Your Spectrum
Issue 9, November 1984 - Joystick Jury
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J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
Success in the charts doesn't always mean it's the best game around. Check out the thoughts of our jury this month - Ron Smith, Roger Willis and David Lester - and you'll see what we mean ...

Lothlorien / £5.95

Roger: Get ready for a thoroughly hyper- yawn
experience, because this is nothing but a down-market and down-wind re-work of that lounge bar favourite of yesteryear, Asteroids. Read and then instantly forget the fantasy blurb on the cassette liner, as the game's got virtually nothing to do with "hi-tech galaxy surveillance craft".
If there's anyone left in this universe who isn't familiar with the game format, then tough - I'm not about to bore you all by describing it. It's enough to say that for the sake of 'originality', the victims of player aggression have been named 'Deltanoids'. Their spherical appearance and painful manners, which are alleged to become "more brutal and devious" as infantile skill level rises, should really have attracted the seminal title for games of this ilk, which has to be Hemorrhoids.
And if you haven't got it yet, let's just say this one's guaranteed to give you a meaningful pain in the bottom - especially if you've clawed yourself up to a respectable height on the evolutionary ladder. 1/5

Ron: I thought we killed off Asteroid lookalikes sometime in the dark ages of computing. Will software houses never learn that you can't lump together Asteroids and Arcadia and get away with it! 1/5

David: A pretty good version of Asteroids, but then I'm sure we've all got at least one copy somewhere at home. The graphics get more interesting as you progress the levels 3/5
PI IN 'ERE screen

Automata / £6.00

David: The tedious scenario for this arcade game
casts you as a miniaturised BURT inside a computer. Your mission? To track down the 'Big Bug', by tunnelling through RAM and collecting various items along the way. And if you think that sounds like an original idea, I don't know where you've been for the last few months.
The graphics are very reminiscent of Pi-Balled's characters, and are both colourful and well-animated. The game's actually quite difficult to succeed at, especially when you're creating new tunnel knowing that there's a band of nasties on your tail. I must admit though, that it didn't inspire the 'just one more go then ...' feeling that should come with a good game. On the other hand, it's a reasonable version of its kind and is well supported by good graphics and sound.
While it does have a Kempston joystick option, I found it too unresponsive to be useful and ended up back at the keyboard.
This game certainly won't stun the computer world by leaping up the charts - but it should be a success among Piman fans. 3/5

Ron: The title does nothing to suggest that this is nothing but a Mr Do! rip-off ... but so what. The game's great fun, and it's certainly my tip for the top. 4/5

Roger: At last - an arcade game that requires some detailed strategic planning. Automata's Piman games do have a tendency to be a bit similar but, having said that, it's quite difficult to play. 3/5

Micromega / £6.95

Roger: As a long-standing motorcycle fetishist,
Full Throttle's simulator promises were fatally attractive to me and it absorbed far more of my time than I originally planned - however, I couldn't help having one or two misgivings.
Program content initially exudes Grand Prix bike racing authenticity; the player is offered a menu of 10 of the greatest Grand Prix circuits in Europe. Throttle, brakes and steering all function in an apparently realistic way - the 'racing line' you take through the corners is critical to speed - but complete control is difficult on the keyboard. The 3D graphics are fairly good but, compromised by a lumpy horizon, each track has a habit of looking the same. Worse still, an absence of visual reference make 'learning' each circuit almost impossible, so anticipation is seriously limited; just naming the corners of each circuit would have helped.
Unfortunately, the whole thing crumbles into arcadia when the player gets fast enough in the saddle to ride with the pack. The other 40 riders hop about like a bunch of idiots ... and bang goes the realism. Aspirant Barry Sheenes will bite Sinclair's finest with abject frustration as the opposition crank through the turns without ever crashing. 4/5

Ron: I found this game quite impossible to play - the only way I got to race with the rest of the pack was to let them lap me. 2/5

David: It's not the most colourful game I've seen, but it's certainly the best bike-racing game by far. Impressive 3D bikes and a selection of race tracks made this a winner. 4/5

Mastertronic / £1.99

Ron: Imprisoned in Alcatraz, it's up to Harry to search for and steal some secret files which've
been stored in an underground vault and, once found, he must escape through a hole in one of the fences.
Now all this seems pretty simple until you see a grid map of the prison layout, which shows the 144 different locations in which the files could be hidden. To make sure that you visit most of them, it's necessary to search for 30 items of escape equipment as well. This done Harry must be helped back to the compound and begin his walk across the minefield to safety beyond the electrified fence.
This is no easy game to complete, but with only average use of colour, flickering repetitive graphics and a fairly slow playing speed, it's unlikely anyone would want to. However, to its credit, there are
some fun locations to visit; for instance, go past certain guards too many times and you'll be arrested for loitering and have your head blown off - violent stuff, but done with humour. Definitely reasonable value for the price that's being asked. 2/5

David: It's a shame Mastertronic's machine code programmers were out to lunch when this one got away. Thus, play is fairly slow and tedious. 2/5

Roger: This one's a curious mixture of arcade and adventure action, but overall I'd say Harry deserved to stay incarcerated. I think some thrilling text might have made it better. 4/5

