Your Spectrum
Issue 8, October 1984 - Joystick Jury
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J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
On the jury this month are Alex Entwhistle, Alan Grier and Alan Hunter - all members of the Saltcoats Computer Club. Meeting every Tuesday evening (7-10pm) at the Argyle Centre, Campbell Avenue. Contact Daniel Canavin on nnnn nnnnn if you'd like to join them.
* YS HIT * MUGSY Melbourne House / £6.95
As the 'Godfather' to a gang of mafia men, your job is to keep them all happy by making lots of money and buying arms to fight off rival gangs. You've also got to pay for police co-operation and buy 'customers' who are in need of your brand of protection.
Alex: As you might expect from Melbourne House, the graphics are exceptionally well defined; the detail is superb, right down to the cigarette smoke. There are several varying screens, each making good use of contrasting colours, and the overall display is very clear and pleasing to the eye. Added to this is the very fast response time which allows the game to proceed as quickly as the player wants it to, and the Charleston that's played in the introduction.
Alan G: The idea of interacting with a comic strip is excellent, and if you become too successful, a rival gang sends out a hitman; the café shoot-out that results is superb arcade sequence. Most of the game, however, is about entering how much money you want to spend on guns, bribes, customers and so on. There's also a wonderful micro movie at the end of each year's business. Superbly detailed graphics, excellent animation and choice of colours.
Your right-hand man tells you here what is happening with your hoods in the gangland underworld and lets you know how much money you're making or losing.

The status report line gives you a running report on the number of hoods you have, your 'customers' and the amount of money you have left.
MUGSY screen This is the 'input speech bubble', where you type in your requests, commands and replies.

The graphics used in Mugsy are great and have been drawn using Melbourne Draw; they really are very detailed.
Alan H: The drawing of the graphics is incredibly fast; in fact, they appear almost instantaneously which is all the more impressive considering their very high quality. Equally astounding is the logic behind the game. It's consistent, but doesn't produce outcomes that are in the least predictable - every game seems to be quite different from the last. Even the title screen is very good. This game is well worth the money at £6.95.

Mr Wong is being chased by a clothes iron, a stack of dirty washing and even soap suds, as
he tries to collect the laundry. So it's up to you to help him out by spraying his pursuers with starch to stun them.
Alex: The graphics aren't very impressive and the colour doesn't improve the situation. Being so slow makes the game far too easy to play, especially when you're using a joystick, so it's worth remembering to play this one via the keyboard. Collecting laundry is an original idea, but it doesn't prove to be exciting.

Alan H: Originality is low - it's similar to burgertime type games - but this doesn't make the game any less playable or addictive. It includes above average, well- drawn and fairly smooth graphics, with only
the merest amount of flicker. But the colour could be better, as the whole display is rather dull. Another minus is the speed - it's quite slow for this type of game, but using the keyboard instead of a joystick solves the problem to some extent.

Alan H: There's a tendency to call this game boring, but that's only because the speed is so slow and perhaps because of the way colour is used; it's the same on every screen, which means everything looks the same. However, the graphics are well defined. It would be better to have total control of Mr Wong; for example if you press the key to go left he'll continue until another key is pressed.
SPOOF Runesoft / £5.95
Fed up with his mundane existence and his nagging wife (Dro Ning), not to mention his whinging kids (Mo Ning and Complay Ning), Yaw Ning decides to leave them and look for adventure down at the local (The Drink Ing?). There he hears tell that Spoof the Magic Dragon has returned ...
Alex: The adventure's not much like the description, but you wouldn't expect it to be. The aim is to find a component for the doctor's machine. Response to your commands is excellent, with almost immediate replies. But the best part about this adventure is the humour, which makes a pleasant change from the usual seriousness.

Alan G: Adventures aren't usually
very funny, but this one is and it tends to make it stand out from the rest. What's more, you don't have to wait ages for a reply. However, text-only adventures aren't new, and they only have limited appeal. Even this one, with its humour, will only be interesting for a short time. The text is white on a blue background and there's absolutely no sound at all.

Alan H: The idea is quite basic, but the content is much better than lots of the other adventures, especially the humour which helps to maintain your interest. This all goes to make one of the most playable adventures around, and there are various screen prompts to help you on your way. The fact that
SPOOF screen

there's no sound, rather than detracting from the game, tends to make it even better.

