YSGuilty's the cry as our joystick jurors send another game to the guillotine. Dare you hold a different opinion during their reign of terror?
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 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.
|Judge, jury and executioner, all rolled into one - Dave Nicholls, Roger Willis and Ross Holman - pass sentence on this month's selection of supreme Spectrum software.
SKI STAR 2000
Richerd Shepherd Software / £7.95
Dave: Here's one to play in the fridge for
added realism! This game aims to do for
skiing what Fighter Pilot did for flying
Graphically, it's got promise, giving you a goggle-eye view of the course with line drawn flags, pylons, and other hazards. But the best bit is its flexibility.
There are fifteen different courses and for each one you can choose the shape of your goggles, the amount of falling snow and so on.
In fact, all four of the courses can be completely altered using the built-in editor. It works on the Icon principle (like the Apple Macintosh), so you just move the cursor over the representation of the item you want and press fire. By pressing fire again, it will 'drop' the item into place. There's even a waste bin
for the unwanted
As simulations go, this is a cracker, the editor is excellent and I had a lot of fun designing leg-breaking courses.
If you're into simulations, take a look, otherwise save your shillings and shell out on a trip to the slopes. 3/5
Roger: Desperately peering through dirty goggles got me seriously piste off, or was it off the piste? 1/5
Ross: An original idea that doesn't come off. As a ski-ing simulator it's just too slow. This one's downhill all the way. 2/5
US Gold / £7.95
Roger: As the wrapper sez, this is hardly a
game, and with the throwaway line like
that, US Gold aren't telling any lies. It's
actually another driving number crossed
with a liberal dose of shootiebangs. The
action occurs on a scrolling map
illustrating the road or waterways available
for pursuit and destruction of a nasty
collection including Road Lords, Switch
Blades, Barrel Dumpers, Enforcers,
Copters and yer actual Doctor Torpedo.
(Any relation to Dr. Findlay? Ed.)
Apart from steering the 'vehicle' either on land or the blue-representing-wet stuff without crashing, the player is required to insert it back into a 'weapons van' at periodic intervals, for replenishment of ammunition, bacon sarnies or whatever. The unpleasantries which share the passing scenery have to be dealt with in various terminal manners, or avoided
altogether. Really, controlling this
optimistically called 'turbo-charged race
car/hydro speed boat' could be a
satisfying business if one was only born
yesterday. For those of us who've been
around it stands out as an exercise not a
little long in the tooth. As the man said,
been there, done that
before ... 2/5
Ross: The name's Bond, James Bond - and all I've got to say about this car classic is no, Doctor No! 1/5
Dave: This one's fast and it's tricky and if you're not careful it'll drive you up the wall. If only it actually got somewhere. 2/5
Elite / £6.95
Roger: Offering an each-way bet on punter
interest (aarghh!), Elite has combined
most facets of Aintree's only claim to be
anything other than a centre of unusually
high unemployment. After all, isn't it
better to train people to infest the bookie's
rather than hang about on street corners?
The packaging has the essential form guide, which introduced rank outsiders to the opening screens of listed equestrian delights, whose odds change as racing history progresses. Besides the opportunity to spread basic stake money through the field, a player is also given the chance to take Spectrum reins in hand, riding a chosen nag.
The thunderous assault in Liverpudlian turf is represented by a sectionalised action profile of your trusty steed. This allows judgement of fearsome hedge approaches, and an aerial
'plan' view of
fences, jumps and all the other old
donkeys thrashing about, to facilitate
barging one's way through to the front ...
This is one game that ain't gonna be
pulling a 48K milkfloat the
day after. 5/5
Dave: This is a pretty safe bet. It could be a touch faster in the race sequence but the horsey graphics are well observed and the betting side of it adds just the right amour of excitement. Go on, 'ave a flutter! 4/5
Ross: Too slow for a true arcade and the graphics reminded me of those 'flick' books. If you don't go down the bookies, don't bother. 2/5
|J O Y S T I C K J U R Y
CRL / £7.95
Ross: Arcade addicts expecting all the thrills 'n' spills of the race track, read no further. This is a
You're in control of a Formula One racing
car team for a complete season, with the
aim of winning the championship.
Before the season starts you choose your sponsor who will generously dish out large dollops of cash to spend on the little necessities of life, like drivers and cars. The drivers are all listed according to their price tags, with the top notch names like Prost, Piquet and Lauda fetching fortunes of £150,000. Then you have to get your team in race trim which means splashing out more money on car engines and pit crew.
On the big day you just have to make the critical tyre choice according to the weather reports. There's no qualifying and you'll automatically be allotted a grid position. The race display shows a section of the track, a
time board and the stands at
the start and finish line. And then they're
off. The bottom two lines of the screen
take the role of Murray Walker and James
Hunt offering the low-down on the race.
