Living Guide to Spectrum Software

SPORTS SIMULATION

Athletics on the computer screen may seem contrary to the vigorous nature of sport, but a number of programmers have turned their hands to simulating various sports with mixed success. At least playing them on your Spectrum is somewhat more active than watching the real thing on telly.

BOWLS
Producer: Lotus-Soft, 48K £4.50 (1)
Author: Derek Jones
If you’re fed up with zapping aliens or roaring round the racetrack, why not retire to the peace and quiet of an English bowling green? This game offers the services of the computer as a mediator rather than player between two opponents. The computer throws the ‘jack’ and then each player has 4 alternative turns to bowl, the object being to get your bowl as close to the ‘jack’ as possible. Cursor keys 5 and 8 are used to determine direction of throw, and the strength is determined by choosing the weight of ball, a heavier ball going further. There is a feature which diagrammatically shows how close the bowls are to the jack after each throw. The game is neatly executed but suffers the common fault of sports simulations — the lack of ultimate reality undermines the skills required to play it. However, it is good value for money and will doubtless appeal to many. Overall CRASH rating 57%, good if you like the idea. BASIC.

CHAMPIONS
Producer: Peaksoft, 48K £5.95
One of the earlier games on football for the Spectrum, which features rioting fans, club bankruptcy, promotion and relegation as well as the matches themselves. There are five teams in each division, including yourself, and you can pick any name for your own team. You start in the fourth division and play 16 games to get promoted if you reach the top of a division by the end of the ‘season’. If you get to the top of Division 1, there is a chance of playing the European Cup. Players may be bought from other clubs and from the transfer market, their prices vary according to the players’ skill levels. Factors such as gate money and wage bills are taken into account as well as random elements under the heading of News, which may tell you that rioting fans have caused thousands of pounds of damage. There are no graphics, and the game is quite fast to play. Written in BASIC. Overall CRASH rating of 53%.

CHAMPIONSHIP DARTS
Producer: Shadow, 16K
Author: D Lockett
You might think a game of throwing skill would be difficult to translate into a computer game, but Shadow Software have managed very nicely in this cute and gentle game. After a fine title card, a large, traditional darts’ board appears. By pressing any key you freeze a fast moving sweep line, which determines the segment your dart has hit. At the base is a cross section through the board showing the rings — double, single, treble, single, outer bull, bull. It’s elegant, simple and very effective. A sensible demo/instruction mode shows you how to do it. You can select the number of points required for a game, enter the two players’ names, and the program guides you through three shots in each turn. You must finish with a double or bull of course. Perhaps not exactly exciting, but a fine game and worth the money.

CRAZY GOLF
Producer: Mr. Micro, 48K £6.95
This game works with the Currah Microspeech unit to give a talking caddy. The game follows the pattern of a crazy golf course, in which you must get your ball around the obstacle to putt it. Direction is made via a pointer in the top left hand corner of the screen. The game is fairly difficult to play, with shots requiring good judgement in direction and force. The line drawing graphics are only fair and rather dull, and what might have been an enthralling game turns out to be only average. LOADing can be a problem too. Joystick: Kempston. Overall CRASH rating 49%, machine code.

Football illustration

FOOTBALL MANAGER
Producer: Addictive Games, 48K £6.95
Author: Kevin Toms
Universally agreed as one of the best of Spectrum games of any type. This is as much strategy as simulation as you choose a team from 64 on offer, and try to work your way up from Division four to win the FA Cup. The background to the game is quite realistic, with players losing strength value and gaining it by resting a match, morale worsening with lost matches, declining crowds and resulting loss of gate money, and all the technical and strategic problems of a club manager. Having selected your team, studied the opponent’s dossier, you can sit back and watch the fully animated, edited highlights of the match! An amazingly engrossing game with seven levels of play and highly recommended.

GOLF
Producer: Abrasco, 16K £6.95
For 16K users this is a very good program with quickly assembled graphics that clearly show positions of tee, green, fairways, bunkers, tree hazards and rough. There’s no animated golfer as in the Virgin game, but it’s made up for with clearly visible balls that follow a path of your shot. You can input commands to use a 1 or 3 wood of given strengths, or 1-9 irons which ask whether you want a soft or hard strike. If you pick between 7 and 9 iron, you are realistically asked whether it should be a chip shot or a pitch. When both players are on the green the screen scrolls to a close up which uses a 20 foot scale for judging the distance of the putt. The only drawback might be a tendency to crash if an incorrect variable is entered. An attractive and responsively fast game. One/two players and choose how many holes to play.

