Letters

Each month I’ll be choosing the best letter from the postbag, and, as well as publishing it, I’ll send the writer £12 worth of software of his or her choice (it can be two cassettes as long as they come within the £12). I’ve had to grovel on bended knee to the editor for this, so you’d better be grateful!

Send your letters to Lloyd Mangram, CRASH Forum. I can’t promise to print everything that comes in because space is precious (I’m told) but I’ll do my best.

Once again we’ve received a massive mailbag of letters far too many to be able to print even a fraction. However, to get in as many readers’ comments as possible, I’ve been through loads of letters and taken fragments here and there. Don’t forget, we give a prize of £12 worth of software to the writer with the best letter each month. This month there are two letters which I considered worthy of calling ‘best’ letters. As you may imagine, this has caused severe consternation in the finance department, not to mention my Editor having a fit. ‘Two letters getting a prize!’ he exclaimed. As you all know, I’m not one to cringe before editorial wrath, and I stuck to my guns. Fortunately he never reads the magazine, so he’ll (hopefully) never notice that the first letter isn’t all that complimentary ...

ODE TO A SPEELING BUG

While reading through your software guide,
I became repeatedly aware,
Of many luny speeling mistakes
Which are dotted here and there.

It starts to be annoying,
I was stomping up and down,
So I’m just writing to let you know,
That these errors abound.

I worked for days to seek them out,
The dreaded little buys,
Through programms and programs, scolls and scrolls,
To note down all the pigmies.

There were tiems it got hypnotic,
And I nearly did collapse,
You must be talking pirateese,
Talked by the priate chaps.

One time I almot lot congrol,
For I was getting nowehre,
The drawbacks were enormous,
As my face turned magneta.

But finally I reached the end,
And saw realtiy,
But time files, and it was atainst me,
I had to hurry.

Am I being unconventinal
In writing this little ditty,
I wanted to be cinematic,
and write diagrmatically.

So then I sought my ababcus,
And other mathematical instrumetns,
to find out aboutkyour exra bonus,
For expecially locquacious letters.

Is your magazine salvagable?
Or being anihilated?
Only you can chose, you’re in the basting position,
Is hy-oh Quicsilva away outdated?

With complements, Mark Harvey (aged 13). Yorks. Reference CRASH No 2 (March)

My spelling was never much to write home with, Mark, but even I know that you spell compliments with an ‘i’ and not an ‘e.’ Still, just to prove that grovelling doesn’t always pay, that £12 worth of software on its way to Mark — don’t call us, we’ll call you.

BUY A COMPUTER

Dear Sir,
I am writing to say how much I enjoyed the first issue of CRASH. I think it is very important to read reviews before buying games and to print a picture of the display is an added bonus as it gives a better idea of the game than reading the inlay, which is not always truthful.

I hope in future issues you print a HELP page for Adventure freaks like myself. In the past year I have been transformed from a cabbage-brained housewife to a logically thinking mind-blowing Adventure maniac! I have finished four of the five Artic adventure series and am only two weeks into the fifth. I have also played Invincible Island, Urban Upstart and Mountains of Ket, all of which I would give high ratings, especially Mountains of Ket, which is the only one to get me stumped (I scored 99% but could not get past a Zombie in the end — any help on this would be appreciated!)

My only other suggestion for your magazine would be a page for young users, as in my experience there is very little to interest the very young. My own two girls (nine and seven) are both eager to input programs from magazines but usually find them much too long.

Finally, I would say to all women at home finding themselves unfulfilled, ‘Buy a computer!’ and start an exciting new hobby.
Your sincerely, Mrs M. Henson.

AS you’ll probably see from this issue, Mrs Henson, we are doing a bit more for Adventurers now, but the best help comes from other readers exchanging information — so feel free. Meanwhile (another?!) £12 worth of software on its way to Mrs Henson. Some of our next letters also had things to say about Adventure games...
LM

HELP!!!

I’m desperate. I’ve just bought the adventure game Black Crystal, and I have read the booklet more than once, but I still don’t know what on earth I’m meant to be doing. Map 1 was hard enough, but by accident I stumbled on two rings and made my way to the castle — then it gets hard. In Map 2 I have no idea of what to do. And without this know-how the game is wasted as far as I am concerned. Please help!
Colin Warner

Anyone know the answers! The next reader obviously doesn’t...
LM

BLACK ZXTAL

I would like to complain about Carnell’s Black Crystal. The cover is very deceiving. It says that Black Crystal is an epic role-playing game. When I read this and the pamphlet inside, I paid out £7.95 and eagerly rushed home. As soon as it loaded, I cringed at the graphics. Surely this is not what the 48K Spectrum is capable of? Apart from being a bore, the graphics are extremely poor, and the game itself is almost exactly the same as the ZX81 version.

