Magnum lightgun

MAGNUM FORCE

It’s black, looks mean, is made of plastic and plugs into your Spectrum. It promises a new kind of fun and isn’t cheap. It’s the new Sinclair Magnum lightgun, and MIKE DUNN is the man with his finger on the trigger.

It’s a long time (more than five years!) since someone last had a go at producing a light gun for the Spectrum. The Stack Light Rifle, as it was called, was a bit of a failure; there was next to no software support for it, and at thirty quid, it was very expensive (this was at a time when most games cost four to five pounds). Both the Nintendo and Sega console systems have recently popularised the hand-held gun game, and evidently Sinclair have decided the time is right for the Speccy to get its own light gun, the Sinclair Magnum.

The suitably futuristic looking gun plugs into the ‘Keypad/Aux’ hole in the back of the machine. Most of these guns (and also light pens) work on the same principle; the gun senses the television scan beam which renews the picture fifty times a second; by locating the position of the beam, the computer can determine where the gun is pointing. The gun is available in three Sinclair packs; with the new Action Pack (made up of a +2 or a +3, one of those appalling joysticks which you’re much better off leaving in the box, the light gun and six fun gun games), or you can get just the gun and games for £29.95. If your local shop doesn’t stock the gun ’n’ games pack, check with Virgin/Mastertronic for availability. But enough of this teccy stuff — what about the games?!


Screenshot

ROOKIE

Rookie is probably the best of the six games. The concept is ridiculously simple; shoot the targets when they spin round. The arrows at the top move you onto the next screen when you shoot them, and occasionally a ‘10’ target pops up, which can be blasted for more bullets.. Each level has a number of targets to shoot before you can progress further; this goes up with each level. The scenery is attractive, but the main problem is the activity on screen — it flashes white with every shot. Apart from making it more difficult to see what’s happening, Nick moans it gives him a headache and sore eyes (that’s because he’s so rubbish, but it’s a point, I suppose). Very addictive and enjoyable.
Overall 90%

ROBOT ATTACK

This must be a contender for the worst game on the tape. You have to destroy fifty robots before they make a big mega monster. Different coloured robots arrive on the screen, and every time you hit one, it changes colour, until it becomes purple. One more shot and it blows up. Robot Attack is deathly boring, the graphics are naff, and although it doesn’t appear to suffer from the flashy screen disease, it’s not worth playing.
Overall 35%

BULLSEYE

Having just said that Robot Attack might be the worst game on the tape, I must eat my words, because Bullseye simply defies belief! The graphics are reasonable enough, but the sound is terrible; the game’s much more fun without it! Naturally, the game is based around the TV quiz, the object of which is to throw darts at special boards and answer some trivia questions. You use the gun to fire the darts, which is quite good fun; you aim the gun steadily at the bullseye and wander whether it’s going to hit the board at all. The darts are very inaccurate, the question answering method is awful, with keyboard responses too slow to get answers in quickly. The whole game is dull, flat and feeble. Just like the TV show, but this one hasn’t got Jim Bowen to take the p... (SNIP! -Ed)
Overall 20%

MISSILE; GROUND ZERO

This is a basic version of the old Missile Command type game. Things fall out of the sky, and you have to shoot them before they land on your cities, blowing them up in the process. This game could have been really good, but it’s ruined by the fact that it’s impossible to shoot accurately. The gun has a ‘scatter’ effect, which basically means it fires anywhere except where it’s being aimed at! Graphically okay, but generally disappointing, really.
Overall 56%

Screenshot

OPERATION WOLF

The arcade machine was great, the Spectrum conversion was pretty good, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t work with the light gun at all. This version of the Ocean game replaces the joystick control with the light gun, so, theoretically, it should be even more like the arcade, but unfortunately, the flashing screen ruins it. The gun calibration sequence, peculiar to this game, also doesn’t appear to work very well: the firing remains a bit inaccurate, no matter how careful you are. Still, it’s a variation on a very good theme, so it isn’t that bad.
Overall 65%


SOLAR INVASION

The solar system is under attack from a swarm of alien invaders, and you have to use your light gun to fight them off! This is probably the most challenging game on the tape, because you have to shoot the alien mothers (no, no, I didn’t mean it like that: the big aliens which produce more little ones!) millions of times to kill them, and the little aliens are so small, you have to be really accurate with the shooting. Nonetheless it’s quite playable and averagely addictive.
Overall 71%

WHAT’S THE VERDICT?

The light gun is a good idea. But without good games to go with it, it’ll remain a gimmick to be dumped in the cellar. Either enough people splash out the thirty pounds for it to encourage software houses to produce decent entertainment suited to it, or Sinclair must invest in producing better games for it themselves.

At the moment, Rookie is the only one which makes the grade, the rest are worth trying, but otherwise the Sinclair Magnum isn’t all that magnum.