YSHere they are again - that motley bunch of joystick jockeys, ready and waiting to sift through the plethora of software to help you make that important decision!
Just in case you find our scoring system too confusing, here's what it's all about. The score out of five at the end of each person's review is based on their own experience of the game. But that's pretty subjective ... so they also use the HIT and MISS system to indicate its potential as a commercial success.
|From their bench on high, our regular jurors - Ross Holman, Roger Willis and Dave Nicholls - pass judgement on the latest and greatest games software!|
Melbourne House / £6.95
Roger: "Re-enacting the trials of Ulysses"
through the good offices of arcadia
should be cerebral and poetic, 'cos when
Ancient Greeks did their derring-do,
even a punch-up outside the boozer was
worth about 48K of epic verse. But
somewhere in this knockabout translation
of stupendous and stirring stanzas into
mundane machine code, excitement is
lost and cultural dilution occurs on the
same scale as the day you discover that
doner kebabs contain nothing more than
reconstituted donkey lung!|
On-screen odysseys involve hopping up hummocks and dodging dangerous debris, to enter a sacred temple lurking inside the mountain. Erratic keyboard control suggests that our hero has already been at the Retsina. Once indoors, sneaking past terminal minotaurs by nipping from pillar to pillar is the
business, followed by a maze in which
monsters can be bonked on the bonce.
It took the 'real' Ulysses a fair few years of frenzied and fantastic fisticuffs to fight his way home to mum. Try to be a bit quicker, or you'll end up pulling the plug with boredom, as I did There again, I'm only a legend in my own lunchtime ... 1/5
Ross: It says on the cassette insert that it takes a week on average to complete. Well, it didn't quite take that long, but it's pretty good! 3/5
Dave: There's some very nice, thoughtful screens in this game but, overall, I'm not sure there's enough here for a hit. 2/5
Firebird / £5.95
Roger: Now as years come and go, the few remaining hairs get torn from my wrinkled scalp
in abject frustration and
anger at the production of games like
Sure, you can get them good ol' rocks off zapping orbital thingies, totalling heli- somethings and body-swerving round the occasional radiation-storm-in-a-teacup or, er, was it another orbital saucer? Your space/ground attack vehicle may well be splatting robotic mutant Lurgons with the photon laser or Xion phaser equivalent of a knuckle sandwich but, in the final analysis, you will still be playing Space Invaders. And that, if you remember, is where we all came in.
Fiddle-faddling on-screen antics lead eventually to you guiding your blaster- craft down a 3D tunnel. But then it's just a matter of zapping robots and the odd flying saucer! Thrills ...
As we tear pages off the calendar and
save for our toupees, the plot thickens in
both senses. 3D graphics, programming
complexities and fanciful story lines may
prolong active life like any reasonable
dog's dinner, but it's still the same plot
and you've got to be thick
if you haven't noticed. 2/5
Ross: This one's a bit like a cross between Star Wars and Time Gate. Not a bad 'shoot 'em up' game, but not worth going 'gold' about. 3/5
Dave: The graphics are really nifty but, despite their prettiness, they don't make up for the game itself - it's just not original enough! 3/5
US Gold / £9.95
Roger: I've seen this one before - on the Atari and Commodore 64 if the ol' grey matter serves.
And it was a lot better
There I was, togged up to the nines ready to go off blasting at the Hun in yer typical World War I dogfight - and my on-screen jalopy looked a bit like a C5 'killer' with wings! Once you've got the hang of it, bombing factories and bridges relieves a few minor frustrations, but I reckon the whole game's based around trying to land your plane and take off again. Well, it's the only bit that gave me any real trouble! Of course, it might have had something to do with having a propeller with a single blade!
They tell me that the reason the screen's such a mess is something to do with things called 'attributes'. Well, whatever they're called, it's 'orrible!
The whole game's just a rip-off of
Zaxxon anyway, so if you don't mind
changing your surroundings to the wilds
of outer space I'd plump for
one of them. Bally bad luck,
Ross: A very old game that offers little that's new. The attribute problems don't exactly help the graphics and there doesn't seem to be a lot going on. Let's hope other US Gold offerings turn out better than this. 1/5
Dave: Why has my plane only got half a propeller? Or is this just an excuse for my score? Or is it that I fell asleep with boredom? (Answers on a postcard ... Ed). 1/5
|J O Y S T I C K J U R Y|
Statesoft / £7.95
Roger: Toshing out the crumbling walls of the
Willis ancestral pile with half a gallon
of budget emulsion was never like this.
