SOLENT SOFTWARE Engineering Ltd, of Winchester produces the Zeta range of educational software, which Solent states has been fully-tested and developed by middle school teachers in Hampshire.
Eight titles were provided for review, on high-quality cassettes which ensured first-time loads; 16K RAM is required.
Each program is literature-supported with comprehensive operating instructions, a description of the game, how it works, what it does, and how to restart it after a break. Full marks for such a good documentation.
Graphs draws bar charts of the class birthdays. It ran well and, like all the other Zeta programs, is very robust. I would, however, have liked to see a more general graph-drawing program, with provision for copying the results to a printer.
Depth Charge and Zilog are ordered triple (X,Y,Z) and ordered pair (X,Y) co-ordinate games. In Depth Charge, a submarine has to be hunted while in Zilog an incoming spaceship must be destroyed. The games are good but the graphics displays could have been a little larger.
Spell Invaders tests words set by a teacher, up to a limit of 10. A word is displayed, then blanked out; the child has to "spell" it by shooting letters of the alphabet, Space Invaders style. Three incorrect letters only are allowed.
It is a very good game, which would have been even better with some means of printing-out a certificate with name, score and words tested on it.
Ox-, Oxox and Oxo+ are simple mathematics games based on noughts and crosses, with sums displayed on the board, two children playing against each other to win the game by solving the problems and thus getting a row of their symbols. The only trouble with the game is that you may have difficulty getting the children using it to let someone else do so.
Reaction Test is a computer familiarisation game in which letters are displayed and the appropriate keyboard letter has to be pressed. The response of the children is timed.
At £5.75p each, or £42 the set, these may seem a little expensive. That is not so. Solent Software states in its literature that "where the original purchaser is a school or college, additional copies of the programs may be made for use on other computers only within the said school or college."
Considering that they worked well, and taught specific things, the set of programs would be a good addition to the software library of any school, particularly as you would not have to rely on only the one set of tapes.
BUDDING AVIATORS can test their skills with the Hewson Consultants Pilot - not a game but a flight simulation program. There are seven modes - including landing, heading towards a beacon, taking off - and points are awarded for correct execution of each manoeuvre. Tired pilots can choose the Autolanding mode, in which the computer does everything for you. Non-fliers abstain.
The same firm also offers an above-average maze game called Puckman. You must imagine you are a small humanoid scouring the maze for magic strawberries which keep at bay the monsters trying to devour you. There are many monsters to make it exciting and you can work up a good speed dodging round the corners.
Both cassettes are on 16K, costing £5.95 each, and are available from Hewson Consultants, Oxon.
MINDSEYE offers good value with three games on one 16K cassette for £2.95. The title game is Byte Man, in which a cheerful-looking monster chases you round a maze littered with food pills. The aim is to score points by eating the pills before the monster - and his brothers and sisters - eat you.
You have three lives and the computer will enter your score, so several people can play.
Space Fighter is a fast-moving shooting battle against swarms of enemy spacecraft. You will need quick wits and fingers to obtain a high score. Finally, Bomber, a simple, absorbing game, in which you have 30 bombs to destroy a dam. Different parts of the dam are worth varying numbers of points, so some careful planning, as well as accurate bombing, is needed to improve your score. The Byte Man cassette is obtainable from Mindseye, W. Yorkshire.
MICHAEL ORWIN has built a reputation for value-for-money software and his Cassette 4 offers quantity as well as quality. There are eight games on the cassette, seven of which are in machine code and six of them are arcade-type games.
Guns is a marvellous moving graphics version of the Gunshooter game, for one or two players. Bullet speed and skill level can be entered and each gunslinger has six shots per round. In the one-player game, the computer would give Clint Eastwood a run for his money.
ZX-Scramble is another arcade game; you try to manoeuvre your ship through a cave while bombing the enemy and shooting their defending fighters. Ever-popular Invaders and Galaxy Invaders are on the cassette, along with Life, 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe, Fungaloids - a moving graphics bombing game - and Snakebite, an original graphics chase game which can be tailored by the player.
Cassette 4 costs £3 from Michael Orwin, London.
V. HAYNET of Streatham produced an entertaining program called the Multisequencer. It has one major disadvantage - its almost incomprehensible instructions.
Once loaded, each key plays a different tune, part of a tune or sound effect. The sound effects are mainly space or laser gun-type noises and the tunes range from a bit of Beethoven to Star Wars. The sound quality is similar to that of a Casio-tone organ.
It is also possible to make keys play a tune of your own composition; and, if you decide the second note of Sailors' Hornpipe should be F sharp, it is possible to change it.
This machine code program which loads first time compares favourably to other similar programs on the market. It is available from V Haynet, London.