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
SPACE COMMAND Virgin Games / £5.95

Encounter alien life-forms, whose orders are to seek and destroy, as you guide and protect the
asteroid and its doomed city through many star systems. The city is protected by a two-stage forcefield which only actually protects the populated areas.
Alex: Virgin's still living in the past with unoriginal space games - although this one's a little better than some of the earlier offerings and the action is fast and furious. Colours contrast well, and the resulting display is quite clear. Mastering the game isn't too easy, so it stays mildly addictive. Using a joystick improves playability quite a bit.

Alan G: The graphics are a strong point. They're flicker free, highly detailed and move very smoothly. There's also a radar dish which goes through six frames of animation to
revolve through 360 degrees. It's by no means a dull looking game; everything is very bright, with multi- coloured aliens and a psychedelic base. The big problem is the lack of originality and content; the game fails to hold your attention for long.

Alan H: Every colour imaginable seems to be included - which makes it look rather interesting, the trouble is the lack of content makes it just a multi-coloured mess. The speed is much too fast, making play virtually impossible without a joystick. The sound is made up of nothing more than a few zaps, bangs and wallops. There's no choice of skill level, but you get the option to choose which pretty space ship you use!
DUNGEON BUILDER Dream Software / £9.95
This program, consisting of 15K of pure machine code, allows the user to design graphics adventures using the displayed map. There are also extensive save facilities; created programs can be run without Dungeon Builder.
Alex: Adventure designers are not at all original, but this one has been very highly developed and should enable adventure programs to be created that are every bit as good as the user's imagination. I, for one, will be rushing out to buy one straight away. One of the most interesting features is the way you can produce your own screen graphics, and then use any of the Spectrum's colours.

Alan G: It's a pleasure to use, with fast
response times to your commands, complete freedom in things like graphics designing and choice of colours. The most valuable feature is the way it allows a complete adventure to run without Dungeon Builder being present. Also very good is the 100-page manual which explains clearly how to make the most of the package.

Alan H: A utility that actually works quite well, but could have been better. It's similar to other programs like The Quill and Dungeon Master, coupled with a crude drawing program. The graphics take a good deal of time to produce, but they're pretty good when complete. Compared with other similar offerings, this one rates

favourably, but overall appeal depends upon whether you like writing adventure programs.
LES FLICS screen

The aim is to steal the Purple Puma diamond.
First though, you must collect all the objects and then experiment to find out what they do, at the same time avoiding police cars, policemen and Kaolin the Chef.
Alex: Based on the Pink Panther movies, this is a cops-and-robbers maze game - but one which includes some well- executed graphics. The trouble is they tend to get boring after a while. This could be due, in part, to a not particularly impressive choice of colours which cause the display to appear hazy. A better choice would have made the game a lot better.

Alan G: It's not the sort of game to keep you glued to the screen for hours, but it does make good use of the Spectrum's
graphics; it's well-drawn, and moves very smoothly. However, while choice of colours is well above average, there's lots of overlapping that takes place - mainly because the characters are quite large. There's also a really good Pink Panther tune between lives.

Alan H: The general idea is original, but the effect isn't. It ends up feeling like a cross between Pacman and an adventure - probably because the aim of the whole thing has been to give an adventure theme, while taking away a lot of the work. However, the technical execution is very good, with clear, smooth graphics, enhanced by well-chosen colours and a playing speed that's just right.
STUART HENRY'S POP QUIZ Bellflower Software / £5.75
Radio Luxembourg DJ, Stuart Henry, has set over 750 questions to test your knowledge of pop. The questions range from the dim and distant past to the present - so it's suitable for anyone from the oldest swinger to the youngest teeny- bopper. There's also a mystery tune to be identified.
Alex: It sounds like a pretty drab sort of program, but Bellflower has actually come up with something that can be described as good family entertainment, and not a space invader in sight - other than Boy George! The idea's very good, and there are only one or two minor problems. The first one is that the questions can't be updated and, second your answer needs to be spelled correctly otherwise you get it wrong.

SH's POP QUIZ screen

Alan H: As you answer the questions correctly, you're given the chance to guess another note in the mystery tune (which is played at the start of a game, once only). If you guess correctly the note's displayed on the musical score, halfway down the screen. Guess them all, and the mystery's solved. The best thing about this game is that it has nothing to do with aliens, ghosts or tanks.