At the end of the race your sponsor will
lash out more lolly.
This isn't quite the pits, but you'd have to be a Formula One fanatic to find it fascinating for long. 2/5
Roger: A classic case of missing a creative gear makes sure that this game fails to get off my starting grid. 1/5
Dave: I found it tricky getting started but once I'd got the hang of it, I hung around for a lap or two. 2/5
BRIAN JACKS SUPERSTAR CHALLENGE
Martech / £7.95
Roger: Real live physical exercise always
seemed silly to me but simulating it on the
Spectrum is even sillier. Prejudices apart, I
can only imagine that such a combination
of TV personality name-dropping and
this collection of visually naff sporting
fixtures is supposed to scoop up any
leftovers from 'Decathlon' and its ilk.
Running, cycling, archery, footie, swimming and the dubious delights of squat thrusting (pardon? Ed.) are included, demanding a great deal of mindless and finger-cramping button or key repeat to get our boy elbowing Brian from the podium.
Keyboard users had better be still in the protective shadow of Sir Clive's warranty because they're likely to need it. Sinclair has heard of circuit and membrane faults but sporting injuries are worth a try. Quite honestly, if you want to keep fit in an armchair
better ways than this
athletic tosh. 0/5
Ross: If you're not soon bored by bashing the keys or jerking the joystick, you'll tire of having to keep turning the tape to load each event. 2/5
Dave: My joystick ran for cover when I showed it this - it needn't have worried, I only played it a couple of times before I got bored.
It says on the inlay card that Brian himself reckoned 'It had better be good'. I wonder if anyone's got the bottle to show it to him yet. 1/5
Icon / £5.95
Ross: Well, I'll be bug-eyed. Agent Starman's
our hero in this game - but
haven't we been here before? Alien Space
craft bent on the destruction of civilisation
and eventual domination of the galaxy.
You have to penetrate the ship and press
on through its power generator. Sounds
familiar? Like 99 per cent of all previous
space-age shoot 'em ups!
The little space-suited chappy can move left or right and drop any distance without suffering noticeable brain damage. The ship's populated by a scruffy assortment of crushers, bug-eyed monsters and spiders, all of which prove harmful to prolonged existence if touched. You'll also have to negotiate bridges that appear and disappear and the old stand-by, moving platforms. At the top of the screen is an energy bar that gradually reduces until you top it up by completing a screen. You can
wave goodbye to another life if this
Each screen's a colourful concoction consisting of various blocks that form walkways and bouncing nasties that pose some tricky timing problems. No way is this original, but the screens take some thinking out if you're to get through. 3/5
Roger: It takes more than ten screens of intergalactic body-swerving to get me bug-eyed. 2/5
Dave: A pretty proficient, perambulating platform game with very smooth graphics. Why aren't there more screens though? 3/5
WORLD SERIES BASEBALL
Imagine / £6.95
Dave: Imagine is alive and well and living on its former glory.
World Series Baseball is another sport
simulation, just as the sport is just a Yankie
simulation of rounders! You have to pit
your team and your wits against another
player or the computer. To help you the
screen shows a commentators eye view of
the field with a large 'video screen' at the
back displaying close ups of the Pitcher
and the Batter during the game, and of the
Cheerleaders between innings! (whoopee! Ed.) The teams alternate between batting
and fielding and as far as I could tell, all of
the standard rules of baseball are
When batting you have control over one player at a time while the rest of your team looks after itself and runs about a bit to create the illusion of something happening. When fielding you control the player that the computer decides is in the best position to
retrieve the ball (just like
Match Day). You've also got some control
over the flow of the game by changing the
angle the ball is pitched at and the timing
of the batter.
Still the reasonable graphics, and the slight strategic element, didn't take the game close to a home run for me. 2/5
Roger: Smart sporting scenery almost makes up for lack of content, but it looks better than it plays. 3/5
Ross: The big video screen at the back's a real stunner. But as I never got a man past second base, I'm gonna need some more practice before the Detroit Daredevils come a knocking. 3/5
|J O Y S T I C K J U R Y
Quicksilva / £6.95
Ross: Like the film of the same name, this game
finds you inside the body of a
scientist in a last-ditch bid to stop him
kicking the bucket. Unfortunately the
miniaturisation process hasn't worked too
well and your submarine-come-surgical
scalpel has broken up and been scattered
through the body. Your task is to
re-assemble the sub and to keep your host
You swim around the tubes and intestines wearing a wet suit and flippers, and carrying a laser - it gives a whole new meaning to a life-saving swim. The laser is vital as it's your only means of knocking-out the body's defence system. Also watch out for your own energy levels - if they drop too low, you become invisible and you'll have to find some red blood cells to replenish them. The host body is also under attack from infections that cause a rise in temperature and eventual death if not
treated rapidly, so be
prepared to launch a rush rescue mission
to blast the anti-bodies.
