Fear and Loathing

John Minson


After having The Living Daylights frightened out of him, Minson offers his guide to decent dining on a budget in London...

Jehovah and his choir of angels, it sounds like the end of the world. The crack of doom has just opened up, and it’s all happening right above my head. Could it be that they’re mending the roof at last?

Still, it’s all relatively subdued compared with The Living Daylights. The Living Daylights — The Movie, that is, and not the program because I doubt even Plus owners will be able to reproduce the deafening excess of the new James Bond epic.

Truly the boys from Domark are licensed to work wonders, so a week before Chuck and Di got to sample the joys of Timmy Dalton’s dimple, everyone who’s everyone in computer journalism trolled down to Pinewood studios for a super-exclusive preview of the film.

This was the full red carpet treatment, and being an arrogant swine I strode down the centre of the crimson stripe and marched into a buffet that made the Black Hole of Calcutta seem like an empty icebox. However somewhere between the sarnies and the champagne I did manage to make out a be-suited quintet of familiar faces. You can tell it’s a big event when the whole Ludlow Mafia don their best whistles and make their way down to the smoke.

You’ll be reading enough about The Living Daylights — The Game and The Movie elsewhere over the next few months. Enough to say that the former looks like it follows the latter extremely closely and that the latter is a damned sight better than any of old Eyebrow’s attempts. Timothy Dalton is a return to the traditional Bond values of a tough guy with ice-cool charm and a streak of sheer sadism.

Domark didn’t miss a trick. Gourmet Dave Carlos even dished out King Cones before the show began. He looked so at home with the little tray perched on his midriff I wondered if this wasn’t his true vocation. What with Q himself to introduce the movie and gifts of whistling keyrings, this was a contender for lavish launch of the year.

But there’s more than one way of winning a journo than choking him with choc ices. An alternative route to a hack’s heart is through his more finely tuned taste buds. Which is why Code Masters’ invite to L’Escargot (that’s The Snail for all you cunning linguists out there) was more than welcome.

‘There’s obviously money in £1.99 releases,’ I whispered to the slinky editress of another publication (that’s a T-zer for you) as I studied the menu. Sure enough, while we waited the ever-elegant (though no longer quite so eligible, if my sources are correct) Baxter confirmed my suspicions.

Michael, or Co-Co as those of us in the know call him, hit us with the facts straight away. The latest Gallup chart shows that Code Masters have the second largest market share in this country, which means that they’re flogging an awful lot of cassettes.

Which is all very interesting if you’re one of Maggie’s brave new capitalists, but if you’re more interested in loading bits than shifting units, the good news is that there are two new Spectrum releases on the way, to whit (to-woo) Grand Prix Simulator, an overhead race game with two player option, and Super G-Man (Gee!), a shoot-’em-up.

With the company also invading Germany and shooting up sales on the continent it looks like they have reason to be buying celebratory lunches. There’s just one unanswered question.

Whose boots are those opposite? Did Baxtie wear them as he goose-stepped into Cologne? Or does his assistant, sexpot Sarah Donovan, have a penchant for riding kit? I think we should be told... and in the latter case provided with photographic evidence.

Talking of riding crops, which we weren’t, leads me to the man with the flattest crop this side of Vidal Sassoon’s. Yes, I’m talking about Andy Wright, who obviously felt that I’d had too many of these gang bangs and so invited me out for an intimate tête-à-tête in a Hampstead wine bar.

Very little to whine about though because the food was excellent and as for the fruit of the vine... well, we were forced to imbibe a bottle and a half because, as Andy observed, ‘I just can’t get used to seeing you sober.’

O for a closer walk with Code Masters

It was all perfectly innocent... or so I thought. But there was a reason for the hospitality. ‘You’re in the pay of Microprose, aren’t you?’ Wright asked. I tried to deny it but to no avail. ‘Well, tell Wild Bill that we’ve got a message for him.’

It seems that nuclear simulations hold no terrors for Flat Top’s troupe of crack commandos. They’ve got something special lined up, should the Major try to drop in, sitting on a bomb, Dr Strangelove style. Yes, Activision has completed its star wars defence while Ronnie still dithers about who gets to play Luke Skywalker.

High Frontier (which is a funny place to have an ear, but no worry) is a serious SDI simulation from master strategist Alan Steel, co-author of Theatre Europe, but that’s unlikely to stop it getting flack from the lily-livered types who think wargames will turn you into mindless sadists. As Andy pointed out, nuclear destruction does not lead to victory.

But there’s more! If that isn’t enough to get Wild Bill trembling in his army boots, Activision has signed up Big Arnie himself — or rather Schwarzen-ham-and-egger’s new movie, Predator. Andy had just seen it and reckons it’s extremely gruesome... more stomach churning details soon.

But their final trick has been to call in the forces of the supernatural by signing up Knightmare, the new TV adventure game show from Anglia. This looks like it could be one of the biggest events in computer-related shows. None of your Micro Live, BBC nonsense... this is computing for fun.

You won’t be able to thrill to the show until September, but you will be able to read all about it. Where? Well, let’s save the best bits till last. A few weeks ago I was gagged, blindfolded and whisked away to a Birmingham bistro where the bearded Kidd swore me to secrecy before telling me about a new Newsfield magazine.

Swore me to secrecy? Well, I’ve never believed in ‘off-the-record’ information, so I’m going to blow the gaffe. The Games Machine will be looking at all those micros out there which aren’t covered by CRASH and ZZAP!, and though there will be information on your eight-bit favourites you’ll also be able to gen up on sixteen-bit wonders, games consoles and who knows what else...

Me! I know what else because I’ll be playing a part in this exciting new project. So there’ll also be... Hang on, the banging up above has stopped. What was that thud? It’s a squadron of the SAS. No it’s Graeme! Honest, boss, I wasn’t going to tell them about the... No!!! ARRGH!!! Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait till September, otherwise Big G might break my other arm!

Yours in F&L...