Great excitement ensues. The Towers are to be invaded by one of the first ever Nintendo games consoles from Mattel. Could this be the end of home computers as we know them? There’s a counter-opinion to last month’s anti-Sega letter, and now we await to see whether the Nintendo is better than the Sega. Certainly, within a few days the offices will be ringing with Super Mario Brothers as everyone fights for a chance to put the machine through its paces, and no doubt you’ll all be hearing more in future issues. Meantime, back to Spectrum gaming, and this months’ Forum.
First, a large amount of letters published in your section have been saying that the vital component in a good game is originality. I think otherwise. I agree that it is important (it keeps the software industry going; without it the same games would just get churned out all over again) but it is not vital. No, to discover what really makes a game great we must delve further into it, past all outward appearances and basic ideas. I believe that it is the game itself, meaning what actually happens, and how well the idea is programmed and implemented.
For example, when my brother Richard (of Frank the Flea fame) first saw me playing Lightforce, he said. ‘Hey wow, somebody’s rereleased Space Invaders’. I realised that he was right. Now you can hardly call an Invaders clone original, but that didn’t detract from the enjoyment I got from the game at all. I kept on playing it simply (no, not because it had trendy graphics) because I enjoyed the game. I thought it was fun to play.
I’ll quote some more examples if you wish. How about Head over Heels? Or maybe I could take examples from the stream of Gauntlet clones, many of which have been good. Even the Monty Mole games can hardly be called original, yet they’re successful and fun to play. See what I mean?
Equally well, original games don’t have to be good. Look at Psi 5 Trading Company, Doc the Destroyer and Terror of the Deep, to mention but a few.
Of course, that’s my view. People are entitled to their own opinions, and if you like original games, so be it. Richard prefers games with good atmosphere and aesthetic sense (graphically speaking). Maybe a good game consists of a combination of all the factors — graphics, sound, presentation, atmosphere, originality, programming, implementation and so on. It’s hard to tell.
On to another point. Yes, it’s the dreaded ‘Budget games’ debate again. How can people say they’re all trash? Just look at Agent X, Universal Hero, Feud, Arnaurote, I Ball, and quite a few others and you’ll see what I mean. Okay, so many are rubbish, but then again, aren’t many full-priced games?
It obviously proves that there are some companies in this world more concerned with producing a high-quality product which will please the consumer than with making a profit. I’m afraid that money is all people are bothered about these days, rather than providing a useful and/or entertaining service.
Anyway, if software companies do only care about their bank balance, they
don’t (and Richard will confirm this) know the real pleasure of producing
software. This is the pleasure derived from the knowledge that there are people
out there who are playing your games, enjoying them and thanking you for
producing them. After all, they deserve to get something for their money.
To successfully make a profit, a company must produce good
material, otherwise the punters fall by the wayside, and down go the profits.
To that end, I doubt whether software houses deliberately set out to create
second-rate games — but sometimes they come out that way. Caring about
one’s bank balance is something everyone tends to do, surely? Companies
are no exception, since one of their prime requirements is keeping their staff
paid! Whether such concerns overwhelm the creative spirit is another matter
Whether or not you printed that Cuthbert cartoon because I asked, I expected a ‘new series’, not a load of repeats. Please persuade Charlie Brooker to come up with some new Cuthbert cartoons (if he has, and you refuse to print them, then risk incurring the wrath of Nick Peers which is not a pretty sight!)
Why does Simon Goodwin only print Tech Tips for the 128/+2? I own a Speccy+ (remember them?) and I’m interested in programming, but I’m not that good. I’m sick and tired of hearing one of my friends bragging on about his m/c experience, etc. so would be very grateful if Mr Goodwin would not forsake the 16K, 48K and + computers.
I agree with Paul Harrison (April edition) about dedicating a page to old
POKEs. You could cram plenty of old games onto one page (because no fancy
loader is needed for the majority of POKEs). Alternatively, you could make
yourself a tidy bit on the side by publishing a cheapo minibook (on second hand
paper) dedicated to oldie POKEs. Think of the profits you could make (I would
buy a copy).
PS Bet you don’t print LLangammarch Wells at the end of my letter...