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
BC BILL screen

Imagine - Beau-Jolly / £5.50

Roger: The fallen empire of Imagine Software bears guilt for BC Bill's creation; Imagine may be 'the name of the game', like it says on the packet, but whoever wrote this didn't
exactly apply a vast amount of imagination to this sample of Stone Age programming. Maybe everyone was too busy winding up the company to notice what the programmers were doing ...
The game is essentially lightweight stuff involving a primitive character who looks and behaves like your average Liverpool or Everton supporter - probably Imagine's way of introducing a little local colour. Bill, under player control, has to scuttle about a primeval landscape, clubbing wives and collecting food, before dragging the goodies back to his cave. An ever-increasing number of children, resulting from the collected and nourished wives, complicate matters as do the carnivorous (news to me!) dinosaurs dropping in for lunch.
Well, it's obvious it's going to be a success - everyone loves a good old dinosaur ... you only have to see how many
people settle down to watch that load of old tott One Million Years BC each time the BBC repeat it. For me though, there wasn't enough going on - I spent the first few games just trying to find another screen (having got bored with the first fairly quickly); needless to say there isn't one - equally needless to say, it needs one. 3/5

David: Sexism to the fore in this strange little Stone Age scenario. It'll be a sure-fire hit - nice graphics and excellent sound help - but the initial attraction soon wanes. 4/5

Ron: What a load of sexist nonsense - great graphics, but the storyline stinks. Personally, I wouldn't give it house-room. 3/5

Artic / £6.95

Ron: This is a maze game with a difference, although you'd never guess it from the title or
the silly picture on the cassette insert. It's all about helping Humpty escape from his enemies, the Fuzzy Wuzzies (who're responsible for all the bombs) and the Deadly Snappers.
The game's twist is that instead of having control of our egg-shaped hero, you get to direct the movement of the maze itself. The reason for this is that not only does Humpty look like a rugby ball, but he also behaves like one. He sits lifeless until the maze is turned through 90 degrees, whereupon he tumbles downward by the force of gravity. Only when an object is encountered or the Fuzzy Wuzzies get in the way, does Humpty actually come to rest again. There are 18 mazes in all, complete with teleports to help poor ol' Humpty out of the stickiest of situations.
While the use of the rotating maze is
interesting, in play it tends to be very disorientating - especially as it disappears momentarily each time it's rotated. However, the overall display make use of clearly defined graphics and pleasant use of colour. Best of all though is the speed. 3/5

David: Despite the age-old theme, this maze game is different enough to warrant attention. The graphics and sound are good, although there's a distinct lack of addictiveness. 3/5

Roger: Who dreams these things up? The title's enough to put anyone off - which is a shame because it's really a very good game. I'm not too sure if it'll reach the charts ... 4/5

Cheetahsoft / £6.95

David: Believe it or not, the idea behind this game is to eat as many apples as possible, so that you can build up enough fat to last out the
Winter in hibernation. For those of you, like me, expecting a game based on Boy George, you're going to be disappointed!
The first (of three) screens shows the bear in an orchard, waiting with mouth agape for some apples to fall from the trees. It's not that difficult - the only thing that can hurt you is a magenta-coloured apple falling on your head and knocking you out for a few seconds. Then, after three types of apple have been consumed, you automatically move to the ski-piste (?) and have to manoeuvre Bear George to his cave while avoiding the skiers. Once at the mouth of the cave, the scene changes again and it's now your task to walk along the bottom of the cave without touching the spiders who've attached themselves to the ceiling to block your path. When you reach your bed, there's a couple of seconds rest for Winter (yawn) and it's back to the
beginning again.
Although the animation and graphics are superb, and the sound well above average too, there's little addictiveness to this at all - I found it far too easy. Nevertheless, this could be a commercial success 2/5

Ron: Bear George is a really odd game. I haven't quite got the hang of the storyline yet - I refuse to believe it's that simple - but the graphics and sound are above average. 3/5

Roger: The thought of a game in which you've to force-feed a bear with over-ripe apples in a two-minute binge before hibernation suggests a crafty call to the RSPCA. Overall, one of the most unrealistic games I've seen. 1/5

Mikro Gen / £6.95

Ron: Wally, the manic mechanic, has got to build 10 cars. What could be simpler? Well, after playing this game for a while, the answer's got to be 'just about anything!'
Wally's first job us to go along to the stores and collect the first part he needs - however, this is no ordinary storeroom. Most of the spare parts have taken on a life of their own, rolling about menacingly (if you can call a gentle rolling movement 'menacing' that is). Anyway, avoiding these, Wally must climb the ladders and jump across holes in the crumbling floors until he finds the part he's looking for; once he's got it, it's back to where he started. Thus, the game continues until the first car's built ... and then it's on to the next car. Whew!
The theme's original (although jumping over moving objects and climbing ladders certainly isn't!) and graphics, colour and speed are all used to good advantage The presentation and execution of the game are excellent. 4/5

David: The graphics in this game are quite superb, which is a shame because the game isn't. Basically just another 'climb the ladder' game, I'm looking forward to the sequel. 4/5