I would like to congratulate Legend on Valhalla. This ingenious adventure has resulted in many hours of enjoyment, with killing innocent characters like Mary, who pops up everywhere and gets in the way. I think Valhalla is twice as good as that boring game, The Hobbit. And I criticise the percentages given in the February issue of CRASH. I found the game extremely addictive and excellent value for money. I think your cross-eyed reviewers need to play it again. The only thing I need to know is how to find Ofnir, the first quest in Valhalla. I have spent ages searching in vain. Can anyone tell me?

Well, can anyone? I’m afraid our cross-eyed reviewers obviously won’t be much help ...

GOING THE WRONG WAY

Dear Sir,
Thanks for a great magazine. What a refreshing change from all the others full of goblidigook. I bought a 48K Spectrum for the kids (and myself) for Christmas, and we are hooked on lots of games. But I don’t know if we’re thick or something, I don’t think so, but we cannot get on with the adventure Inca Curse. After the first two locations we are at a loss for something else to tell it to do, apart from -----. We recently borrowed another adventure, Greedy Gulch, and were a bit more successful, but still found ourselves going round in circles. Are we going about these sort of games in the wrong way? If you have any suggestions I would be pleased to hear them.
Yours faithfully, Bernard Moseley

Without knowing in more detail how it is you actually ‘go about’ them, it’s a bit hard to say much. We are now having a regular Adventure column, so perhaps some tips and hints may emerge from that for you.
LM

CRASH

Dear Lloyd,
I bought Issue 2 of CRASH today, and two hours later I dented my car on a pillar in the car park. Is this a record?
Yours faithfully, Roger French

You’re supposed to play arcade games on the TV screen and not in the local car park. What is the car, by the way, a Morris?

KEY CHEATS

Dear Sir,
Thank you for the new magazine that you have published. I purchased one for my grandson, and I found the contents to be excellent.

It appears that it is the ‘in thing’ in schools to collect as many programs as possible and, whilst it is illegal, they are all busy making copies. If when reviewing programs you published the keys used in the game, with the above in mind, it would probably create more interest in your magazine and boost your sales. When the programs are exchanged often the information passed over is scanty, so copies of CRASH can be bought to fill this gap. I know it is unfair to the software houses for this activity to be going on, but it is human nature to do it, so why not capitalise on it to boost your sales?
D.H.

We do, of course, publish the keys used in a game, and you aren’t the first person to point out that we might do it to help the illegal copiers of software. A moment’s reflection, and most people would recognise that this is silly. Any semi-intelligent games player can sort out the keys to control a game after a few minutes experimenting, so we’re not doing much there to help. Our aim is to give a clear picture of how the game is played without use of a joystick so would-be buyers can better make up their minds whether they like a control key arrangement. As to human nature, well the more schools copy games and the more the copy clubs get together for an evening’s swapping of illegal games, the less likely it is that there will be decently produced games about for them to buy to copy in the first place. Their choice, I suppose.
LM

A ROUND SUM

Dear Sir,
I was very impressed with your first issue of CRASH, so I couldn’t wait for the next issue, especially after I saw your advert in Popular Computing Weekly (Feb 16-22) offering 10 Jet Set Willy tapes to be won. However, I have looked from cover to cover but cannot find the competition referred to.
Giles Taylor

Giles, the competition, as such (dreamed up by some madman in the publicity department, no doubt) wasn’t actually in the March issue of CRASH. On the PCW ad it said, ‘Somewhere “around some” isn’t. Where is it?’ The idea was to search through Issue 2 and find the bug created by some typographical error (Mark Harvey, poet extraordinary, would have approved, no doubt). In fact the answer was to be found on page 94 of CRASH, Issue 2, in the article about W. H. Smith and their computer shops. Intro paragraph, line 9: ‘This month our roving reporter took a whirlwind trip a round sum of W. H. Smith’s bigger computer shops.’ Get it? Well, a few people did actually. Sorry to have been so obscure. Sometimes our publicity department leaves one simply speechless...
LM

RATINGS — ARE THEY FAIR?

