I am pleased to say that this month’s more than overflowing mailbag contained a high percentage of very sensible letters (there have been months when this has not been the case!), and I think they make interesting reading. Subjects for discussion have been wide, but certainly a lot of readers have responded to Graeme (the Birmingham Godfather) Kidd’s comments on the Spectrum 128; many felt a need to praise or cry out against Mel Croucher’s interview, and there has been considerable response against comments made by Tony Bridges in a letter to the April Forum. Lots of CRASH readers also watch TV or listen to the radio, not that this is surprising in itself, but what is alarming is the fact that they do so has led them to discover my terrible secret — or so they think. But more of that later on...

One subject that has now sadly faded from these pages is the continuing battle for desk space, writing room and sanity with Rob Candy (see the Playing Tips if you haven’t already), but doubtless the Powers That Be will anoint my sainted head with some other horror.

So, a difficult task to select a worthy letter of the month from such a good mailbag, but this one caught my imagination because of its feminist plea...

WHILE THE CAT’S AWAY

Dear Sir,
I am a regular CRASH reader, and of course, Spectrum owner. I have noticed that 98% of the letters you print on your page are from teenage boys with the remainder from their dad’s and one or two sisters. I can’t ever remember seeing one from a mother in her thirties (early thirties) so here it is. (But will you print it?)

There is nothing I enjoy more when the kids are at school, and the baby’s playing quietly, than a good session on the old joystick (or keyboard). I don’t buy very many expensive games but occasionally manage to stretch the housekeeping a bit.

I love adventure games but, unfortunately. I’m not too good at them (I haven’t completed The Hobbit). Platform games are another great favourite, at present it’s Firebird’s Booty, but I do enjoy games like Blue Thunder and Harrier Attack and of course Sabrewulf.

I bet there are hundreds of other mums who wait till their lads are at school and then have a sly go, so come on ladies, stand up and be counted. Perhaps in the future Crash will run a ‘ladies page’ just for us (Good idea eh Lloyd)??
Mrs Lin Rhodes

I’m sure I have printed the odd ‘mum’s letter’ in the past, but you’re right — they’re few and far between, and yet there must be plenty of housewives and mothers who find some time on their hands in the busy workaday and also have the inclination to play computer games. Let’s be hearing from you then. However, not all female CRASH readers think I’m that wonderful as a letter called ‘Fudging the issue’ indicates. Anyway Lin, that’s 20 worth of software for you, so you can update on some newer games than the ones you mentioned!

NEVER PUBLISHED, SOB!

Dear Lloyd,
Many CRASH readers write letters in to express their views on something; or to complain or just for publicity. But about 99.9% of these readers are disappointed to find their letters absent from the next issue.

Of course it’s impossible to print all the letters you receive, but what makes me so angry is that some people like Jeremy Conners and some others, have had their letters printed more than once.

I for one have spent at least £10 on stamps for the letters I have sent and haven’t, and probably won’t have any of my letters printed. But people like Jeremy are so horribly lucky and people like you are so terribly biased that I expect to see another of his letters soon, but none of mine (including this one). Why am I wasting my time anyway?
Mark Corder

Perhaps you just like writing letters, Mark. However, as you see, sometimes even you can be lucky. The simple reason why some people get theirs printed more than once, is that usually they are follow-ons from an earlier argument. Sometimes they just are lucky.

FORUM FORUM

Dear Lloyd,
I would like to congratulate you on your generally excellent magazine. It is still the best magazine for the Spectrum but of late has become inconsistent and the Forum rather trivial. I do not object to any of the covers as I am not impressionable at fifteen years of age and I would like to say that the subject of ‘obscene’ pictures by Oliver Frey has over the fast few months become rather boring.

I know that you have schedules to keep and the magazine is prepared well in advance but lately I have been disappointed when games that are in the shops do not appear in your magazine until either the next issue or the issue after that. Merely Mangram is good and so are the Playing Tips and Adventure Trail, but I find the popular Hall of Slime pointless due to the fact that most of the scores are made up anyway. I know for a fact that friends of mine have had a photo taken, made up some high-scores and sent them away to your magazine, where as often as not they are printed. As to your ratings system I do not always necessarily agree with them and when being confronted with six CRASH Smashes in the February issue and eight in the March issue I think it becomes necessary to award a higher accolade to show the ‘pick of the bunch’.
Justin Bickle

The Hall of Slime was always intended as a bit of fun, not to be taken too seriously, although totally pointless if people were consistently dishonest — an antidote to the very boring columns of tediously researched scores found in other magazines at the time. Even the title, ‘Hall of Slime’ was a joke at the expense of titles like ‘Hall of Fame’. Perhaps today it has outlived its time, although the questionnaire results indicate continued popularity with some people. What do readers think?

