|ZX-81 Software Scene|
GAMES COMPENDIUMS are usually poor value for money - if a game is not good enough to stand on its own then it is probably not worth buying as part of a tape with four or five such mediocre programs. Gamestape One from Fawkes Computing is, however, an honourable exception. Four games are provided, all for the ZX-81 16K, and although none are earth-shattering in concept or programming, they are all of a reasonable standard, and represent excellent value for money at £5.95 for the lot.
The first game, Dodge-it, is a variant of the elderly arcade game Racer in which you had to drive a car around a series of concentric tracks eating up dots and avoiding other cars.
Dodge-it replaces cars with monsters and includes four different speed levels, from easy to suicidal. The fastest rate is vile.
There is also a strawberry which appears at random and which provides bonus points if you pass over it, though the gap left by the strawberry can be used by the monster chasing you, which renders the game increasingly difficult the more bonuses you acquire.
In Trojan Dragon you are the defender of a castle which is under attack by an evil wizard. The wizard sends his men in two directions - some try to get into the castle through the drawbridge, others climb the back of a presumably wooden dragon to storm the battlements.
While all that is going on, your own reinforcements are trying to enter, and you must open and lower the draw-bridge to let them pass while making the bad guys fall in the moat. At the same time you must keep an eye on the battlements and fire arrows at the invaders.
The combination of action at the top and bottom of the screen makes Trojan Dragon a hard game to play even at the easiest of the three levels. Instead of increasing the speed of the game, the higher levels of Trojan Dragon make it difficult to distinguish friend from foe. It is the weakest game of the quartet, but nevertheless enjoyable and competently written.
Death Trap is an arcade-strategy game, in which you move round the screen attempting to avoid the black squares which the computer fills in adjacent to you. Eventually you will be trapped and must pass onto a black square, so the secret is to try to ensure that there is plenty of white space all over the screen. You can also create your own maze as you play.
While it is clearly the simplest of the four games, and easy enough to program in Basic, Death Trap is a fast, all-machine-code game with two skill and three speed levels, and requires both strategic thought and quick reactions to survive for long.
Finally, a full text adventure is provided, The Tablets of Hippocrates. Hippocrates was the first 'modern' doctor, and his lost tablets are supposed to contain a cure for cancer. It is your task to find them, using the usual two-word commands as you explore forest clearings, underground passages, and a cathedral. With about 35 locations the adventure is not of great length. The problems, however, are difficult and ZX-81 adventure buffs will no doubt be grateful for a new challenge.
Although the size of the game is limited by the use of Basic, there have been so few adventures released in recent months for the machine that any competently written program is welcome. Indeed, the ZX-81 is better suited to adventures than to arcade games, and large adventures can be squeezed in using machine code and compression techniques. If Spectrum programmers can fit in over 200 locations then ZX-81 writers should be able to manage at least 70.
Gamestape One is good value for money and presents a thoughtful variety of games with something to please everyone. It can be obtained from Fawkes Computing, Bristol.
|GAMESTAPE ONE||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
VALUE FOR MONEY is not a concept usually associated with gambling, except by inveterate gamblers. Amid the welter of Pools prediction programs one stands out as candidly admitting that the calculations performed by the computer have nothing whatsoever to do with team performances, goal difference, or the potential stamina of Glenn Hoddle's left knee. It is also, incidentally, very expensive.
Poolster, by Naigram Software, introduces the concept of number affinity. The theory is that some numbers have a special attraction to other numbers and that certain numbers on the Pools coupon stand a better chance of yielding a score-draw if their associated numbers also win. Naigram Software has gone to enormous lengths to construct tables of these apparent statistical anomalies, in order to predict likely selections on the Treble Chance.
The program takes an extremely long time to come up with the magic numbers, even in fast mode - if you really believe in of all this mumbo-jumbo, then you will not mind the wait.
Others, less inspired by the cosmic effect upon the morale of Arsenal when playing at number eleven on the coupon, will probably prefer to use the old pinprick method, which has a far greater affinity with football than Poolster, in that whenever you lose you feel sick as a parrot.
If you fancy the idea of number affinity, you can obtain Poolster from Naigram Software, London. Naigram says it would like all winners to send in 10 per cent of their winnings. Chance would be a fine thing.
|POOLSTER||Memory: 16K||Price: £13.00||Gilbert Factor: 3|