Sorry about the reduced number of pages this month, but they told me there were too many reviews to fit in, and I’d already eaten up 32 pages with the Playing Tips Supplement, and that was quite enough Mangram for one month. Oh well...

There’s two related points-of-view debates in this Forum, one concerning IMAGINE’s Arkanoid, and another on the quality of licensed games. Interesting stuff too. It’s from the bunch on licensed games that I’ve chosen this month’s winning letter. The £30 worth of software goes to Shashy Dass.


Dear Lloyd,
Recently we’ve seen a burst of licensed games, both from the arcades and the entertainment sector, the cinema, TV, and comics.

Some of these games have turned out to be playable and addictive, some horrendously inept. In my opinion, even if a licensed game is playable, it’s usually a disappointment.

I agree that games such as Scooby Doo, Top Gun, Rogue Trooper and The Lord of The Rings are fun, but in my opinion they are wasted licenses. This isn’t due to poor programming but the cause of hardware limitations.

Scooby Doo (the cartoon) involves some kids rushing about solving mysteries, accompanied by a cowardly and inept dog. They set disastrous traps, using Scooby as bait, and through divine intervention apprehend the wrong-doers. How can anyone hope to capture this on an 8-bit machine, running at 50m/s with no independent graphics or sound chip, while trying to make the game joystick controlled?

Rogue Trooper searches for an army traitor, and the key factor is the interaction between him and his bio-chipped comrades, each of whom have individual personalities. These bio-chips operate in weapons, and can do so independently of Rogue. Again, a very difficult concept to capture with present micro-computer technology.

I agree that certain games such as Highlander, Judge Dredd, and Tarzan are just examples of stock games with the main character as the sprite you control, but my point still stands. I’m not disputing the playability of Scooby, Cobra, Top Gun and so on, but I don’t feel the games capture the atmosphere that the main character generates (Scooby acting brave!).

Is it not better for software houses to obtain licenses for arcade games if they lack original ideas of their own? At least the medium in this case is similar, making the conversion easier. There have been many excellent arcade conversions. Ghosts ’n’ Goblins, Green Beret and even the conversion of Space Harrier and Gauntlet were very close.

All I am saying is that software houses should be practical and realise their own, and the machine’s, limits. I doubt that even if LEVEL 9 and INFOCOM joined forces they could convert the feeling of Stephen Donaldson’s White Gold Wielder books. Maybe if there was a cutback on film, TV, comic licenses, we could see some truly exciting concepts come out of the tired software scene.
Shashy Dass

There’s no doubt that a licensed product from what you call the entertainment field can hardly ever hope to capture the atmosphere or feeling of its source, and that such games must remain a marketing exercise. Yes, it’s a case of different packaging, often similar game scenario and a redesigned sprite doing much the same things. I think, though, that whatever the source material, it is the games designers who make the real difference, and it’s their responsibility to ring the changes and bring fresh perspectives. I wonder whether your view that arcade licences make better Spectrum games than TV/film/comic tie-ins is shared by any other readers?


Dear Lloyd,
Graeme Kidd’s editorial (Issue 38) expressed the truth of what has been happening to the software industry over the last year. It has indeed become like a White Dwarf — a dense source of degenerate matter active only in the very outermost layers. It has not gone there on its own however. The course followed by the software industry was by no means inevitable and need not have led to this.

The blame doesn’t lie at the feet of the software producers alone. After all, it’s a tough industry and if five bad games are needed to finance one good one, so be it. In fact the blame lies also at the feet of the promoters of the software industry — the magazines.

Several years ago, at the end of the highly active, independent era, magazines of the time were not slow to sell the ‘big bang’ idea — that the industry might lose many companies but gain a smaller, more compact core. And although it would produce less products, wondrous games of a higher quality than before would be produced because of the calibre of the companies’ in-house programming teams. Now you yearn for small companies and freelance programmers.