I wouldn’t dream of putting any such thing at the end of
your letter. However, I’ll pass on your comments to Simon, and to myself
with regard to more oldie POKEs (when I’m next on the Towers of
I’m writing to you about a few things. Firstly the Hall of Slime... Scrap it! All of the people on the list have completed games that have been on the market for more than a fortnight so pokes and hints have been printed. What you should do instead is, as Steve said half way down page 43 of your May issue, print only photos of people who have completed new games such as Nemesis. I completed this on Sunday 29 March at 12.25am. You get the message ‘Well done, you have saved the planet Nemesis’. Moving on now to Academy, I would like to know when Russel Mulcahy and/or Camilo Mesias completed it, if they have. I am also in total agreement with Richard Bailey about Adventure Previews, let’s see some.
There’s also a complaint, yes it’s hard to believe but it’s about previews — they’re too late! Take for example Nemesis — the preview came in the May issue. And I had already bought, played and completed the game before the end of March, so could you explain why they’re so late?
And finally, thanks all round to people at CRASH Towers for an excellent mag
that is slowly improving each month, hard to believe but it’s fact, by my
Neville Chesworth Junior
I’m still awaiting the last questionnaire results to see
what answer has been received regarding the Hall of Slime and a Readers’
Challenge, before recommending a revamped hi-score table. Sorry about the
Nemesis preview, but quoting months like that makes it seem even later
than it really was — the issue, after all, came out at the end of April.
In that case, the review version arrived only days after we previewed it, and
too late to stop the printer!
I wish to inform you of a new user group which I am setting up. It is not based on a certain machine and has a monthly free news sheet. Members are welcome from all over the Republic and the North — not just Dublin. I would be grateful if you would mention the group in your magazine as I am having trouble finding members.
There you go, Ben — a mention. Hope it does some
Dear Mr Mangram,
In the May issue I read a great big insult to the CRASH logo by Don Elliot. He said that the brill and fantastic mag logo was crappy, with the two-dimensional sparky bits. But I, being a faithful reader, think it’s ace and would be very very sad, fed up, disappointed and so on if the logo was changed.
And so do I, James. The Union Jack isn’t the world’s
prettiest flag either, but I bet hardly anyone would want to alter it.
Dearie me Lloyd,
After reading the ‘Points of View’ style article about Arkanoid in your May Forum, it suddenly dawned on me that things just aren’t what they used to be.
The last game I bought was The Boggit, and three months ago I received the CRASH Smashes compilation tape with my subscription. Long gone are the days when I would rush into town every weekend to buy games like 3D Tanx, Handicap Golf (I still play it) and Lunar Jetman, and swap them excitededly for legends such as Jet Set Willy. Those were the days!
I remember with fondness struggling away to load my copy of Jetpac, frantically fiddling with the voiume controls. And when it loaded — Wow! It was just like a dream.
Nowadays, buying and loading software is like a nightmare. No one is safe from the traps set by those cunning software companies, and the price to pay is clear — £7 or over in most cases!
Still, perhaps there’s hope yet — and I think the answer lies in retrogression (LMLLWD). Alter all the over-hype that’s been released lately, with snazzy graphics and no real game, out comes the 1982 favourite in a new form — Arkanoid, the 87 version of Thru’ The Wall — and we like it! Yep, it’s good stuff, proof that we’re not all insane and taken in by good looks. (Never judge a game by its graphics, that’s what I say.)
Arkanoid is but a simple game, yet it’s intriguing, exciting, and ADDICTIVE!!!
I think that the software companies today are just trying too hard to come up with new ideas, and after they’ve given up, they concentrate on the graphics, and forget about the underlying game. I mean, think about it. We have never had a really good, polished version of Space Invaders, or even Pole Position (excluding Enduro Racer... and that’s on a bike, as is Full Throttle).
I hope that you print at least some of this letter, not only for me, but for
all the Spectrum Users out there who are looking for a new direction. But, if
you don’t print it, at least print my joke — What do you call it if
a cat gives away £1,000,000 and then gets run over by a bus? Generosity
Killed The Cat!!! (Ha, Ha!)
