Your Spectrum
Issue 14, May 1985 - Joystick Jury
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Back on the bench again, our joystick jurors are here to pass judgement on all the latest software. Read their sentences before you commit your cash.

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.
The Jury
Up before the beaks - Dave Nicholls, Roger Willis and Ross Holman - comes all the new games software, from the greatest to the grottiest.

Llamasoft / £6.00

Dave: Have you ever had the urge to fly
aerobatics with the Red Arrows? You have? - then rush out and buy Psychedelia. It's not a flight simulator but the feeling of nausea that came over me while waggling the joystick with it, was like nothing on earth! What's more, Psychedelia isn't a game: it's really a sort of light synthesiser where you use the joystick (or keyboard) to produce patterns on screen. It offers the facility for presenting patterns so you can play them back with a single keypress, and your efforts can be recorded into memory or onto tape for later playback. Think of it - now you and your friends can bring on an attack of nausea and dizziness at parties without so much as a drop of pop passing your lips.
It may be true that you are limited only by your
imagination (or so it says here), but boredom (and an unwell feeling) set in long before I'd even got my imagination into gear.
It's worth a look - otherwise a ride on a Waltzer at the fun fair is cheaper and has much the same effect. 1/5

Ross: Not the sort of thing you expect from Jeff blast-it-if-it-moves Minter. I prefer watching pictures, not patterns erupting from my T.V. screen. 2/5

Roger: Turn on, tune in and drop out or, in my case, drop off to sleep. When old hippies aren't bogarting that joint, they're producing crap like this. 2/5

Incentive Software / £6.95

Dave: Moon Cresta is an officially licensed copy
of the same name arcade game, and as you'd expect, it includes all the main features of the original. If you've never seen it (which pubs did you misspend your youth in? - Ed.), the basic idea is just for a change, to zap aliens. There are four types and each of them appears for two screens in succession. Your ship is made up of three parts, the first of which is given to you gratis, but you've got to earn the rest. You get the next part by clearing four sheets, after which you have to carry out a successful docking manoeuvre. Two more sheets - watch out for the nasty surprise - then a repeat performance of the docking procedure. If, or should I say, when you get killed you'll lose one part of your ship.
Incentive has done a reasonable job translating Moon Cresta to the Spectrum but
it's a bit long in the tooth now. So, unless you're an arcade freak who likes scoring millions it won't have much lasting appeal. Still, if you are an arcade freak, you'll be itching to have a crack at Incentive's Moon Cresta competition - the booty is a real arcade machine of the game. 2½/5

Ross: It's taken aeons for this old arcade classic to appear on the home computer market. It plays fairly close to the original and kept me amused for an hour or two, or three. 3/5

Roger: It advertises a 'Trip To The Space War' but give me a trip to Margate than yet another trip back down memory lane. 2/5

Bubble Bus / £6.95

Roger: Having finally overcome Pothole Pete's
frustrating reluctance to LOAD, let alone summon up the necessary bottle for tackling many rooms of the wicked Wiz's extensive and well-appointed Lair, I was somewhat less than enthralled by this Bubble Bus offering. Apart from being as bored with a predictable ragbag of Sword'n'Sorcery imagery, I found the graphics rather lurid, the rooms unmemorable and the action mentally untaxing.
Pete's quest involves hunting pieces of the 'Golden Lion' - which I always thought was a public house but apparently in this game it ain't. Shame. Along the way he must collect the necessary mystic Weetabix to sustain his battle against nasties and keep the jolly old doors opening when required. Energy, ammunition and objects in stock are recorded
on-screen, as are remaining lives. Probably the most entertaining facet of Wizard's Lair is guessing how many other mediocre games it reminds you of. Pass me the dungeon key, mum, 'cos I want to go home ... 1/5

Dave: If this had come out at the same time as Atic Atac, Ultimate would've looked very silly. Now the idea's rather old hat and even the superior graphics don't make up for that 2½/5

Ross: Take a dash of Atic Atac ideas, mix in more than a smattering of Sabre Wulf graphics and what've you got? - not a lot. 2/5

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
HALAGA screen

Interceptor Software / £5.50

Ross: The Federation of Space Research has
just found a new solar system called Cygnus Major and they want it explored for mineral resources.
When you arrive you find that the space invaders don't like having their space invaded and are hell bent on your destruction. The only way for you to swot the insect-like creatures is to use your anti-matter plasma gun.
This game is in fact very loosely based on the arcade favourite Galaga and is a 2nd generation Galaxians. This version does not have all the features of the original but is never-the-less a reasonable shoot'em up and will keep your trigger finger in good shape. The aliens swoop onto screen, do a few twirls and pirouettes, dropping bombs as they go,
then fall into formation. This continues until the screen is fairly full up with them, at which point they begin to drive down on individual kamikaze style bomb runs. Once you have cleared the skies the inevitable happens. Yes, they all come back but are just that bit meaner.
Nothing new again but O.K ... 3/5

