Letters

Letter of the Month
WINNING AT JETMAN

Lunar Jetman screenshot

Dear CRASH,
Many people appear to be having difficulty in getting further than level 3 in Lunar Jetman. This letter should help solve that problem, giving you a technique to amass well over 50,000 points and get past the teleport-stealing aliens on level 6.

First of all, bear in mind that you don’t need to transport the bomb to the alien base, but you can instead shoot the missile by hitting it 8 + (level you are on) times. The problem is to gain enough time to shoot the missile down before it reaches your truck. Flying to intercept it doesn’t work because you run out of fuel. The solution is therefore as follows:

Fill in all the holes between the two teleport booths (you might as well pick up the light gun turret while you are doing so) and then head for the teleport furthest away from the alien base. While you are in the moon rover you can use thrust and fire to raise/lower the gun and fire at the aliens. Once you have positioned yourself beside the appropriate booth you can blast away at the aliens until the missile is fired and the warning appears. Then get out of the truck and enter the teleport, thus giving at the other booth (which brings you closer to the approaching missile). Don’t fly about, wasting fuel, but remain in front of the booth until you see the rocket appear. (If before then, a rock or an alien is heading towards you, you can teleport to the other booth and wait until you think the danger is past then teleport back don’t wait too long or you may miss the missile)!

As soon as you see the missile, start shooting at it, and by the time you get back to the moon rover you should have blown it up. If all else fails, jump on it (this stops it dead — and you too). All you have to do then, is keep repeating the process. When you reach level 6 the aliens have the ability to teleport and steal the booths. The system I use is to place the teleport on the moon rover where the aliens will leave it alone, and then drive it around so you still have one teleport between you and the base. As before, when the missile is launched, you teleport to the other booth, move to one side and shoot into the booth, thus destroying any aliens who try to teleport. Try avoiding enemies by moving rather than the teleport method. When the rocket appears, shoot it down as before. Using this technique I have reached level 8 (rocket-firing aliens) several times, but I’m sure your readers will soon beat this. I would be pleased to read any comments on this method in future issues of CRASH.

Congratulations to Imagine on the Alchemist, which I completed in two days (luck mostly).
Christopher Sutherland

I hope Ultimate won’t be upset at your leaking their secrets, Christopher, but as far as I can see you only left out one vital ingredient — skill! I like the way you glibly state — just fill in all the holes ...! It’s exactly that minor problem that usually leaves me as one more little hole! So — let’s see what other readers have got to say about this recipe for success. Meanwhile, your choice of software is already on its way, Christopher.
LM

MISWORDED REVIEWS

Dear Lloyd
Let me open this letter by congratulating you, and the CRASH team on your new magazine. Since I bought it I’ve hardly put it down. I have enjoyed the review section as it clearly tells you which games to buy. The best part is the pictures of the actual screen display as they tell you just what to expect (it’s a pity they’re not all in colour).

My only criticism is in the write up of some reviews which are worded so as to give the wrong impression. One said that Jumping Jack was addictive — I found that after a few goes I got bored with it. The poem is terrible but I admit that the ‘squelch’ sound is great.

Monsters In Hell has small one character graphics and jerky movement and the screen is unattractive. Styx is also rubbish. The screen is split into three sections, and once all three sections are completed you return to the start.

Anyway, apart from all that the magazine is great.
A. Crammond

I wish we could do all the screens in colour too, but I’m told (by those-in-the-know) that the cost would be prohibitive. As to the wording of reviews, you must take into account personal taste, and the fact that our reviewers are only human — sometimes they like a game you might not, and sometimes it’s the opposite. I actually think Jumping Jack is marvellous, though I’m not very keen on Monsters In Hell. Looking at the minireview of Styx, I would have thought it fairly described the game in much the same words you used (except for ‘rubbish’)!
LM

CRASH INDEX?