You'll also have to deal with growths, cholesterol blockages and viruses - it's enough to persuade you to chuck it all up now! Biology was never this boring, so don't go forking out an arm and a leg on this one. Rigor mortis set in far too swiftly. 2/5
Roger: Slithering round inside somebody's vitals looking for diseased tissue and scrap metal ain't my idea of fun ... 2/5
Dave: Is this the first game to be written in body language? Shame that it's missing a couple of things that were in the film - Raquel Welch, for example! 2/5
Hewson / £7.95
Ross: Here it is, the follow-up to Avalon,
featuring the same graphical furniture but
with a finer back-drop. Your quest is to
seek out the five crowns of Britain and free
Merlyn from the evil grip of Morag the
Shapeshifter (and don't try saying that when you've had a few! Ed.).
The game comes with a map of the Realms of Dragontorc and a potted history of the story so far. You control the familiar figure of Morac by choosing the move spell from the scroll displayed at the bottom of the screen.
You've also got two other spells at the start - the servant spell does all the graft by providing you with a hard-working sprite that runs errands and fights, and there's also the Bane spell. That's much more mysterious and I'll leave it to you to discover how to use it!
There are about 256 locations to
explore and over 80 characters - or so it
I didn't get that far and I reckon it'll take quite a while for someone to crack it.
If you liked Avalon, you'll love this. I found both of them to be dreary dark-age dramas - not a patch on Dallas. 3/5
Dave: It's an improvement over the original but I still rate this as a triumph of programming over playability. 2/5
Roger: Ding-dong! It's Avalon calling again ... More of the same and just as satisfying. 4/5
THE DUKES OF HAZZARD
Elite / £6.95
Dave: Was I looking forward to a nice dodge and
weave car chase! What I got
was a great let-down.
Your task is to motor the General Lee (that's your wheels, not some big wheel in the army), to the start of the Hazzard County Road Race. There the Duke Boys aim to win first prize and avoid handing the General over to Boss Hogg.
The screen shows a side view of the cars cruising along the road with the mountains scrolling in the background. Chasing you is the Sheriff as well as a couple of airborne enemies in the shape of a helicopter and a balloon. You've also got to play chicken with cars coming the other way.
The programmer's had a crack at 3D graphics - and come a cropper - when you change lines your car appears to move backwards and forward but the collision detection just can't
handle it. And what
wally chose the controls? You have to hit a
key repeatedly (or wiggle the joystick) just
to accelerate, which is a complete waste of
time and energy. This game's an OK sort
of idea with some decent graphics - it's
just a shame about how
it was done. 1/5
Ross: New graphics and a new name don't add up to a new game. And you'd think they'd have done a better job on the collision detection in a car-chase game. 1/5
Roger: Lacks the precision of control necessary for exciting crash-bang-wallop driving stuff and it's just not funny enough. 2/5
DEATH STAR INTERCEPTOR
System 3 Software / £7.95
Ross: Yep, you guessed - it's a Star Wars rip-off
with solid colour graphics. It's even
got the Star Wars theme tune. I won't tire
you with the tale that accompanies the
game - it's the usual old tosh about the
Death Star approaching Earth in order to
destroy it. You must launch your
Starfighter with the aim of confronting the
The game's split into three stages, the first launching sequence requires little skill and less strategy and soon becomes very boring. The snippet of software speech saying 'prepare to launch' sounds like the speaker had a nasty dose of flu when it was recorded. The second stage, out in space, shows your fighter desperately trying to avoid destruction from the barrage of enemy fighters constantly bearing down on you. Rather than battle it out with them it's best to avoid the bulk of them
shoot only those you can't avoid. Quite a
doddle as there's a 'dead-zone' where you
can sit it out in safety.
The final stage in the trench is not pulse-quickening either, and the final explosion's just a flash in the border. So much for saving civilization. I'd heard good reports of this game but it's arrived with a whimper, not a bang. 2/5
Roger: Three stages of Star-Yawns didn't keep me awake long enough, despite tolerable speed and shootiebang quotient. 1/5
Dave: Zap Ping Whoosh Yawn! another fast, almost 3D shoot 'em up with reasonable graphics, the usual storyline and a boredom factor of 10! 1/5
|J O Y S T I C K J U R Y
Mastertronic / £1.99
Dave: Judging by the standards of the early cheapo games you would've been forgiven for
thinking someone had misheard
'budget' for 'bodge-it'.
