CRASH REVIEWERS COMPETITION

In the first issue of CRASH (February) we ran a competition designed to discover the best reviewers of games from among readers. The results of this competition should have been announced in the third issue (April). We had, however, overlooked the fact that, as they say, everyone’s a critic at heart. By the time the third hundred review dropped into the IN tray, we realised that there was no way it would be possible to process all the entries in time. Hence the one-month delay.

WINNER CRASH REVIEWERS’ COMPETITION

J. Singh, Hadley, Telford, Salop

RUNNERS-UP
(Not in order of merit)
Steven Wetherill, Kexboro, Barnsley, S. Yorks
E.Munslow, West Bromwich, W. Midlands
Gary Bradley, Glasgow
John Minson, Muswell Hill, London N10
Phil Morse, Welwyn Garden City, Herts

Readers were asked to write three reviews of titles picked from a selection of 79 games divided into five categories: Arcade, Adventure, Strategy/board games, Simulations, Utilities and Educational.

Each review was supposed to be of between 500 and 900 words. However, due to a rather ambiguous use of language (sorry) entrants were a bit confused as to whether they should write three reviews of this length or three reviews which together added up to this length. As it was our error, no one has been penalised for picking either figure.

As it turns out, it was just as well that there was a large selection of choice, but, in the main, the majority of reviewers opted for the more obvious games and there were numerous versions of Jetpac, Hobbit, Penetrator and Zoom. From among the utilities The Quill and Melbourne Draw proved favourites. We were pleasantly surprised by how many educational reviews we received, showing that this is a vital area of interest for quite a number of readers.

Choosing a winner and five runners-up has been a difficult task, not only because there were so many entries, but also because the standard was extremely high throughout. A factor common to many entries was the tendency to pick games obviously well enjoyed by the reviewer, thus allowing said reviewer to rhapsodise over the game’s finest points rather than actually criticise it. It’s always much easier to say nice things about something than to say unpleasant things in a constructive manner. On the other hand, there were a few entries which positively revelled in tearing a program to shreds as a sort of revenge against the computer game in general!

JUDGING CRITERIA

What we were really looking for were reviews that managed to provide a good, concise description of the game in question and combine it with a sense of humour, personal observation and, of course, an ability to write in a fluent, interesting way. We did say that entries would not be judged on spelling ability, although it would be important to be literate. In the event, there seemed to be very few bad spellers. A number of entries tried to ape the style of presentation as seen in CRASH, which was not necessary at all, although this did not affect the outcome of the final decision; and other writers steadfastly stuck to the format that other well-known computer magazines offer.

The winner and five runners-up have provided a varied selection of titles, and although it was felt that the winner stood out, he did so from the runners-up by a faint margin. All in all it was a hard choice.

And so to the most important part — the results.

THE WINNER’S ENTRIES

It would only be fair to say that in the opinion of the Editor there were several entrants who were able to provide more detailed descriptions of the games than those that will be found in the winner’s reviews. But the winner managed to combine most successfully the ability to enthuse over a game while at the same time keeping a sense of overall perspective. He was able to describe the games adequately and in a very personal way. Most importantly, all three reviews start off in a highly original and entertaining manner, creating instantly an atmosphere which makes the reader want to carry on reading.

As printing all the winning entries in one go would take up too much room, we have had to split them up into two sections. This month the winner, J. Singh, and runners-up John Minson and Phil Morse, next month runners-up Gary Bradley, E. Munslow and Steven Wetherill. The following month we will be printing some further entries which deserve a special mention. May we thank everyone who wrote in to take part in the competition.

In addition to the winner and five runners-up, the following get a special mention, and extracts or whole reviews will be appearing in following issues.

Vic Groves, Regent’s Park Estate, London NW1
A. J. Green, Toddington, Beds
Rob Holmes, Wirksworthy, Derbyshire
David Branston, Hall Green, Birmingham
S. Guillerme, London W8
R. Norfolk, Scholar Green, Stoke-on-Trent
H. J. Lock, Wallington, Surrey
David Dursley, Clifton, Bristol
J. E. Price, St Albans, Herts.


