Well, didn’t we have a luvverly time when we all went down to the 20th ZX Microfair?
This time the Fair was held in the Central Hall, Westminster, rather than its more regular venue, the Royal Horticultural Hall — just a bit further down the road... Apparently, the Horticultural Halls were already booked up, so it was a case of cramming the show into several rooms and various floors at Central Hall, or having no show at all.
Although slightly disorientating at first for regular Microfair attendees, once you got the geography of the building sorted out, it wasn’t too bad scampering between floors. But you could suddenly find yourself bursting in on a Methodist Bible Class or a choral rehearsal by mistake... Quite a few folks said they actually preferred the cosy atmosphere to the rather cavernous, high roofed Horticultural Halls, which just goes to show you can’t please all of people, all of the time!
As usual, the Fair was crammed with people — all shuffling round an increasingly stuffy and overheated hall packed with stuffy and overheated retailers flogging their wares at knock-down prices.
New products were few and far between, however. The Professional Adventure Writing System (PAWS) was due out ‘real soon now’, according to the fellows on the Gilsoft stand, who explained they’d been up half the night making a monster display book with which to decorate their stand.
Among wonderful facilities, this new utility is said to have a really amazing parser which recognises complex sentences, including nouns, adjectives and prepositions (LMLWD). There is a 1500 word vocabulary, RAM save/load, and 256 counters/flags, diagnostics, and time-outs that between them allow the user to create ‘real time’ adventures. All in all, it left Sean (FRONTLINE) Masterson running for his phone making ‘I’ve got to have a copy of that’ type noises.
PAWS is due out in two forms: a split pack for the 48K Spectrum with one pack containing the text editor and the other the graphics routines: for the 128K Spectrum, the two halves are combined in one program. On the 128K Spectrum, PAWS allows adventures that occupy up to 110K to be written, so some monster games should be on their way. £22.95 ought to secure either version roundabout the time you read this.
As usual, there was plenty of hardware on show — and a few Plus Twos were even on sale! Rockfort Products introduced their disk interface for the Spectrum — The Disciple. It includes a Centronics parallel interface which gives full screen dumps, two joystick ports and an Interface-One-style network port. The commands are claimed to be Microdrive compatible, so any program designed to work using the Microdrive should work with the Rockfort interface. A ‘snapshot’ button allows programs loaded from cassette or Microdrive to be saved to disk — up to 16 to a side. The Disciple will set you back £84.75 including VAT — all you have to supply is your own Shugart compatible drive and the system is up and running. TECH TIPS might be able to take a peek next month...
Romantic Robot had made the Dutch connection in time for the Microfair, and were demonstrating a new Spectrum digitiser they’re importing from the Low Country.
The new little black box goes by the name of the Videoface, and captures pictures at a rate of three frames a second, saving the last six screens scanned. The final price has not yet been set, but should hover around the £70 mark.
A cunning new game is nearing completion in Denton Design’s Liverpool offices: Double Take should be published by Ocean any day now.
An evil personage has come to dominate a universe which is the mirror image of the universe in which we all live and play games. Bored with being the Big Cheese in his own universe, the antihero has taken advantage of a wormhole in reality created by an experiment in a physics lab, and now seeks to gain entry to our universe and become an evil Big Cheese all over again.
The locations in our universe are mirrored in the baddy’s universe, and every so often you find yourself transported from a location to the corresponding place in the opposite universe. Objects have been displaced between the two universes. To restore stability they have to be taken to their rightful universe and deposited in the correct place. And no use hanging around in the negative universe holding an object that needs to be taken to the positive universe and waiting for the transportation sequence — objects held during the journey flip to their mirror image unless they have first been ‘fixed’ by taking them to a sparkly cloud...
Stablemates Fairlight II and Artist II arrived from The Edge — they were finished a little too late to make it into the review section, so here’s a screen shot or two to feast your eyes on while you wait for the full reviews.
Fairlight II will look very familiar to fans of the original: the same Worldmaker system has been used, but the size of the playing area has been doubled and the game loads in two parts on the 48K machine, fitting into the 128K after one huge load.
In the game, Isvar embarks on another mystical quest. Up to five items may be carried, depending on their cumulative weight, and as usual, the place is packed with baddies who have to be put to the sword. The setting is rather more pastoral, with trees and leafy glades replacing the uniform interior locations of the original. Clearly a game Fairlight fans won’t want to miss.
The Artist II also arrived, courtesy of the productive Bo Jangeborg and his Spectrum. You may have seen this product reviewed elsewhere some weeks ago, but, according to Dr Tim from The Edge we are “the first magazine ever to see the final commercial version.” The tome-like manual, still in final draft form (only just finished, you see) was whisked away by one of our tame techno minions, and if we can persuade him to let go for long enough to put finger to wordprocessor, the definitive review should arrive in time for the Christmas Special...
According to another Spectrum magazine, the world should have been shaking by now, as a new force filled the senses. “Computer magazines won’t ever be the same again,” its readers were told in October. Purchasers of the magazine, however, may have felt a little aggrieved when the New-look November issue “exploded into the shops”.
It was “going to have 146 pages” — “A simple fact”, according to the announcement. Justifying the 2 pee price rise, the blurb writer insisted that “we’ve also put the number of pages up — by over 20 percent”.
Asked to comment on the arrival of the November magazine, which sported 126 pages (Fact: a rise of 6.8%, and some 15 pages slimmer than his readers had been promised), its editor asserted that his December Issue would be 146 pages large. “No comment”, was his response when asked how he would approach any complaints from November purchasers who spent their £1 and realised they hadn’t got quite what they were promised...
IJK Software, returning to the Spectrum games scene after an absence of over a year immediately ran into a little trouble with its latest release, Crime Busters.
According to a spokesperson for Mastertronic, the game is “a blatant rip-off” of the budget hits written by David Jones: Knight Tyme and Spellbound.
Crime Busters employs a pull-down menu system that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Windowmation technique of game control developed for Magic Knight, and even uses the same character set.
Following an approach from Mastertronic, IJK have withdrawn their new release and are currently considering their position. Mastertronic’s spokesperson was unequivocal: “They must be out of their heads, trying to have a quick clean up before Xmas and then bugger off afterwards.” Unlikely to be the case, considering that IJK is certainly no fly by night (or even Knight) firm. They have been around for over five years...
A few days before Bonfire Night, BANG fizzled out. The weekly newspaper published by Specialist Retail Press — the firm behind trade paper, CTW — survived in the cut-and-thrust marketplace of newsagents’ shelves for a mere ten weeks.
Launched at the PCW Show in September, BANG set out to cover music, video and television as well as computer games — Computer Gamer Editor, Tony Hetherington was tempted into the BANG fold to head up a computer section. The decision to close BANG, an ambitious attempt to take on the weekly market with an A3 tabloid paper, was taken just before the tenth issue was due to go to press.
“Our little dream is over,” commented BANG Editor, Greg Ingham ruefully, “all that is left for me to say is many thanks to our readers.”
A spoof beat em up is on the way from a new outfit called Future Concepts. In Butch Hard Guy, subtitled Who Cares Who Wins, the aim is to progress through 20 screens, kicking and punching combat droids until the bad guy’s lair is reached. Mr Fu (for it is he) lives in a castle, and BHG is so hard he has to destroy Mr Fu’s castle with his bare hands.
Early January should bring the release of this comedy combat extravaganza, scheduled to appear on the Advanced Software Promotions label. A trio of Butch Hard Guys is behind Future Concepts: David Thompson, Sean Lally and Dennis Mulliner.