Yes, very droll, I’m sure. However, with reference to what
you’ve just said, I noted that for the past few weeks the Spiky Haired
Ones on ZZAP! have done nothing but play Firebird’s Zolyx — a game
so old that even on the 64 it looks like an ancient Spectrum grid game. I must
admit I’ve been playing it endlessly too. It’s so addictive I hope
it’s out soon on the Spectrum too. Graphics are primitive, sound
unimportant, game so simple it’s silly. Great game though. Food for
For a few months now my son has been without his Spectrum, the withdrawal symptoms are sometimes painful to see. Especially when new games arrive and he cannot even try them. What frustration!
If only we had looked through the back issues of CRASH before we acted, and so begins the long sad tale...
One evening in February, I arrived home to be told the computer wasn’t working. My son had pulled the interface from the cornputer with the power still on! Something, we later discovered, which was quite a common occurrence.
‘Send it to Video Vault,’ said my son. But I didn’t like the idea of sending something like that through the post, so I suggested a local repair firm who advertise in all our local papers.
My son’s birthday was coming up, so his grandmother said she would take it and pay for the repair as his present.
On receiving the computer, the man put it on some testing machine, and said it didn’t seem too bad. it would cost about £25 and would take six to seven days. Seven days later we hadn’t heard anything so grandmother decided to ring them. A voice said that it hadn’t come back yet and they would phone us when it was ready. Two weeks later the phone rang and we were told the computer was ‘Beyond economical repair’. The next day, after my son had said he would like it back to send to Video Vault, Grandma went to collect it. She was told it would cost £10 for the labour. This she wasn’t expecting and was really shocked, and said so. She didn’t want to pay out for something that was useless so she left it there.
She went back again the next day with a friend, who ended up having quite a heated argument after which they were asked to leave and shown the door. She paid the £10 and took the computer. The next day she brought it to my son. It was still wrapped in the invoice paper. When my son removed it, he soon realised this was not his computer. That afternoon be and his uncle went back with it and tried to explain what had happened and all they said was, they had left the day before with it so there was nothing they could do about it.
We went to Citizens’ Advice who seemed helpful. They sent us to the
Office of Fair Trading where the man gave us no hope at all by saying that the
item needed repairing, so we couldn’t put a value on it. It seems
incredible that someone can get away with something like this, if only we had
sent it to ‘Video Vault’ first!
I’ve kept on file the address of the computer repairers
you sent your son’s computer to. Unfortunately I can’t print it at
the moment as we would have to investigate further. It does sound as though
you have been very unfairly, if not improperly, treated. But unless you had
been clearly told that there would be a fee for examining the machine, the fact
that it was not repaired (whoever’s it really was) means that the company
did not fulfil their contract with you. Perhaps a matter for your
I think I have just started my second childhood, yes, I’ve been finally hooked at the tender age of twice key of the door plus two years. No it’s not drugs or anything nasty like that, but playing my son’s computer.
What great game finally accomplished the impossible? Dynamite Dan II. This was the first game that I took any notice of. I found it quite reasonable to get about by using the joystick (I’m terrible on the keys I find my fingers don’t co-ordinate as well as they used to). It had terrific graphics as far as I’m concerned but I give it 100 percent for addictiveness. Any time I could find I spent on the computer, while my son was at school, and late at night when I couldn’t sleep. Who am I kidding — I was that besotted it was all hours of the morning before I got to bed.
The only other game to give me sleepless nights was Starquake. I
found this very playable. The colour and graphics were very good with not too
many nasties to avoid. Having finished these two, I am looking around for
something along similar lines, so far I haven’t found it. I’m
persevering just now with an oldie, Atic Atac, but keep getting
killed, but never say die...
Mrs Iris Learmouth
I don’t think your problem is as serious as you may think,
Mrs Learmouth, and certainly a couple of Aspirin after dinner may cure you
completely. On the other hand, perhaps taking the computer and monitor to bed
might be more relaxing and less deleterious on the high scores...
I think CRASH is totally brill except for one thing, the ratings. Supposing a poor game has average presentation and a Smash has average presentation as well, the reviewers tend to give the Smash a much higher presentation rating. This does not give a totaily clew view of the two games’ different aspects.