Dear editor,
I bought your first issue of CRASH and found it to be quite useful. I like your format of listing programs ‘under convenient headings’ and also the ‘Index To Reviews In This Issue’.

However, as a comprehensive ready reference, CRASH has failed in one important respect — it does not have an index for all other programs usefully described in the magazine, thus making it difficult and, at times, annoying for a reader to find a particular title if it is not in the main index.

So instead of having a an index to reviews in this issue, how about having a General Index for all titles covered in the magazine? I am sure this would be a tremendous help to us readers.
R.T.

When I humbly put this idea (which I thought was very good) to the Editor, he almost bit my head off, and threatened to fire me if I said another word. Reading between the invective that came my way, it seems that it’s already an enormous amount of work just to do what we’re already doing. However, next day, a little memo appeared on my (tiny) desk which said ‘Congratulations on a sensible idea ...’ and went on to say that CRASH is apparently going to offer readers a deal on binders for 6 issues which will have the most comprehensive index to ANY reference made in those issues. At this point I thought I might be in for a salary raise, but the memo pointed out that this binder index is going to be a simply appalling amount of work, and as I was the one who came up with the bright idea, perhaps I would like to start on it right away ... Thanks a lot, R.T.
LM

HARD WORKING REVIEWERS

Dear CRASH,
Congratulations on a well presented and informative first issue of CRASH, and on recommending Deathchase as new game of the month, which, for your information, repeats after level 8. Having read through my copy, however, I would like to raise a few points.

Being the first magazine to give games software and games players the credit and standing they deserve, you are doing the whole image of games playing a great service. You are also making a very serious attempt to produce good reviews, having organised your reviewers and the criteria to which they work. But your reviewers must be very good games players so that they can get further than the average player and form a balanced overall impression of the game.

An example is your review of Gotcha. Having read it I formed the impression it was a Manic Miner style multi-screen game and bought a copy. I was a little disappointed at the lack of animation, and the first screen offered none of the precise timing required by Manic Miner. The second screen looked far more difficult at first sight, and it is. If you do get past this screen, which none of your reviewers did, then you are presented with the same screen layout but with different objects to collect — hardly multi-screened. I stopped playing and phoned Blaby; they confirmed that the game just continues in the same way. If your reviewers had got past the second screen they must not have compared it to Manic Miner.

Of Tutankhamun your reviewer said, ‘controlling your man can be alarming as he fires independently and tends to zig zag about if you leave his control keys alone for very long’. This independence is actually a bug due to Series 3 Spectrums. I sent my copy back to Dominic Wood, the author, and he has re-written the keyboard and joystick scanning code to take into account Series 3 differences.

If it’s of any interest, I have reached level 13 of Lunar Jetman with a score of 135,780 and still new graphics with positively sneaky characteristics keep appearing. Many thanks for the best Spectrum magazine so far.
R.A. Holman

Your comments, Mr. Holman, are very fair. In a sense I feel the value of a magazine like CRASH is that it can act as a sort of ‘clearing house’ of information on all aspects of games playing, and I’m personally delighted to see that a lot of readers are already treating us that way.

As to our reviewers, their number is gradually increasing, with time we hope to have some who are much better at one type of skill and some who are better with other games. But a point to bear in mind is that we are currently receiving in the region of 60 games a month for review. Since each game must be seen and played by 3 reviewers, each one has very little time for each game. It isn’t always that they don’t play far enough, but that they haven’t enough time. It’s quite logical that at home you will be able to play a game for hours and even days, and get a great deal further. After writing their impressions of a game, a reviewer may take it home and play later, finding out all sorts of things that didn’t crop up when doing the review. And to a great degree, I don’t think our role is to tell you everything possible about a game, or there won’t be as much fun for you. On the other hand we are doing everything possible, given the huge number of programs around at the moment, to provide balanced reviews which are not misleading. Some may inevitably slip through — then it’s your job to let us know what you think and thank you for doing so.
LM

PLAY IT YET AGAIN

Dear Lloyd,
Firstly, congratulations on an excellent first issue of your magazine. It was all that I had hoped for and then some.

