|Spectrum Software Scene|
ENTER the 3D movie world of Avalon. You are a wizard intent on the destruction of an evil image who inhabits an underground web of caverns inhabited by goblins, skeletons, wraiths, a guardian of chaos and seven wizards.
You move around the rooms after casting an astral projection spell which will enable you to levitate.
Pursued by the various monsters which dwell in the caves you must accumulate your power by finding spell scrolls. Those enable you to freeze your enemies and summon a servant to help you in your quest for the mage's ectoplasm.
To reach the bowels of the earth you must pass through the gate-house level and find a treasure chest in which the key to the dungeons is hidden.
As you travel through the adventure you will become wise in the ways of magic and earn gradings no doubt given by the magic circle. Those are divided into stages and ranks. A stage describes the physical location at which you have arrived in the game. Those range from Apprentice to Supreme. The ranks denote your skill as a magician, and start at Lore Seeker progressing to the august title of Lord Lord.
The magic system in particular breaks new ground. The spells you have are listed on a scrolling window, and you must use the joystick to select the appropriate spell. Even movement is conducted using a spell, so that physical and magical activities are directly interlinked.
Graphics are not so clear as in the Ultimate arcade/adventures such as Atic Atac. However, the 3D representation of each room, with doors that really open, and the attempts at animation of monsters represent a bigger challenge than those earlier games tackled.
Hewson Consultants claims the game will do for computers what the Jazz Singer did for movies. A ridiculous suggestion which should not however detract from a product that introduces a new style and sophistication in 3D graphics. If you are into arcade games then you will enjoy moving around and killing the monsters in the maze. If, on the other hand, you like adventures you will be fascinated by the puzzles.
|AVALON||Memory: 48K||Price: £7.95||Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Cursor||Gilbert Factor: 9|
SMOKE drifts over the devastated countryside as you set forth in search of the subterranean dens of the Death Moon Orcs. Not long ago a raiding band led by Thorg, chieftain of the unwholesome clan, laid waste your village and murdered your defenceless family. Revenge is all you seek and you will brave the perils of the Savage Lands around the Azonti river to find the bestial killers.
A magic runesword, kept by a hermit, will finish off the ghastly Thorg if you can trace it. Along your way are strewn the marks of war and death, and objects are scattered about which may help you in your single-minded quest. Magic and danger dog your every footstep.
The central theme of Orc Slayer by Gamma Software is relatively simple but the setting is well drawn and consistent, providing a good atmosphere for this pure text adventure. The program uses all the standard adventure commands, though the vocabulary did not appear exceptionally large. The interpreter had that irritating habit of responding to many requests with a simple 'I can't' and, at points, rejected the only appropriate responses to a given situation.
In general the program is an entertaining and eventful game full of mystery and monsters. The statutory maze is thrown in for good measure. A good average adventure in the classic mould. Slay away.
|ORC SLAYER||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.50||Gilbert Factor: 5|
GAMES which have television series tie-ups are becoming popular and can be surprisingly good considering it is usually the plot and not the standard of programming that is the important aspect of the game. Terrahawks, from CRL is just surprising.
It uses none of the characters from Gerry Anderson's series and the graphics, which should have been the best part of the game, are slightly out of perspective and jump when a move is made in any direction.
The minimal plot takes your spacecraft into a black hole where you will find green crystal towers which you must avoid or destroy. If you destroy them you use one of your 80 antimatter bolts but if you do not then some quick action is required to avoid a crash.
Terrahawks is just another piece of mediocre space entertainment but if your idea of a good space game is blasting your way through a platoon of green monoliths then this game is for you.
|TERRAHAWKS||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Joystick: Cursor, Kempston, Interface One||Gilbert Factor: 5|
OCEAN continues its policy of bringing out amusement arcade games under license with a superb version of the popular Track and Field, entitled Daley Thompson's Decathlon. All ten events are represented, and played with dedication the full game is a gruelling exercise indeed.
The graphics are large and colourful. Each event has a qualifying time, and the 10 are split over two days, one on each side of the cassette. If you fail to qualify three times then you are out for the day. If you successfully complete the first day, you can go round again with higher qualifying times until your three lives are gone.
Some of the events are very tough, particularly the 400m sprint. In order to qualify you must pump the joystick backwards and forwards as fast as you can to maintain speed. After about 200m the wall of pain sets in. By a cruel trick, the 400m is the last event of the first day and the 100m is the first, so if you are still in the game you will immediately have to race the 100m just when your arm is ready to drop off.