I think you would have to quote examples to prove your point,
William. On the whole I think the system works well, and Smashes are invariably
well presented games (though not always) and this is reflected in the ratings
they get. Certainly Presentation ratings vary quite a lot from review to
review and yet don’t reflect in the same way the Overall rating.
Dear LLoyd (alias Ivan Snotsky),
I feel it’s my duty to inform you that a certain high security organisation must apprehend your humble self and deprive you of that loyal paper bag which has screened your face from society for so long. The reason behind our activities is this: We feel your behaviour of hiding your face is extremely agitating and causes a small percentage of CRASH readers to begin a spell of psychiatric treatment.
Underneath the bag, according to reliable sources, (NOT Hunter S Minson
— no death threats please!), and many nights spent leafing through highly
classified documents, we should find a very bald, lonely Soviet spy. SO
Rubbish! I’m neither bald nor lonely, nor do I work for
the Russians (although I’m told they pay well, and I could do with a
salary rise — hint, hint). Still, can’t stay here chatting to you
all day, I’ve just got to nip out and get a new supermarket carrier
I am in the process at producing a magazine called Spectrum Games. I type it on my Dad’s Amstrad PCW8512 and then it’s photocopied and sent through the post. I work alone, but soon one of my friends (and maybe two) will join me. If any CRASH readers are interested in reading SG, then please write to me. As I have such a small workforce I can only cover 48K Spectrum games, but when my friends join me I will be able to cover 128K games and perhaps toolkit software.
Don’t forget to send CRASH a copy for the Fanzine File.
There’s bound to be another update before much longer.
How long do you feel the Spectrum will last as a games machine? Another one or two years? When will it be superceded as the micro of the masses? The answers are that it is anyone’s guess. But let’s face it, the Spectrum is an antiquated machine; it’s been around with us for four and a half years! The graphics and colour capabilities looked great when compared with that great dinosaur, the ZX81, but they now look dated against arcade machines and many newer computers today.
Time has taken its toll on our dear friend, and I for one feel that it’s time to move on to better things. I’ve heard that a Spectrum +3 with bolted on disk-drive is soon to be launched. But why? Instead of producing better and more advanced machines, computer manufacturers are producing revamped and up-graded versions of old machines; the Spectrum is undergoing its fourth transformation! Adding a disk drive to the Spectrum will enable you to access games faster, and to break-up games BBC Elite style — but who needs to do this when the 128K of memory is rarely used to any great extent, let alone its full potential?
This brings me on to my next point which is innovation (or rather the lack of it) in games today. People blame it on the film tie-in and accountants running many of the larger software houses, and I feel that this is true to a certain extent. But I believe that innovation also stems, or is inspired by the hardware. For instance many great innovations were made in the early life of the Spectrum — Filmation, platform games, Landscaping, beat ’em ups and so on. But the amount of innovation has fallen off in the last couple of years. I feel that the main reason for this is because the Spectrum has outlived its days. The whole microcomputer industry has stagnated because no one is bold enough to introduce new and better computers. How many new micro-computers, which you or I have heard about, were brought onto the market last year? The answer: nil.
Just imagine playing games on a computer with arcade quality graphics and sound, a large amount of memory and a modem which would open up the relatively unexplored area of ‘multi-user games’. It could include such features as masking, attribute-free graphics and collision detection — heaven on earth for programmers! but it’s not because such technology is not available that we are not playing on such machines — it’s the ancient problem of the price. Such machines are usually found in the personal computer price-bracket (about £1,000), not the sort of thing many people can afford for Christmas.
But wasn’t it Sir Clive himself that brought micro-technology in the form of the ZX80 into a price range affordable by the masses? So, why can’t it be done again? Perhaps it’s because the microcomputer industry has become so stagnated that any computer launched would find itself in the vicious circle of people refusing to buy it because of a lack of compatible software, and companies refusing to produce software because of the lack of hardware sales.
But there are two ways of combatting such an occurrence. One is to make the
computer compatible with other machines (Amstrad and Commodore are in a perfect
position to do this) while still ensuring that the machine is substantially
different to warrant calling it a different machine. The other way is for the
manufacturer to support the machine by creating a special software house
(Sinclair did it). Amstrad and Commodore are again in a good position to do
this. So Commodore, Amstrad, all you budding programmers out there (and you
accountants too), let’s put the adventure back into the computer industry
before it’s too late.
