The 4th February saw thousands queuing to get into the ZX Microfair at London’s Ally Pally Pavilion, proving again that this jolly one-day microaffair continues to be a big hit with Spectrum owners no matter what the glossy magazines say. Personal Computer News (Feb 18) reported that, ‘People queued twice round the Pavilion ... and shuffled patiently through the entrance, but once inside there was hardly any room to move and the temperature was tropical.’
It was packed, the temperature was hardly tropical and the PCN reporter should perhaps have asked a few of the crowd whether they liked it that way or not. The crowds that formed around the CRASH Magazine stand certainly seemed enthusiastic. Over three hundred CRASH HOTLINE forms were filled out during the day and five thousand copies of CRASH issue two disappeared within four hours.
Visitors to the CRASH stand were treated to the sight of Ocean programmer Christian Urquhart showing them how to play Transversion and Hunchback. Christian and his friend Nick Pierpoint, who was also at the stand, wrote Transversion which Ocean published late last year, and Christian wrote Hunchback. Whilst being slightly disapproving of our review for Hunchback (issue 2) he was delighted to be able to point out how high up the charts the game was.
Another visitor to the stand was David Shea, author of Quicksilva’s Frenzy and of their latest release, The Snowman. David and Christian were soon engaged in a verbal battle regarding the various merits of their games, accompanied by supporters on either side from the crowd (the temperature was tropical). Aloof from all the arcade wars was our new adventurer, Fraser Hubbard. Nevertheless, he was able to explain how to get Bugaboo out of the gorge, which resulted in another heated argument as to which side of the gorge is the best way up. At the next ZX Microfair, CRASH will be having a boxing ring where contestants can hammer out the best way to win at computer games.
Despite the increase in crowds the number of exhibitors was down on previous fairs probably due to what was felt to be a poorer response at the two day fair before Christmas. In a way, it goes to show that one-day fairs are more appealing both to exhibitors and visitors. But those who were there seemed to be having a very busy day. It was a tough fight to get near the Digital Integration stand, where Dave Marshall was sitting on the front flying his Fighter Pilot and demonstrating aiming skills in Night Gunner. Gilsoft, delighted by recent reactions to their adventure writing utility The Quill, had some cover artwork on show for their new series of adventures written with The Quill under the heading of The Gold Series. Grant Design Ltd were demonstrating their cursor key clip-on joysticks, while Melbourne House were bemoaning the fact that their first ever H.U.R.G. cassettes, due in at Heathrow that morning, had been delayed and were not available to demonstrate at the show. Micromania were shooting down aliens with the Stack Light Rifle (Invasion Force), as well as tackling ancient Egyptian monsters with Tutankhamun.
Softeach were also busy with their excellent Custom Keypad Kit. The wallet contains ten plastic keyboard overlays and two self-adhesive transfer sheets. One is blank for you to write on your own details, the other is pre-printed with a host of useful items such as cursor arrows, left/right/up/down/laser/fire/bombs identifications, which can be stuck onto the blank overlays.
Perhaps the most unusual item on show was for the ZX81, an English/Arab RAM pack. Marketed by Autoram of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this low cost item plugs into the ZX81 together with an ordinary RAM pack and converts Basic into an acceptable Arabic BASIC.
The most obviously missing item was the QL from Sinclair. There was a mockup on show which didn’t do anything except cause disappointment.
Going back to PCN for a moment, they make a suggestion that it might be time to move the ZX Microfair for the crowd’s sake. Undoubtedly true. It’s about time Birmingham and Manchester and Glasgow also get their own ZX Microfair which we are sure would prove as popular in those cities as it has done and continues to do in London.
News from software house Fantasy suggests that their famed super hero, the indomitable Ziggy of Pyramid and Doomsday Castle, is to face a serious challenge to his status. For in April Fantasy are releasing their newest Spectrum game called Beaky and the Egg Snatchers. At the time of writing, detailed plans for the game’s contents are still under wraps, but Fantasy’s Paul Dyer tells me that Beaky’s main task is to collect eggs and then guard them from the egg snatchers. They have gone to town on the animation which features a bird with 120 different frames to make up its movements. The game will be released on Commodore 64 and 48K Spectrum cassettes, the Spectrum version being £6.50.
Imagine have revealed the secret fuel that keeps four top programmers going for hours at a stretch — junk food.
Eugene Evans, Mike Glover, Ian Weatherburn and John Gibson have been stocking up on cans of Coke — they buy them by the case — and toasties from the local take-away to keep them going through a marathon three-month session in which they have been locked away with the brief to produce their biggest and best games yet for the 48K Spectrum and Commodore 64.
Eugene and Mike are working on the 64 game, and Ian and John on the Spectrum game. Imagine say that they have drafted in full-time computer musicians and artists to help with the sound and graphics for the games. The Guild of Recognised and Original Programmers and Editors/Assemblers (GROPE for short) will probably have something to say about this enforced imprisonment on a diet of junk food, but whether it’s the cuisine or the sound of all those computer musicians tuning up their keyboards, there have been widespread rumours recently that Eugene Evans had left Imagine. The programmer himself was coy on the subject, but the spokesperson for Imagine told us, ‘He was still there on Friday.’ Judging by the photograph, Imagine should send them all home for a good bath — that scratching can’t be good for the bytes. The games are Bandersnatch for the 48K Spectrum and Psyclapse on the Commodore.
