Your Spectrum
Issue 3, May 1984 - Misfires of the Year
Home Contents KwikPik
1983 has seen a large growth in both software games product and the houses that supply it. And with this growth has come an interesting change in advertising techniques - for now, it seems standard to start promoting games at least a month before they become available. Fortunately, for those whose mouths cannot stop watering, much of the software released in '83 was of a high quality. Some, however, fell rather short of the mark and Gavin Monk adds his pennyworth to the moans.  

O F   T H E   Y E A R
Imagine produced the first disappointment of the year with the release of Schizoids. After the success of Arcadia, everybody was expecting a stunning new game and Schizoids was said to offer "A unique experience in arcade action, real-time animated 3D graphics for a breathtaking visual experience and all those quality features you've come to expect from Imagine". However, what we weren't told in the blurb was that the game was only in black and white! Perhaps Imagine flogged its colour television to pay for all the massive four page advertising that went on.
The game idea itself seemed strong enough. You're stranded in space and have the job of interstellar refuse disposal consultant (binman). That means you patrol around a black hole in your space-dozer pushing rubbish into it.
Other than the lack of colour, first impressions with the graphic quality of the product were good. The debris moves around the screen very smoothly, all in animated 3D. But the trouble starts as you realise that your space-dozer is impossible to control (perhaps explaining why Imagine included an order form for a Fuller joystick with the game). And strangely enough, you don't score any points for pushing the garbage into the hole - in fact, there's no real way of scoring points at all. Your tally is simply equivalent to the time you manage to survive. I got my highest score by pressing the start button and popping off for a cup of coffee!
Richard Shepherd Software released Transylvanian Tower at the beginning of 1983 - a move
that was quickly followed by rave reviews in all the computing magazines. Now, a year on, Transylvanian Tower is still being advertised as "A spine chilling adventure". That's as may be, but the plain truth is that the game just can't compete with the new machine code adventures which are now in production. You'll have noticed that I said 'machine code', because although Transylvanian Tower loads as code it's written completely in Basic and not too well at that. No wonder the program is so slow and the graphics move at the speed of attacking snails.
Virgin Games appeared at the Earl's Court Computer Fair in the summer to herald the launch of its first Spectrum games. These were Yomp, Sheepwalk, Golf and Starfire. Written mainly in Basic, they sold at the unusually high price of £7.95 each. The games proved very slow and, adding insult to injury, turned out to contain bugs. On several occasions I was faced with error messages like 'Integer out of range' and 'Out of screen'.
Yomp is just another version of Frogger but with a change of story. Now the idea is to guide your soldier first across a road of speeding Army trucks, then across a minefield. This turned out to be the best of the four and even contained some machine code routines. As for the others, well, in Sheepwalk the game characters are depicted by very simple graphics. In fact 'walk' is the operative word because, judging by its speed, the 'dog' obviously suffers some functional difficulty with its legs. Golf might have been a good game, except
that whenever the ball gets hit off-screen, an error signal pops up and it's time to re-load. I can't say anything about Starfire because my copy positively refuses to load at all.
Ocean's Kong got to Number One just a few months ago - possibly as much a reflection on its heritage as anything else. Actually, the general program is fine ... it's the finishing that's sloppy. When Kong jumps up and down at the start of the game, he manages to leave two pixels of leg behind him. Also, your hero seems to suffer from a disability which prevents him from climbing ladders properly! And the message '1 LIVES LEFT' leaves a lot to the imagination. Perhaps the program was rushed on to the market for some reason and failed to receive the customary polish. At least this hasn't happened to the company's latest release - Hunchback.
Microl decided to launch Valhalla under the trading name of Legend - presumably because its alter-reputation lies in the business software arena. It was advertised as "The program you have been waiting for, the successor to The Hobbit". After initial delays, copies of Valhalla began slowly filtering through and magazines published reviews that generally rated the program a great success.
Certainly, the operating system is of excellent quality and a pleasure to use and the game idea also seems a good one. The trouble is that it lacks the depth and problem-solving aspects of a true adventure game. The graphic pictures for each location, although excellent, are almost identical. The characters, well animated though they are, get greatly confused when they pass each other. And objects like wine and food just appear as dots on the screen and are very hard to see. Perhaps the fact that Legend described this program as the "successor to The Hobbit" raised expectations too high.
So, why were all the reviews so good? Well, with all big launches like this, every magazine wants to have the first review published and the trouble is that checkouts on adventures just cannot be rushed. Reviewers were pushed to write their reviews in time and hence never really got their hands dirty. A certain reviewer for a well-known weekly computing magazine confided that "I only just had enough time to load Valhalla - let alone review it".
All griping aside, much of the software released last year showed an extremely high standard with companies like Ultimate Play The Game leading the field. Further progress is assured in 1984.

"I hope the real thing's more exciting."


Yomp / Virgin Games

A slow, mostly Basic game that became the butt of many a joke in 1983. It was just so naff, it had to grab the number one position.

Transylvanian Tower / Richard Shepherd Software

Completely written in Basic, and not too well at that. You'll get more 'spine-chilling' adventure out of a melting ice-cube.

ET / Hilderbray

Another Basic game with a slice or two of token code. If this had arrived for the Play Power section of YS, the tape would have been sent back!

Schizoids / Imagine

The biggest disappointment of 1983. Although it's written in "100 percent super-fast machine code", its thrills spilled out somewhere along the line.

Maze Panic / Silicon Software

It's rumoured that more copies of this game were sent out for review than were sold. Yet again, mostly in Basic with just a twitch of machine code. Silicon Software went bust halfway through last year ... thankfully!
In response to an almost infinitesimal demand from its readers, YS is proud to present (albeit rather late!) its games software Strangled Turkey Awards for 1983.
Yes, last year saw it all - the strokes of sheer keyboarding genius, the awful averagemess of the Atari copyright lookalikes and, of course, the few instances of near-breathtaking banality.
As you may have gathered, it's the final category that interests us here, and staff on YS have deliberated long and hard over the winners of its much-coveted bottom five awards. Now, at long last, the truth can be told! Here, in ascending order of awfulness, are out five top goofers of 1983 ...
Home Contents KwikPik