Judging by the majority of the reviews in this issue, the first of 1987, this year is going to be dominated by film tie-ins and licensed versions of arcade games. Or maybe the industry is getting all the tie-ins out of the way nice and early, so the rest of the year can be left free for the original games, based on original ideas and involving original concepts — we’ll see.
We’ve had plenty of games in for review for this issue, but very few of them have been outstanding. The long-awaited licensed version of Gauntlet has lived up to expectations, and the other Smash this month is a film tie-in. But the bulk of the ‘official’ versions, tie-ins and sequels has proved to be disappointing. Maybe software houses are becoming too dependent on the power of the name on the outside of the box, and are starting to pay less attention to the game on the cassette inside. Alternatively, the cost of buying licences may be taking an unreasonable share of the budget available for producing games, leaving insufficient money in the kitty to spend on the game itself.
A disturbing trend.
More positively, it looks as if playing computer games could become a sociable activity this year. Trivial Pursuit has no doubt seen whole families grouped around the computer screen over the festive season, and the two-player game has come back into vogue. Indeed, to get the best out of Gauntlet and Top Gun, you really need to play with a friend...
Joining forces with a friend to play Gauntlet or going head-to-head (as opposed to taking it in turns) in a game adds to the fun — after all, computer-controlled opponents don’t communicate with you, and playing games on your own can get lonely...
This month sees the first major change in the CRASH reviewing system to be made for a long while. The most obvious change of all is probably the introduction of ‘signed’ reviews — at the moment we have three regular game testers and from now on Ben, Paul and Mike will be adding their names to their comments.
Lloyd has been receiving regular appeals in his postbag for our reviewers to make themselves known, and we have decided to bow to the weight of opinion (influenced just a little bit by Ben, Paul and Mike who were getting a bit tired of remaining anonymous). A glance at page 14 of this issue should provide you with some background information...
Identifying the reviewers should help you make judgements about the validity of their criticisms — you may decide that one reviewer shares your tastes more closely than the others, and consequently give more weight to his opinions. Alternatively, you might detect that one member of our reviewing team doesn’t like platform games, for instance, and bear this factor in mind when reading his opinions on the latest platform game.
The COMMENTS section of the reviews has also undergone a slight modification.
In the early days, when joystick interfaces were comparatively new, most Spectrum owners were very concerned how a game responded to the keyboard. Nowadays the keyboard response is less important as most games achieve a similarly high standard of keyboard control. We’ve opted to drop Keyboard play entirely.
Developments have overtaken a couple of the percentage ratings as well.
Originally, Use of Computer was used to evaluate how easy it was to use the computer to play a game, taking into account the positions of the control keys (in the historic days when definable key options weren’t invented!) and the range of joystick options (when there were lots of different interfaces all competing to become the ‘standard’).
Getting Started was created as a rating to quantify how clear the instructions on the use of the controls were, and took into account how well the objectives of the game were described. Packaging and loading also came into a game’s Getting Started rating.
After much discussion, we’ve decided to drop Getting Started and Use of Computer and introduce a new rating: Presentation. Presentation takes into account most of the elements of the two ratings it replaces and is intended to cover sound, as well as the range of options presented to the player, the packaging, instructions and to some extent, the scenario — in fact, anything not involved in the actual game itself.
To recap on the remaining ratings: Graphics is self-explanatory; Playability gauges the amount of fun to be had actually playing a game, while Addictive qualities indicates how long you want to play the game and how often you’ll want to come back and have another go; Value for money should be obvious; and finally, in the Overall rating we take into account all the other ratings before coming up with the final analysis — which isn’t arrived at by taking an average of the other five percentage ratings. Addictive qualities, Playability, and Value for money carry more weight than Presentation and Graphics, which are, after all, the gloss on the game you pay to play.
Let us know how far you agree with these changes...