HANNAH SMITH took a look through the HOMEGROWN SOFTWARE file, and reports back on her personal favourite in the collection of games we've received so far.
I'm not really sure what our Doc Martened Editor has started off with this HOME GROWN SOFTWARE thing, but something monstrous is happening in the bottom drawer of the old faithful filing cabinet. Do-It-Yourself games are sprouting up all over the place in there. Only last week I had a little peek inside and there were just a couple of cassettes nesting comfortably in a file. Now the drawer is practically bursting at the seams with software.
A lot of the games we have received are adventures, written with The Quill and associated utilities. These will be passed on to Derek Brewster in due course. Last issue there was a sneak preview of Supernova, written by fifteen year-old Anthony Bailey and, as promised, here is a full review of the game which has stirred more than a little interest here in the CRASH office.
Even in the world of automation, intelligent machines need to get away from it all. The slightly better-off automatons choose to spend their annual holidays at the prestigious Supernova Hotel on the planet Antares, relaxing in all the finery and splendour to which they have become accustomed. For the rest of us it'll be two weeks in Weston-super-Mare if we're lucky.
The star of Supernova is a spherical being with a cheesy grin and rather ostentatious sun glasses. It's a Really Odd Bio-Organism Thingy (ROBOT for short). He has delusions of financial grandeur — despite the fact that the cost of a holiday at the Supernova is way above his income, he decides to go along anyway.
He is an eternal optimist, and he finds the prices are even higher than he expected — by the end of his stay ROBOT has virtually nothing but a sun-tan to his name. The hotel staff are getting rather nervous and decide that he cannot leave until he has paid the bill. Although the hotel is a paradise in space, ROBOT is getting a bit homesick, so you must help him raise the cash so can he settle up and go home.
The adventure is played over seven floors. The game begins in Administration and you move around the hotel by way of doors and lifts. Doors give access to other corridors and rooms within the hotel. They may be locked, however, and some objects that your ROBOT can collect along the way are of use as 'keys'. Certain lifts only go up, while others only go down, making the task of getting to a desired level rather frustrating at times. But that's all part of the game.
At the bottom of the screen the inventory displays the objects ROBOT has in his possession. There are some empty spaces in his ample pockets and by using the cursor he can transfer objects into lockers along the way or swap what he's currently carrying for the contents of a locker in the hope that it will be of value. The ROBOT can also buy things from the staff at the Supernova with the bit of money he has left. The fire button does everything else for you, depending on which object ROBOT is standing next to when you press it. For instance, if ROBOT is standing next to a Staff Droid and fire is pressed, a message from the droid appears on the top of the screen. Staff Droids along the way can give you hints and tips.
The facilities at the Supernova are seemingly never ending. There's everything the fashionable Droid needs to while away his holiday in comfort. From photographic dark rooms to chain stores, it's all at the Supernova. The ROBOT is not above a little gambling to try to earn a few pennies, and there's an arcade room for him to try his luck in. Fellow tourists at the Supernova are a fairly unscrupulous lot and can be bribed. Offer an object to a tourist and if he wants it you may gain something as well.
The graphics in the game are simple but effective. Each floor of the hotel is a different colour. At the top of the screen a table gives information on the current location, and messages from other guests and staff appear here too.
In his accompanying letter, Anthony apologises for the fact that most of the game is written in BASIC. Not that this makes much difference, because Supernova isn't a fast reflex arcade game but an arcade adventure inspired by the devilish puzzles devised by Gargoyle Games. For £1.99 it's certainly a good deal.
Supernova went down pretty well in the office and I was queueing up to get at my Spectrum for quite a few days when the game first arrived. Anyway, here's what Dominic Handy, a regular commentator on CRASH games, thought of it:
Supernova is one of my favourite games of the moment. I looked at it as if it was sent in by a software company: the presentation is first class and the graphics are superb. I really loved the little character that you control, and the way he kept stopping and looking around at me was very cute. The sound in the game is adequate with a very good tune and colour is superbly used with every possible colour on the screen at once. There are no attribute problems because the scrolling playing area is monochromatic, but the display is still very effective. My only gripe is that there should be an abort key, mainly because you can last a long time at one game and if someone else wants a go you have to break into the program. This is one mail-order game which there is no risk in buying. I'd give it high eighties all round in a full review…
Supernova is available only by mail order from Astral Software.
That about wraps it up for this month's news on the Home Grown Software front. No doubt by next issue we'll need yet another filing cabinet in the CRASH office to accommodate all the DIY games we'll have received by then. Sigh.