This game certainly changes all that. There's nothing particularly new about it - we've seen platform games before (just a few! Ed) but there are a number of unusual differences.
For a start, not all the playing area is divided into rooms - there are some rather nice scrolling mazes tucked away in there.
Then there's an extra element to the game that really makes it. Some of the objects that you'll find combine to make a third, and you can then start bartering for other bits with the Castle traders.
The whole point of all this hunting and haggling is that you have been sent by the king to find a birthday present for his daughter.
The 'finders keepers' of the title just means
that once you've nabbed the
treasure, you can stash it away for
yourself. It's a shame we're not informed
of the king's reaction to this bit of private
Fortunately, the plot ain't that important so you're not likely to lose your head. So, if you find it, keep it! 5/5
Roger: I'd rather have kept the king's daughter than her birthday prezzies but hopping about to cop the loot was worth it anyway. 4/5
Ross: A colourful, well presented game. Searching for treasure gives that bit extra to life above the competition - and at this price, it deserves to be a ... 4/5
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Micromega / £6.95
Dave: At last, good old Uncle Clive has
finally received the recognition he
deserves. Today's the day he has to toddle
off to Buck House to collect his gong as a
Dame Commander of the British Empire
(bet he 's chuffed. Ed.) On the way, he's
got to cope with all the aggro of
commuting, like avoiding the British Rail
staff (though I always thought finding
them was the tricky bit). Along the way
he's also got to eat, drink and be merry.
Using the keyboard or joystick you have to control Clive - or rather his head. Now we all know he's a brainy bloke, or he wouldn't have invented the Speccy, but only showing his bonce is a bit bad! It's up to you to manoeuvre his noddle around the numerous screens collecting the booty in the correct order.
The rest of the graphics are OK I
suppose, but the game gets a trifle tedious
because of Clive's finicky ways. He just
won't do what you want unless he's in
exactly the right places. A slight
miscalculation and you've lost a life as well
as his body. A good 'cheapie' game being
sold at full price! 2/5
Roger: This could have been a satirical savaging of Sir Clive or it could have been a good game. It's neither. 1/5
Ross: A multi-screen dodge and run game that traded on a guest appearance by Uncle Clive. It kept me awake for an hour or two, but I've had better days. 3/5
Quicksilva / £6.95
Roger: With a name like a make of German
articulated lorry, a chap could almost hope
for a new set of platform imagery but it's
not to be found here. Sorcery is something
we appear to be stuck with. At least this
reel of software mystics is competently
The plot consists of negotiating our wizard-clone hero through thirty scrolling levels of the 'Rising Sun Temple', searching chests and scrabbling through interesting piles of garbage like a folkloric tinker. Spell-casting and fight options are available for defence and advancement as the quest for Fraugy The Fierce continues up, down and across a magical minefield of behaviourally unsporting geography. Traps and nasty surprises abound, whilst witty graphical images portray temporary concussion or funerals faster than the Co-op's cheapest, upon loss of life.
Originality is not one of the Magus's
strongest character traits but it kept me Out
of the pub - for a while at least. 3/5
Ross: There's more sense of adventure than usual in this arcade/adventure, but there's little else to recommend it. And why spoil it with the unpredictable magic squares and the random generation of the playing area? Mighty it's not! 2/5
Dave: Wot, no joystick option? It's not exactly magic, but the randomly designed playing area makes it much more of a challenge, so even ace arcaders should take some time to crack it. 2/5
"Wot is it now, Arfur? Is it bent?"
"Bent? Me? Course it's not bent. I've
just done a deal with this computer
"You haven't bought any a them Commodore 64s 'ave you?"
"What d'you take me for, Terry? No- one's that stupid! No, they want to write a computer game about us. All we 'ave to do is go round a few of the old haunts, you know, like the Winchester Club and my lock-up and do a few deals with some of the lads. Strike up bargains just as if we was doing 'em. I'll just be buying in some liquidated or fire damaged stock, all good stuff mind, and you go round collecting and delivering it."
"I knew there was some sort a catch."
"You'll get your cut. Money's all you ever
think about, Terry. You're becoming very materialistic, if I might
"That's choice coming from you, Arfur."
"As I was saying, you pick 'em up, and I sell 'em again - at a heart-breakingly small profit, of course. Just to see how much I can clock up in two weeks. All the blokes'll appear - in little boxes round the screen and we can talk to them just as if they was there - Dave from the Winchester, Sergeant Chisholm ..."
"You never said nothing about the Ol' Bill. If there's gonna be rozzers around you can count me out."
"We can handle them, Terry, We're onto a real winner 'ere and it costs less than a pair of Lady Godivas! Trust me ..."