I’ve spoken at some length in past issues about the timing problems that can arise with game release dates, seeing finished pre-release copies and actually getting a review out on the street. We’re all too often in the hands of serendipity (LMLWD) when things go well, and whatever the opposite is when they don’t! I’m glad to see you NOT complaining about having too many CRASH Smashes, but a ‘pick of the month’ is another trap really, forcing the review team to choose game above another. I’m not saying it’s impossible or even corrupt to do so, but it adds another element to the equation and forces us to be more hard and fast in decision taking taking than we feel is necessary. However, it’s another option open to scrutiny in the questionnaire fine print.
LM

BYE BYE SAILOR

Dear Lloyd,
Help!! could you please, please tell me whatever happened of the DK’Tronics game Popeye? I saw it once in a shop in Weston, and I thought it was fab! But as fate had it I didn’t have the £7 to buy it, but when I did have, no shops had it in!!

I would also like to ask any readers if they have Popeye or Tomahawk?
DJ ‘Torcroft’

Despair no more, Popeye has been re-released by Macmillan, ought to be in your shops now, and with luck there may even be a competition for it in this issue (don’t know for sure at the time of writing).
LM

128 WHO DO WE APPRECIATE?

Our deeply beloved CRASH editor, Graeme Kidd, sparked off some controversy in the April issue with his comments on the 128K Spectrum. Lots have written in on the subject and there isn’t room for all the letters, so to get as much in as possible, here are some extracts, kicking off with a long one that states the case for worry...

Dear Lloyd,
I thought I would write to you to air my views on Graeme Kidd’s article about the Spectrum 128’s future as a games machine in last month’s issue, and perhaps to encourage people to support the 128.

In his article Graeme was talking about the software manufacturers attribute to the new machine. And it seemed to me that most of them had no fixed plans for the future and were waiting to see how well the machine would sell. This is fine if the public are going to support it, but at the end of his article, Graeme said that due to the lack of software perhaps potential buyer’s of Clive’s new machine should hold back and wait. I know not everyone would take Graeme’s word as the gospel, but if the software companies are not writing games until the machine sells, and the buyers are not buying because there is no decent software, then you might as well say goodbye to the 128.

I would not dream for one minute of ‘putting’ Graeme down as he is obviously a very highly respected member of the computer press working for such a magazine as CRASH, and I’m sure he and everyone else will want to see the 128 become a big success, especially after the recent sell out of Sinclair to big rivals Amstrad.
M Smith

Now, think about it Graeme. If we all waited for everybody else to buy the new 128, where would we be? Look at it from the point of view of the software companies. What is the point of making games for a machine which has nobody to play them? The obvious thing to do is to let somebody else make them, and only if it becomes a success do you join in. BUT you (at CRASH Towers) have told us all NOT to buy the 128. This means that fewer people will buy the 128, either because they trust your divine words or because they’re incredibly gullible, and therefore fewer companies will make fewer games, fewer people will buy the 128 and so on, etc.
CRASH Reader

HELP!! My son has just sold his Spectrum Plus and is desperate for a Spectrum 128. As I am one of the many mums who know nothing at all about computers (a RAM to me is still an animal) maybe you would advise me on buying one! Is it a good buy and without being biased is it worth the money???
Janet Midgley

With the current state of excellent Spectrum releases which, I may say, I never would have thought possible in early 1983, the Spectrum may now have reached its peak of technical excellence, and due to the release of the Spectrum 128 I am now worried that magazines such as yourselves, will concentrate on this new machine and leave us lesser mortals behind in the rush. After all, the ZX81 was never heard of again after the Spectrum launch in 1982. I would like to know what decision CRASH will make about 128 coverage and eagerly await the outcome.
Justin Bickle

‘128K UK! It’s here’
Oh dear me! shock horror, fear
Woe is us. Woe is me
Is this the end of Crash as we see?

Am I too early or am I too late?
Oh my god! It’s the 128
Will you change this mag as you show it?
Is this the end of Crash as we know it?

This 128K can’t just be a myth
Is the 48K Spectrum on the edge of a cliff?
Us 48K owners can’t take this anymore
Put us out of our misery and tell us the score

Will it be reviews for the 128?
Come on now you can tell us straight
If you do away with the 48K
Spectrum owners will rebel and you’ll have no say

So take this warning while it seems quite clear!
Or else it won’t be long till you are trembling with fear!
So keep up the game reviews for the 48K
Or it won’t be long till you drive us away!
Stuart MacDonald

PS Your mag won’t be the same with 128 game reviews every week.

Phew! The first point to make (he said with Graeme’s unsafety razor at his throat) is that Graeme did not say don’t buy a 128. In fact he said; ‘So if you are thinking about upgrading from your trusty 48K machine, the best advice is to hang on in there for a while, and see what happens.’

The operative word was ‘upgrading’ and, as we have just seen with Amstrad knocking its price down by 40 to 139, the sentence made good sense. Graeme did nor mean to imply that no one should buy the 128 but that caution in changing from 48 to 128 should be exercised. For people who do not own a 48K Spectrum, then the 128 is a sensible purchase. I hope this answers Janet Midgley’s worries.