Bristles is about painting and decorating,
a subject which I sincerely doubt is close
to anybody's heart, but manages an
appeal to lovers of quick-fire arcade
activity through a sort of covert
At first sight, simplistic graphics representing the eight houses to be attacked by brush - with a choice of skill levels and the odd bit of trickery stirred in to give it gloss (sic, sic and sic) - are enough to make anybody fall asleep on the job. Its speed and scoring system just about save the day, however. Climbing up the skill levels introduces any aspirant tosher to the delights of working with clear varnish or doing it in the dark.
All sorts of graphical oddities get in your way,
banishing you back to the start.
There are also elevators that can
transport you all over the shop. However,
having this info lodged in-brain did little
to help me on-screen!|
Why, playing this game could be just like serving an apprenticeship without getting magnolia all over the carpet. 2/5
Ross: The graphics are pretty awful, but the game was certainly fast. It gets really frustrating round about the sixth and seventh levels! 2/5
Dave: Colourful, if crude, graphics - shame about the tunes! The sort of game that gets you asking that all- important question Why? 1/5
The Edge / £7.95
Ross: Brian Bloodaxe is the first game to feature 'Primary Imbalance'. Hmm - presumably
that means it's really zany
and has whacky graphics!|
As Brian (the Viking), you have to slog through some 104 screens in an attempt to collect the crown jewels, and anyone who manages it can sit on the Throne. In fact, the game's a 'Jet Set' look-alike, but one that's made more complex than most because of the need to carry up to three objects at once and use them in various locations - for example, a red key raises a red portcullis, and so on.
The graphics which inhabit the various screens are all well drawn and animated, and some are very large indeed. They'll not kill the instant you touch, but each contact reduces your energy level.
You can use the graphics to assist your progress on-screen - by hopping on and off them! The game is not as precise as JSW but it
does offer something rather
Some screens repeat, which suggests there may not be 104 unique locations in total. On the other hand that's more than made up for by the wide variety of things Brian is able to do. This one is worth a go! So, go for it! 4½/5
Dave: At first sight I thought "Oh no! Not another platform game!" But I was wrong - there's much more to do than usual, and some of the graphics are superb! 4/5
Roger: Another JSW clone, but who needs it? I certainly don't - I want one where you ride a motorbike on-screen ... go to it, you Edge people! 2/5
Craig Communications / £9.95
Dave: System 15000 is a hacker's dream and British Telecom's nightmare! Here, you get to
play a happy hacker who's
been recruited to help your friend
Richard recover $1.5m taken from him
by REALCO, a large corporation that's
got some real nasty criminal connections!
The money has to be returned to
Richard's company account at the
Midminster bank, and to help you in your
quest, there's some sophisticated
communications software (called 'System
15000') that's so advanced you don't
even need a phone!|
Another friend, Mike, has supplied you with some initial information and a phone number to get you started - but from here on in, you're really on your own. Work your way methodically through the various passwords and phone numbers as you go - and later, rather than sooner, you'll crack the game, to the stage where you'll actually believe what you're doing; the 'ringing' and 'dialling' sounds
engaged tones make this a very realistic
System 15000 is a sort of cross between adventure and strategy that'll obviously appeal to hackers everywhere. But it's also a novel idea that's worth a look just to see what Prince Phillip could be doing if he had a mind to! 4/5
Ross: An unusual idea this, and one that should appeal to all those would be hackers that can't afford BT's telephone bills. 2/5
Roger: Half the time I couldn't tell if the game was working or not - a game for those who like looking at blank screens! 2/5
Vortex / £6.99
Roger: Whoopee! A game that starts with a helicopter take-off sequence and flight that I can
actually manage without
theoretical hospitalisation - that came
later! Crashing programs on my own
high-mileage equipment or, even worse,
Peter Shaw's much-sabotaged and hybrid
in-office recycleable Speccy was far more
frustrating than launching Cyclone's
rescue chopper in its urgent hunt for
This moderately three-dimensional saga requires pilotage of the aforesaid whirlybird in and around a seascape full of islands - don't worry, there is a map - to collect a vital five crates of medical supplies before the nasty cyclone upsets accident statistics, particularly those relating to, er, helicopter pilots. Don't be bored by the meteorological overtones, though, because we re not looking at weather
forecast yawn quotients - this is
what I call action!
Unoriginal it may be, but as one disaster area playing in another I can only claim to have had a good time ... 3/5
Ross: This is rather too similar to TLL, offering very little that's new. The playing area is more dispersed and there's some extra shading to show the cliffs. There are also some planes flying about, but so what! 0/5
Dave: Good use of the graphics techniques developed for TLL, but there doesn't seem to be enough going on to give it a really lasting appeal. 2/5
|J O Y S T I C K J U R Y|
THE GREAT SPACE RACE
Legend / £15
Ross: When a program's been hyped as much as The Great Space Race, it'd have to be something
really special to live up
to the expectations.|
Based loosely on the 'space trader' idea, the object of the exercise is to deliver consignments of a wicked alcoholic beverage called Natof to space stations spread around the galaxy. You start by choosing up to four racers to carry the Natof, and you decide which weapons you'll use to arm their ships. All potential candidates then present themselves and state their price; you see large pictures of them on-screen, and their faces smile, wink or grimace according to your choice.