Computer magazines actually used to criticise the industry more than they do now. When tie-ins and licensing deals first appeared we never heard the end of it. During this period of deterioration the magazines seemed to grow steadily more silent. Strangely, you all remained over-enthusiastic about the quality of the games you reviewed, seeming to be blinded, by the hype thrust upon you as companies saturated the market with new releases and raked in the profits. Games without originality and polish graphically, or in playability, were given CRASH Smashes without warranting them. Truly it appeared you were being paid by software houses to produce a glowing review.

If you really wish for a return to the innovative, CRASH, do not promote games as being the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen in your propaganda — sorry, preview section. Most games do not turn out as good as their mock-up screens suggest, and if the game goes on sale before a final review is given you could be supplying software houses with the incentive to rush a game in the interest of a quick profit.

CRASH’s influence on software buying must be great. It’s heartening to see you’ve decided to trash the type of game you were giving 60 percent reviews to before Christmas, but ultimately the power to right the industry lies in the hands of the games-buying public. Reader! If you wish to see better games and a future for the software industry, then buy original ideas from companies who try to produce the best software with every release. If you wish to see millions of film tie-ins, a dozen different versions of the same idea, and the eventual demise of Spectrum computing, buy film tie-ins before seeing the review, from the companies who place more importance on the quality of the advert than in the quality of the game.
The Grim Reaper

For my own part, I never recall either crying out for, or promoting the concept of amalgamating smaller independents into larger, but fewer corporations; and I don’t think CRASH ever promoted it either.

Previews are intended to give some idea of what’s happening soon, not be propaganda, nor be critical, and rarely do comments from CRASH previews get used on packaging. We don’t approve of it when it does occasionally happen. Equally, I strongly doubt that a releasing schedule is hurried up at the expense of program quality, just to take advantage of any hype afforded by being previewed in any magazine. It simply doesn’t make commercial sense. Otherwise, dear Grim, I support your theories and feelings.


Dear Lloyd,
I write in answer to those who complain about the lack of totally original games.

All the different types of presentation have been used, there have been 2D graphics, both side and above views, vector graphics and 3D graphics. After these there isn’t a lot of room for originality. 3D is moaned about the most, but as far as I can see it’s the most innovative type of graphic produced so far.

Surely it isn’t the type of game (3D flip screens for instance) but the content of the game which counts (unique features and original ideas and concept within the game). Unless anyone has ideas for writing a holographic game which doesn’t use a TV screen but floats in mid-air, then these types of game are here to stay for a long while.

So don’t moan about original types of game, judge the game by its content and any original features. Give game type the respect it deserves and don’t write it off as just another game of its type.
Ian Treasure

I’m sure I’ve used this analogy before, but most media have to work within structural limitations, and it’s said that there are only seven stories to tell, yet novels appeal because of the way in which the author uses the elements at his disposal. Between them, Hammond Innes and Alistair Maclean must have written over 50 thrillers, with invariably similar plots and the same types of character, but they were always best-sellers because each novel managed to engage and surprise. Surely the same is true of computer games? It isn’t the medium (typefaces, words or pixels, sprites) but the message (plot, character or scenario, game content) that counts.


Dear Mr Mangram,
I was just sitting at my computer desk in a fit of boredom and gazed upon the Land of Mandragore poster which I received free with CRASH one month. And my attention was brought to bear on the three logos at the top. One for CRASH, another ZZAP! and one for AMTIX! — that Amstrad thingy.

Anyway, I studied the ZZAP! 64 logo and thought, ‘Wow! Amazing 3D perspective!’ I looked at the Amstrad-logo-thingy and thought, ‘Wow! Excellent shading!’ Then I looked upon the CRASH one and thought, ‘Hmmmmm, yes, I like the nice, boring 2D representation of a few letters and sparks.’ (A heavy tint of sarcasm there). Just face up to it Lloyd, the CRASH logo is unimaginative, out of date and pretty crappy in all other respects.