Those concerning themselves over the gradual decline of 48K in favour of 128K games, now have Alan Sugar and Amstrad to take into account, and I suppose there’s little doubt that the 48K Spectrum’s days are numbered, but don’t forget — there are a lot of machines out there and software houses are not going to dump the software over night. Of course CRASH is bound to review 128K games, otherwise we would be letting down those readers who intend to upgrade, are doing so or may already have done so. This change in machines, complicated even further by the Amstrad takeover, is clearly a bit disturbing, but then progress usually is, and I would suggest everyone relaxes a bit, bides their time and sees what happens in the next few months.

So much for 48K owners, what about someone who already has a 128?
LM

INTERFACING TROUBLE

Dear Lloyd,
I am the proud owner of a Spectrum 128, a computer which I heartily recommend. I am satisfied very well by the 128, but not by the service or attitude of Boots, who supplied it. The package comprised of the 128 computer, a tape recorder, two manuals, two free Ocean games, a Cheetah joystick and interface, software vouchers and a £15 general Boots voucher. A few hours later I discovered that the interface didn’t fit.

I returned it next Saturday and was issued a replacement which was shown to fit. I then wasted several hours convinced that I was doing something wrong when the joystick still failed to work. According to Sinclair, it is ‘IN 31’, ie Kempston compatible, but the computer didn’t seem to realise this — the Kempston option didn’t function. I returned it that afternoon, and the replacement was tested on my computer in the store. An assistant loaded Robin Of The Wood, the computer ‘expert’ was busy nearby with another customer. First of all she tried the Sinclair option, then the Kempston one — neither worked. She then sought the advice of their ‘expert’, who told us that they’d recently been contacted by Sinclair about an unidentified fault in the interface. He said initially that he’d known this for a couple of days. I replied that was when when I’d bought the 128 and wanted to know why I hadn’t been informed of the fault. He now said that they’d literally only just this minute heard. He then tried to find the letter and despite only having had it for ‘literally’ a minute, he’d lost it.

Then the assistant, who previously hadn’t had a clue what was wrong with the interface, transformed into someone who very professionally showed me the relevant paragraphs of the newly found letter and casually assured me that I’d get a working version when the fault had been corrected.

It seems to me that although the faulty interface cannot be blamed on Boots, they are taking advantage of people by readily accepting their money but not being so willing to tell them about a potential fault.

Now a piece of advice for 128 users, when changing the Ear and and Mic leads, the Reset button is dangerously close.

I’ve also noticed two traitors among your stuff, John Minson — a PCW spy and Franco Frey — an ex-Computer Choice spy. Get rid of them before they ruin your superfluously — (LMLWD) — ace magazine.
Nathan Byers

Working backwards, I can assure you that Franco (the frugal) Frey has never done anything for Computer Choice. As for John (Aloha) Minson (the man whose shirts scream for merciful release), I’m afraid to confess that he does bits and the place and (whispering) sometimes in places you’d be most surprised about.

For my part, I’m not surprised that Boots seemed a bit confused about the interface problem — they weren’t the only ones to get caught out, but it doesn’t excuse that particular branch’s casual attitude.
LM

THE SECRET’S OUT OF THE CADDY BAG

Dear Lloyd,
Hello, what was that? Lloyd Mangram was the course record holder with 64 until Nick Price broke the course record on Saturday 12 April 1986.

Apparently, his record stood for 36 years so it must have been hard to break. Well done Lloyd! I have an idea to stop all the stupid letters that arrive in the Forum about your real identity or what you look like. Why not have a competition where CRASH readers have to draw you and the nearest looking wins a prize. You could print the winning entry at the top of the title page every month as well.

Lastly I love the beautiful colour reviews that have appeared in CRASH and some good recent examples are Winter Games and Bomb Jack and Three Weeks In Paradise. Thank you very much for this as it brightens up CRASH a great deal.
Aaron Brown

What’s he talking about? I’ll tell you, Aaron, like lots of other attentive radio listeners heard an item that golfer Nick Price has broken a record at the American Augusta Club’s prestigious ‘Masters’ championship. Read on...

Disregard all the other claims of knowing your identity, I have found it. I was watching golf on television the other day, the US Masters to be exact. The commentators were talking about the record for the Augusta Golf course in Georgia, USA, when whose name should come up but Lloyd Mangram, that’s right your identity is finally out.

May all our holes be birdies.
Jeremy Weston

This means that the picture of Derek Brewster is a picture of you, alias an 83 year-old man with glasses! Derek’s picture is in actual fact in Robin Candy’s pages! So you are being bribed by the person with the psuedo name ‘Robin Candy’ to pretend you have a false name, and therefore to get lots of letters.

1 Have you got any pictures of you as a golfer? 2 Please can I have a Monty Mole comic strip? 3 Why don’t you have letters from Chinese people?