WINNER
CRASH REVIEWERS’ COMPETITION

Jaswant Singh is 19 and lives in Hadley, Telford, with his family: mother, father, two sisters and brother. He went to Manor School, just down the road from where he lives, and he left with 10 O-levels and four A-levels. He now works for Lloyds Bank. The CRASH Reviewers’ Competition isn’t the first competitor that Jaswant has won. In May 1982 he won second prize of £300 as an A-level student in a competition organised by Barclays, writing on teaching and the microchip. He was also a runner-up in a nationwide competition organised by The Observer and Whitbread of the subject, How the Chip Will Change Society.

Jaswant bought his first Spectrum in October, and says he prefers playing arcade games. He does not use a joystick, although he is thinking of getting one soon. We hope that Jaswant will be joining the team of CRASH reviewers very soon.



J. Singh
Football Manager, Hobbit, Jetpac

FOOTBALL MANAGER
(Addictive)

Screenshot

It’s 4.40pm on a cold winter’s day, your team are two goals down with five minutes left to play. The crowd are booing loudly for such small numbers, and the directors are well aware of the league position and of the massive overdraft you’ve caused by unsuccessful dealings in the transfer market. Suddenly, a bottle of Scotch and a hole in the ground seem a very attractive proposition...

If you thought that kind of pressure could only fall on Peter Taylor then you’ve not played Football Manager — a compulsive game and an accurate portrayal of a manager’s problems. You can choose your team, pick or buy players and watch them crash out of the FA Cup or encounter relegation.

The game starts at the beginning of the season in Division Four; after inputting your name and choosing the team that you want to manage you are away on your quest for the First Division and Wembley glory in the FA Cup. Of the seven levels of play it is best to start as a beginner since the higher levels would leave even Brian Clough speechless.

The game kindly gives you a hefty bank balance and several options before playing that all-important first match. You can list or sell your players, pay off that loan or make it an even bigger millstone around your neck, change the team name or players’ names. If a player becomes available on the transfer market you can make the highest bid you can afford, knowing the high value his team have placed on him. Should you not wish to exercise any options, the program displays the forthcoming fixture and various team attributes such as morale, the strength of the defence, midfield and attack. If you wish to maintain the present team selection, the program’s best feature becomes quickly apparent. In a three-dimensional view of the pitch, match highlights are played out with every goal announced American-style by a large scoreboard at the top of the screen with the magic word GOAL emblazoned across it in giant letters.

The game’s end shows the result and is followed by an update of your financial condition, your gate money, wage bill and weekly balance tells you whether you can afford to pay off your debts or whether you can afford to buy another player.

These are the attractions of this simulation as it mirrors the problems of football at all levels. The manager has to decide all aspects of his team and the challenge of finding success both on the field and on the club’s financial balance sheet provide the compulsion of this game. It can be acutely agonising to watch your league position fall when the league tables are calculated, and exhilarating when the position improves.

This game has been on the scene for a long time, and its age is betrayed by the presentation, which is not up to the high standards required today. The match highlights are well animated and the teams are portrayed by little men who run and shoot realistically, but it is let down by the dull grey border which is shown throughout. The options display is dull and response to commands is slow, and the player is kept waiting while the league table is calculated. The game is also slowed down by having to use the number 99 to persuade the program to continue (the choice of this two-digit number for this job is for arcane reasons beyond rational explanation).

However, this is still a highly absorbing game which, with better presentation, would be a classic. Highly appealing to the football fan and providing a lasting challenge with room for both strategy and that touch of luck that can turn any match. This game will differentiate between fans who believe they can do better than present managers and those who really can. Good value.