GOLF
Producer: Virgin Games, 48K £5.95
Author: David Thomson
In this version of the noble game, one to four players may take part and play between one and eighteen holes, choosing handicaps up to 28. The higher (worse) your handicap the more erratically random your shots become. There’s an option on five clubs with a choice of strength between 0 and 10. When your selection has been made and you have estimated the compass point direction in which to swing, an animated golfer appears and hits the ball. Once on the green a putter is automatically selected. While fun to play there are several drawbacks. The graphics are very slow, each hole being built up character line by character line. The random quality of the handicap system undermines its value — everyone should choose a zero handicap! And the compass points are needlessly difficult as North keeps shifting direction with every hole. Worst of all Virgin have been selling the game with a glaring bug — when asked if you would like another game, there’s an incorrect command in the BASIC which stops the program dead. It’s easily corrected but annoying.

GOLF
Producer: Artic, 48K £5.95
Sub-titled St Andrews, this game is based on an accurate reproduction of the world famous golf course. Each hole is drawn out showing the well known details and a brief description and history is given. One or two players may take part, playing a proper game or single holes of their choice. You are asked whether you wish to use a wood or iron, strength of shot, expressed as a percentage, whether you want the shot to go straight, fade or hook, and what angle. Arriving on the green the screen cuts to a close up for the putting. The graphics are black on green and very simply drawn. The program is in BASIC so after typing in figures you ENTER, but words are accepted automatically. The temptation to enter W for wood will result in a break into program — the main drawback of an otherwise interesting game.

KNOCKOUT
Producer: Mikrogen, 48K £5.95 (2)
Author: G. Smallcross
Compete against the computer or up to 3 players in what is effectively a Spectrum version of the popular board game ‘Rebound’. The object is to ‘throw’ a bell into a ‘G’ shaped board, rebounding it off the corner walls, to come to rest in firmly defined scoring area. Each player has 4 balls to a frame, opponents taking it in turns to play each ball off the frame. The ball is positioned on the start line vertically, and an angle and strength determined for the shot. It is possible to knock an opponent’s ball into a better or worse position. This is a good conversion of a floor-played game to the computer, and although not particularly addictive in the usual sense, certainly has its own charm and is very playable. Control keys are simple and done to on-screen prompts. Generally good value, overall CRASH rating 62% machine code.

POOL
Producer: Abrasco, 48K £6.95
Author: K Eaves
A sudden flurry of interest in Pool makes for some interesting comparisons. One of the newer ones is this version from Abrasco for two to eight players, with the option of playing a league. As usual, the cue ball is controlled by a small cursor dot — in this case the cue ball travels towards the cursor, which is controlled by use of the cursor keys (slow and fine tuning) or the zero key for fast positioning. A very clear strength bar indicator is used to determine the distance the cue ball will travel, and is positioned with keys 5 or 8 (min/max). Considering the limitations of the Spectrum and TV screens generally, the graphics are quite good and the movement of the balls is convincingly accurate though terribly busy. Game rules are a close copy of the real game, the balls are marked as spots or stripes and you lose a turn for a foul shot. Good.

POOL
Producer: Bug-Byte, 16K £5.95
This version is unusual in that the cue ball cursor may be placed anywhere on the table, which allows for greater control over the shot. On the other hand this is not a very close copy of the real game. In addition to the cue ball, there are six other numbered balls (you score the value of the potted ball) and each of the two players takes it turn, playing through until all the balls have been potted or he has missed three consecutive pots, or potted the cue ball. In this sense the game is a bit limited. The graphics are clear although more use of colour could have been made — all the balls are red, but much bigger than in the Abrasco version. Practice probably makes perfect, for it isn’t as easy to play as it looks.