I think it’s about time CRASH’s logo had a face-lift (maybe a good idea for a comp), so get those scumballs in the art department drawing. Make it exciting, professional and get rid of those stupid little sparks which cheapen the overall effect and make it look amateurish.

I know that it this letter is printed I’ll probably get a load of hate mail from people saying that it’s fine as it is, but I will stand by my opinions.
Don Elliot

Okay Don, let’s see what the readership thinks! I’m very attached to the logo. Sure it’s not very sophisticated, but it was designed purposefully to be bright, sharp and slightly crude on effect. Try standing in a crowded newsagent, twenty feet from the the magazine stand, and see which computer mag’s title stands out the most!


Dear Lloyd,
Very rarely do I find something to moan about in CRASH but one thing continues to bug me, CRASH Back which features every three issues or so, is an excellent idea. However, why do the reviewers (or re-reviewers) have to drop the rating percentages?

I’m sure you’ll agree that after two or so years on the market, there aren’t many programs which match up to most at today’s high standard. Therefore it’s unfair to say that the graphics on Boulderdash, for example, should be knocked down by a certain percentage. When these games were launched they were all somewhat special in some way, so why judge old games by present products?
David Griffin (15)

The original concept behind CRASH Back was to see how the games we remembered as being great had fared over the passage of time, and re-rate them by today’s standards. It isn’t supposed to run them down, but just to place them in context, and those of today.


Dear Lloyd,
One of my favourite sections of CRASH has disappeared! The section I refer to is Merely Mangram, written by your illustrious self. It used to be such an interesting read, telling us all about new games coming out. I know that CRASH has Preview pages, and these are very colourful, but not so many games are covered as in Merely Mangram.

As the Questionnaires have shown in the past, Merely Mangram was very popular and always came high in the voting. I know that you’re pushed for time Lloyd, because of LM, so someone else could do it, like one of the reviewers. Just think you could call it Merely Mike or Previewer Paul or something!

Has the Comps Minion got a name? Can we see a picture of him?

What has happened to Oli Frey? His drawings are not as impressive as they used to be.

Axe Hall of Slime and print the scores as in ZZAP! You could still print photos of High Scorers for certain games, even including the score if you feel it’s needed.

As you can see from this issue, Steve, Merely Mangram has returned! As for the Comps Minion, don’t you know that minions don’t have names? Oli Frey’s illustrations seem as good as ever to me, but of course he is kept pretty busy between three magazines. The Hall of Slime is being rethought, and takes a holiday this issue after three years of hard work. Discussions take place even as I write about how it will be brought back.


Dear Lloyd,
Over the four years I have owned a Spectrum I’ve collected quite a number of adventure games. But why oh why can you count on one hand the number of adventure games previewed in CRASH?

Please, please, tell Derek Brewster to get his finger out and give us a few adventure reports.

Another point: In the April edition of CRASH you said that the average age of readers was 14–15 (David Shotbolt’s letter). I am only 12 and know quite a lot of Spectrum owners who are the same age as me, and every month buy CRASH. So please tell me why you say 14–15?
Richard Bailey

Your plea will soon reach Derek’s eyes when he gets his copy. Actually the average CRASH reader’s age, as defined by last year’s Questionnaire, is 17.5. But the biggest single age group in the readership is 14–15. That’s the way it is (or was), and that’s I why said it.


Dear Lloyd,
I read Paul Harrison’s letter in the last issue, and I’m totally in agreement. Many Spectrum owners bought their Spectrums second hand (as I did) and got a load of games old ones thrown in free.

Of course, being previously non-Spectrum owners they would also have been non-CRASH readers, so they’ve all got all these ancient, mega-difficult games and have no tips or POKEs for them. So the games get thrown onto a shelf to gather dust.