The screen splits up into three parts during the race; the top part displays a menu of options and allows you to communicate with your racers, while the lower shows textual reports. The middle section is used for graphical output - for example, the racer you're
talking to, or
the space station that's approaching.|
The problem with TGSR is that it doesn't involve the player. There may be some subtle character interaction going on, but it doesn't appear to make much difference to the player and it certainly doesn't justify the ludicrous price tag. 0/5
Dave: This is simply a souped-up Dictator-type game which gives you the impression that you're not really needed anyway ... TGSR seems to play happily on its own. 0/5
Roger: Ugh! Well, compared to a party political broadcast it's great (in other words, it's dross!). 1/5
Elite / £6.95
Ross: How d'you fancy being in the role of
Stringfellow Hawke in Elite's officially
licensed version of Airwolf? The plot for
those who don't know, is that five
important US scientists are being held
hostage in an underground base and
Hawke alone will rescue them.
The game is only Kempston compatible and, although the keyboard controls are very responsive, they're not laid out as well as I'd have liked. But the helicopter graphic is drawn very well indeed and certainly behaves realistically; it tilts as you fly forward and falls under the force of gravity. In fact, all the graphics are very good, and there's clever use of shading to produce depth to the backdrops and a variety of colours.
The first obstacles to stand in your way are bands of anonymous blocks and these must be destroyed quickly, allowing no time for
their replacement. The trick is to
rapidly move the 'copter up and down
while blasting away furiously. This is the
best game yet from Elite and it's pretty
difficult to play.
Definitely one for the
Dave: Pretty graphics, but not a very interesting game. It seems to be written in compiled Basic, and my combination of RAM Turbo interface and Quickshot 2 rapid fire crashed it wonderfully! 2/5
Roger: This must be one of the most frustrating affairs I've ever had with the Speccy! Good, but too difficult to hold my attention. 3/5
GIFT FROM THE GODS
Ocean / £9.95
Dave: This one comes in a large box, with a fairly
comprehensive instruction sheet
containing the storyline. The tale
concerns several strangely-named people
and seems to have been written to
confuse potential players, so that they
don't realise that this is just another
'move about in the maze, collecting things
and putting them in the right place' game.|
The object of this extravaganza is basically to collect the six 'Euclidian' shapes and place them in the Guardian's chamber. You're hindered in this task by the nasty Demi-Gods, as they've created lots of fake shapes to confuse you; you also have to make sure that your mother doesn't kill your sister.
Graphically, the game is very good with large sprites and several different types of 'nasty' all well animated. It also boasts an 'intelligent' joystick feature that stops you having to press
different keys; movements of the joystick
(or keypresses) do different things when
you're in certain locations!|
Unfortunately, Gift from the Gods didn't really hold my interest, as there really isn't much to do beyond filling a large piece of paper with a map of the Labyrinth. 2/5
Ross: I don't think much of the Gods if this is all they can come up with for a gift. Another of the multi-millioned screen bores, but one that does contain pretty graphics. 1/5
Roger: Excellent graphics and that's about it really! Hah, it's all Greek to me. 2/5
Atarisoft / £7.99
Dave: I'll always remember the day I walked into
my local pub and discovered
that the Space Invaders machine had
been replaced with something called
Galaxians. The shock was so great that I
had to have a drink pretty quick ...
medicinal, of course, you understand!|
I soon recovered and spent many happy hours (and lOp pieces) learning the movement patterns of the aliens, until I could almost play the game just by listening to the electronic blips and buzzes that accompanied you through the levels. Now Atari has brought out the home computer version for the Spectrum.
To be fair, though, there have been several other Galaxian variants produced for the Spectrum, some of which were very good. But Atari's is the first to include all the elements of the original, such as the movement patterns that I struggled so hard to learn. The only real difference between this and the original is
in the way the meanies re-appear at the
top of the screen.|
OK, so this version's overpriced, but it's still one of the best 'shoot 'em up's around! If you want a trip down Memory Lane then buy it - but don't expect too much of the old fella ... 4/5
Ross: Another very good Atarisoft offering that seems to have all the features of the original. The sound is good, the action fast and it plays superbly. Well worth collecting, if only for the nostalgic value. 3½/5
Roger: Very close to the original. The only thing missing is the pub that used to accompany it! 4/5
|J O Y S T I C K J U R Y|
Atarisoft / £7.99
Ross: "Atari puts you in the driver's seat! Pass cars like they're standing still, but watch for
those curves! One mistake and
you could go up in flames!" So says
Atarisoft on the cassette sleeve of Pole Position. All the features of the arcade
original are in the Spectrum version, from
the qualifying lap to the vicious left-hand
bend that appears just when you think
you're doing so well. All the joysticks are
supported and the controls are nice and
simple ... left, right, brake and change
To qualify for the race you must first complete a lap within 73 seconds - and, once you've made the grade you get allocated a grid position.