THE HOBBIT
(Melbourne House)

Title screen

I stood at the edge of the Black River (not very wide across) and pondered my situation. I had the short strong sword and the rope courtesy of two dead (literally stone-cold dead) trolls, and the valuable golden ring snatched after great effort from under the nose of a now dead Gollum. (It seems pathological killers are well catered for in this game.) I had been incarcerated in, and escaped from, the notorious Goblin’s Dungeon with a little help from my friends. I had met the friendly elf Elrond, and found refuge in Beorn’s House. My companions, a singing dwarf and a wandering wizard, had long been left behind. Well armed and supplied, I had crossed mountains, killed goblins and acquired maps. Familiar with the almost certain fatality encountered by taking some routes, I had now reached an impasse, I could see no way of finding the dreaded dragon, Smaug, or his hoard of treasure.

However, the game’s superiority over other adventures available to me, and its unique feature of independently moving characters, persuaded me to persevere, and my capture by a wood elf led me deeper into this complex game. Eventually, by following the plot in the famous book, I found and killed the dragon and laid claim to his treasure. Unfortunately that is only half the game, as the treasure has to be carried back to a now far-distant starting point.

The most remarkable features of this game strike you very quickly. The high resolution graphic displays promised are delivered in the title page when the game is loading; Smaug the ferocious dragon belches such realistic flames at you that I almost felt the need for an asbestos shield! Any adventure played for the first few times invariably seems to result in frequent death, and after restarting a few times the second powerful feature becomes apparent: the characters move independently of you, so you are never sure whether your two companions will help you in the next location or whether they will hurriedly depart to leave you in the company of vicious thugs like wargs or goblins who will quite happily decapitate you despite your pleas for mercy.

Yes! I said pleas for mercy because you can communicate with friend or foe depending on your inclination. This device is very helpful in exploiting the abilities of your companions, and much of the game depends on successfully communicating your ideas to allies.

These features, in addition to the fantastic scenario and depth of imagination used in Tolkien’s book (whose plot seems tailor-made for conversion into an adventure game), make this program a remarkable achievement. The high-resolution pictures, of which there are about 30, were drawn with the help of an artist whose eye for colour and detail provoke the atmosphere of Tolkien’s book at the various locations: the Bewitched Gloomy Place is dark and forbidding while the Bleak Barren Place is suitably inhospitable.

The Hobbit is accompanied by the original book, which is followed faithfully, and many clues are to be found therein. An instruction booklet is also contained in the package and explains the highly flexible user-friendly language ‘Inglish’ which the game understands. This, incidentally, was developed by a linguistics expert and allows for longer more complicated sentences without the limit of one objective per sentence. The instruction booklet is well written and the game is easily entered into. The high-resolution colour displays help your imagination to envisage The Hobbit’s world, and the response to instructions is very quick. Quick responses are also required of the player as The Hobbit plays in real time, thus adding to the excitement. I can wholeheartedly recommend this game as it is easy for the novice and provides the veteran with a welcome change from the limited uninspired text-only adventures. A scoring system (mine is 77.5%) allows for friendly competition. At £14.95 it is very good value.


JETPAC
(Ultimate)

Screenshot

Situations Vacant
Wanted: Space Test Pilot
Qualifications: Rocket Pilot Licence, elementary technical knowledge and Award of Merit from League of Blasted Aliens
Special Details: Volunteer required to assemble and launch test vehicles.

Dangerous conditions (hordes of homicidal entities alien to all known galaxies), but good rewards for initiative can be acquired through a 10% commission on all minerals secured. (High profits assured on every trip.) Lengthy experience in laser weaponry required, strong nerves essential, and a preference for working alone. Xenophobiacs preferred, a pathological tendency to blast everything in sight helpful. Certificate of Insanity not mandatory but also helpful.