The second day is more gentle, winding up with the 1500m which requires strategy and restraint if you are not to run out of energy too soon. All the events are reasonably easy to play, apart from the high jump, which appears next to impossible. Getting a decent score is, of course, another matter.
Arcade conversions do not always work on the small screen. Daley Thompson's Decathlon is an exception, and captures the spirit of the competition.
|DALEY THOMPSON'S DECATHLON||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.90||Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair||Gilbert Factor: 8|
ARTIC Computing is heading for a big fall if it thinks that its series of Humpty Dumpty games is going to be a success.
Humpty Dumpty and the Fuzzy Wuzzies is surprisingly addictive. Humpty is struck in a maze. He must avoid the evil Fuzzies, their bombs and the deadly snappers. If he is lucky he will find a transporter to reach safer surroundings.
As any good egg knows the way to get around is to roll and Humpty moves whenever you tilt the maze but be careful as he might end scrambled.
The game has a novel concept but does not develop it. There is nothing either in the scenario or technical execution which makes it anything more than mediocre.
|HUMPTY DUMPTY AND THE FUZZY WUZZIES||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair||Gilbert Factor: 5|
ASTRONOMER by CP Software is a comprehensive package to display the planets, stars and constellations and calculate their positions reasonably accurately.
The program contains a series of facilities. You may choose to display the solar system, which will move according to a specified time lapse, or the night sky in general, which is split into five views. Constellations will be drawn in if you wish.
The Star Chart enables you to look at any part of the sky in greater detail, while the calculator gives the positions of planets and minor bodies in Right Ascension and Declination.
The accompanying booklet explains some d the principles behind Astronomy, and gives examples of how the program can be used.
As a means of learning the positions of astronomical features and as a guide to where you will actually find them in the sky, the program should prove effective.
|ASTRONOMER||Memory: 48K||Price: £9.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
LIFE in a Glaswegian warehouse is evidently dangerous to judge from Bewarehouse. Glasgow-based Positive Image has created a game in which death goes hand in hand with the boredom of manual labour.
You must climb up through the various floors of the warehouse, avoiding barrels which roll along the floor. At later levels the warehouse acquires a few ghosts which chase you with murderous intent.
Unfortunately the game is a lame version of Donkey Kong with no gorilla, no maiden to rescue, no variety in the levels and very little in the way of addictive excitement. The cassette insert describes programmer Tom Canavan as one of Scotland's finest. I shudder to think what the others are like.
Frog Face, a text adventure from the same company, is rather more attractive. The program credits the Quill adventure system, but includes a number of attractive pictures of locations.
You have had your face turned into a frog by the evil Meegan, and must find a magic potion to restore your natural beauty. The game setting is clearly based on the land of fairytales, with whispering flowers, lucky silver spoons, royal castles and the like, although there are darker and more deadly creatures as well.
The only real fault is that it is very easy to be killed in a somewhat arbitrary fashion early on. Death traps are by no means a bad thing in adventures, but there should not be too many of them. That said, Frog Face is a pleasant romp, and since there is an option to play as a man or a woman, may have a wider appeal than the more macho monster-bashing adventures.
|BEWAREHOUSE||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 4|
|FROG FACE||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
IF YOU have ever had a desire to take part in a giant computer fraud, or longed to break into the Pentagon's central computers, or simply spy on the private accounts of some multi-national company, then System 15000 is the game for you.
Your friend Mike has written to you with details of a computer fraud in which Comdata has been ripped off by Realco for $1,500,000. Your task is to break into the correct computers in order to transfer the money back to where it belongs. To do so you will need to track down the appropriate accounts and find the correct code numbers to access them.
The entire game is played out as if your Spectrum really was hooked into a vast network of computers. The System 15000 of the title is a high-powered user network similar to Micronet of which you are a member. Mike gives you a few clues to start with, and there is another hacker, Geoff, who may occasionally send helpful messages to you through the system. Otherwise you are on your own.
Whenever you telephone a computer, the Spectrum responds with simulated ringing tones. Sometimes the number is engaged, and sometimes the system shuts down while security checks are made. Somewhere, someone knows you are on the track.
Undoubtedly the economy of a game in which most of the commands are in the form of numbers or character strings of only a few letters, and the display simply a series of different types of computer screen, means the actual structure of the game can be very complex. After playing for many hours, unless you are a master code-breaker or just very lucky, you will still feel you have only penetrated the outer strands of the web of conspiracy surrounding Realco and the missing millions.