As I feel that the readers can offer a magazine as much as a magazine can offer its readers, I would like to contribute my views on the joystick (j/s) interfaces (i/f) currently available, since some of the impressions created by Franco Frey’s article, “Play It Again, Sam” are at odds with my own experience.

Firstly, I think the “Options” should have been reduced from 4 to 2 — non-programmable and programmable. Over the past 6 months I have had experience of 2 from each of these options.

I have had a Kempston i/f with the Pro-Stik, and an AGF II non programmable i/f, which worked very well. But in November I decided to move up to a programmable i/f. It is at this point that my experiences and those of Mr. Frey begin to diverge.

My first i/f was a STONECHIP — “a much better proposition” — to quote Mr. Frey. He goes on to say that, “pressing the appropriate key on the keyboard and at the same time activating the joystick in the direction required ...” Quite true — BUT, “This procedure is then repeated for the other 3 directions and the firing action” is not quite so accurate! Unless Stonechip have redesigned since November, the i/f has to be programmed for ALL directions, including diagonals, both with and without the firing action, plus the firing action alone — a total of 17 j/s settings! This would often mean pressing three keys, and at the same time, holding the j/s in diagonal position with the fire button pressed. It used to take two people fully two or three minutes to fully configure a j/s for a game, and this had to be done before every playing of the game.

We found this most unsatisfactory, so I exchanged it for the CAMBRIDGE j/s & i/f package, and once again, I beg to differ with Mr. Frey. In its application the Cambridge really scores. By loading a short (approx. 1 minute) program, I have available the facility to set up the j/s for any game in my collection, simply by typing in the name. A simple program mod can be made to list and select games by number. It took about two hours to create this index to over 40 games.

The procedure for adding a new entry could not be much easier; simply reply to the 6 prompts by pressing a single key, and when finished, check it for accuracy. The i/f copes with all the combinations of the 6 primary j/s positions, so, provided the game can handle it, the j/s & i/f will do the rest. It can be a nuisance that this program must be loaded before game, but this takes less time than setting up the Stonechip.

Franco Frey’s article was the second that ‘knocks’ the Cambridge, and I felt it was time that someone spoke up for them.

A query. Has anyone actually used the much vaunted TRIK-STIK? I’ve seen a few comments which make great claims for it, but no one seems to have reviewed it yet.

AM I the only person to realise that CRUMPETS is an anagram of SPECTRUM??!!
Ian Muir

To take your most important point first, Ian, I’m sure Sir Clive is well aware about the anagram — there are unfounded rumours in the business that he wanted to call it the ZX CRUMPETS, but the PR department prevailed! Working backwards from there, the TRIK-STIK seems to have hit a number of production problems, which has meant that to date only prototypes and pre-production models have been available for inspection. After a word with Franco Frey, he asks me to offer his apologies, in as much as the Stonechip i/f does require more effort and time than suggested in his article, with up to 17 different combinations having to be programmed. However the Cambridge unit does lengthen the loading procedure by at least a minute. Perhaps this is worth waiting for, especially as, to his knowledge, this is the only joystick interface which caters for two independent firing actions — a definite advantage with most games. An apology, therefore, to Cambridge as well if it seemed that the article was down on them, but the point being made with that their solution, as with many others on the market, is not necessarily the final one.
LM

A BIT BLURRED

Dear L.M.,
I think CRASH is an excellent magazine, but the only problem is that most of the paper is of not very good quality, and when it shows pictures of most of the games it is all blurred and hard to see.
Fai Tang

Having predicted your letter, Fai, we’ve already put the matter right. As you can see, this issue is printed on a shinier paper. I can’t swear the photographs will be any less blurred, photographing games screens is not an easy task, and after ten solid hours of loading games, you can surely forgive our photo team for getting a bit unfocussed through the odd beer or two!
LM

CHUCK AN EGG

Dear Crash,
Having been a buyer and reader of your excellent magazine since the first issue, I feel compelled to write and say how much I enjoy reading it and what fantastic value for money it is. When I saw that there were to be no listings, I threw my copy in the air with delight. However, I feel that one or two reviews were not quite accurate enough, and here are a few extra points which people may find useful.

