|ZX-81 Software Scene|
MOST PEOPLE either hate or love word puzzles; there is no in-between. The same can be said for Wordfit, an exercise in literary skill, which runs on the 16K ZX-81. The program designs a word square which can be from eight characters across and down to 20 characters.
On the first level of eight characters you have a free choice of the words you want to enter on the grid but from the second to most difficult level random letters are scattered around by the computer which you must fit into words.
You can leave or change the game at any time during play. You can clear a square and start again or opt to start on a higher or lower skill level.
To put words into the square you must position the flashing cursor where you want the words to start and then type-in your word. If you use a word twice the computer will inform you with an error message and as you enter words the computer will display the number of words which you have on the screen.
The game is interesting for a time but soon it becomes repetitive. When you have been through all the levels once you can lose interest very quickly.
The action is fast and you are not kept waiting for the computer to form the next word square. The main problem with the package is the lack of good instructions. Only the train options are shown on the insert card and there is no explanation of how the game works or the philosophy behind it.
Wordfit will provide entertainment for those who attempt The Times crossword every day. It costs £5 and can be obtained from Ramwriter, Surrey.
HANG GLIDER is yet another variation on the theme of guiding a craft along a tortuous path. In this case the craft is a hang glider which flies above a river. There are several maps and for each you have three gliders. If you touch the buildings, mountains or whatever on either side, or if you lose altitude and fall into the river, you lose one glider.
The glider's circular movements, based on hang glider performance, introduce a note of difficulty which makes the game more interesting but otherwise as you do not score until you have made a safe landing, there is not a tremendous amount of excitement. Six grades of play will help to improve your piloting skills.
Hang Glider for the 16K ZX-81 is from S Electronics, Hampshire.
WORLD OF ILLUSIONS, for the 16K ZX-81, features a robot called Jimmy who is attempting to reach the centre of a maze to destroy a giant globe, picking-up along the way various pieces of equipment which are guarded by giant bats.
The graphics - bats, globe and the evil Dr Brock - are impressive but the action is painfully slow and the bats stubbornly resist attempts to blast them out of existence with a laser.
There are three levels of play but they only reduce the time allowed to reach the centre of the maze without speeding the game.
World of Illusions is available from Contrast Software, Hampshire, and costs £4.95.
SIX GAMES on a single tape for the 16K ZX-81 have an introductory trailer which is enlivened by some crude but amusing graphics. You load each program individually.
The process might have been a little less laborious if the games were on two sides of the tape instead of only one.
The games are satisfactory, though hardly sparkling with originality. Centipede is a variation on the shoot-out theme; in this case you shoot the centipede while trying to avoid the lawnmower and the grasshopper.
In Haunted House, you are chasing food and energy pills while being chased by ghosts - shades of Pac-man. Berzerk entails escaping from robots, Nasties is another shoot-before-they-get-your-power-pods game, and in Kong you have to climb down a building while being pelted with barrels, and there is even a pretty girl to kiss you if you reach the bottom.
Finally, Kermit is a variation on the theme of taking the frog for a walk, watching for traffic on a busy, road. The tape is available from A Stubbs, Cheshire.
ODYSSEY Computing has achieved the remarkable feat of producing, with no extra hardware, a genuine high-resolution version of Space Invaders for the 16K ZX-81. Invaders offers superior graphics and allows one or two people to play and provides a choice of missile-firing and bomb-dropping rates. The result is an absorbing game which should satisfy trigger-happy space fighters. Invaders is from Odyssey Computing, Notts. It costs £4.95.
|Spectrum Software Scene|
THE WELL-PRODUCED Sinclair computer version of Scrabble for the 48K Spectrum should please confirmed addicts of the game, as well as novices, with its easy-to-follow instructions and quick computer responses.
One to four people can play and the computer can represent any number, including all four, thus turning Scrabble into a spectator sport. It has 11,000 words in its vocabulary and will challenge any player who tries to enter a word which is not in the store.
Nevertheless, provided the other players permit, it is still possible to enter a non-existent word to register a high score, a slight weakness in this game although, in the long run, it is more fun not to cheat.
As in real Scrabble, you can trade letters on your rack, juggle them about, miss your turn, and even save an unfinished game for later.
Six levels of difficulty provide a challenge even for experienced Scrabble fans.
Computer Scrabble is available from Sinclair Research, Surrey. It costs £15.95.
GALAXY ATTACK is possibly the slowest machine code space-arcade game for the 48K Spectrum.
The graphics used look as if they were prepared for the readers' programs section of a computer magazine and there seems to be no professional sheen to the game at all.
You must take your ship through the depths of space, destroying as many alien ships as possible on your way, before you crash-land on a far-off planet.
The object of your quest, once you have crashed, is to repair your spaceship before the deadly walkers destroy you.
If you reach the third part of the game, which we very much doubt you will, you will find yourself fighting the mothership.
We doubt that you will get further than the second level, as the first will sap all your key-pushing strength. The displays used are colourful but flat and lifeless.
Galaxy Attack is a game for those who are willing to spend hours wading through instructions displayed on the computer screen.