I know you are 83 but you should be able to read my writing.
Tim Borring

Apparently, some person named Lloyd Mangram had scored 64 in the US masters some 40 odd years ago. So here have it, a 65 year old drunken computer maniac who can’t afford a new typewriter!
Hayden Reeve

Okay, great hoots of laughter etc. But let’s get one thing straight. Yes the person you refer to was a famous golfer, BUT HE WAS AMERICAN! Anyone can tell from my writing accent that I’m a true blood Brit through and through. Besides which, and you can check this one out, his name was not Lloyd Mangram, but Lloyd MANGRUM with a ‘u’. Good try guys. Now where did I put the putter....?
LM

UNDER PAR FOR THE COURSE

Dear Lloydy baby,
Picture the scene, there I am, cruisin’ down the freeway in the ol’ Chevvy, when suddenly, what appears over the horizon but my friendly neighbourhood computer store. ‘Gosharootie’, exclaims I. ‘Must boogie on in there ’n’ see what they’ve got in the way of software’. So in I go and what confronts me but a large green box bearing the phrase Nick Faldo plays the Open. After pondering for a short time, I purchase this item. I take it home. I load it. No problem with the hyperload. Not a bad little game. Next day, I load it. No problem with the hyperload. Not a bad little game. Next day, I load it. Unbeknownst (LMLWD) to me, my tape deck’s feeling hungry. Crunch! Silly me I think. Must’ve been my fault. So, at the next possible opportunity, I buy another Nick Faldo plays the Open. I load it. Not a bad little game. Next day, I load it. Crunch! Another tenner bites the dust.

Never having had a tape chewed up on me before, and now two in ten days, made me a bit suspicious. Upon examining the defunct cassette, I find it to be of very inferior quality, especially where the tape joined the reel. So, writing to Argus, I explained the situation. They wouldn’t have it, however, and insisted I paid another £10 for another copy. I did. It lasted less than 48 hours. Crunch. This is getting beyond a joke. Thirty quid in a month for nothing, and it was down to pathetic quality tapes.

So, how’s about it, Argus?

While we’re on the subject of golf, you wouldn’t happen to be related to the Lloyd Mangram who won the Open in about 1953 would you? Oh well...
C Benson

I can’t say that we’ve ever noticed any problems with Argus tapes before. Maybe they’ve changed cassette manufacturers or duplicators, and maybe, a problem that befalls most software houses from time to time, they’ve suffered a bad batch which, as they tend to stay together, all ended up at your friendly computer store. Any comments from someone at Argus?
LM

THE MEL CROUCHER AFFAIR

Dear Lloyd,
I read with interest Graeme Kidd’s interview of Mel Croucher, concerning the latter’s views about the advent of a more exciting home computer age, and more and more original games being produced for more advanced computers. I admire the way in which Mr Croucher tries to implement new and more non ‘derivative’ computer games onto the market, such as ID and Deus Ex Machina. One has to agree that very few games on the market are totally original and not derivative.

But, does Mr Croucher realise that people on the whole generally enjoy these games, no matter how banal they are, or however pointless they appear to be. For instance, let’s look at the latest (April) CRASH Hotline chart, and to be more specific the Top 10:

  1. Elite (shoot em up/strategy)
  2. Commando (shoot em up)
  3. WOTEF (karate/beat em up)
  4. Fairlight (arcade adventure)
  5. Starquake (arcade)
  6. Matchday (strategy)
  7. Back to Skool (arcade adventure)
  8. Hypersports (sport)
  9. Gyroscope (arcade)
  10. Highway Encounter (arcade)

Nothing very original or non-derivative there, is there now? This seems to prove my point. Mel Croucher complained last year about the retailers’ blind spot for Deus Ex Machina, maybe they thought the public wouldn’t enjoy those sort of games. And, judging by readers’ present opinions they seem to have got it right. Look at the 1985 CRASH Readers’ Awards, any totally original games there? Deus Ex Machina probably didn’t do well because, amongst other reasons the public didn’t like it. It will be very interesting to see how well ID will sell. Croucher will probably agree with me that he enjoyed writing and playing Deus Ex Machina, like many programmers would say about their games. So a logical conclusion is that more programmers enjoy writing games like Commando than other programmers who enjoy writing games like Deus Ex Machina. And it seems to me programmers attitudes seem to reflect on the opinions of the games players.

Before I finish, I would like to raise two more quick points. Mr Croucher claims that teenage programmers do not possess an active imagination, and thus they can only be ‘derivative’. To suggest this is utterly ludicrous, why, of course 14–15 years olds have a perfectly good imagination. Then Mr Croucher says they do not have the vocabulary to express their thoughts! Was Mr Croucher ever 14? I doubt it. Sorry Mel, I think you’ve got it wrong.

Mr Croucher then suggests that the unimaginative 14–15 kids are getting bored of computers like the Rubik Cube. Rubbish! The average age of a CRASH reader must be about 14–18 and the growing popularity of any magazine can only suggest that enthusiasm is increasing rather than being ‘stuck away under the stairs’. So kids aren’t becoming bored of the old concept, contrary to what Mr. Croucher says.

Otherwise it was an interesting article and Mr Croucher brought up many good points, the answers to which only time can tell.
Guy Walters

Guy wasn’t the only one with reservations...
LM

I am writing in complete disgust about your Mel Croucher interview. It isn’t CRASH that I’m disgusted with it’s Mel! He says (section on senseless violence, last paragraph) that us kids of 14–15 years (I am one of them) are incapable of coming up with an original idea and even when we could, we wouldn’t have the vocabulary to express it. Listen to the words of a man who is damning the youth of society. How pathetic this man is.