Can you fulfil the above criteria and become the Ultimate test-pilot? This job is not for the faint hearted or for those with lethargic reflexes. The task itself is simple enough; as sole test pilot for the Acme Interstellar Transport Company ‘you’ have to assemble a space ship which is conveniently distributed in bits on the planet surface while fighting off hordes of maniacal aliens. Once assembled the test-pilot must wait for fuel supplies to descend from the heavens or he can supplement his income by collecting the various gems that also accompany the fuel supplies. The screen display shows the planet surface, the rocket parts awaiting assembly and three ledges at various heights. The screen has a wrap around effect which enables the jetman’s laser to leave and re-enter the screen at opposite points. The aliens are of different colours, and their numbers are supplemented by new arrivals to prevent you from feeling lonely.

Your jetman can negotiate 16 screens and assemble four space ships before the game begins to repeat itself, but getting there is a difficult task as the aliens vary from subnormal laser-fodder to vicious ‘intelligent’ hunters who follow you around the screen. None of the aliens is armed but collision is usually fatal.

It is easy to see why Jetpac turned Ultimate into a household name virtually overnight; even now it stands out amongst the plethora of mediocre arcade clones. The presentation of the game is excellent, it loads reliably under a beautifully designed title-page which shows almost exactly the cassette inlay illustration. The keyboard controls and the game itself are comprehensively covered within the inlay; however, the program, once loaded, gives you a choice between keyboard and joystick controls, or between one and two players.

The graphics are colourful and the test-pilot jetman with a rocket pack on his back is accurately drawn with remarkable attention to detail. The animation of the jetman is superb and his movement in flight, and that of the aliens, is very smooth indeed. My favourite piece of animation is when the fully fuelled rocket blasts off for another planet with the frustrated aliens hopping about angrily in the flames from the rocket’s afterburners. The smoothly animated multicoloured laser blasts and the variform aliens are very eye-catching as well.

The only criticism with this cassette (if one is hypercritical) is with the sound, which is adequate without being exceptional, and with no catchy tunes being played.

In appraising this game it is difficult to find any real faults. The game is easily played with either the keyboard or joystick. The high-resolution colour graphics and excellent animation routines make full use of the Spectrum’s capabilities. Ultimate have gone a long way towards creating the perfect arcade-quality game, and at only £5.50 my verdict is rush out and buy it before Ultimate realise that it’s grossly under priced.



RUNNER-UP
Phil Morse

Alphabet, a, b, c...lift off, Time

ALPHABET
(Widgit)

Alphabet presents itself in a standard plastic cassette case with a folded card insert that includes the instructions for operation of the program. The tape appears to be recorded on one side. When loaded the program gives you a choice of three activities, although number one is merely an abridged version of number two.

The program aims to give children (Widgit say ‘young children’ — probably implying 3-6+) a familiarity with letters of the alphabet by associating them with computer drawn pictures. The first part of the program allows you to specify a number of letters to work upon and then chooses a random point in the alphabet at which it then starts to draw its pictures. It is a slight pity that an option to specify a starting point could not have been included. The second part of the program works in exactly the same way but displays pictures for the entire alphabet. For each letter, a picture is gradually drawn on a blank screen. The child must then press the correct computer key that corresponds to the first letter of the object displayed. The keypress is read directly and does not need the use of the ENTER key. Should the child press the correct key, he is rewarded with a whole verse of ‘Baa Baa, Black Sheep’ through the Spectrum’s speaker. Can you imagine what 26 consecutive complete verses of this do to you? Should you choose the wrong key to press, the computer clears the screen and blandly re-draws the picture for you. After six wrong inputs, it was still insisting on doing so without comment or aid.

The third part of the program is rather more useful. A lower case letter is drawn on the screen (using the PLOT, DRAW and PI commands, it would appear) and the child is then required to press the key with the corresponding capital letter on it. This exercise is very worth while for infant children since it extends their scope of letter recognition from 26 to 52 letters. It also meets, head on, the problem encountered in programs like the Sinclair/Macmillan Learn to Read series where a child is asked to copy a lower case letter on the screen by pressing an upper case letter on the keyboard. This program makes a valid exercise of doing just that. One possible flaw, however, appears at this point. Infants are taught to form lower case letters by starting at a particular point and proceeding in a particular direction. The program, when it ‘draws/writes’ its lower case letters on the screen does not always follow the accepted conventions. Nevertheless, should the correct key be pressed, the matched picture is drawn on the screen as confirmation.