I’m not so sure that Commodore are in much of a position
at the moment to create a software label to support any new venture. After all,
they haven’t exactly done much to promote their own Amiga in this manner.
Amstrad’s method, creating a label and buying in (largely Spectrum
conversions at first) from a position of strength, was very successful. Yet in
Britain today, the support for Amstrad games is very slender. A software house
can consider itself lucky to ship out as much as 5,000 units of an Amstrad game
to distributors, compared to treble that of a Spectrum or 64 game. Bolting on a
disk drive does have many advantages, opening up new fields for games while
maintaining compatability (hopefully!).
I’m writing to reply to A Bailey’s letter in your April edition. He put forward his points against the Sega Console and I would like to put mine for it.
As he rightly said the Sega will have much better sound and graphics. The Sega has 32 colours, whereas the Commodore 64 (for instance) only has eight. The Sega has a white noise generator which makes the most amazing explosions. Also, the Sega comes with two joysticks and a free game Transbot.
His biggest point was the lack of originality in its first releases. These are the first games to appear on the machine, they’re not likely to be too daring. Anyway, can he remember the first releases for the Spectrum and Commodore. nearly all Pac Man clones and racing games?
I think that the Sega will take off in a couple of months — especially because of the superb instant-load cartridges and the Sega-cards (the Sega-card contains a huge 256K).
By the way, Ariolasoft state that they hope to bring out three games each
month. I think that this should improve the variety.
There’s not a lot to do now, but wait and see what
happens. My bet is still on the home computer, even as a games machine, because
of its versatility.
It had to happen — you brought back The Terminal Man. Why? The Terminal Man is boring with a capital ‘B’. CRASH is about Spectrum computer gaming — it is not a storybook. Now, don’t come out with the usual rubbish, ‘If we kept CRASH as only a computer game mag it would get boring.’ CRASH wasn’t boring before Terminal Man or Tamara Knight (which is worse). If I wanted a storybook I’d buy one. I don’t expect it from CRASH. So keep CRASH as a computer mag, okay?
Oh, by the way, I think your covers are fantastic.
When we ran the first series of Terminal Man, the CRASHtionnaire
results of the time indicated approximately a fifty-fifty split between
indifference and liking — which isn’t a bad ratio. It means
something like 60 to 70,000 readers really want to see Terminal Man every
month. We must listen to our readers — at least until the most recent
questionnaire results arrive (soon).
I felt it was time to write again. First thanks for Starglider as my prize for letter of the month in November. I bought a 128 +2 for the boys for Christmas so we got the full effects of Starglider, and what superb effects they are! I’m 36 now and can’t help feeling I’m a little old to read CRASH, but I still read it every month. It’s even got to the stage now where I read it in the car, so I can enjoy it first without having it ripped from my feeble grasp. I got a new walking frame and batteries for my hearing aid for Christmas by the way.
I must congratulate you on your superb work on the magazine Lloyd. The Forum, Playing Tips and Previews are all well written, lively, and interesting. I would have thought such a volume would cause you to get bored with it all and just do the job, but no your keenness shows through in every word. Well done.
Now to the point of my letter. It is in reply to Shashy Dass, Forum May. Shushy? Anyway his words ‘an eight bit machine running at 50 m/s with no independent graphics’. Well Shashy you obviously don’t program the thing. Mine is a good friend, a hated adversary, a person I love, someone who brings on bouts of swearing to turn the screen blue and something I could not now manage without. I call mine Speccie, (what’s yours called?) and I have deep involved conversations with it. Of course it doesn’t answer, it either rewards me with what I’ve been trying to get it to do for weeks, or it shuts down completely, refusing to allow me any access without a re-set. In truth of course I know a crash is my fault, but in my heart of hearts I know it’s sulking because I haven’t been nice to it.
Come on Shashy, an eight bit machine? No chance. A Spectrum is more than a
machine, it’s a way of life.
