Producer: Quicksilva/Software Studios
Memory required: 48K
Retail price: £14.95
Language: machine code
Author: John Hollis
If you’re tired of actually playing games perhaps you might like to have a go at designing one yourself? Of course a lot of Spectrum owners are not programming geniuses, so Quicksilva have now brought out a package which at least offers control over the various features of some standard arcade games. In a way it’s the computer equivalent of the chemistry kit.
Games Designer comes packed in a neat betamax-sized video cassette box, and contains a detailed booklet on the program. On loading the program the first thing you are offered is a main menu with a list of eight options: Play Game, Select New Game, Alter Sprites, Configuration, Movement, Attack Waves, Load from Tape, Save to Tape.
At any time, pressing ENTER returns you to the main menu. Selecting Play Game allows you to play whichever is the ‘current’ of the eight different games included in the program. Control keys may be altered to suit the users own preferred layout. The second option, Select New Game, lets you choose between any of the other seven games. The eight titles are: Attack of the Mutant Hamburgers, Cyborg, Reflecttron, Turbo-Spider, Tanks a Lot, Halloween, Splat and Qbix.
Having played these as they exist, you may fancy redesigning them. Option three allows the sprites to be altered and a menu tells you what can be done. This includes the shapes of the aliens, ships or laser bases, missiles and bombs, shields and explosion sequences. Their colours can be changed as well. Having selected the sprite type to be altered a sprite editor fills the screen, showing all the pixels that make up the sprite. These can then be manipulated from the keyboard without difficulty.
Configuration, the fourth option, allows you to alter the way the game takes place. You can change the game format, control keys and joystick options; the background and foreground colours may be altered; special effects can be changed; and there are four classes of sound effect which can be played with, missile sounds, bomb sounds, ship explosions and alien explosions. Selecting one of these keys brings the sound editor into play, a visual display of faders controlling the overall frequency or pitch of the sound, the speed at which pitch increases; or decreases; length of sound.
Option five is Movement. This controls the patterns and pattern movement of aliens/ objects/ships etc. Again an editor is used with visual display so that you can create almost any pattern or movement you like.
Option six allows you to alter the attack waves of the aliens, including the animation, points awarded for each destroyed, pattern under which they start a game, numbers of aliens in each attack wave, whether or not they drop bombs, and also what pattern of attack wave follows the ‘current’ one.
The last two options allow you to save your redesigned game or reload it.
Obviously this is a very complex program, which allows great flexibility and offers enjoyment on two levels, both playing and designing. The instruction booklet is well designed, very clear, and includes a technical appendix which may be of interest, as well as various tables to aid games design. They have also been thoughtful enough to provide blank pages at the end for the player’s own notes.
Any combination of control keys or joysticks may be accommodated as desired.
‘Excellent packaging and instructions. The eight pre-programmed games are quite simple but the graphics are of good quality, and anything can be redesigned. The variations and experiments are endless.’
‘I was disappointed by the actual games pre-programmed, which were all very simple. But then, half the fun is redesigning everything, and it’s possible to make some very bloody-minded and hard to play games from this little package.’
‘The graphics are excellent, and I’m not talking about the game graphics but those on the various menus. The little ‘fader’ type visuals are wonderful.’
‘The program is user-friendly so you don’t have to be an expert in machine code programming. Even at £15 Games Designer represents good value for money.’
Keyboard positions: up to you!
Joystick options: up to you!
Keyboard play: positive
Use of colour: up to you!
Graphics: excellent and then up to you!
Sound: up to you!
Skill levels: up to you!
Lives: up to you!
General rating: Highly recommended
Since the ratings hardly apply to this program we asked the reviewers to give an overall percentage. It was 92%.