The selection of pictures chosen to represent the alphabet is fair, with a few exceptions. The owl is particularly good, the zip rather clever — but was that really a fish or a vest, and why do people insist upon representing trains with steam locomotives when they went out of regular service 20 years ago?

A primary headteacher was recently enthusing to me over a suite of programs that he had recently purchased for his school BBC B. The five programs in the suite had cost £125! In this light, Alphabet, at £5.25, appears to be good value, but this is only really so if no other program treats the subject better for a similar price. Furthermore, the program must be reliable in LOADing. There’s nothing worse than a crash on LOADing with a class of small children looking on, laughing at your high-tec antics. I had such trouble getting this tape LOADed that I had to take it back to the shop and exchange it. Even now, it does not always go in every time. If a parent donated Alphabet to our school software library, I would accept it gratefully, but I am not sure that I would purchase it out of the school fund or PTA accounts.

a, b, c...LIFT OFF!
(Longmans/Micromega)

a, b, c...LIFTOFF! is supplied in a rigid, colourful box, with the cassette sitting inside in a black plastic moulded insert. The instructions are a printed sheet, folded to make a six-page booklet and contains operating instructions and general enthusiastic paragraphs about how good computer learning is for your child, not to mention high-tec advice like supplementing the work of the program by playing ‘I-spy’ with the given pupil: ‘... an adventure wonderland of early skills and abilities,’ they promise. The program is recorded on both sides of the tape and on LOADing presents an Introduction screen where the logos of Longman and Micromega glide on and off the display to be replaced by a monkey, who introduces himself as ‘Microchimp’ and welcomes you to the program. The main body of the program then loads.

When the main body of the program has LOADed, two alphabets of bold and clear upper and lower case letters appear on the screen with a prompt ‘press and key to continue.’ If you do not do so, about 30 seconds later the program goes into the first of the two format options of the program.

The first part of the program is a matching of word and letter to a computer-drawn picture and the sequence always starts at ‘A.’ In the lower right-hand corner of the screen a small but clear picture is drawn in a box. Into a box on the upper left-hand corner of the screen scrolls the appropriate word (all lower case letters) and below it the first letter of the word as an upper case letter. You are then asked to press the key corresponding to the ‘next letter.’ In response to the picture of an apple, I therefore pressed ‘P.’ this being the next letter in apple. I got a disapproving beep-beep from the computer. It was expecting ‘B’ as the next letter of the alphabet! Such an indignity, I was glad to see, need not continue, because each time a prompt appears at the bottom of the screen urging ‘press ENTERING for game.’ This is the real meat of the program.

In the Lift Off game, a rocket is drawn on the right-hand side of the screen. Below it, scrolling smoothly along a conveyor belt, are sealed crates. The idea is centred around the rocket being a ship from Venus wishing to load up with earth-type objects to take back for inspection. As each crate arrives below the rocket it stops for four seconds and is ‘opened’, its contents being drawn in it, and in the upper left of the screen a word and letter is chosen randomly and displayed. If the word corresponds to the picture you have just four seconds to press the ‘S’ key to register ‘SNAP.’ (That’s a terribly short time for a four year old!) If you are quick and correct, the crate is loaded into the rocket. If you make a mistake, one crate is removed from any already loaded. When six crates have been loaded successfully a countdown begins and the rocket takes off quite dramatically, leaving you with the haunting melody from ‘Close Encounters!’ The ‘random’ choice of the displayed word, in fact, gives you about a 4-1 chance of getting a snap each time (not a 25-1 chance as you might fear).