Alan G: What a good idea to have a computerised pop/rock quiz for a wide range. It's appeal is only limited to contemporary music fans, which should mean that most people could get enjoyment from it. The sound is a problem and makes guessing the mystery tune difficult.

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
TURBO CHESS Kerian / £5.95
The makers of Turbo Chess claim it represents a state-of-the-art chess program (it doesn't say which one) and that it includes infinite levels of play, the ability to load a previously saved program and a comprehensive analysis routine.
Alex: There are so many chess programs for the Spectrum that this is quite likely to get lost in the crowd. However, with features like setting the Spectrum's 'thinking' time limit, I can quite believe it is the best one around. The graphics are clear and it responds quite quickly most of the time, so at least it's above average. It's very complex, and will only appeal to chess nuts.

Alan G: Oh no, not another chess game! Actually it's probably unfair to dismiss it out of hand, but there really are far too many similar

programs on the market. This one does seem to have a few more features than the others and it's quite simple to get the hang of, although only chess freaks will welcome its arrival. It's well presented with adequate graphics and speed.

Alan H: It's difficult to comment on a program like this without being extremely good at chess - certainly from a technical point of view it seems to be quite good. The graphics are impressive, with four- character blocks being used to define each piece and the colour has been chosen reasonably well. Sometimes though it's difficult to see a white piece in a cyan background. This example has been executed well.
CAVELON Ocean Software / £5.90
CAVELON screen

Inside the forbidding castle the contest has
begun, and to reach the end of your quest you must successfully complete six levels of play, each time collecting all the fragments of a door which will provide your entrance to the next.
Alex: The graphics aren't all that entertaining, in fact they're downright boring after a while; a bit more thought in the design could have made all the difference. However, execution is very good, with the figures keeping their shape while moving. The idea is based on the arcade game of the same name, and to some extent has been transferred successfully on to the Spectrum. What really lets it down are those monotonous graphics.

Alan G: The playing speed could do
with being a bit faster, but the graphics are very well drawn and quite detailed. They're made even better still by the excellent use of colour; they don't dazzle too much, and overall it's a very pleasant screen display. The only thing wrong is the speed at which you fire.

Alan H: This is a direct copy of an arcade game, but there's nothing like it on the Spectrum and it's also a good replica. Technically, it can't be faulted; the graphics are clear and flicker free, the colour is bright and interesting, and there's a tune playing constantly. The speed's sometimes a bit fast which makes it difficult to play, but a joystick would improve matters considerably.
BEAKY AND THE EGG SNATCHERS Fantasy Software / £5.50
Beaky, a member of the Andromedan Armed Condors, has chosen to lay her eggs on the planet Crackit. Unfortunately, this is the home of the egg-snatchers, so the first thing is help Beaky recover her eggs, then assist in brooding and chick rearing.
Alan G: Originality, in this case, doesn't just apply to the idea, but also to the design and movement of the graphics. They're super smooth, flicker free, and include excellent detail. In fact, it takes 120 frames of animation to move Beaky alone. Although the colours aren't the brightest possible (black background), they're easy on the eyes.

Alex: The graphics are generally very
impressive, especially Beaky (when she's in flight) and the egg-snatchers themselves. However, the use of colour could have been better - it's a bit dull to look at; a little more sound might have helped as well. Nevertheless, the originality of the idea, and the fast action, make this an extremely good game to play. The option of defining your own keys helps.

Alan H: The screen display is somehow lacking, offering little to maintain the player's concentration, which is one reason why this game is so difficult to play. Another is the speed, which is sometimes so fast that Beaky flies out of control. Still, the graphics are of a very high quality, and are
BEAKY screen

not adversely affected by the high speed. The actual idea is as good as it is novel.
TEMPLE OF VRAN Incentive Software / £5.50

On the eve of your execution, having been framed for murder, you're given the chance to either do or die. You're sent on a mission with
an assassin bug called Edgar hanging on to your neck; he'll sink his fangs into you if you do a bunk.
Alex: This adventure is a follow up to the Mountains of Ket, and extends an originally good idea even further. The fact that it's text-only doesn't matter in the least, because the content is so good that it just makes you want to play on and on. However, you need to be a bit of an adventure nut and I suspect it could take a very long time indeed to succeed. Good game, very addictive, and should provide aeons of fun.

