and his evil followers. The game gets harder the more stages you complete. Should you succeed in completing the entire mission, Incentive will label you Britain’s Best Adventurer as well as allowing you a video recorder of their choice to the value of £400.

The cost for the gift pack containing The Mountains of Ket, The Temple of Vran and The Final Mission is £12.95, a considerable saving on purchasing the games individually. Naturally, the only way to win is by scoring 100 on each game, thus revealing the three parts of Ket’s secret message. An explanatory booklet on how to play is included with each game.

Andrew Hewson & Mike Male

Andrew Hewson (left) presents programmer Mike Male with the gold cassette for sales of 100,000 copies of his flight and air traffic control simulations.

FLYING GOLD FOR HEWSON

Hewson Consultants have rewarded the talents of their microcomputer writer Mike Male with a gold cassette after sales of his two programs topped the 100,000 mark.

Mike, author of Heathrow ATC and Night Flite 2, received the award from Hewson’s Managing Director Andrew Hewson. Mike is himself an air traffic controller at London’s Heathrow Airport, as well as a keen amateur pilot, and it was this experience which enabled him to bring such a convincing element of realism to his highly popular programs. It’s obviously paid off too, for he has just bought a Rallye Tampico single engine light aircraft from the proceeds of his sales, which makes a change from the ubiquitous Porsche that most software people seem to drive.

A revised version of Heathrow ATC has been released for the 48K Spectrum featuring a Concorde landing route, enhanced graphics and help pages. On the B side is a less demanding version of the game based on landing patterns at Amsterdam’s international airport.

Hewson Consultants’ award-winning adventure game Fantasia Diamond is going Dutch. Author Topley is engaged in the complicated task of rewriting the game almost from scratch before it’s available for distribution in Holland.

In the July issue of CRASH we reported that Fantasia Diamond had won the esteemed Le prix du Meilleur Scenario in France. If the game takes off in the land of tulips and Edam there could be yet more acclaim awaiting Kim Topley (and yet more money for Hewson’s).


NEW FAST REPAIR SERVICE!

Mending a broken down computer after the guarantee has expired can be quite a headache. That’s why a company called Computer-fix of Camberley, Surrey, has stepped in to ease worry.

Computer-fix has set up a considerable network of 500 dealers around the country, each of whom guarantees that your computer will be mended and on the go again within 48 hours of receipt.

The quick fire service is all down to ACUMEN (Advanced Computer Memory Tester), which can spotlight malfunctions far quicker than a skilled computer engineer, thus saving both time and money.

A spokesman for Computer-fix said that he was very pleased with the way the repair scheme was going. He described the response as ‘Terrific’ with hundreds of computers being brought in to servicing daily.

Computer-fix are at Camberley, Surrey.

CRASH will be publishing a list of the main Computer-fix dealers in the next issue.

TIME FOR BED...

Good news for all you Zebedee fans out there who have never quite forgiven Auntie Beeb for taking Magic Roundabout off the air. C.R.L. have issued a computer version of the popular childrens’ TV programme for the Spectrum 48K.

The Magic Roundabout retails at £6.95 and features all the usual familiar characters that we know and love so well. The game revolves around the attempts of Dougal to construct a sugar house, while the other characters do their best to eat up the sugar cubes he requires. In the game, as in life, sugar equals energy. But don’t worry folks — nobody gets killed in this game, and of course those reassuring words appear at the end: Time for bed!


BIG C.C.S. CHRISTMAS LAUNCH

C.C.S. have released another four games for the Spectrum 48K. Air Defence is a wargame in which the player takes the role of Commander of Air Defences with 14 squadrons under his command. The aim is to fend off the successive waves of attack from enemy aircraft who attempt to demolish your industries and HQ. But watch out; the enemy have fighter escorts!

Superpower is a strategy game for 1-6 players, each of them running the affairs of the Intelligence Agency of a major world power. Players possess various assets in a nine-country Third World continent, and must double-deal with each other in an attempt to increase their profits from these assets using that most veritable of all weapons, political interference. The familiar ingredients of warmongering, assassination and engineering coups are at the hands of each player.