I talk to my Hermes typewriter as well (at least the 1935
machine, the 1922 just wheezes now). It has been known to sulk occasionally,
but whenever I threaten to turn it in for a Joyce, I usually get results.
It’s a question of being firm, but kind with them. Thank you for your
lavish praise. It’s a pity this page isn’t in colour, or you would
be able to see me blushing.
I’ve recently bought a Spectrum 48K from one of my friends for £75. This included, 138 games (30 originals), a joystick interface, a microdrive interface with microdrive and two cartridges, an Amstrad 2090 radio cassette recorder to load the games.
At first, I thought this to be the best deal I could ever make with anyone, not so. I made an even better deal with W H Smith, when I bought the March 87 issue of CRASH. I couldn’t believe it. All a beginner like me could want to know about software and hardware for his morsel of a speccy, in the shape of straightforward news, reviews, previews, maps and not so reliable advertisements, only to be expected, and all this only cost a quid. Fab!
First of all I like the way the ads are kept on their own pages and are not shoved at the bottom of reviews, this gives the customer, or should I say reader, the choice whether he reads the ad or not.
The idea of ordering back numbers of CRASH appeals also because I’m a late starter, and I could do with info to reveal the depths of my Spectrum.
The reviews are honest, with an ideal rating scheme, but a lack of colour in screen shots spoils it somewhat, although I must add that a substantial improvement in colour was noticed in April’s edition.
One game reviewed lived right up to scratch. Feud is one of the best games I’ve ever played. As for CRASH’s solution to it, I’ve got a much easier one: Get fireballs, Get lightning, Get heal, Get Leanoric!
In the March issue, I detected some tension on the subject of POKEs. I think they’re great, and my thanks goes to the people who come up with them. As a beginner, it gives me pleasure when typing POKEs to learn more about the keyboard, as I have not read the manual yet — even more pleasure is felt when they work!
While on the subject of POKEs I should point out, as will many others, that
line 100 of the Gauntlet POKE should read:
IF PEEK 32814=16 THEN LET A1=82: LET A2=184. The THE
should read as THEN.
One thing CRASH, I definitely do not like the drawings in your mags of Graeme Kidd, John Minson, Derek Brewster, Philippa Irving, Jon Bates, Simon Goodwin and Brendon Kavanagh. They make people, who I’m sure look alright, look positively awful.
Lloyd, as I have said, I have had a great time using my computer with the
help of CRASH, please could you initiate me into the readers’ clan by
publishing my letter in the most convenient issue.
And this was the most convenient. Justin! Sorry about the
Gauntlet POKE typing error. They do creep through occasionally. I hope
you continue to enjoy CRASH — and keep writing in.
I’m a girl of 16 years who is really hooked on computers especially the Sinclair Spectrum. Your CRASH magazine had been recommended to me about six months ago, so I went out and bought it and — ‘by golly’ this is great, ‘what colourful reviews’! Much better than the other Sinclair mags.
So I decided to save my monthly pounds for this wonderful mag. It also helped
to guide me in the right track in deciding which games to buy. So I went out to
a computer games shop in my area and bought a few of the games that were CRASH
Smashed. And after I bought these it came to my notice that this
‘crook’ was selling the games dearer than the retail prices in your
mag. For example, two days ago I bought Feud which was priced at
£1.99 in CRASH, but in the shop where I bought it, it cost me £2.99.
Surely he can’t do this? It’s robbery.
I’m not sure on the pricing structure in Northern Ireland,
although I would have thought it should be the same as over here. but sometimes
the retailers may have to add something on for transportation costs —
certainly true of Eire (as well as the rate of exchange). I should go back and
complain, see what your retailer has to say for himself.
And another one bites the dust. And talking of dust, summer’s here with a vengeance in sleepy Ludlow. The muddy, rutted tractor tracks between the idyllic hedgerows, have turned into rockhard, dustbowls. As I cycle back home up the hill, away from the cool, breeze filled rooms of CRASH Towers, I choke on the rising clouds of dust from my bicycle wheels. Anyway, enough of this Laurie Lee style prose. If you’ve anything to say about Spectrums, their games, the people who play the games or the people who supply them, write to me. I’ll be here.