System 15000 is an absolutely first-rate game and the very stuff of which good adventures should be made. We can hardly wait for the sequel.
|SYSTEM 15000||Memory: 48K||Price: £9.95||Gilbert Factor: 9|
A new version of the Friendly Face microdrive utility contains several routines, including a piece of code which can be merged into other programs to catalogue and auto-run programs by asking for numeric inputs entered with reference to a menu.
The RUN utility can be automatically saved to any cartridge for use with its programs and does away with the need to type in long microdrive commands which are needed when using Sinclair Basic. RUN can also be batch auto-saved onto several cartridges, one after another, using a program loop within the routine.
The utility has to be adapted for use with some programs but the manufacturer has included ready-made routines to merge Friendly Face into Masterfile and Tasword Two. That means both programs become instantly microdrive compatible so that data can be SAVEd and LOADed using microdrives.
Two new options include an intelligent FORMAT routine which will make sure that the maximum amount of storage space on a cartridge is made available every time. As with the auto-save facility it can perform its task on a batch of cartridges.
The second new function is a CATalogue of the files on a selected microdrive cartridge which will be listed on a printer. It gives a hard copy of files on a cartridge.
Also included is a Masterfile file which contains two formats. The first, Action, can be used as a database in which you can include a diary of events. These records can be displayed on the screen or printed out for later use.
Memo allows the input of notes and memorandums on a variety of subjects. These can be accessed efficiently using Masterfile.
|FRIENDLY FACE||Memory: 16K||Price: Cartridge £12.95 Cassette £6.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
NO prizes for guessing the theme of Crusoe from Automata.
A map of the island takes up half the screen, and includes objects which may be useful to Crusoe, who is shown as a small figure. Various status indicators are also shown.
Crusoe's task is to assemble a decent set of living equipment without running into thorns or boulders and reducing his strength. If Automata's eccentric style appeals, you will enjoy the game, though the crabbed script and minute screen detail are likely to irritate even the most persistent.
|CRUSOE||Memory: 48K||Price: £6||Gilbert Factor: 5|
THE ROBOTS have gone loopy in the mechanised factory far out in space. Your job as the metagalactic repair man in Strangeloop from Virgin Games, is to get through the rooms filled with dangerous swarf, reach the control room and shut down the crazed computer. On the way you will meet super-swarf and an anti-hero who will try to disrupt everything you do, as well as robots which will help you to patch up your space suit when it has been attacked by swarf. Virgin is giving a £2,000 robot to the first player to complete the game.
You are guided by a map on which you can see some of the 240 rooms around you and which will help you find a jet-bike.
You can pick up fuel and patches for your suit and retrieve items such as rings and spanners, which are given out by robots or left strewn around the floor. The objects can be used to perform various tasks which must be done before you stop the factory computer. For those reasons the game can be called an arcade adventure, on a par with Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner.
If you run into trouble you can save the state of play onto cassette and resume the game later. You can also halt all the on-screen action to take a quick break. A real-time clock tells you how many months you have spent on the game.
If you are killed off you are reincarnated, as long as you have one of your eight lives left, and may position yourself anywhere within the present room. Thus you can sacrifice a life to escape from a particularly lethal situation.
Strangeloop is more than likely to be one of the biggest selling games at Christmas and may make as large an impact on the market as any game from Software Projects or Ultimate. For the first time in its short life Virgin Games has a winner on its hands.
|STRANGELOOP||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Kempston, Interface 1, Sinclair, Cursor||Gilbert Factor: 9|
JUST READING the instructions may have you feeling quarrelsome and irritable about The War of the Worlds from CRL. H G Wells does not even get a mention and the only way to find out the order of places to visit is to buy the record of the same name.
Martian fighting machines terrorise the Home Counties in this graphic 'adventure' and your aim is to guide your man, a stick-like figure, through the moving landscape.
Much of the game seems to be spent moving along the streets towards London and there is no real text input. The few text commands are single key entries such as E for eat or G for get. You will find yourself zapped frequently if you take a wrong turning, which sends you back via long delays to the teletype-style beginning.
After reaching London things get chaotic. I was swamped by refugees from the city for so many moves that I gave up in absolute annoyance as the program seemed to be stuck in an endless loop. No movement was possible after that point.
|WAR OF THE WORLDS||Memory: 48K||Price: £7.95||Joystick: Protek, AGF, Cursor||Gilbert Factor: 4|
GOODNESS gracious, great balls of fire! Coming at you every which way too in Dragonfire as, in the persona of Prince William, you attempt to cross the drawbridge, enter your castle and rescue the valuables in the Treasury.