Roger: There are no flies on me but the same cannot be said for this dose of futuristic insecticide ... 1/5

Dave: The shoot'em up is alive and kicking. Fast, frantic, colourful and noisy - just the thing for an evening of mindless slaughter. 1/5

U.S. Gold / £9.95

Dave: A pre-emptive strike has been launched
by the Ruskies and your duty is to lead your airborne commandos to destroy the Soviet defence centre.
First off, you'll get a view of Russia and the US as seen from space showing launch sites and targets in the two countries. The time to impact of the launched missile ticks away, so you've no time to lose. The number of fighters you can manoeuvre out of the hangar determines how many you have in the ground attack sequence. Here you fly from left to right negotiating pill boxes, trees, towers and avoiding tanks, helicopters and deadly heat seeking missiles whilst wreaking as much destruction and havoc as poss.
When you reach the launch silos your target computer helps you to line up and destroy them. Once that's done you're free (well, this is
a democracy!) to attack Moscow itself. Then it's on again to annihilate the robots protecting the nuclear reactor. If you can kill enough of them you'll live to fight another day in the battle between Marx and MacDonalds. If not, then it's Mutually Assured Destruction time. 4/5

Roger: Get your finger on the button with sicko software that extracts technically excellent entertainment from nuclear nightmares! 5/5

Ross: Praise for its originality and cleverness has to be tempered with moral abuse but it is, nevertheless, a direct hit with no survivors ... 5/5

Activision / £7.99

Roger: Lightning fast arcade action occurs as
you feebly attempt to keep up Merton the Maintenance Man's work rate in this simplistic game of platform pretension. Our Mert's night shift is supposed to be in a toy factory where valves blow up balloons which, in their turn, convert into terminal toys if not avoided and/or dealt with. Just to complicate matters a little, an unpleasant character called Hefty Hilda wanders about, turning back on the valves Merton has turned off and thoroughly nobbling the poor devil in the event of, er, body contact. Piston platforms can also deliver unpleasant surprises to both hero and villainess. The single screen 'wraps round' so exiting our hero from one side. Within its relatively limited content, Toy Bizarre hangs on as reasonable entertainment value for those with quick reactions but it's difficult to avoid thinking that this is one format that has almost been caned to death. 2/5

Dave: This game is in need of some maintenance - the controls are sluggish and the collision detection leaves a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, Merton the Maintenance Man isn't up to the task. 2/5

Ross: This is a fairly simple platform game with nice graphics and some novel ideas, but not much else. I liked the balloons but was bored by the rest. 2/5

Romantic Robot / £5.95

Ross: Romantic Robot's not a name I'd come
across before, so I was very pleasantly surprised by this game. You're a contestant in the Annual Maggot Marathon, so all you have to do is wriggle your way to the finish.
The area of play covers 256 screens and features a whole geography of distinctly different landscapes, each with its own problems. You start the race with three competitors but they soon head off in different directions. You have the choice of following them or making your own way. The paths you follow are bordered by multi-coloured foliage - similar species to those growing in Sabre Wulf. All the time you're racing, your energy decreases, so you must either eat or become just another pile of bones in the lonely wastes. Food, in the form of ice creams or cups of tea can be picked up and eaten whenever you're
on your last legs (legs? maggots? Oh, well! Ed.).
Two varieties of ants and spiders lurk within the leaves - the first are relatively harmless, but watch out for the others, they're deadly.
The graphics are very good if a little sparse but they do become repetitive and the game plays on the slow side. All in all, a respectable runner-up rather than a winner. 3/5

Dave: A very original game with fun graphics, but it's a touch slow to play There's a large area to explore but illogical layout makes mapping difficult. 3½/5

Roger: I'd like to say this was rotten to the core but you won t worm it out of me ...