The software that us ‘kids’ turn out may well be derivative, but that is usually due to us not being brilliant at artificial intelligence techniques. There is one game however, which was programmed in BASIC, was not technically excellent, and didn’t even get a good review. The game is Frank the Flea reviewed in the same issue as the offending article. There was not one bit of killing in it. He even contained some compassion in that the end is when the flea meets its mother. Try and sneeze at that one Mel.

I am considering an artificial intelligence game at the moment. Pipe dreams, ‘Kids’ dreams,’ Mel may utter, but I know I have the capability to design and program it, and definitely the imagination. As I read the interview, I became more and more sure that Nuwave was the company best suited to it, but when I came to ‘that’ line, my mind snapped off the idea instantly, and its present state is not likely to change unless Mel changes his very destructive views. To sum up, I think Mel had better look at a few of the ‘kids’ around him, and instead of seeing them as mindless prats hell-bent on killing, try considering what a benefit they can be to software.

Yours enragedly,
Simon Tillson

... and there was some agreement too...

I read with great interest Graeme Kidd’s interview with Mel Croucher, a man with whom I share many views. I am a 16 year old student, who has had the pleasure, and sometimes the annoyance of owning a 48K Spectrum, for the past 2 years. I have seen and watched with great interest how the Computer Industry has changed. In the past 4 years the Spectrum has been enhanced to its supposed limit with new software.

We have been flooded with hardware like the Microdrive, Wafadrive, Interface I and many others, yet where has this lead the Industry? Instead of improving I think it has dis-improved, providing re-runs of old computer scenarios, like platform games and lately the wonderful if over-used sporting idea. What the industry is lacking is innovative ideas, the like of which Mr Croucher seems well able to apply to his skill with computers. I have yet to encounter ID which sounds interesting, if slightly limited in game-play.
Mark Beatty

BEING TOO UP FRONT

Dear Lloyd,
I have always been impressed by CRASH’s policy of letting its readership air its view. The support of freedom of speech is highly commendable. It was with this in mind that I read April’s Forum. I was amazed to see Mr Birch’s letter in support of advanced advertising. I find it incredible that someone should actually believe companies involved should advertise so far in advance merely to give the public enough time to save its cash! Surely Mr Birch jests?

Interestingly, your magazine also published a letter by Gary Mays of PSS. His version of the advertising quandry seems much more plausible. Advertising in the software industry is obviously as important as it is in any other industry. Without it sales would, of course, be smaller, but this is no excuse for over zealous trumpet blowing.

Mr Mays appears to miss the point that a lot of people are disappointed and frustrated by having games advertised but unavailable or worse, not even completed. Worse still is the taking of money for non-existent products. PSS may not cash their cheques but I’m sure there are those who do. In addition, what does Mr Mays think his paying customers were doing while they were waiting for the postman to deliver the long awaited jiffy bag? I hardly feel that people consider themselves fortunate to have such altruistic custodians of their hard earned cash (before you point out that a cheque is only a piece of paper until cashed it is worth remembering that postal orders have to be paid for in advance). What harm is there in finishing the product before advertising it? The reasoning behind advanced advertising would appear to indicate a certain lack of faith in the products produced. Are software houses so uncertain of their market that all their releases have to be mega-hyped for them to be successful? A game should be able to sell on its own merits without being dangled carrot-like in front of the consumer for months on end.

Personally I wait until I’ve seen a program running before I buy it and I suspect many other people do too. All the pre-production hype is wasted it would seem.

I can understand that synchronising the release of a product and its advertising has its problems but surely this situation can be overcome or at least improved upon. Mr Mays can sympathise all he likes but it doesn’t in any way make up for the anger felt by a good many people. It’s about time these people got their act together because sooner or later someone’s going to find themselves without a paying public.
Martin Wright

I’m fairly certain that a marketing man would tell you there is great value in pre-publicity and early promotion as a means of making punters aware of a product. On the other hand there is also an unwritten rule which says that major promotion that misses availability of a product in the shops is a big killer. You can have successful sales with very little promotion, but again statistics show that a careful build-up is essential to make a real success in all but fluke circumstances. Once the launch period is over, I think word of mouth is the most powerful advertisement anyone can have, and the nice thing about that is that it’s free! All you need is a good program.
LM

ADVENTURE UPSET

Dear Sir,
In the September 85 issue of CRASH, Derek Brewster reviewed an adventure that I co-wrote with Hon Lemmon called: Project-X the Microman. The review was quite lengthy and detailed, although Derek made several incorrect observations whilst playing the game, for instance he said that after making a bridge across a crevasse using a twig (in the adventure you are only 3 inches tall), that there was no mention of a bridge being made. If he had looked he would have seen that there was A TWIG FORMING A BRIDGE! If that’s not a big enough mention then I don’t know what is! However, being considerate and thoughtful adventurers, we noted Derek’s points about the unfriendly vocabulary, more helpful prompts etc, and made many important changes to the game. We wrote to the Signpost section of his adventure column and pointed out the above changes, but the letter was never published, so we left it at that! Six months later we had the good fortune to be approached by Global Software with an offer to include Project-X the Microman on an adventure compilation tape which was to be called Fourmost Adventures (because there were four games on it!) We jumped at the offer, and eagerly awaited the all important CRASH review. It eventually appeared in the April 1986 issue, and to our total amazement Derek Brewster had not even bothered to re-appraise the game in its much improved format! He gave it exactly the same ratings as he did the first time round.