Morex Peripherals Ltd have launched a Floppy Disk System for the Spectrum computer. It offers double density storage of 200K to 3200K and a Sinclair Basic compatible operating system. The system includes a Morex Peripherals double density floppy disk interface, one or more disk drives, interconnecting cables, instruction manual, Spectrum disk operating system (on a floppy diskette), Masterfile, the disk version of Campbell Systems’s Database program, Tasword Two, the disk version of Tasman’s word-processor and Omnicalc, Microsphere’s spreadsheet program for the Spectrum in disk form. The programs are all compatible the Morex Centronics/RS 232 Interface.
The system offers access to storage at a read and write rate of 250,000 bits per second. Up to four disk drives can be connected to the interface and 40 track or 80 track, single or double-sided can be mixed. Prices have yet to be established but are envisaged as being in the £260 to £1300 range depending on the complexity of the system chosen. Morex Peripherals Ltd are at Dept. MF, 172b Kings Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4EJ.
February the 1st saw the computer press assembled in the Victorian opulence of London’s Wyndhams Theatre for the launch of Quicksilva’s new games for the Spectrum and Commodore 64. Six games were previewed, four for the Spectrum, The Snowman, Dragonsbane, Fred and the ultra-fast Laserzone by Jeff Minter, and two for the 64, Sting 64 and a Commodore version of best-selling Bugaboo.
A curious air was lent the proceedings as Quicksilva’s Rod Cousens had only just returned from a trip to Las Vegas and the international computer shebang recently held there, and appeared on stage in full Wild Bill Hickok rig. Guest programmer appearance was in the form of David Shea, who has written The Snowman, a very attractive adaptation of the book by Raymond Briggs. The Snowman is not David’s first claim to fame as he is also the author of Quicksilva’s Frenzy, now a venerable classic of the shoot em up genre. Fred, The Snowman and Laserzone are all reviewed in this issue.
16 year old Frazer Hubbard is the latest recruit to CRASH Magazine’s team of young reviewers. Frazer first came to public notice in the February issue of Micro Adventurer when it was reported that he and his cousin, James Hull, had surprised Hewson Consultants by solving their Quest Adventure in only six weeks instead of the six months Hewson’s had expected.
The article pointed out that Frazer had been in a car accident and therefore had time to persevere with the adventure, but both Frazer and his father Bill Hubbard, have pointed out that the facts were slightly wrong, by about two years or so. Frazer had been in a car accident two years previously — that had nothing to do with the time available to spend on the adventure, which was actually solved in six weeks worth of evenings after school.
Frazer will be doing reviews of adventure games for CRASH, and we hope that we will be able, with his help, to catch up a bit on the adventure side of the magazine. Adventures, of course, take some time in the reviewing if the reviews are to be fair to the program, and to date most of our regular reviews have been arcade fanatics. Frazer, himself is also fair hand with the joystick and at a recent meeting when CRASH readers interviewed Alison Maguire of Sinclair Research, he was more concerned with when Jet Set Willy was coming out than with the adventure cassettes we had for him! Frazer’s review of Lords of Time can be found in this issue.
With Frazer’s help CRASH is also launching an Adventurer’s Help Line. If you have any questions, or problems (like getting stuck), write to us, Adventure Help Line, Crash Micro, PO Box 10, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 1DB. With the kind of skills in lateral thinking that solved the Hewson Quest Adventure in a fraction of the time it should have taken, Frazer will dive into your problems and see if he can solve them for you, or offer hints which may be of help. We can’t promise a 24-hour service on this though!!
In a blatant attempt to bring sexist issues into the computer games field, C.C.S. have announced the release of three titles under the general heading of Games For Girls. The games have been carefully chosen, say C.C.S., and provide a mixture of adventure and challenge combined with tests of co-ordination, intelligence and application of logic (presumably feminine logic).
In a passing reference to the well known wiles of women, C.C.S. go on to stay that the games are less concerned with killing monsters and more concerned with bribing or avoiding them!
The titles are Hickstead, a Show jumping simulation, Jungle Adventure and Diamond Quest, all priced at £6.00.
Two other new games are War 70 and Pacific War, carefully chosen with the violent, unco-ordinated and illogical aggression of males in mind, and part of C.C.S. War Games series which was started off with Battle 1917, the 1983 Cambridge Award Winner. War 70 features a war game set in Napoleonic times and is the sort of game that can go on for days. In Pacific War the American Fleet is under attack by Japanese fighter pilots. Both games are priced at £6.00. If you can save the day for the Americans, how about having a quick jump at Hickstead and showing those girls a thing or two about logic!
As we have reported in past issues, Derek Brewster’s new game for Micromega has had a struggle finding a name. Derek had originally dubbed it Invasion 2000 (it’s surprising how many writers and programmers need some sort of name tag for a project before it will take shape in their minds), and had wistfully told me that Micromega never used his titles. Never mind Derek one day, one day...
At a recent sneak preview of the game in our Ludlow offices, we were able to see the problems of naming this mammoth space arcade strategy epic (see report in this issue), at which point, in some desperation, Micromega had code named it ‘Hank’ for the sake of calling it something! (Well, if Quicksilva can call a game Fred...) So it has come as some relief to hear that a name has been decided upon — and it is Code Name Mat. Anyone who has longed for a highly complex space arcade game which not only looks as if it’s in 3D, but actually works completely in three dimensional space as well, had better keep their eyes peeled for the imminent release.
Derek Brewster, who also wrote the very successful adventure Velnor’s Lair and Star Trek (now marketed by Mikrogen) is back at his keyboards trying to think up another name for another game. Will this be the one to win Micromega’s approval for game name of the year? Fingers crossed Derek.