The fortress is guarded by a powerful dragon who has clearly dined too well on chicken vindaloo and the fireballs fly thick and fast. Young Willy can be made to jump, duck and run towards the gate and, if he makes it, enter the second screen. That depicts the strongroom where the flatulent reptile lurks.
Willy must then collect items of value and escape once again avoiding incineration. If successful he returns to the drawbridge and begins all over again, only this time the action is faster and yet more dangerous. There are four levels like that, each apparently using the same screens.
The game is fast, challenging, with good strong graphics and clear displays. It is pure arcade and the storyline is minimal. All you need are fast reactions and the urge to play again and again. To begin with the program is exciting and difficult but with only two screens, the thrill soon wears off. That is a serious limitation on what is basically a well-designed game and is bound to reduce its permanent appeal.
|DRAGONFIRE||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Joystick: Cheetah RAT, Kempston, Interface 2||Gilbert Factor: 5|
WHITE LIGHTNING is an apt name for the games development package released by Oasis Software.
The package is described by the company as "the first true sprite manipulation language". Although some would not agree with the first point, as the ISP SCOPE arrived on the scene much earlier, it has to be admitted that the package provides a powerful graphics utility language which will add a new dimension to games written by amateur programmers.
Sprites are made up of several character segments which can be moved around the screen in unison. Any one of a possible 255 sprites can be set up at any width and height you indicate. The unit of measurement for sprites is one byte and the most common size is four by four. That will produce characters similar to those which can be found on the Commodore and Atari computers.
The White Lightning language is compiler-based and runs Fig-Forth together with a set of commands to handle graphics, sound and input. Oasis has labelled that new sub-set of Forth 'Ideal' and it fills in the holes which the official Forth language leaves on the Spectrum.
If you do not have any knowledge of that esoteric language then the 131-page booklet which accompanies the package explains all the commands in detail.
As well as being able to use Forth and Ideal you can incorporate Basic commands into programs. The reason for allowing the use of Basic keywords is that a beginner can be gradually weaned onto Forth code and off Basic. That is a commendable idea and one that works well.
Anyone who wants to write compiled games ought to buy White Lightning. It is easily the most complex games language on the market and produces stunning effects on the screen.
|WHITE LIGHTNING||Memory: 48K||Price: £14.95||Gilbert Factor: 9|
ENTER the domain of the two kings who rule Twin Kingdom Valley. Explore the forests, the mountain paths and the caverns of the land where eternal life is possible.
You will meet other creatures which may have objects, such as broadswords, which you need. Those monsters are a motley crew and include trolls and gorillas. They have a nasty habit of throwing things at you and do not behave as intelligently as Bug-Byte claims.
The location pictures are colourful and drawn at a speed which beats that of The Hobbit graphics.
There are 180 locations of which 150 have corresponding screen pictures. Bug-Byte claims that it has crammed more locations and pictures into the Spectrum than any other company. That is a matter of opinion.
Another attraction is the addition of speech if you have a Currah Microspeech unit.
The game is excellent value for money. The only criticism is that little seems to happen until you have been playing it for some time and have found some of the objects which you need. That is all part of the simulation and dedicated adventure players should not be put off.
|TWIN KINGDOM VALLEY||Memory: 48K||Price: £7.95||Gilbert Factor: 8|
AN EARLY reading program for 3-7 year olds, Words and Pictures is based on the old idea of matching pictures to words. Four programs - Wordsa, Sentsa, Wordsb and Sentab - can be called from the menu. On LOADing a list of words appears for each section, and options 1-4 can be chosen; there are approximately 100 words introduced, including prepositions.
You can choose whether to include sound, and a performance table at the end of the game. Both word games operate on the same format; four pictures appear on the screen with a word at the bottom, and the object of the game is to match the word to the correct picture.
The pictures are colourful, although simplified as is the case with computer graphics. That simplification could be confusing if a child is playing the game alone, for the word 'daddy' is supposed to match a picture which could easily be confused with 'man'.
The sentence section makes quite a leap from the initial matching of single words; sentences such as 'The fir tree is always green' are a far cry from the initial matching activity. If the word matching is correct then a frog eats a bug, and when 10 bugs are eaten a song is played. If incorrect the frog leaps up and down.
The booklet provides hints for parents and teachers. Words and Pictures is an adequate first-reading program, but at £9.95 rather expensive. After all, flashcards and word cards could be made for a fraction of the price to provide identical activities, and would probably be a richer visual experience.
|WORDS AND PICTURES||Memory: 48K||Price: £9.95||Gilbert Factor: 6|