So, in comes my amazing idea. Print all your old POKEs, maps and tips in an annual devoted solely to ‘cheating’ and charge a quid for it. That way, you please all the relatively recent Speccy owners, and you get extra cash for your monthly booze up with the Spiky Haired ones!!
Daniel Heap

It’s certainly an idea, and one I’ve seen mentioned in several Forum letters recently. Perhaps the extra Playing Tips Supplement this issue will go some way to answering your prayers, Daniel.


Dear Lloyd.
Referring to Mr Bailey’s letter of the month I feel I ought to underline a few more reasons why games consoles will not, in my view, succeed.

Whilst game consoles have superior graphics and sound than most micros, the Atari STs and Amigas demonstrate what the less expensive computers will be like in the next year or two. If you saw last Micro-Live, then the prototype Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) with its fast processing, graphics with 256 colours and Amiga-quality sound, will probably look like the most exciting and affordable prospect on the horizon. However, as a confirmed Acorn user (I own a Spectrum too) I can almost guarantee that Acorn will fail the ARM on price — but there are always hopes! This bring me conveniently to my first point, that games consoles will probably be superceded within a year of their release, in areas of graphics, sound and programming.

If you have read any profiles on computer programmers then there is usually the obligatory paragraph on their exploits with ZX-80s and 16K RAM-packs, VIC 20s, 16K Spectrums and other early micros. With games consoles, new programmers will become a rarity, because no one can possibly start computing programming in Z80 machine code or assembler. New programmers will always start with programming in BASIC and then slowly progress by using other people’s routines to eventually become competent programmers.

Most programmers then settle with a certain computer for a few years before moving on to more powerful machines, the Atari ST, for example. Console upgrades are unheard of and attempts at making them have been unsuccessful, note the Coleco ADAM machine whose price dropped $100 every month!

So no matter how brilliant console manufacturers make their machines, the market will always catch up with them, improve on them and soon leave them redundant.
F Sasson

You’re quite right. What is the current fad for releasing new games consoles all about anyway. They had their day years ago. Unless, of course, it’s seen as a way of bringing out all those old cartridges once again (for about £35 apiece), and recouping their losses.


Dear Lloyd,
Concerning the letter in Issue 39 from the Hopeful Editors of a Magazine; I was particularly interested since myself and a few friends decided to start a fanzine just after Christmas. Although our publication, Fantasy Unlimited, is not primarily a Speccy mag, it does contain some relevant Spectrum computer articles as I’m the only one in our group remotely into computers.

I was curious as to how these hopeful Editors came to the decision to want to create a mag. Fantasy Unlimited’s test issue came out at the end of February and even then we were very lucky to get it printed at all. First of all, make sure you actually want to start a mag, then ask around for photocopying facilities, asking some business people if you can use their copiers. This is the first major hurdle, getting the mag printed, and at a low price. I won’t go into all the details, but if you’re determined and you have money to spare, then nothing’s to stop you. Don’t let the production of the magazine become a drag, you must enjoy it, or there’s no point.

Last, the library should be helpful in supplying you with info. Ask for books about Graphic Design, they will contain all you need to know...

I hope this letter has been of some use to prospective fanzine starters, but don’t let all the hassle put you off, you might get lucky as we did.
Sean Doran

PS Fantasy Unlimited is a mixture of all the major mags around at the moment — it’s a sort of 2000 AD meets White Dwarf meets CRASH meets LM! Any chance of a plug?

Thanks for the practical information, Sean. I should say that dedication and enthusiasm are essential to a fanzine. Having fun doing it is vital, otherwise it just becomes a drag. As to a plug: anyone who would like to know more should get in touch with Sean. By the way Sean, thank you for the Bug Box cartoon strip as well.


Dear Lloyd,
After reading about the Eliteless 128 owner, I decided to write in praise of FIREBIRD’s service. Discovering that Elite wouldn’t load (even with joystick interlace removed), I rang FIREBIRD and asked advice. They told me to send just the tape and they would send back the new version when it was ready (Date Feb 86, 128 version of Elite expected May 86). Two weeks after sending the tape, I received a letter stating that the new tapes would be ready in June at the earliest, four month wait! My little brother (rated Dangerous) suffered severe withdrawal symptoms until I borrowed an old rubber key for him to use with a back up copy.