POOL
Producer: CDS, 16K £5.95
Author: Mike Lamb
CDS have done very well with this version. It isn’t a classic stripe or spot game. There are six balls, three red, three blue. The cursor moves round the edge of the table with key 5, picking up speed as it goes. A 4-block bar indicator is used for strength of shot, a sensible arrangement where each key stroke adds a block. The graphics are very good, with neat movement and perhaps the best stopping effect of any of the pool/snooker games available. One or two player games, scoring and hi-score. Good value. Machine code.

RACING MANAGER
Producer: Virgin Games, 48K £5.95
Author: Mark Alexander
Half Strategy, half simulation, this game lets you hire a trainer and select the horses you wish to enter for a season of racing. The object is to get through to the Derby and win it! 25 meetings take place before that big day, with each meeting having several races, so this is not a short game. Money is spent on training, feeding and entering horses into races. It can be made back with prize money and betting on the races. Each horse you have has strength ratings expressed as fitness and speed factors, a best distance factor, and the type of going the horse likes. All these factors must be taken into account when entering a horse for a race. Bets of between £10 and £10,000 may be placed on any race and then you can sit back and watch the race furlong by furlong, or, to speed things up, watch only the last three furlongs. The graphics are reasonable and the game quite compelling, although the package could have been stronger if it had included some more technical details on the esoterica of betting. Overall CRASH rating 58%.

ROYAL BIRKDALE
Producer: Ocean, 48K £6.90
Author: David Thorpe
The golf club on which this game is based, is a famous one, and the program is claimed to be accurate in detail to the real course. The object is to play a round on the 18 holes in the least number of shots. Direction, strength and type of shot must be calculated bearing in mind the terrain. A similar task awaits on the green. The program is in BASIC and therefore has obvious limitations. It’s an interesting idea to base golf games on real courses, but there are better implementations of the game available. Overall CRASH rating 47%.

SNOOKER
Producer Visions, 16K £8.95
Author: Tim Bell
A very good implementation of the classic game with a cue ball cross hair that can be moved anywhere on the table. A bit more sophisticated than most other snooker/pool games, it is possible to select spin in this game. The graphics are average, and a little hard to see when selecting a colour to play, but their movement is quite good. Works with Kempston joystick, good instructions, only one skill level of course. Overall CRASH rating 62%, could have been higher but for the price. Machine code.

SNOOKER
Producer: Artic, 16K £5.95
With the minimum space devoted to score lines or embellishments, Artic have produced about the biggest playing table for their game, which is a classic six colour, nine red ball. Instead of a moving cursor, the cue ball radiates a direction indicator line controlled by the cursor keys, and the strength of shot is given by using keys A to Z. The table is correctly marked with D and spots. Balls pocketed appear in a green band at the base of screen and the score is automatically kept and displayed at the base of the table. The ball colours work quite well and the movement is reasonably smooth, although the balls do stop very suddenly. Machine code.

STAR SOCCER
Producer: Watson, 16K £5.95
This is a quite different football game from Football Manager by Addictive, and is really a computer version of those old football games where you controlled your men with rods and handles. It’s designed for two players, but since you need much of the keyboard, quick change overs are essential! After loading you are presented with a Super League of eight well known teams and a league scoring table. Having decided which team each is to play, the two opponents may select a playing formation; 3-2-5; 4-2-4; 4-3-3; or 4-4-2. The playing field now appears with all the numbered players of each side set up ready for the kick off. The ‘players’ are not animated figures, but numbered squares, unlike the well-known Atari version. Passing the ball is done by selecting the player’s number to whom you want to pass, and the game rattles along with both sides attempting to tackle, intercept and score goals. Goal kicks and corners are featured but not side throws. This is highly addictive to play — it could even be the end of football as we know it.

TEST MATCH
Producer: CRL, 48K £6.95
This game should bowl over all cricket fans (non-fans will find it all double-dutch). Fast action with no wait times makes it a speeded up version of the real thing. Participation is very limited, however; you’re allowed to select the bowlers in your team and order the batsmen, but from then on the game runs itself automatically. Only in the event of a good midfield shot do you have to sit up and decide whether the batsmen should risk a run or not. In fact the odds seem pretty good since the fielders are not very accurate long shots at wicket. Features howzzats of bowled, caught, run out, lbw, and follows real cricket very closely with the exception of Australian beer cans on the pitch.