Regarding Chuckie Egg, people may wonder what the golden chicken does at the top of the screen. Well, apart from frantically flapping its wings, if you reach screen 9, it escapes and flies after you, disregarding walls, and is truly suicidal in its tactics (Nasty!!)

On to Lunar Jetman. Your reviewer did not mention the teleport booths, which ‘teleport’ you to another booth about 2 screens away. I’ve scored 149,850 points, and can tell you that the aliens really get bad later on. There are mutant turbans which release white rockets when shot, flying saucers with umbrellas on top, saturns with revolving rings, bats with jaws, and many more.

Readers may be interested in these tips on Atic Atac (completed). If Dracula sends you scurrying off to another room, then try picking up the golden cross. He hides in the nearest corner. If you go up to him, he quickly runs off. Good fun chasing Drac for a change, isn’t it? Also, if you pick up the spanner, you can kill the red monster a few rooms to the right for a healthy bonus. Oh, and my brother has scored over 1 million on Zzoom!! Is this a record?
Yours sincerely,
Tim Higginson

Certainly sounds like it, Tim. Actually I’ve had a few eggs chucked at me for the somewhat flippant and inaccurate remarks in the Chuckie Egg review. There’ll be three more reviews hanging from the gibbet in Ludlow town centre before today’s out! Here is another irate reader...
LM

HEN MANURE

Dear Crash-ers,
Now, now, people, after an excellent first issue, don’t tell me you’ve dropped your guard a little in your reviews! Let me give you a couple of examples:

Chuckie Egg (My favourite arcade game — and me an adventure addict), Hen Manure does not appear in the game — in fact that “hen manure” is corn, which if collected earns you points. You also failed to mention that every 10,000 points clocked up gets you an extra life, nor the fact that after screen 9 the mother hen escapes from her cage, and then you’ve really got trouble!

The second error comes in the software guide, in the adventure games section. In the Ship of Doom it says, “in Planet of Death there is a computer which you may ...” Ship of Doom? Planet of Death?

On the plus side, unlike R.D. Hammond (letter page), I do like The Terminal Man. The name CRASH doesn’t seem to be any deterrent to sales either, from the speed in which it disappeared from shops. I had great difficulty getting a second copy for myself. Could suggest you do a review on the excellent Velnor’s Lair to let all those who do not know the game what they are missing.

Finally, I have a message for the reviewer of The Mountains of Ket, who tried using the axe on the shopkeeper. Tell him that he’d be better off chopping logs with it — after all, some people are willing to pay a lot for firewood. Also, I noticed a mistake in Chuckie Egg’s price. You quote it as £7.90, when in the A & F ad in the mag the game costs £6.90.
Yours, Brian H. Longstaff

Whoops, whoops, whoops, where would we be without you guys out there putting us right? C’est la vie. Velnor’s Lair should certainly be re-reviewed. It’s one of my favourites (and me an arcade addict). The misquoted price for Chuckie Egg was due to a surcharge for the ‘hen manure’. Anyway, I’ve written an Infernal Memo to the Editor about the whole affair — after all, I have to get my own back somehow.
LM

ORACULAR RAGE

Dear CRASH,

I couldn’t resist the temptation to write to you concerning your review on ORACLE’S CAVE by Doric. It’s utterly fascinating, and totally absorbs you with some great graphics and great ideas. Once you’ve started this game, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t stop. It’s brilliant!

Are your reviewers blind?

They must be to give graphics just 73%, and as for giving its addictive qualities 60%, it’s a disgrace! I almost had to go to hospital suffering from shock after seeing the points made and the marks given. Value for money has to be 100% and playability 95%.