Do not be put off-by the rather glib and effusive blurb in the instruction leaflet. This is quite a valuable program. My five-year-old and three-year-old children loved the Lift Off game. It avoids the fundamental mistake of trying to do what a real book can do better and concentrates on providing a good supplementary activity to an infant’s early reading work or a junior’s remedial reading practice. I would trust its reliability in classroom use as it has always loaded first time, every time, and has always proved to be a most popular program.

TIME
(Stell)

Some educational programs are packed in sturdy colourful boxes which you know must add unduly to their price, but at least they are a strong storage medium for school use. This program comes in a standard plastic cassette case surrounded by decorative but useless flimsy cardboard box/surround, which I dispensed with immediately after removing the instructions on a bit of card which were slipped in the back of the ‘box.’ The tape, recorded on one side, has three sections: sections one and two having three parts and section three having two parts. The sections can be accessed separately but the parts cannot (well, not without BREAKing into the program and fiddling).

‘An educational game for 3-10 years,’ says the title slip, which acts as a cassette insert. The scope given to this program by all its different parts should make it a good audio-visual aid in helping children to learn to tell the time. However, certain flaws mar its overall worth.

Section One deals with time in whole hours. Part One requires the child to stop the clock at a given hour by pressing any key. If successful, a mouse is drawn at the top of the screen, and when 10 have been scored the program goes into an animated (?) routine to the tune of ‘Hickory, Dickory, Dock’ before moving on to the next part of the section. And herein lies the problem. The method of reading the keypress is extremely insensitive. Normally the problem with infants using a Spectrum centres around the fact that they will insist upon ‘holding’ the keys rather than ‘pressing’ them. In the normal manner of things the key will then auto-repeat and cause all manner of problems. In the case of this program, however, you have to hold a key down firmly just at the right time for your press to register — certainly no hair trigger here! The programmer must have realised the inadequacy of the system because if the keypress registers at one minute to or one minute past the hour you will still be counted as right! Normally the clock starts off about 20 minutes before the time you will need to stop it at, and each minute jump is registered in about one second, but occasionally it will start off an hour and a half before the due time entailing a wait of a minute and a half of real time — and if you cannot get the keypress to register then it REALLY is annoying! Part Two requires the child to type in the hour indicated on the clock face. No problem here — numbers, letters and clock face are all very clear, but there is no screen prompt to remind the child to press the ENTER key after typing in the number. Part Three sets a time on the clock face and then asks the child to stop the clock one hour later — same problem as Part One.

Section Two deals with time in minutes, or rather in lots of five minutes, i.e., five past or 20 to (but not 17 minutes past). The shading of the clock to give a graphic representation of quarters of an hour is very effective. Parts One and Two require the minutes to be typed in. If you should have typed 20 but typed 15 and yet realised your mistake before you pressed the enter key, you can just continue by typing 20 and it will push the 15 off the input space. (If you press SPACE, then 0 0 is registered on the screen for some reason.) Part Three is ‘Stop the Clock’ again. This time it is ridiculous. When you are teaching time ‘to the minute’ you really do require accuracy, but you can stop the clock at 5.14 and still get credited as ‘Right’ for the required time of 15 minutes past five.

Section Three is very useful for it deals with the very important manipulation of converting ‘clock time’ to ‘digital time.’ The proliferation of digital watches has been unfortunately responsible for many children failing to appreciate the real meaning of time told from a traditional clock face. The demonstration is clear, but it is followed by another ‘Stop the Clock’ exercise.

A great deal of work has obviously gone into this program and the gradation of the stages learning has been well judged, but its overall effectiveness is spoiled by some of the flaws mentioned previously. Infants find the ‘Stop the Clock’ exercises almost totally impossible to control. With a little bit of thought and re-programming this would make a very effective and, indeed, good value program. As it stands, I know of quite a few ‘Time’ programs on other machines which work far better because they are so much more sensitive to the small-fingered user.