Now when a game is criticised, either fairly or otherwise, you would expect changes to be made to that game, taking heed of the criticism. Well, we made the changes, but Derek obviously couldn’t be bothered to check and see if his comments were noted, so why did he bother to make them in the first place? An adventure reviewer’s job is much harder than that of a games reviewer, simply because of the time needed to solve the game and the brainpower required to work out whether the solutions to the problems are possible to achieve in real life.
Tim Kemp

Obviously there’s not a lot I can say to that, but no doubt when Derek gets to read his copy of this issue, he’ll think of something!
LM

PULL OUT PROBLEMS

Dear Lloyd,
Why, oh why do magazines have ‘Pull-out Supplements’. I can see no logical reason for them. (But there again, where has logic come into play at CRASH Towers)? If you don’t break nails or rip up your fingertips opening the staples in the mag to ‘pull-out’ the supplement, then you do so trying to close them up again.

Once you have got the supplement out, I find that within a week the blasted little thing has disappeared without a trace. I’ve managed to keep a watchful eye on RC’s little pain of a supplement, but with other ‘add-ons’ from other mags, (which will remain anonymous), the case has been the same each time: they have all gone ‘Missing in Action’.

‘Ah’, I hear you cry, ‘but if we didn’t put in supplements, we’d have to use ‘perfect binding’. (Mentioned in the reply to Tony Bridge’s letter, April 86). Well, I have worked out that 140 (Number of pages in April 86) add 24 (Number of pages in RC’s little little number) doesn’t the maximum number of pages: 196! (Also mentioned in the reply to Tony Bridge’s letter).

So, Lloyd Mangram, let’s see you wriggle out of that one!
Nicholas Green

PS Is Derek Brewster as young as he looks in his portait at the start of Adventure Trail?

No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong, the pull-but supplement was to add consumer appreciation status to the issue, not to avoid ‘perfect binding’. In fact adding sections to the mag is exactly what takes towards that magic figure for perfect binding. The alternative is what’s called ‘loose leaf’, just slotted inside the pages without being stapled. But these always want to fall out on the newsagents’ stands and then readers complain about being ripped off. Besides, just because it says ‘pull-out’ doesn’t mean you have to. And yes, Derek does look that young in real life, in fact the drawing does little justice to his handsome dashingness (okay Derek, you own me one now...)
LM

ALL THAT GLITTERS

Dear Lloyd,
I decided to put pen to paper and write to you about the much aired subject of cassette presentation. Whilst I am in favour of big packaging, I think these cases should be strong, good quality boxes, and not flimsy ones likely to get battered and worn after only a few days of being bought (Please take note Beyond)!

Also, I think these new double cassette cases, like the Winter Games and Movie cases are awkward and pointless. The manufacturers and software companies claim that other cassettes to go in these cases are coming, but so far no signs of these have emerged.

Some people complain about the lack of detailed instructions with some games but if more were offered, these might give too much away about the game thus detracting from its enjoyment. Ultimate’s games, for example, have well presented instructions, but these nevertheless are very vague, but this doesn’t take away any enjoyment from their games. At the other extreme, careful instructions, or a well-written manual can create atmosphere, and add a lot to the enjoyment of games. Elite is a prime example of both good quality packaging and an excellent manual. Well done Firebird!
Dominic Spray

Obviously you can’t get big manuals in ordinary audio cassette cases, but in general I still think I like the old fashioned cassette packaging the best. It all sits neatly on a shelf and looks good, easy to stack and easy to look through quickly. But then, I always was an old fashioned thing.
LM

ABRIDGED BRIDGES

The long letter from Tony Bridges complaining about the price of the Christmas CRASH Special, sparked some controversy, most of it (I’m surprised to add) favourable. Here are a couple of typical letters....
LM

Dear Lloyd,
BORING! (Oh no, I hear you say, but just hear me out). I am of course referring to Mr Tony Bridge’s letter in Issue 27 of CRASH, which was two pages long (including your answer). We didn’t need to see what Mr Bridges was complaining about, we already know. The Christmas Special was fantastic and well worth the money, just for the poster. Mr Bridges and all his other hypocritical friends can p*** off! We don’t need you and we don’t want you and you don’t deserve two pages to sound off your hypocritical crap. Mr Lloyd, in the future, bear in mind the poets of this country who never get their letters aired, and throw the likes of Mr Bridges letters in the bin, where they belong.
Jason Behan

Strong stuff indeed! The next writer was somewhat more polite...