Dear CRASH,
I have been a dedicated arcade games player for some years now (comes of being raised in Blackpool!) and since I bought my Spectrum I have been a dedicated computer games player. I do have limited funds though, hence you can see how pleased I was to see CRASH.

Enough of the praise. I have a critical eye and tend to take seriously only those programs which get over 80% on your ratings. But you seem to have a marked bias in the ratings in favour of arcade games. What about Hunter-Killer, 1984 and Paintbox — all top-quality products without top-quality marks? What will you do to Apocalypse? Perhaps that’s unfair, but perhaps you should separate the reviewed products into sections and have a game-of-the-month in each section — arcade, adventure, strategy, utility and educational. Also, on the point of the CRASH HOTLINE, couldn’t you allow bracketing of some games as joint tops they could be enjoyed for different reasons. Oh, I had a whole speech prepared. Never mind. Congratulations. If I only had enough money for one magazine a month CRASH would be the one. (PS. Did you know that on level 25 of Deathchase the bikes shoot back?)
David Emery

Our ratings have caused some comment, and it is a problem. Our Editor (his blessed name be praised) didn’t want any ratings on the reviews, believing in his infinite wisdom that the written word alone should suffice. In my (humble) opinion, the ratings are fine, but they should be taken very much into account with the review itself. One advantage of having several different reviewers per piece is that you tend to get a more balanced view — the disadvantage is in the ratings, where one dissenter out of three reviewers obviously lowers the average figure for each heading — that should really be heavily borne in mind. But the majority of readers clearly do like to have some sort of rating system. I’ll be interested to see the results of our Questionnaire from Issue 3 (April) — have you filled yours in yet? That might throw some light on the ratings system.
LM

Please could you tell me how you decide what rating to give a program? Surely to decide between 83% and 84% for something like ‘Getting Started’ must be a little difficult to say the least!
G.G. Harvie

It may look rather arcane, but as the figures arrived at are made up of an average of three persons’ opinions, it’s not so odd. Also there may actually be more difference than one point, as we stopped using ½% after the first issue, so 82½%, for instance, gets rounded up and 84.4% gets rounded down.
LM

Of course, all reviewing and criticism is to an extent affected by personal bias, but your standard reviewing format, with overall ratings, seems to give a sensible and fair assessment of every game.
Neil Talbot

I was interested in your ratings at the end of each full review, but how about a rating for beginners? It could point out such things as: Is the game too fast (arcade) for beginners?; too complicated (adventure); instructions too complicated, etc.
Brian Longstaff

I would like to say that I have noticed that your magazine and other such mags sometimes say, ‘A game not for the amateur arcade game player, etc ...’ I think that is wrong to say since you are under-estimating the power of a new or not so new games player. You could say you are being prejudiced. Another thing is your reviewing system. I disagree with percentages as marks, since a game I like you regard as a failure. You don’t say so, but the percentage marks make up for lost words. This is just a mere morsel of complaint and I can safely say I will trust all, well nearly all, of your reviews.
Jason Savage (13)

I am intrigued to know how CRASH gets hold of all the games it reviews. Does it buy them up, or are they given by the various software houses? If you buy them I can’t see how all the games can be bought and such a great magazine be produced from a meagre 75p an issue.
J.L. Griffin

Neither can the publisher! Still, we try. In most cases the software houses send us ‘review copies’, but there are quite a few who aren’t sufficiently organised, or perhaps they don’t like us enough, to send review copies through. Then we buy them up.
LM

I decided to enter your reviewers competition. What a job! It was the hardest competition I’ve ever entered. I didn’t realise what your poor reviewers were going through. Please forgive my remark about your reviewers’ mistakes (deleted for fear of a reviewers’ strike — LM) because now I can sympathise with them. They have obviously started sabotaging the magazine in a desperate bid to get some sleep ...
John Buffin

Nobody here noticed they were awake in the first place. Still, enough of the problems facing reviewers ...

FACING BACKWARDS

Dear CRASH,
What is the average life expectancy of your reviewers? Why do I ask? Well imagine the scene — your reviewer driving down a busy motorway at 70mph — he looks in the mirror and sees a police car moving up on him. He thinks, ‘if the police car is coming towards me I must be in reverse. Help! I’m going backwards!’