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y
BRUCE LEE screen

U.S. Gold / £7.95

Dave: Clever these Chinese - coming up with an
original idea for a platform game that doesn't involve mines and has more to it than just leaping about from ladder to level. Actually, it's not Chinese at all, but it is about Bruce Lee, so that's close enough. You play Bruce, out to destroy the Evil Wizard and gain immortality and infinite wealth.
You have to face up to all the hazards of going into another man's castle, like landmines and electric bolts, before coming face to face with little Ninjas (who he? Ed.) and a distinctly off colour Green Yamo, laying into you with fists and feet flying. You can return the compliment, as well as ducking down to avoid trouble. In each room you'll find a number of lanterns: collect enough of them and a passageway will open allowing you to creep up on the Evil Wiz.
But you've got to Kung Fu your way through 20 rooms before meeting him head on.
The problem is, it's just too easy - I'm no black belt but I beat the game on only my fifth attempt. There is an option to play against an opponent which will keep competitive cowards happy but in the end you'll probably long for a bit of real physical contact. 3½/5

Ross: This can't compete with the typical Chinese take-away - it left me with an empty feeling but not wanting more. 2/5

Roger: Grasshopper say, knee in groin better than poke in pocket by this oriental offering. More chop-suey than Kung Fu 2/5
STAY KOOL screen

Bug-Byte Software / £6.95

Roger: This curious melange of mystic,
prehistoric and scatological imagery, varying from a pterodactyl's lair, vampire lemons and the occasional sewage processing installation is really just one more competent multi-screen platform game. Trotting from room to room and jumping are both accurately controlled. There's a well-defined geography and a huge assortment of life-depriving nasties. As usual, the purpose is, to collect objects and accrue an even higher position on the 'Hall Of Scum' chart.
It's entertaining to play, I suppose, but stunningly short on originality. You can almost imagine some programmer discovering a mixed bag of graphical left- overs discarded in his machine memory and deciding that it would be a pity to waste them. If lack of some
consistent theme doesn't bother you very much, then by all means attempt to avoid that final plunge into the cess pit. 2/5

Dave: They just keep on coming, wave after wave of them, the Manic Miner clones. This should-have-been-a-budget- game from Bug-Byte was one of the first to bite the dust. 2/5

Ross: Bug Byte are still trying to come up with another Mathew Smith type success but this Jet Set clone just isn't the answer. This won't even compete with Technician Ted. 1½/5

Insight / £6.95

Dave: When I first started playing this game I
got that feeling that I'd been here before. On reflection, I decided that though the game as a whole is new, it's blagged a lot of ideas from other games.
Your aim is to destroy the enemy's Power Crystal which is situated on the fifth level of an underground complex.
Off you go, steering your ship through all the levels, avoiding the nasties and rounding up slave workers. Once you've collected all the workers, you gain entry to the next level.
The complex itself is made up of smoothly scrolling caverns - you can see where you are on the screen display as well as other status information about shields and the like. Each level is about eight screens wide and you'll find in them a fair old selection of fully
animated flying and earthbound hazards I can't see that the game's got much to offer the arcade player but the graphics are O.K.
Perhaps it's worth a look for the rest of us mortals. 2½/5

Ross: This combined shoot 'em up and maze game has some nicely animated graphics. Shame the flickery scrolling spoils the effect. 3/5

Roger: The name hints at this being Arthur Scargill's favourite Spectrum game.
If only the enemy Power Crystal wasn't in the hands of Auntie Maggie! 4/5
SAM STOAT screen

Gremlin Graphics / £6.95

Ross: Sam Stoat, Gremlin Graphics' latest anti-hero is an evil little burglar. His beady eye is
trained on four houses in a very select area and he's intent on purloining the jewels concealed within. The four houses are graded in difficulty and you can choose which one to start Sam off in. There are twenty rooms per house (see what I mean about a select area), one of which contains a safe, and each safe contains a diamond.
To get his mitts on the diamond, Sam must blow up the safe with a bomb which he finds in each house. Then it's a case of light the blue touch paper and retire rapidly. With the diamond and any other jewellery in his swag-bag, he can move on to case the next joint. At the bottom of the screen is an unusual timer (a bloodometer) which the anaemic Sam has to keep topped up by tippling at a bottle of Sam Stoat elixir. That's his excuse!
Sam's not alone on his blagging jaunt but has to contend with a variety of other creatures, most of them gnomes. Probably got bored with sitting round the pond with a fishing rod. The game's very colourful but the breaking and entering is needed to get the adrenalin running. 2/5

Dave: What a rip off. The sleeve says there are four houses but they're just the same room with different meanies, so it really amounts to four skill levels. 1/5

Roger: Respectable, upstanding members of the community would, no doubt, disapprove of this glamorisation of light- fingeredness. Spectrum tea leafs will love it. 3/5