RUNNER-UP
John Minson

Chess Tutor, The Hobbit, Melbourne Draw

Screenshot

While the battle to produce the ultimate chess program rages Artic’s Chess Tutor aims itself firmly at the beginner, who has little use for a version which can kick pawns in the face of a Grand Master.

At first sight this is a standard implementation. The graphics are good though white pieces might lack contrast on the white squares of the centrally displayed board. Clocks are provided for player and computer, which answers in seconds, though I doubt the absolute beginner needs the pressure of playing against time. At either side of the board is a scrolling display of the last six pairs of moves.

The player always moves up the board, using grid references. Keyboard entries are accompanied by a reassuring beep, with a small tune for Checkmate. There is also an easy-to-use set-up option. This is a user friendly program.

Turning to the tutor side, there is no way that this tape could replace a book for the beginner, despite its ability to display all the move available to pieces. However, having mastered the basics, the best way to learn is by experience, and here Chess Tutor comes into its own. It does not play an intimidatingly offensive game on the lower of its three levels, so the novice can actually win. Furthermore, it will demonstrate all legal moves during play, and will even suggest a move. But its most useful facility is that it allows the player to ‘cheat.’ If you find that you have entered a bad move within your last three plays you can cancel to before that point and choose another option. Imagine finding a human opponent who would allow that!

Quibbles are that its dependence on three book openings, though useful to the learner, can result in a win in four moves by diverging from them! More importantly the cassette inlay, which is generally good, says that it allows en passant — it doesn’t! Despite this, a useful companion for those learning the game.

Chess is one of the oldest table-top games, but fantasy role playing (frp) is among the more recent. Its computer equivalent is adventure gaming, and here The Hobbit has been acclaimed as state of the art.

The Hobbit goes much further than most adventures in allowing for the human elements of frp. Input is in Inglish, using simple sentences rather than the more usual two-word commands. Characters have a semblance of independent life too as they wander about the landscape, and you can even converse with them. The aim is to locate a realistic country within the Spectrum.

To do all this in 48K is impressive. It also provides simple but effective graphics, but sensibly only on first encountering a scene, or when requested. The documentation is good, and the inclusion of Tolkien’s novel adds to its scope.

After which it seems churlish to criticise, but for me The Hobbit failed to live up to its reputation. The independence of the characters was too obviously random. Gandalf in particular wanders aimlessly. As to conversing with them, the usual response is less than helpful, and sometimes totally illogical — a ‘No’ followed by the request being met!

Keyboard response can be a little strange, and with so much to type in a beep would have been useful. The program is not bug free either, though to be fair the booklet admits that this is to be expected in a work of this scale. I have found that the only way to continue the adventure did not appear as an option on one occasion!

The game also lacks the epic prose of the book, and I don’t know that the vividness of more words wouldn’t have been preferable to the pictures. I feel that The Hobbit suffers from falling between the two stools of tightly structured brain-teasing adventures and the open, human moderated frps. It is probably worth £14.95 despite this, because it is still addictive, but it left me wanting something better.

The title card from The Hobbit appears again to be loaded into and analysed by 48K Melbourne Draw. This is a complex utility, but documentation is very good. I only discovered one omission in its 22 pages of text, and this was solved by reference to the invaluable summary of commands found on its back page.

Drawing, on the full screen, uses eight-direction cursor control via a logical keyboard layout. Lines can be erased and pixels reversed automatically as they are overwritten. There is no circle command but the production of curves is aided by 4X and 16X magnification.

Having produced a line drawing, areas can be filled with shifted ‘F’ and ink and paper can be changed without problem. Flash and bright attributes are also introduced by single keys.

You can also create UDGs with this program’s draw facility, and both they and full screen displays can be saved to tape. The booklet concludes with details of how to locate these in your own program.

This is a well-implemented utility for those producing their own games or just for doodling. Its great potential means that it needs many control keys, but clear documentation makes experimenting a joy, and it is only limited by imagination and artistic talent!