With lightning reactions, he swerves to avoid the police car and ends up under the wheels of a 20 ton lorry — CRASH!!

Don’t be silly, I hear you say.

Funny, that’s just what I said when I read the review of Red Baron (March). Not only did the reviewer think he was going backwards when looking over the tail of this Sopwith Camel, but he thought (quote): ‘It’s very disorienting if the plane is behind you, you get a view over the back of the plane ... which doesn’t seem very realistic.’ Eh?!? Would it be more realistic not to see the enemy plane at all?

Oh, that’s it. I’ve just realised why he hasn’t been crushed under a juggernaut — he never uses the rear view mirror!

Sarcasm apart, I thoroughly enjoyed Red Baron and didn’t find it either ‘disorienting’ or unrealistic.’
Yours faithfully, Baron von Richtoffen (alias Malcolm Higham)
PS. Please donate the £12 to the CRASH Reviewers’ Insurance Fund.

I said that’s enough of Reviewers’ problems! Anyway, smartass, how are you supposed to fly your Sopwith Camel if your head is turned through 180 degrees? How are you going to read your next issue of CRASH if your head is turned through 180 degrees — more sarcasm like that, and that’s the way you could be spending the rest of your life! Glad you like Red Baron.
LM

FALLEN OUT

Dear CRASH,
I’m afraid CRASH and I have fallen out.

After owning a 48K Spectrum for one week and buying three games off the shelf without knowing anything about them, only to find all three to be poor, I bought four CRASH recommended games and was delighted.

I then told my son that I’d buy him one game per month — the CRASH NEW GAME OF THE MONTH. What do you do — but recommend five damn Games of the Month at a total cost of £28.85. Please don’t do that again or I’ll soon be broke.
Yours sincerely, R. Taylor

I don’t think I’ve got any answer to that...
LM

CHEATS CORNER

We’ve received so many letters from people with helpful hints on how to cheat at Manic Miner that I’m beginning to suspect I’m the only person in Britain who doesn’t know how to cheat. Before we go on to that, how about this:

RIVER RESCUE

Dear CRASH
I have found a way of getting a very big bonus and get on to the next sheet quickly on Thorn EMI’s River Rescue. When the game starts, go about three quarters of the way across the screen. When the dock comes, dock as usual, but after you have docked press keys for back and fire and keep your fingers on the keys until your ship has filled up with nine men. When it is full, carry on playing and then drop your men off. You will now get a big bonus. Now manoeuvre yourself to the centre of the river and wait.

You will see two blue strips coming towards you. Go between them (this will take a bit of practice). Now you will proceed to the next sheet.
Your sincerely, J.P. Weaver

And Robert Thomos, of Cheshunt, Herts, says.

I also have picked up nine passengers instead of the six suggested. This was achieved by going forward (by pressing P) and then docking, followed by pressing O and 0 — simultaneously the ship picks up another passenger. If you go far enough forward you can press 0 and A and this will result in landing at the lower dock.

And so to Manic Miner. Now that Jet Set Willy is out, I’m sure no one will mind the following routines appearing. Besides, everyone already knows them. We have received 22 letters on the subject. But just in case there is some frustrated Manic Miner out there who hasn’t been vouchsafed some Surbiton occult, here’s the jist of it.

First routine is to secure a large or unlimited number of lives. One method says, stop the tape after the picture has loaded, BREAK in, LIST and type: 25 POKE 35136,067/8. Then ENTER, type in RUN and ENTER that and start the tape again. A better method is to type in before starting the load: MERGE "", press ENTER and start tape. When the OK sign appears at the bottom of the screen, stop the tape immediately. LIST and type in: 25 POKE 35136,0 and then ENTER it. Both routines create unlimited lives.

A similar routine for a larger but limited number of lives is this: Load for a few seconds until the screen turns black, then stop the tape, type in: INK 7 and press ENTER twice and a listing should appear. Type in: 25 POKE 34269, n (where n= the number of lives you want) and then ENTER. Too many lives slows the game down.

The other main routine is designed to let you play on any of the 20 sheets you want and involves pressing ENTER as usual when the loading is completed and the music is playing, but then key in the number 6031769. A boot appears where the lives normally are displayed. The levels can then be selected by pressing between one and five keys simultaneously. These have been reported in letters quite variously, but the common denominator is the figure 6. When the sheet you want appears on screen, release the keys and start playing. These are the keys which must be pressed simultaneously: