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.

It’s been very tough to choose a letter this month. I was a bit alarmed when I saw the mailbag after issue one, but this is ridiculous. I mean — like how many trees are you cutting down out there to write to me? Seriously, though, I’m overwhelmed — and so is the Ludlow Post Office! Keep your letters coming, and you don’t really have to grovel to win. But as I was saying, it’s been a tough one this month with so many excellent writers to choose from. In the end, and because he’s obviously a Lloyd Mangram champion, this offering from Ian Foster gets my vote this month (this should get you all grovelling again!).

Dear Lloyd,
Friday the 16th came and went with no sign of CRASH. There was still nothing a week later. What had happened? Had Lloyd been done in by Roger Kean because he was fed up with his persistent grovelling and because his knees were wearing out the carpet? Was Lloyd in shock after being given a pay rise (no such luck — LM)? Was Lloyd CRASH’s bank balance not able to withstand the strain of this generosity? Had Lloyd’s real identity of Lord Lucan finally been discovered? Had the CRASH team been carried off gibbering by men in white coats after spending weeks trying to get Ziggy out of Doomsday castle? In short, had CRASH crashed?

All these questions and more were answered when, on the 29th, the ‘New Look’ CRASH 3 arrived — new in the sense of the paper, which was a welcome improvement — the actual contents are still damn near perfect. Well worth the wad, I say.

Seriously though, as an old fogey of 23 who’s never been in an arcade in his life and who has only been gaming since Christmas, I would like to point out an interesting analogy between the current software scene à la Spectrum and American comics. Both industries are, at the moment, enjoying a boom period with a flood of titles every month. The problem is, in both cases, that there are a lot of quality titles coming out each month and it is all the average buyer can do to keep up with current titles. With comics, people just haven’t got enough money left for back issues, so the market is stagnant. I would say that a similar situation could arise with software. In CRASH 3, for example, there are eight new titles I would like but there is no way really I can afford that many each month, as well as collecting the 25 or so older titles from last year, or earlier this year. So if one just concentrated on getting last year’s titles, then, by the time you’ve acquired them, this year’s new titles will be last year’s old titles. (If you understand this, you know more than me!)

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against this plethora of good games, quite the opposite, but I just wonder, with so many marvellous titles being released, whether fans will be more selective and excellent games otherwise worthy of purchase may fall by the wayside — and with them, the companies. It’s going to be an interesting year I reckon, what with Parker and Atari bringing out games at prices I believe to be prohibitive for most British gamers. Okay, so they should be of high quality, and may be the definitive Pac Man, Pole Position or whatever, but then, so are a lot of British produced games.

There seems to be a myth that American programmers produce the best games, but I reckon that ‘our boys’ can give the Yanks a run for their money any time.

Some quick points to end on. Did you catch that fuss about Ship of Doom in the Sun? Considering the age of the game, I would hardly call that a journalistic scoop. There’s too much interference already in cinema, TV and video. It would be a sad day if censorship controls reared their ugly heads in the software industry. Did I win a Doomsday Castle from one of your competitions — I received a copy the other day without a cover note and I hate mysteries?

By the way, if you’re stuck for a choice as to who to award the £12 to, then just bear in mind that should I be honoured enough to receive it, then I shall immediately investigate a ‘Give Our Lloyd a Pay Rise’ campaign with flying pickets descending in droves to besiege the CRASH offices, until Roger (He Who Must Be Obeyed) Kean relents. Just thought I’d mention it.
Ian Foster
PS. Great covers from Oli.

Winner

’Fraid that issue was a bit late, due to a change of distribution. CRASH will now be arriving on the news-stands at the end of every month. I’m sure most of the software houses think this will be an interesting year. However, Atari prices are based on programs which have largely been put together here in Britain — it’s not as though they’re importing expensively produced American programs. My personal opinion is that they’re out of their minds at that price, but a few of the British software houses seem to be upping their prices too.

Yes, you did win a copy of Doomsday Castle. The fuss in the Sun and elsewhere was daft. But journalists are noted for knowing very little about anything (apart from pubs), so you can’t blame them for thinking it was all jolly exciting stuff. As for the censorship, it looks as though it’s here really. But how it will work heaven knows! Can you imagine a board of cassette censors sitting down to play a 200 location adventure to find out what’s in it?

Thanks for the support, Ian. You see how grovelling can make you a winner in life!
LM

SOFTWARE PRAISE

Dear Mr Mangram,
You appear to have been highly praised by computer owners for your positive and outstanding attitude, but no comment has yet been passed by computer software companies. You provide just what everyone needs and the service you offer is excellent. As software is quickly dated, prompt reviews are important as a fair and unbiased way of telling the public about our products. This fairness is enhanced by the novel idea of three reviewers to one game. Your confinement to one computer and the lack of listings leaves ample space for reviews and a useful reference section.

This quantity gives plenty of choice, which means that customers really can be sure they’re getting the best. Well done!
Yours sincerely,
George Lubega

IN TOTAL SUSPENSE

Dear Crash,
I am totally impressed and dazzled with your extremely commendable effort of a magazine. There is, however, one slight snag: — why is CRASH so late in coming to our part of the world (Kent), when a larger place like London receives it earlier? We seem to be kept in the dark and total suspense for two weeks.

In issue 3 you reviewed that brilliant game Pi-Balled, but I don’t think it was given justice. 82% is quite high, but in my view not high enough.

Also I think, and so do most of my friends who buy CRASH, that advertisements are taking it over, which is a deep shame. Before I buy a game I check to see if you have reviewed it, but if CRASH is filled with advertisements not so many games can be reviewed. Calculation: nearly one-third is formed from advertisements.
Paul Granville
PS. Terminal Man is Brill!

The time of the month at which a magazine starts to appear in your newsagents depends very heavily on the wholesaler your newsagent goes through for his stock. In very big cities like London, there is an extremely efficient and fast service to the shops, not quite so fast away from the cities. CRASH usually appears three to four days ahead of the official ‘on sale’ date in London, whereas it’s common enough to find it appearing three to four days after that date in country areas. Can’t comment on Pi-Balled — as you say, 82% is quite high, very high by our standards.

As to advertising, you are right, about one-third of CRASH is taken up with ads. Most magazines have a ration of between two-thirds and one half for advertising. Alternatively, they say how many editorial pages there will be and then the rest will all be advertising, the bigger the mag gets the more ads there are in it. At CRASH we decided to be heavily editorial-based and keep the ratio, so should there be significantly more ads in future, there will also be more pages to read.
LM

By my reckoning this has to be issue 8

MISSED OUT?

Dear Lloyd,
Why is the March issue No 2 and the April issue No 4? Have I missed out on No 3? I think CRASH is excellent and would not want to miss a copy.
Martin Jones

No you haven’t missed out, Martin, but the layout artist has — he’s missing a finger on the left hand, which must account for his strange method of adding up. The way he counts it goes: 1 — 2 — 4 — 4 — 5 — 6 etc.
LM

RECORD JET

Dear CRASH,
I know you will not believe me, but my mother can vouch for me. I have just scored 257,260 points on level 19 of Lunar Jetman. Last I saw the missile needed 26 or 27 laser hits to destroy it. Is this a record?
Vincent Wooll

Of course we believe you, Vincent. My mother vouches for me all the while ...
LM

IS THIS A RECORD?

Dear CRASH,
Nowadays praise for software houses is few and far between, but I feel I must write in total praise and admiration for Quicksilva. Not only do they produce the highest quality games for the Spectrum, but they are faithful to their public. A few months back I humbly wrote to them on such trivial matters I thought I would receive no attention. But only one week later I got a reply by first class post signed by Ms. S. Clifton, which said that the software manager was away, but as soon as he came back he would be troubled by her to pass comment on my letter. Astounded, I eagerly awaited a reply. Lo and behold a letter fully commenting on mine was sent, this time signed by the ‘big boss’ himself. After this I continued a correspondence with Ms. Clifton for four more letters, all of which she answered personally. I can’t put into writing the respect I have for Quicksilva in an age when letters are replied to with printed sheets and advertising blurbs. Congratulations to Quicksilva for remaining faithful to their customers.
Jason West
PS. In April’s issue a Mr. Higginson asked if one million plus points on Zzoom was a record. Well, Jim, it isn’t — a record is a round black thing with a hole in the middle ...

Thank you for putting us straight, Jason, Mr Higginson — now you know.
LM

IS THIS A BLACK ROUND THING WITH A HOLE IN THE MIDDLE?

Dear CRASH and readers,
In the third issue a Mr Holman stated he had got on to level 13 of Lunar Jetman. This is nothing! My friend knows of a boy who has got on to level 20. The aliens are overwhelmingly terrible.

Kids at our school have got on to level 32 on Chuckie Egg. Another person got 93 cups on Tranz-Am and did over half a million miles! Another person has completed 75%* of Jet Set Willy. We keep asking him for the secrets but he never tells us. I would be pleased to hear of other hi-scores.
Kukee Khan
PS (*approximately).
PPS. I think your mag is brill.

Good grief! Who are all these people you know? As for Tranz-Am, it might be interesting for readers to know just how many major services did the vehicle require to do that distance?
LM

PHEENIX SOUND

Dear Editor,
I would like to correct your review of Pheenix in the Living Guide of the April issue. For people who get bored with listening to the music you can stop it and the scrolling stars and get straight on to the game by pressing the fire button or SPACE. This should make the game less annoying and more addictive.

Your magazine is brill fantastic, just more than words can say. Keep it up. I would be grateful if you could review Space Station Zebra, Mugsy and Psytron as none of the local computer shops have these games.
Simon Webb

Thanks for the tip on Pheenix. Space Station Zebra got done last issue, Psytron’s CRASH SMASH this one, and Mugsy isn’t released at the time of writing — next month with luck.
LM

CHEQUERED CRASH

Dear CRASH,
On the subject of reviews, I would like to complain about the negative attitude shown by your reviewer of Chequered Flag (May issue). It is obvious that he/she was playing the game on his/her own as he/she wrote, ‘There is no competition spirit in it.’ The whole point of Chequered Flag is to beat the fastest lap time, ie, race against time. The excitement of the game can be increased if several friends come along and have a competition. The Overall percentage should have been far higher than 71%. Also, your reviewer failed to notice that the game can be played with a joystick. It can be played with any joystick so long as the interface is Sinclair ZX 2. The rest of your reviews were excellent and, I am glad to say, a joy to read. Keep up the superb work!
Richard C. Leslie

You’re quite right of course, he/she, she/he and he/she were playing on their (non-discriminatory) him/her-selves, which may account for the medium high satisfaction rate afforded. For myself, I think Chequered Flag is pretty good, but as I have absolutely no friends, I’m obviously missing out on the competitive fun side of the game. Must try and meet people more.
LM

ATIC ATAC-ERS

Dear CRASH,
On reading the April issue I saw the first of what will be many letters on Atic Atac. Stuart Mitchell wrote that he thinks he may be one of the first people to crack this game. Well, Stuart, at 72% your score is still a little low. I have reached 99% on five occasions. If CRASH or anyone else can tell me how to get the extra one per cent I’ll be an extremely happy Atic attacker.
J. Marsay

A mysterious fellow who calls himself ‘Eye of the Night’ claims, in our new Playing Tips section, that the percentage has nothing to do with the score in Atic Atac. And this makes sense; the percentage indicates the number of rooms entered during playing the game. You may well argue that to get through successfully with the least possible percentage actually indicates a better result than a higher percentage. As to that extra one percent — there’s obviously a room and a half you haven’t visited each time — or 99% is top marks.
LM

WHICH SPECTRUM?

Dear CRASH,
Your magazine is wonderful, sensational, etc...

Could you tell me, please, how can you tell if your Spectrum is an issue 1, 2 or 3? I think it has something to do with the colour of the sticker on the back.

I have a blue sticker.
Mark Simmons

Mark, it has little if anything to do with the colour of the sticker. It depends rather largely on when your Spectrum was bought. What is important is the serial number of your model. Any serial number before DOI 136480 or before 001 354000 is an issue 2 Spectrum. Anything after either of these numbers is an issue 3. In general, the differences aren’t important, except in that issue 3 Spectrums read the keys in a different way, which makes some games programmed on or for a series 2 a little odd to control on a series 3. Most software houses have now taken these differences into account.
LM

Baby reviewer

YOUNG REVIEWERS

Dear CRASH,
I would like to ask why don’t you have a young person reviewing some of the games features in your magazine? This would help readers because they would have an idea what different age groups thought of a game. A game may interest a child more than an adult and therefore they will have a different opinion.

I saw a TV programme where a 13-year-old boy in America worked for a computer magazine. Every so often they sent him some programs. He would review them at home and then tell the editor what he thought of them. Why don’t you at CRASH try the idea?

It might help younger readers who are buying games.
Simon Beards

As a matter of fact we have quite a few young reviewers, Simon. Our two principal in-house arcade reviewers are 17 and 19 years old, but we also send games out to three other youngsters aged 12 to 15, and they tell us what they think of them.
LM

TOO SLOW

Dear CRASH,
I must complain about how slowly you review games. I think it was in February you stated that you could not review Atic Atac because you didn’t have a copy. I had a copy in November. And in the April edition you gave a preview of Jet Set Willy and I got my copy four or five weeks ago and I had found all 60 rooms within 24 hours, so you can’t make the excuse that you need to review it fully later. Why do you take so long? Apart from that, how come Zaxxan got more than 30%?