J O Y S T I C K   J U R Y

Hewson Consultants / £5.95

Roger: Well even Willy has had to leave the Jet Set, apparently, changing nomenclature and seeking humble employment, just like the rest of us.
The Job Centre has fixed him up with a technician's slot in this chip factory, but the broad and erratic selection of munchkin equipment doesn't give much of a clue about whether we're talking silicon or spuds - whichever it is we're still talking the same old game ...
Being hamstrung with such a blatantly derivative and unoriginal nature isn't going to do a great deal for Technician Ted's popularity but, having said that, it is still a well-crafted slice of software.
The programmer's claims that: "graphics are
ultra-smooth and collision detection is exact" are actually truer than the average sales blurb's pork pies and the result is an extremely difficult platform job that demands practice and concentration. It is, nevertheless, best described as a triumph of technique over new ideas. 3/5

Dave: Some day all games will have graphics that animate this smoothly. This makes it one of the best platform games I've ever seen. 4½/5

Ross: Willy by any other name ... yes, it's another Jet Set copy! I'd like to know who still buys them all. If it's you, then you could do worse than this. 3/5

Micromania / £6.95

Ross: This latest offering from Micromania is a
classic arcade adventure that we're now so familiar with on the Spectrum. It's set on the SS Future, a large space ship composed of 256 rooms and spread over 5 decks. You're entrusted with the task of destroying this vessel but why is never satisfactorily explained. Still, I'm sure there's a jolly good reason for it, even if it's only for a bit of interstellar vandalism. To bring off the big bang, you have to collect the eight destruct codes which are scattered all over the ship and take them to the destruct activation control.
Just to make sure things don't all go your way, the SS Future is protected by a selection of nasties that materialise out of the floor and home straight in on you. Luckily, you can blast them back to their constituent atoms with your laser. You'll also find scattered around
the ship energisers that make you unstoppable for a few seconds.
I can't say that this is the most original idea for a game but it's done well and it does have very colourful graphics. It is, however, the first game to feature a jet powered C5 which can be used to glide around the ship - it's the only way to travel! 4/5

Roger: Beam me up, Speccy, and plug in the joystick. It looks like the Self Destruct System is gonna get me before liver cirrhosis sets in ... 3/5

Dave: Why didn't they sub-title this 'Sabre Wulf in Space'? Still, if you like running around in mazes and collecting things, then you won't be disappointed. 2/5

Firebird / £2.50

Roger: This knockabout Nordic wargame features up to four armies slapping each other around a map showing angular fjords and the various battle formations. Swordplay, siege catapults and seafaring sorties are only a part of the potential conflict.
The hordes of Wotan The Wicked, Odin The Odious, Brunhilda The Bold and Egbert The Execrable, swarm across the northern tundra to battle it out under human control or computer substitution. But it's nothing to go berserk about!
To enjoy such uncivilised and aggressive behaviour demands a special penchant for this type of action, because the graphics are seriously underwhelming. The kick must be on
a cerebral strategy scale but, if it is, I failed to find the fun and my concentration swiftly withered into plug-pulling boredom. If it's supposed to be about Scandinavian rape, pillage and loot tendencies, I think I'll stick to the crispbread ... 1/5

Dave: I've always found something lacking in Speccy strategy games.
For the price though Viking Raiders is pretty good value if you're a strategist. 2½/5

Ross: This war game is slow and basic (in both senses). Still, I like the bit when your army stumbles on some booze and gets rapidly drunk. I know how they feel. 1/5

Chibur / £4.50

Roger: An extraterrestrial Barbara Woodhouse
would not be amused by attempts to destroy the Irish half-dozen of 'At-At Walkers' going walkies across this game's continuously scrolling screen, and neither am I.
Really, putting the poor pets to sleep with allegedly lethal laser cannon may be pathetically easy but I'm sure a gentle wallop across the nose with a rolled-up newspaper would suffice.
At least the 'Walkers' only drop 'Smart Bombs' and growl out 'Laser Bolts' in reply, which is better than leaving a mess on the pavement for a chap to step in ...
What can I say? This dreadful load of sub-Starwars shootiebangs demands an attention span of just a little under ten minutes. That's how long it takes to get good at it, get tired of
it and start wondering why anybody should want to buy it. You can pass the interludes between woofers by collecting 'rebel soldiers' from the planet surface but I really can't imagine why anyone would want to bother. 0/5

Dave: Ask your granddad about this one. It's so old and 'orrible you keep playing to see if it gets any worse. 1/5

Ross: Right back to the Dark Ages with this one - it's an old Atari VCS game and it shows.
The mechanical elephants are well drawn but hardly flicker-free. Pretty boring stuff. 1/5
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