Alan G: It's full of the stuff adventures are made of, but tends to offer just a little bit more. Like having to battle against
extremely vicious warts and having Edgar on your neck certainly prevents you from doing anything crafty. The actual aim is to find the Temple of Vran and destroy its evil inhabitants, a task for which you are suited - you're convicted of murder, remember?

Alan H: It's the content of this game which makes it better than most of the other adventures and the idea of displaying your statistics at the start of the game is particularly useful when you go into battle later on. Another nice feature is the way the objects you are carrying are displayed in simple block graphics. Some adventures are better than others; this is a better one.

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
DARTZ Automata / £5.00
DARTZ screen

It's darts night down at the local - Automata style - which means that not only do skill and
luck play their part, but also the usual overweight and drunken slobs. Being one of these familiar specimens, you have to beware of getting too pi ... drinking too much beer!
Alex: The cassette insert claims that animated cartoon graphics are included, but that's being pretty presumptuous as the only time they're present is when the player goes to retrieve his darts; even then they only occupy a quarter of the screen. Overall it's generally quite a good idea, with the usual Automata novelty value, but the content and execution leave a lot to be desired. Another fault is the claimed skill factor; your efforts hardly relate to your final score.

Alan G: Use of graphics is well above average,
especially the animated figure of the player throwing his darts. These are improved by the choice of colours which is just about right for a game of 'arrows' in the pub. There's also some very good sound included, but it gets boring after a while.

Alan H: This computerised mixture of darts playing and getting drunk at the same time is a superb idea, and very funny into the bargain. Like most Automata games it relies heavily on novelty value. Nevertheless, it does feature a well laid- out screen, adequate speed and some interesting graphics. Best of all, though, is the humour, which pokes fun at beer-bellied darts players.
CLEVER CLOGS STAR TRUCKER Argus Press Software / £7.95
This is an easy learning program for the over-nines where the pupil (player) has to answer simple questions before becoming a space pilot. Then the aim is to trade beyond hyperspace to find the power crystals. Strategy and clear thinking are necessary as you overcome such assorted hazards as asteroids, leaking fuel tanks and dust belts.
Alex: The idea is to answer the questions correctly and get the fuel you need to search for the power crystals. That done, movement is via the cursor keys, one character block at a time; of course as it's meant for nine-year olds, the speed is very slow. However, the graphics are quite clear, and made better by the simple but pleasing use of colour. There's also some nicely applied sound to increase enjoyment.

Alan G: The originality factor is very high, but it's doubtful whether this program has any real educational value - or any degree of playability. It's very colourful, but the speed is far too slow (even for nine-year olds) and the sound can only be described as poor. Just because a program is aimed at the young is no reason for slap-dash presentation.

Alan H: It might appeal to nine-year olds, but at nine-and-a-half you'd be too old for this one. The graphics are basic and uninteresting, the speed is too slow, and the colour fails to attract or excite. The packaging's

attractive and there's an offer of a Clever Clogs poster and a competition to enter.
* YS HIT * WORSE THINGS HAPPEN AT SEA Silversoft / £5.95
The title's quite right, they do. The ship's sprung a leak and the sailor-robot needs to stop it - at the same time keeping the vessel on course, pumping out the water and oiling the engine. Remember to keep the hatches closed, or you'll perish sooner rather than later.
Alex: The ship is drawn very well, with clear and entertaining graphics. Judging by the number of screens that appear as you travel round, the size of the ship must be enormous. It's certainly quite a headache trying to stop the flood, but it gets a bit easier with practice. Overall, a program that'll keep you glued to the screen for ages.
Alan G: Not only is the idea behind the game very original, there's lots of things to do to keep you interested as well as busy. The graphics are highly detailed and the sailor-robot moves very smoothly. Most of the time it feels like you're fighting a losing battle, with the water flooding in.
Alan H: The superb graphics are unaffected by the excitingly high speed of the game - which is just about right - and the colourful display is also enjoyable, while still being reasonably realistic. But it's the idea which makes this program something special; there's really nothing like it available anywhere else. There's just one disturbing 'fault' (if that's what it is) which allows the boat to successfully make its first crossing without the player actually doing anything. Messing around in boats is great fun.
This part of the screen shows you how far you've managed to get across the sea.   This rather complicated looking area lets you know what state the ship's in.
WTHAS screen
The water is going to swallow you up and sink the ship if you're not nimble enough with the patching process.   This is the playing area and is where your droid repairs the leaks and closes the hatch doors.
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