Barrowquest is an adventure game written by John Sherry before he came to fame with The Prince. The player is in a large terrain inhabited by monsters who insist on attacking him from all sides without reprieve. The only escape is when burrows appear (marked with skulls). The player can enter these burrows, which form a maze of tunnels, also inhabited by monsters. The object of the game is to locate the power gem ‘Sartrak’s Stone’ and destroy the Black Wizard ‘Grimblast’.

The Staff of Zaranol is an adventure game where the player becomes the Sorcerer’s apprentice and releases an evil demon in his master’s absence. The demon has to be banished before the master returns, and this can only be achieved by properly interpreting a series of clues. They are located in 45 different locations and each object has a specific purpose. Mistakes can be fatal, so you’ll need to tread carefully, but there are times when speed is essential and you’ll have to keep your wits about you.

All four games are on sale for £5.95 each.

C.C.S. have also released a further two games in their ‘Charlie Charlie Sugar’ budget range for the Spectrum 48K.

Nuke Lear is a high-speed arcade game in which you have to ensure that ‘Nuke’ (manager of the Radioactive Waste Depository) directs the incoming drums of radioactive waste into their allocated positions at the end of the blue roads. Nuke can change the direction of the rolling drums by climbing to one of the upper floors and standing in the way, thus illegally positioning the drum. If too many drums are illegally positioned then the radioactivity accumulates and — BANG!

Tomb of Akhenaten is an arcade action game where the player has to search the labyrinth of tunnels within a pyramid for Akhenaten’s tomb. The tomb was believed to be desecrated soon after his burial, but according to the local inhabitants it’s still intact and just waiting to be discovered. Spiders, poisonous asps and the ‘Spirit of the Labyrinth’ conspire to make your search a less than pleasant one.

Both games are available for £2.99 each.


PROTOCOL 4s RECALLED

A.G.F. Hardware have an important massage for customers who may have purchased a Protocol 4 joystick interface: some of these have sub-specification pre-production units, which means that they have an erratic or unreliable Kempston operation mode.

If you possess a copy of the Protocol 4 Interface the way to check its reliability is to type in the following program line with the interface attached to the Spectrum. Make sure the mode switch is in the ‘down’ position and that you have inserted the ‘Kempston’ card. Then print: IN 31 and press ENTER. If anything other than 0 is printed A.G.F. will personally replace the unit free of charge.


PLUS HITS THE SHOPS

The new Spectrum+ has arrived on the shelves of T.B.D. Computers, the second only official distributors of Sinclair software and hardware in the country.

T.B.D. is part of one of the biggest and best record, cassette and video distributors Terry Blood Distribution Ltd. The Stoke-on-Trent based company is ready and waiting to deliver the Spectrum+ anywhere in Britain within 24 hours. ‘We are ready to go!’ comments T.B.D.’s Sales and Marketing Director Joe Woods enthusiastically.

The Spectrum+ (with 48K RAM) accommodates all the usual Spectrum software and peripherals and features the full function ‘QL type’ keyboard. Like the 48K it comes complete with a free software six-pack.

PREPARE TO DIVE!

Megasub Command is the latest release from N.T.D. Software, on sale for just £2.99. This is the newest in a series of popular games for the Spectrum, and features over 300 levels of machine code action.

The player assumes the role of the captain of the world’s most advanced submarine — the Megasub — and the nerve-wracking object is to fend off attacks on the North Atlantic frontiers by enemy fighters and bombers. The submarine is equipped with the latest Neutron laser, but it’s one of the hazards of the game that (like its deep space counterparts) the laser is prone to overheating, and it requires a cool and level-headed captain to put matters right. (That’s where you come in!) Of course, if you can’t stand the heat and the going gets too tough you can always crash-dive — provided there’s sufficient air supply.

Megasub Command can be played via the keyboard or on any Kempston compatible joystick.