Also, Mr Wimpy, Hunchback, Atic Atac and Punchy do not work with the Currah Microspeech. I thoroughly enjoy your magazine.
Mark Powell

Mark’s letter was much longer and included many items about playing Jet Set Willy, most of which are covered in our Playing Tips section later on in this issue. As to the question of why so long over the reviews — well... firstly, I would say CRASH can claim to be about the first with most games reviews. Obviously some mags do get a review out before either because they are weekly or because they come on sale the week before CRASH, but in the main most of them don’t review a fraction of the games we do. The February issue, which stated that a full review of Atic Atac would follow, was on sale on January 13th. It went to the printers on December 19th (Christmas makes a hole in the schedules), its layout was being completed around about December 2nd to 5th, which means that the reviews had to be written by about November 20th, approximately the time Atic Atac was released for sale.

The preview pictures of Jet Set Willy were taken from a pre-production copy of Matthew Smith’s and not from a sale copy which we could review. CRASH collected its mail order copies the day after Software Projects took delivery of the first copies, at which point it was reviewed for the last issue.

What you are not taking into account is that if a brand new game arrives at our offices a few days after an issue has finished writing, it won’t appear as a review for almost five to six weeks. I might point out that some magazines were still reviewing Terror Daktil 4D as a new game in November last year, when the game came out in early August (I think).

As to the games you list not working with Microspeech, I don’t think anyone in this magazine has ever said they do. Punchy certainly has speech on it, but that’s built into the program. Glad you like the mag though!

DON’T LOOK IN THE BEANO

Dear Lloyd,
Congratulations and many thanks to you and your colleagues for finally filling the yawning gap in computer magazines. I unfortunately missed the first issue but found the second and third in W.H. Smiths. The difference in quality of paper and colour is probably the biggest improvement you could have made on issue 2, and it is good to see you putting effort into the magazine’s appearance as well as its contents. However, issue 3 does appear to be a bit disordered, but perhaps that’s because of the additional articles. Maybe you should try to set the news, editorial and letters in a closer section, and keep the regular features in the same place each issue. It’s a small point, but with so many different parts it isn’t easy to keep track of where you’ve read, etc.

If R.S. Hammond looks to the Beano for comic strips, then he’s looking in the wrong place! Keep the Terminal Man, it suits the magazine well, as long as it doesn’t get too silly (“loathing and blood lust!?”). As a comics collector of many years I can assure you Terminal Man is well written and drawn.

Talking about drawing, one thing did annoy me in issue 2, namely the top cartoon on page 53 (and 65)! Is this stupid sexism really necessary? Obviously most of your readers are young males (including me) but this particular type of drawing keeps vicious circles going round and round. Again, it’s a small point, but it is all the more noticeable because of the quality of the rest of the magazine. Life imitates art!

Which only leaves me to mention the reviews themselves ... Excellent! Witty and clear, they are enjoyable and informative to read. Please don’t ever be afraid of slamming a bad program. Pour encourager les autres, I think. Keep the three personal comments and the rating system. Again, the effort put into this shows clearly. It is good that you aren’t just regurgitating the cassette inlay (and that it comes under criticism too).

Keep articles on programmers and software houses coming, but try not to succumb to their hype.
Eye of Night

I must say (well, I’m paid to say things like this) that issue 3 (the one that was called 4 in error) was rather jolly looking. It’s considered normal, or aesthetic, or something anyway, to divide a magazine up into clearly defined sections so that everyone always knows where everything is. Of course, to a large degree that happens with CRASH as well. But as reviews are our main staple, it was thought it would be boring to have a lump of them with other, smaller, lumps either side or something like that. So an early decision was made to muddle it all up. And that muddle — er, decision — is still operating now. When I put your point about ‘disorderliness’ to the CRASH art department I was told that if I cared to have a go laying out the magazine they would be only too happy to let me, but my desk is only three foot by two... It seems that something called ‘pagination’ makes life difficult, that and the fact that every advertiser wants to be on a right-hand page, facing editorial and within the first 10 pages. Life just isn’t easy, is it?
LM

STEERING OFF THE ROAD

Dear CRASH
I am writing to tell you and warn others of a bogus software company that is ripping off loads of people! The company, called Spirit Software, placed an advertisement in Personal Computer Games magazine in their February and March issues. Finding this to be an interesting idea and a good version of Atari’s Pole Position game, I decided to send off for it. After four weeks were up I received a letter stating how sorry they were because they had received faulty steering wheel mouldings from their supplier and the game would be delayed until 12th March.