Roger: As games go, this ain't bad at all. Shame they called the hero of the game Wally, as that's exactly how he acted with me at the controls! I'd give it the thumbs up ... 5/5

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y

Activision / £7.99

David: The idea of this game's pretty similar to a
number of others I've seen over the last year, most notably Blue Max for the Atari.
You have to guide a jet plane up a river, banked on both sides by steep cliffs, shooting enemy planes, helicopters, ships and missiles that get in your way. Refuelling posts appear every now and then but these get fewer and further apart as you progress through the levels.
The graphics are quite smooth, but their quality's not so wonderful when you really push your foot down (or whatever you do in planes) - migraine sufferers watch out. Having said that though, you hardly need the graphics quality of Sabre Wulf to produce a good game, and River Raid's certainly a good, addictive game. The game's both colourful and attractive to look at, and includes a good
selection of start-up options.
I must admit I was expecting something a little better from a company like Activision - but then again, the game's addictiveness is certainly a strong point in its favour. It's just a shame it's a little let down by the quality of the sound and graphics. 3/5

Ron: River Raid is a pretty basic game to be honest - I didn't think the graphics were up to much - but it was certainly addictive enough. 2/5

Roger: Once I've played this game 23 times in a row, I'd got a list of criticisms as long as my arm. But then again, who cares if the game turns out to be that addictive? 3/5
CRUSOE screen

Automata / £6.00

Roger: Like most well-written adventure programs, Crusoe gives the impression of
literacy and intelligence to the humble ZX Speccy and, as someone who badly needs his severely flagging ego flattered by any means possible, I have to admit enjoying this desert island experience.
Screen format includes both a parchment logbook and one of a number of maps charting the castaway's position. The action involves shuffling the poor old soul round the island, feeding and watering him when required, and looking for all the available 'finds' to assist his survival. Apart from not letting him starve to death, the player also has to steer him around a selection of static and mobile hazards, as well as correctly answering his questions; he even responds in a like manner to unprintable abuse!
Gradually, his well-being improves and
his lifestyle becomes more civilised - but how on earth do you get to find Man Friday? Well, he can stay in the undergrowth for all I care!
The complications, vaguely intellectual demands on the player and wittily detailed graphics, are at the core of Crusoe's ability to amuse. 4/5

David: Jerky graphics and poor sound did not endear me to this desert island disaster - all the elements are there ... it just doesn't quite work. 2/5

Ron: Well, I'm not quite sure what the idea of the game really is, but I spent ages trying to find the mysterious Man Friday. Has anyone out there found him yet? 3/5

Gamma Software / £5.50

David: In this game, you play the part of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland who, you
surely remember, is having a tea- party to celebrate his un-birthday ... but that's where the connection ends, I'm afraid.
Your task is to collect sweets and chocolate rolls from around the screen, which itself consists of very unexciting graphics; the vacuum cleaners are very shabbily defined and the mice, etc, are such grim programming specimens as to be almost unrecognisable. Moving your character square around the screen, you move into stationary and moving blobs, whilst avoiding others. The only difficult thing is getting out of the way of the baddies - difficult only because they go from side to side at silly speeds.
At first the game seems quite tricky, but soon becomes simplistic. I was looking forward to seeing some screen variations but I was
disappointed. With graphics as poor as these, and no sound or variation to speak of, this game will be played once and once only. I remember games like this having trouble on the market when the Spectrum was released two years or so ago! 1/5

Roger: Preparations for parties that demand attention to sweets, chocolate rolls, mice and vacuum cleaners may be your cup of tea - but for me, it's not mad enough by half. It's got to be a miss. 1/5

Ron: Madhatter lacks the professionalism we've come to expect from Spectrum software - it's too fast and block graphics just aren't on anymore. Pretty much a boring game, I'm afraid. It's a miss! 2/5

CRL / £6.95

David: This is the game of the TV series - which should guarantee it being a chart- topper. I wonder if it's any good? Or even whether
that'll matter ...
The idea behind the game is to break out of a black hole by way of a vortex, which you must enter at a certain height, if and when you find it. To help in your quest, you've a radar screen, compass and range detector.
The start of the game is actually quite impressive, with lots of scrolling titles and tunes being played ... but the myth soon evaporates. The screen fills with a number of 3D rectangles - which I seem to remember being impressively termed 'huge green monoliths' - which are dead easy to fly around, shoot up or whatever else you want to do to them. No problem! But of the vortex, I found no trace - so that's what makes this game so difficult!
I enjoyed the game for the first few moments, but when my fuel ran out after about 15 minutes, I wasn't that eager to start all over
again. The instructions gave no indication of how to find the vortex and this is far from clear from the game itself. This might be a very good game - if you can work out what's going on before you get bored. 2/5

Ron: The idea probably sounded great on paper ... but CRL haven't pulled it off too well. The only part of the game worth seeing is the opening sequence of stars rushing past, over which the player has no control at all. The rest wasn't up to much either. 2/5

Roger: I always did my jolly best to avoid that hideous TV puppet show - and it's a shame that I had to sit through the computer game! I guess it'll be a success, but who'd have thought the game could be even worse than the TV show? 2/5
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