£1 and £1.95 for the Christmas Special, I mean what has CRASH ever given us? Well they have given us LM’s Forum, Playing Tips, Merely Mangram, Bug Box, News Input, Reviews, Compos, Jetman, Crash Course, Adverts, Top 30, Adventure Trail, Frontline, LM’s Hall of Slime, Techniche, Previews and Special offers is what CRASH has given us, so stop complaining because it’s worth it!
Chris Bretton

TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE

Simon Shepherd’s letter about the delights of turbo loaders also sparked off some more ideas on the subject of progress in general...

Dear Lloyd,
Grovel, O Mortals, I am the High Priestess to the shrine of the rubber keyed Spectrum. Slowly my disciples are turning to the Spectrum plus and A NORMAL KEYBOARD! I want to hear that all my remaining believers are writing in to let CRASH know the faith in rubber keys is NOT DEAD!!
The almighty Wiz! Sarah Lillington

I am writing on the subject of turboloaders. So far Simon Shepherd is the only person to write in agreeing with them. All other letters have been complaints. I have experienced no problems with Speedlock etc, but I think software houses should take a look at Durell. Saboteur and Turbo Esprit (I bought both) have one turboload side and one ordinary load. So if you do have problems with the fast load, you can load in the other side.

Turboloaders present no problems for people with 007 interface, twin deck, fast copy programs, so this system of Durell’s should be used often.

Lenslok. In my opinion lensloked games sell less copies than ordinary ones. If 50 copies of lensloked and ordinary games (eg, Tomahawk) were put on sale then the ordinary copies would sell quicker. And again Lenslok poses no problem for the 007 interface: enter the code (if you can) and then save to tape. Hopefully the software companies will see this point of view, and will follow Durell’s lead.
Dave ‘Lilbo’ Lilly,

The software protection devices continue to flummox, irritate and defy those who suffer them and amuse those who find simple ways round them. But what about the games they’re protecting? Kevin McClearn’s letter introducing us to what he called the ‘K’ factor, prompted quite a bit of response from readers...

His ‘K factor’ is not just Irish mist but does have reality. I have been a games player for 20 years playing wargames, board games and latterly computer games on the ZX81 and Spectrum. Computer games are first and foremost GAMES. The essence of a successful and lasting game is its ability to involve as completely as possible the participants.

The lasting games, those that in ten years time might stand in the same class as Monopoly or Diplomacy, will be those that are, at heart, good GAMES. At the moment most Spectrum games designers appear to be concentrating on those with the greatest visual appeal. Much of your reviewer’s and others attention is concentrated on graphics and the visual presentation. Very little attention is paid to playability or how good or taxing is the game content or how well the game immerses the player in its plot or whatever. So, message to your reviewers; all that glitters is not gold — pay more attention to content rather than visual gimmicks.
AR Walker

There’s always a danger with a new innovation, that its technical and novelty appeal may overwhelm actual content. This was clearly the case with arcade machines and then with home computer games. I think you’re absolutely right that the ‘classics’ will be those where the game content is good. Obsession with the novelty factor in home computer games was fortunately short-lived, replaced by a more advanced interest in gameplay design and content — at least for some programmers, of course there are always some who think fast sprites and a repeat idea is sufficient. Let’s hope the medium will survive as healthily as novels, not necessarily ‘looking’ different from each other, but packed with new ways of looking at ‘life’ in a manner that appeals, engages interest and provokes thought.

Here’s some more thoughts on the subject...
LM

Kevin McClearn says that a lot of software these days is too original for its own good. I agree with him in some respects, namely the utterly boring Deus Ex Machina, but Kevin also underlines games such as Gyroscope, which received a CRASH Smash and which I found to be excellent.

Kevin then went on to mention that there were some games which were original but also highly playable such as Commando, Yie Ar Kung-Fu, or Fist. Commando isn’t original really, it’s just a Jazzed Up shoot em up and as for Yie Ar Kung-Fu being original! There are millions of martial arts games on the market at the moment.

He also mentions the ‘K’ factor, that games without this factor are crap, like one certain game he mentioned called Tau-Ceti, which again is mega-brill and which received a CRASH Smash. But after all it’s just a matter of opinion isn’t it?
B Charlton

Yes indeed, it is all a matter of opinion, and without diversity of opinion life on Earth would be very boring (Lloyd’s tendentious moral for the month)
LM

SPECTRUM PETS

Dear Lloyd.
Please could you tell me if someone is converting the Little Computer People from the Commodore to the Spectrum. If they are, how long will it be?

I have asked this because I saw it being played on the Commodore and thought it looked good and it was when I tried it. Soon after that I saw it again at Boots in Reading. I then went to the counter and asked if there was a conversion job being done. The reply to this was yes and it should be out soon, so I thanked the nice little man and on my way feeling very excited.