Fair enough, I thought, but three weeks later nothing had arrived. I phoned up the company to enquire but I was greeted with an answering machine and that was that. A week later I phoned PCG and was fobbed off with the excuse that Spirit Software are a bogus company and many people had phoned them to complain. They said it wasn’t PGS’s fault and nothing could be done. They know about the answering machine and they think the owner has disappeared!

£9 of my hard-earned cash was wasted and nothing can be done. All I can do now is never trust mail order again unless it is a well-known company. Can he be traced and brought to justice?
JU. Johnson

From a review point of view, we also contacted Spirit Software, and we too received the reply that faulty mouldings had caused a delay in the game and steering wheel. As a magazine, it is a little difficult to be sure that a customer who wishes to advertise is bona fide, or that he won’t go bust next week. There is a customer protection scheme for mail order companies, or those offering sale by mail order, but sadly, it isn’t usually enforced by magazines, and often it’s difficult to do so. As to bringing the owner of Spirit Software to justice, the answer is technically ‘probably’, practically ‘hardly likely’. People like Spirit Software are frankly a pain in the *** as all they do is give British software innovation a bad name. We would be very interested to hear from any other readers who have sent money to Spirit Software for their Formula One and Steering Wheel.
LM

A BIT OF BOVVER

Dear CRASH,
I would just like to talk about a bug I found in Artic’s Bear Bovver. I haven’t yet seen anyone mention it as Bear Bovver seems to have a reputation for being an almost impossible game with the characters so big.

The bug occurs in sheet five. You can’t die — the other bears just walk straight through you. Bear Bovver has around eight to 10 sheets (I wasn’t really counting). Now for all you eager Bear Bovver fans who are just aching and dying to know the identity of the star guest after Jetman, who appears in sheet three — well sorry, but there isn’t one. It just goes through the sheets and back round again. What a disappointment to such a great game — or is it that I’ve got a dud tape? Will someone out there tell me please, has someone seen the next guest star? I’ve got to know.

Also, come on CRASH, let’s have some reviews on Moon Buggy by Anirog, Moon Alert by Ocean and Troop-a-Truck by Rabbit. This, to my mind, is about the best game in the arcades and I need to play it at home, but which one is best? Let’s have more competitions too!
Michael C. Shepherd

Okay, Bovverites, let’s here it for Michael. Moon Buggy, by Visions, was reviewed last issue, Anirog’s version this month. Moon Alert hasn’t been seen yet, and Rabbit’s Troop-a-Truck is fab on the Commodore but not yet ready for the Spectrum, David Lewis of Rabbit tells me it shouldn’t be long now, and they are trying to cram in as much detail as possible. Pity they won’t be able to get the same great sound track going though.
LM

GARBLED MESSAGE

Dear CRASH,
Congratulations on your excellent magazine — it’s easily the best buy for Spectrum games players. However, I would like to see more adventures reviewed, and if possible a feature on Digital Fantasia.

Oliver Frey’s illustrations are fantastic, especially the Kong pictures in the March issue. I am pleased that you have plenty of competitions each month, lacking from many magazines, and that the prizes are very attractive.

In reply to Steve Turner’s inquiry as to which games we would like to see in future, I think complex artificial intelligence programs — particularly adventures — show the way forward. Perhaps Melbourne House will continue their progress in this field, starting with Sherlock Holmes.

I would like to inform Chris Passey, a reviewer of Missile Command games in the Run It Again feature (April), that the ‘garbled mess of large print’, which appears after about 6 levels of Anirog’s excellent Missile Defence, is in fact your present score, which appears at the top of the screen when you beat the hi-score. Despite his mistake, I wholly agree with his review, it is one of my favourite games. Incidentally, after level 8 there is a bug because all subsequent attack waves are called level 9. I have reached level 19 (I counted them) with a score of 3,622 — it is so incredibly fast that each wave lasts only a few seconds.
Iain Templeton

As you will have noticed by now, Iain, CRASH is including more adventure reviews as we go along. We’ll look into the Digital Fantasia feature idea. Chris Passey has just left the office with a red face (he puts it down to the effort of climbing the stairs).
LM