June arrived and with it, a parcel. I eagerly loaded the new program to find that it was different. In fact, so different that none of my brother’s saved positions loaded, and he became Harmless overnight. He is now Deadly and it took him about three weeks, while I spent two months becoming Competent (and rich).

All I can suggest to the Eliteless one is that his parcel, containing all the proof that he ever owned a genuine copy of the 48K version is lost. Unless he tries to get some cash out of our postal service, he’s going to stay at least 16 quid out of pocket.
Andrew Taylor

It’s nice to know that for every sad tale there’s a silver lining.


After seeing your article on us in the March issue, the Editorial Team of The Bug thought that a few points should be corrected.

First, and probably the biggest mistake, was your reference to The Bug being run primarily by Jeffrey Davy with considerable help from the others. There are four of us on the Editorial Team (Five if you include myself, Percy!) and all in the Editorial Team contribute the same, and are completely equal.

Right, with that over I would also like to point out that we have a fantastic Adventure Helpline and not a Strategy one as you indicated and that all cheques should be made payable to Jaron Lewis as we can’t cash cheques payable to The Bug.

Bye for now.
Percy The Potato, The Bug Magazine

Crikey Editorial Team! Sorry we got that wrong! I just know that Editorial Team (CRASH branch members) would be infuriated if anyone so much as suggested a whisper of inequality — sexual or otherwise. Oddly enough, I can’t cash cheques made out to CRASH either. Life’s just not fair.


Dear Lloyd,
I wish to complain about the review of IMAGINE’s Arkanoid (Issue 39). Disregarding points about addictivity, which seem strange to me (why should gameplay be ‘disturbingly’ compelling?), I would like to comment on the question of originality and open up this general question.

Says Magnus Ramage, kicking off on a subject that has certainly caused a storm of protest — our Arkanoid review.

This letter is aimed at that trio of poor misguided games reviewers Mike, Paul and Ben, and concerns their less than pleasing review of Arkanoid by Imagine...

Hurls the pen of Tony Worrall, who just happens to be Editor of EPROM in Preston, Lancashire, while from Salford G Hamnett wonders...

Could this be the same game I have been playing for the last three weeks? I was amazed to see the pounding it took from your reviewers. In fact, the question has to be asked — was it Arkanoid they were reviewing?

Where to start? Perhaps with Magnus Ramage, who feels that...

... to call Arkanoid unoriginal is rubbish as the additions to Breakout are enormous, such as the power pills, aliens and 32 new screens.

But of course, as Tony Worrall points out, Arkanoid is not original in the sense that it’s licensed from the arcade machine.

I was well pleased when I saw the Spectrum version. Very little of the coin-op had been changed, apart from the graphics (which is not all that surprising) — all the gameplay was still in place. And if you forget all that petty and boring ‘Oh yes, very original, just like Breakout, another Pong variation, etc,’ and just play the game for what it is and not what it’s like, I can’t see how anyone can fail to be hooked.

And G Hamnett agrees thoroughly...

Arkanoid is a well programmed nicely packaged and, surprisingly, highly addictive piece of software that plays, looks and sounds as good as can be expected on the Spectrum. Sinclair User probably went over the top bestowing classic status on the game, but it certainly deserved its five star rating.

For those who admire it, its addictive qualities seem unarguable. Tony again...

I played Arkanoid for four solid hours when I first loaded it, and have played it almost everyday since, trying to get past level 13. Quite simply, I consider it to be one of the most addictive out of my collection of over 350 Spectrum games.

So how come Ben, Paul and Mike got it so wrong? Putting aside the suggestion that they were reviewing a different game (they weren’t!), G Hamnett thinks he knows why...

it was obvious from your reviewers’ comments (particularly Paul’s) that they weren’t prepared to enjoy the game even before they had played it, probably due to the ancient concept behind it.