It can be obtained from Sunshine Books, London. It costs £5.95.
DK'TRONICS Hard Cheese would be much improved by a set of instructions; none appear on either the insert or the tape. Whatever the storyline, it is a simple Pac-man-type game in which the aim is to reach the big cheese in the middle of the screen before being eaten by the cats which are in hot pursuit. Neither the action nor the graphics are earthshaking but there is a certain challenge in overcoming the difficulty of reaching the middle.
Hard Cheese for the 16K Spectrum is available from dK'tronics, Essex, and costs £4.95.
THE TRAIN GAME for the 16K Spectrum is any budding signalman's dream. It is also an excellent game which is original, well-thought-out and full of action. The idea is that as the newly-appointed chief operations manager of a railway you must keep the trains running, switching points to avoid derailment and stopping at stations to pick up passengers. That is also how you score.
There are several levels of play - and each has sub-levels - with more and faster trains for the increasingly expert player. Even at the simplest level there is plenty to think about. The graphics are simple and realistic, and the scoring, hazards and bonuses are explained very clearly in the insert. Altogether an absorbing and amusing game which might even make you appreciate British Rail.
The Train Game from Microsphere Computer Services, London costs £5.95.
EMERGING from the perils of Styx unscathed is not easy. A three-level arcade/adventure game for the 16K Spectrum, it has a spider-filled maze at the top of the screen, a piranha-infested river fringed with deadly seaweed in the middle, and infernal regions haunted by an evil, shrouded figure at the bottom. All you have on your side are fast fingers and your laser power. Nevertheless, a reasonably lively game, if you do not let the piranhas get you down. Styx can be obtained from Bug-Byte, Liverpool.
'IN SEPTEMBER we reviewed the Softek Firebirds, in which we stated that it had launched a range of programs, of which Firebirds is one, all created by the company compiler. It has been pointed out by Softek that that is not the case, that it has not launched a range of compiled games called Ultima, and that Firebirds was written in pure machine code.'
ACCORDING to the insert, Last Sunset for Lattica represents a distant world where, amid a maze of crumbling building, you have to locate a bomb and defuse it before it blows the entire planet to smithereens.
You are pursued by androids and you must avoid the walls, which are electrified; on the other hand, scattered about are life potions which will give you a new life if you are zapped.
That is the story but this game for the 48K Spectrum is so fast-moving that you will probably forget all about it in the heat of the action.
The fact that you can fire only in the direction in which you last moved tests the reactions even further and if you achieve a high score, you will get a new screenful of hazards. There are several levels of play.
Not a very original concept and the graphics are simple but this is still an exciting, action-packed game which could well prove addictive.
Last Sunset for Lattica is from Arcade Software, Kent and costs £5.50.
EVERYBODY seems to have a fascination with frogs and toads which are likely to be squashed by lorries, bitten by snakes or drowned by dipping turtles.
The latest in a long line of frogger games is called Road Toad for the 16K Spectrum.
The toad must jump through three lanes of heavy juggernauts, evade the snakes on the river bank and jump across logs and turtles to get to the lily pads at the top of the screen.
You are given two toads and 100 seconds to avoid all the obstacles.
It would have been better to give the player less time and more frogs because the highway is so packed with lorries that it is difficult to escape even from the first lane.
As with the original arcade version, one or two players can compete against each other for the fastest time in which to get the frogs across.
Unfortunately dK'Tronics has not included a joystick option so it is not as easy to play as it should be.
It is difficult to become accustomed to the key layout as the up, down, left and right keys are all in line and next to each other. As a result it is easy to mix those key combinations.
It would have been better to separate the keys and put them in a joystick configuration.
Road Toad can be obtained from dK'Tronics, Norfolk. It costs £4.95.
QUEST for the 48K Spectrum follows a now fairly familiar adventure format featuring dwarfs, elves, swords, pieces of gold, black spiders, dragons, and a thick forest through which you might find yourself wandering interminably. The graphics, when you finally encounter them, are polished, and experienced adventure games players will probably enjoy trying to guess what answers and actions are required.
Very few prompts are given in the course of the game but the insert gives detailed instructions.
Novices may spend a good deal of time on a rough track choosing whether to go north, south, east or west - the game derives plenty of mileage from sending you back to where you started.
You may also be axed suddenly by an elf or killed by a rat, just as you thought you were doing the correct thing, but you can be resurrected. At least you can be sure that it will take time before you exhaust the possibilities, if you are not discouraged first. One hint we can give - it is no use trying to bribe the dwarfs.
Quest is available from Hewson Consultants, Oxfordshire. It costs £5.95.
ANYONE who has seen 3-D Tunnel will find Vortex for the 16K Spectrum familiar. The story is that you are in a spacecraft caught in the gravity well of a giant neutron.
Your job is to fly out of the vortex while firing at the various space monsters attacking you.
The flashing graphics are striking but a little confusing, making scoring difficult. There is also a long and wordy introduction which provides very little helpful information, but fortunately you can go straight to the game without looking at it.
Vortex is available from J K Greye Enterprises, Avon. It costs £5.95.