Not only is this game simple to master, but it gives you a great feeling of total command and responsibility. It must be one of the great names for the Spectrum, comparable with CHEQUERED FLAG, THE HOBBIT and other such classics. I hope you print this letter.
T. Stabler

The reviewers concerned have been chained up, whipped and made to play ORACLE’S CAVE until they repented their folly.
LM

ATIC ACRACK

Dear Sir,
Do you know if I’m one of the first people to crack ATIC ATAC? I found the three parts to the key and scored 72%, as a Wizard.

The three parts to the key are sometimes in the same place as the previous game. All the keys (especially the yellow key) are useful, and look for a trapdoor between two tables be sure to cross it at the right moment! So far, I think ATIC ATAC is Ultimate’s best game and for only £5.50, it is fantastic value for money.
Stuart Mitchell (age 13)

Any comments from other ATIC ATACCERS?
LM

HUMMER HOUSE OF HORROR

Dear CRASH,
I have just bought a copy of your brilliant magazine and I have noticed you mention a game called HUMMER HOUSE OF HORROR by Lasersound. I would like to tell you that Lasersound have gone bankrupt a few months ago. I hope this comes in useful to you. I sent to them to get a game and got a blank cassette. I got in touch with them and they told me they had gone bankrupt and I lost my money. I would advise anyone not to get anything from Lasersound.
Stephen Cavanagh

Stephen, we have tried contacting Lasersound at their offices in East London. Up until a few weeks ago, there was someone answering the telephone, but answers were very evasive on all counts. Telephone calls made on your behalf this week have been unsuccessful owing to the fact that Lasersound’s telephone appear to have been disconnected. In the absence of any response from that company we must assume that your claim regarding their bankruptcy is well founded, and we would advise CRASH readers to have no further dealings with them. HUMMER HOUSE OF HORROR and EGG FARM have now been deleted from the Guide Section.
LM

CRITICISM

Dear CRASH,
Congratulations for an excellent magazine format. Crash has already been a valuable source of information for me as a software writer (author of 3D Space Wars, 3D Seiddab Attack).

The reviews are very good but I feel that the point system is not always used to reflect the reviewers rating of a specific category but rather his overall opinion. For instance if a reviewer really likes playing a game it usually has a high “Use of Computer” even if the category was criticised for bad keyboard choice or no joystick option. In the same way graphics can be seen as marked higher on favourite games despite remarks such as “small”, “relatively simple”, “jerky”. Setting up was a category abused in this way where for simple arcade games there is hardly any difference as most just load and go.

I was surprised to see relatively high marks on the cheap to produce easy to write arcade type games of yesteryear and think originality should be a marks category where Space Invaders for instance gets about 5 per cent. Do the public really prefer copies of old games that invariably cannot be programmed to the standard of the original? I believe the future will belong to the games that use the advantages of a home micro over a slot machine. For instance the aim should be to involve the player in a total experience rather than beat him as quick as possible and make sure he will play again. Perhaps your readers could say what it is they would really like from future games.

Regarding your review of 3D Space Wars you mention the fuel goes down rapidly. It is only decremented when you fire (very slightly) and when you are hit by an enemy phasor bolt. There is a tactical skill factor to the game whereby you use the radar to pick off the enemy one or two at a time splitting the fleet up. By attacking upwards bringing the enemy in from the top of the screen you minimise the risk of being shot back. Because the game gives you absolute choice of direction (8 directions really are not good enough nowadays) a whole new dimension of skill is obtained. This may take longer to achieve but the rewards are even greater and last longer than a quick to master control.
Steve Turner

I must take a quick moment to say thank you to all those who have written in the past couple of weeks. The letters have piled up to such an extent that I just can’t fit even a fraction of them in, but good letters will still find their way onto these pages as soon as possible, so forgive me if you were expecting to see yourself in print this month. Have patience and stay tuned!
LM