That was before Christmas! And I am writing to you four months after Christmas and there is still no sign of this excellent game!!!
Richard Hennessey

Shame isn’t it that little nice men are not always as well informed as they should be? I don’t know where your Boots assistant got his information from but there isn’t (and never was) any intention on Activision’s part to convert LCP to the Spectrum. The main problem is that the program depends heavily on continual disk access, something conspicuously missing on the Spectrum. The 64 cassette version wasn’t anything like as successful as the disk original version. There are plans for an Amstrad disk version, but more Amstrad owners have disk drives of course.
LM

ARMS AND LEGS IN IRELAND

Dear CRASH,
I am writing to complain about the price of CRASH. I know you’re tired of people saying 95p is too much, but I live in Eire and the usual price I pay for Crash is £1.43, until last November when it was £1.52, then the Christmas Special cost £3.12. In February it was back again, £1.52. By this time I was thinking of stopping my order but I said I would wait and see next month’s CRASH with the Free Playing Tips Special. It was meant to be free, CRASH cost me £1.63 that month.

How come CRASH never goes up in England? I know you have to send your copies across the sea and still make a profit and change the money for them from Punts to Sterling but £1.53 onwards is a ridiculous price to pay when £1.30 at least would be a fair price.

Have you gone mad asking this price? CRASH is a great magazine so can you do something about bringing down the price in Eire? Because many of my friends and I won’t be able to afford to buy it.
Philip Curry

I sympathise with you Philip, but a point needs to be understood here. It isn’t ‘us’ at CRASH who decide what price the Eiran shops charge. Indeed we don’t actually send the magazines anywhere, that’s done by international distributors, over whom this company has very little control. The best thing I can suggest is for you to subscribe directly. The sub does cost a little bit more than in Britain (because of the exchange rate), but I think you’ll find it still works out much cheaper than you are currently paying by getting CRASH through the shops in Eire.
LM

A DIFFERENT SORT OF ADDICT

Dear Lloyd,
Why is it that you assume all your readers are games addicts? You certainly seem to give this impression. For example, looking through the April issue, we find that almost everything is to do with games. What with Adventure Trail, Frontline, Hall of Slime, Playing Tips, Signstumps, Merely Mangram and previews of games, ‘It’s in the post’, games AGAIN, the CRASH readers award gives results for voting about the best games, competitions to win games. I could go on but I’ll try not to. Admittedly there is CRASH Course but I am not particularly interested in things like Evaders. In fact, I am sure that very few of your readers even read this section, let alone buy the software.
DG Oldblum

CRASH was always about games, not necessarily just reviews, and not necessarily arcade games, but games definitely. While the mag’s scope has expanded on recent months to cover some more serious aspects of using the Spectrum, games are still the primary reason for existence. I think that answers your letter pretty simply.
LM

FUDGING THE ISSUE

Dear Lloyd,
As president of the We’ve up to here with LM and if he doesn’t acquiesce to our extremely reasonable demands we’re going to show Mary Whitehouse your December issue and let nature take its course society, I have a few questions that I would like to put to you, if I may — so spill the beans sucker or you’re dead meat:

1 Why do you always either a) fudge the issue or b) use smart alec comments when answering complaints, but accept praise with a ‘credit where credit is due, ie to me’ smarminess?

2 Is your pathetic ‘me vs Candy’ fixation due to the fact that Candy is a good-looking, capable, intelligent, worthwhile computer literate and you’re not?

3 What do you have against girls, and did you know that if you lot refer to us as ‘fellowesses’ or ‘chapesses’ again you are going to end your days as ornamental heads decomposing on the spikes of London bridge.

4 When are you going to do the decent thing and hand Forum over to the competition minion, hey?

5 And this is the big one, kid — is your face covered in warts, and not if prove it and end our nail-biting suspense — PUBLISH A PHOTO!
Louise Bagshawe

I’m shattered. That’s completely ruined my day; if not entire week. I’ve never knowingly fudged an issue, in fact I’m highly regarded as a ‘straight from the shoulder man’ (it comes from all those golf swings). There’s never been any ‘Candy fixation’, unless you regard just retribution for being bunged off your desk a fixation. I have nothing against good-looking, capable, intelligent, worthwhile computer literates, but we’re talking about Robin Candy here. Any linguistic chauvinism in CRASH is all due to Graeme Kidd (I never said that) and the comps minion (to whom you want me to hand over the Forum)! And as for a photograph, now everyone knows I’m a drunken 83 year-old ex-famous golfer, you know why there’s no picture. Now none of that was smarmy was it?
LM

That’s it then for June. I must away up the hills to my cottage to sensibly employ the lengthening day in planting out the runner beans, practising my 250 yard drives and brushing up flat green putting techniques. In the meantime I may find some time to look at some of the forthcoming releases for Merely Mangram and get a go on the arcade machines which even now are pouring into Ludlow town centre for the annual May Fair (see last year’s issues for further details)!

If you have any comments to make on CRASH, the Spectrum universe, books on origami, games software, other readers, the finer points of Lithuanian judicial procedure or simply feel like making an existentialist statement on Cartesian mathematics, write to LLOYD MANGRAM, THE CRASH FORUM.