Immediately the starting light turns to green, the other cars go speeding off - leaving you to do the best you can. The car accelerates automatically, leaving you to change into high gear at about 100mph. You soon start catching
the other cars, though, and you'll get a
satisfied feeling as you coast past them.
Each time you complete a lap you're
given a time bonus and the end of the
race comes when you run out of time or
complete three laps; you'll see a little
chequered flag at the finish.|
For my book this is the best Atarisoft game yet. It's also the best racing game I've seen on the Spectrum and it's eminently playable. 4/5
Dave: With the possible exception of Full Throttle, this has got to be the best racing game yet ... but it's far too expensive! 3/5
Roger: OK, I'm smiling! This is a great game ... better than any race game yet. Buy it! 5/5
Microsphere / £5.95
Ross: The 'Watchers' are computerised law enforcers of the rather over-zealous kind - and
they need to be stopped. As
a Skyranger, your task is to fly your
jetcopter around the city, ambushing the
Watchers and blasting them into
smithereens with your ultrasonic pulse
The screen has a large window at the top left which allows you to peek outside; it's surrounded by various instruments that show speed, height, fuel and the position of your foe.
The view seen from the window is one of tall buildings, drawn in 3D-style vector graphics and through which you have to manoeuvre. The 360-degrees radar shows the relative position of the Watchers and allows you to zip through the maze of streets on an intercepting course. If you manage to get in line with one, check your altitude and range, then blast it. Of course, all the time you're moving your
fuel is running out.|
If you manage to destroy enough Watchers, you're given a code that allows entry to the next level. Overall, I have to express disappointment. The program seems technically proficient but it lacks playability and I found myself getting bored with it. 2/5
Dave: Nice graphics - shame about the game! Useful practice for the day when all cities look like New York and everyone owns a helicopter. I think I'll give it a miss. 1/5
Roger: Very pretty, very clever ... and what's the point! The only thing I managed to kill was myself - all in all, a very unsatisfying experience. 3/5
Mind Games / £8.99
Dave: Alien is like no other game I've ever seen!
You get to play the commander of
the space ship Nostromo which has been
invaded by "you know who".|
As commander, you have to realise that the crew have their own ideas (that is, they're terrified!) and won't necessarily obey all orders. Also, if you've seen the film, you won't be surprised to find out that one of the crew is a 'company' android.
The control panel consists of a plan view of the decks of the ship - only one screen at a time - and you're provided with a list of options down the right-hand side; these options change depending on the situation. All action takes place in real-time, so once an order's given, you're free to go and 'talk' to someone else while it's carried out.
All in all, a very different, and difficult strategy
game that takes some time to get
into but is well worth the effort.
Remember in your bedroom, everyone
can hear you scream - so keep
it down a bit! 4/5
Ross: Very much an adventure game, but one that uses graphics to show what's going on and a joystick to investigate the action. But don't blink - one second, I was closing in on the Alien, the next all my crew were dead! Certainly worth a look. 3/5
Roger: Once I got the 'ang of what was going on, it was great. In space, you can hear me screaming for more! 5/5
LEARNING WITH LEEPER
Software Projects / £9.95
Dave: At first glance Learning with Leeper
seems to be a very nicely
produced piece of software.|
On closer examination, however, I found that the programs were, in fact, written by Sierra On-Line and are only licensed by SP, and to be frank I'm not really sure why it bothered. There are four programs in the set that are supposed to help young children (three- to six-year olds) develop basic skills like pattern matching and counting. While the programs would no doubt do that if they kept the child's attention, in their present form they soon become boring because of the overlong pauses between games and the slowness of the games themselves. In fact, the four-year old that I got to try them out played each game only once before he wandered off to do something else.
If the games could be changed so that
the tunes were shorter and the graphics
moved faster, the package would
certainly be worth another look ... but
even then, there would probably be too
little variety for lasting
Ross: I couldn't really see these four games helping anyone very much - true, they might even be entertaining but they don't seem very educational. 1/5
Roger: If you're having problems making up bedtime stories for the young 'uns, here are four programs guaranteed to send 'em to sleep! 1/5