Whereas Tony Worrall puts it down to being ‘opinionated’ without sufficient background to be so. In fact at one point in the review he...

... laughed out loud when I saw Paul’s comment about Horizon’s Thru The Wall game. If he’s serious I feel very sorry for him, because he has either obviously not played Arkanoid, or he has no game playing sense of adventure. If he is joking, it’s not funny at all. If anyone playing Arkanoid past level four tells me they find it dull, unexciting, unimaginative, I will show you a very boring person.

Strong stuff indeed, Tony, but you’re not quite finished with them yet, I hear...

The terrible trio came across as cynical hacks bored to death by reviewing X amount of games each issue.

Well it’s true that you can become tired when there’s 20 or 30 so games to wade through in a month, but the games aren’t reviewed in a complete vacuum: more than the three commentators views are heard during the reviewing period, and in Arkanoid’s case, there seemed to be general agreement. However, onto another aspect. Tony is upset by the ‘jibes about poor programming’, and echoes G Hamnett’s feelings about its qualities when he says...

... simply isn’t true. Sometimes the ball does pass through the very end of the bat, bull don’t see that as a bug. Just don’t hit the ball that way! The comments about speed variations I find just as strange. The ball gets faster after 20 or so shots, and if not slowed down by catching a capsule, gets so fast that losing a life is almost inevitable. This is part of the game, just as it was with the coin-op version. The speed of the bat across the screen is, I suspect, to aid the player in reaching the ball quicker (much like the EXTRA ZIP in Thru The Wall!).

The programmers do appear to have kept closely to the coin-op’s original qualities of gameplay, but back to Magnus Ramage and his argument about the Spectrum version’s originality...

I would suggest that all arcade games are based on one of four formats: shoot ’em ups, platform games, maze games and bat and ball games. And there isn’t an arcade game that doesn’t fall into one or more of these categories, whatever extra features are added to it (eg Knightlore, and the many games it has spawned, such as as last month’s smash Head Over Heels, is merely a platform game with fancy graphics and some adventure elements).

Therefore, Arkanoid cannot be described as unoriginal; in fact it is very original, as there haven’t been many bat and ball games for the Spectrum recently.

The mention Magnus makes of Head Over Heels calls into question the ‘bias’ that G Hamnett feels is at work among the three CRASH reviewers of Arkanoid. He too was...

... a bit taken aback to see that Batman II sorry, Head Over Heels received an identical rating (97 percent) to that of the superlative, CRASHiest Smash of them all Dun Darach! Why? Apart from the fact that you control two characters, sometimes together, the game is almost a complete replica of Batman. The puzzling thing is, is that your reviewers slag off Arkanoid because of its old game concept, but cannot bring themselves to give the same treatment to Head Over Heels which employs an admittedly younger but infinitely more used game concept.

Since the advent of the Spectrum, compare the number of Breakout clones to the amount of Knight Lore clones that have sprung up left, right and within six months after the release of that classic game. So, reviewers, in future don’t judge a game by its cover.

A very sound piece of advice, Mr Hamnett, but ironically, one you don’t quote subscribe to yourself...!

Finally I would like to re-iterate J M McDonald’s views in Issue 39. A game with Hewson on the front is indeed the sign of a quality game, and, unlike Ultimate, the same can be said of the company’s C64 releases. Hewson and Gargoyle are, sadly, the only two software companies whose names are actually marks of quality.

As you said, don’t judge a game by the quality sign on its cover!

Okay, my somewhat reduced space this month has now expired. Thank you for writing in, and please keep doing so, otherwise Derek Brewster will be overtaking me, and we can’t have that, now, can we Derek? I’d be really interested to put together massive ‘debate’ points-of-view style piece on a subject touched upon in this Forum — that of what makes games addictive, playable and good value. Get the letters going, I’ll pile them up and then compile something in an issue or two’s time.