The Christmas FORUM and not a single Christmas card! What a disappointment — but it’s still the middle of November, so there’s plenty of time left for people to send in cards for me to hang up above the fireplace in my cottage.
The big rush to get the Christmas Special ready in time is in progress at the moment, so without further ado, on with the letters... this month I couldn’t find a missive that really deserved the £20 prize — let’s hope the quality of letters improves in 1987!
We own a computer fanzine called THE SPECTRUM BUG. These people work in it: John David (me); Simon Calvert; Russel Goulbourne; ‘The Packer’, who packs in our mail-order department and many more.
It contains news, letters, hints, reviews, programs, and loads more. It costs 50 pence a month or £7.00 a year.
It’s best to buy it for a year because if you buy it every month you might
not get a copy ...
I understand Hannah has plans to take another look at fanzines
early next year, so budding publishers should make sure she has the latest
issues of their magazines. Still no news on the YOUR SINCLAIR fanzine
competition — even though our beloved Editor entered at the PCW Show having
spotted a copy of CRASH in the collection of fanzines they used to illustrate
the competition page....
After reading your magazine(s) since you started way back then, I felt that I should pen (type??) a letter.
I have noticed recently a trend towards role-playing, Play By Mail and so on. I am in some respects glad about this. Really, role-playing has lost its last reasonable forum. Most magazines are either very poor quality or house-based, making a bias towards the publisher’s products. So why don’t you publish properly a RPG/PBM magazine? I’m sure it will be nicely subscribed to — there is a need for it. So dear nice Newsfield how about it??
The PBM column is, I admit, interesting but it seems to make out that the professional money-making games are the only ones worth bothering about. How about the amateur ones, especially those run by fanzines. These are on the whole free, only costing a stamp. They are by no means ‘unprofessional’ but very interesting and enjoyable. Ones I play in are Toon II by Tome of Horrors; The Land under Sewars and I am about to join Karush in Telegraph Road.
So why not give the amateur games an outlet? How about making a games
directory, listing all PBM games, costs and who to contact in a similar fashion
to the software directory in the first few issues of CRASH, which listed all
the games written before the magazine was published, remember the one?
Just at the moment, everyone is concentrating on LM — and you should have spotted the results of all that effort by now! The New Year could bring some surprises on the PBM front, but The Powers That Be rarely tell me anything... except that I can’t have a pay rise!
As for amateur PBM games — if you run one, drop Brendon Kavanagh a line and
tell him all about it. He’s already covered some ‘amateur’ football games in
I am writing to tell you how abysmal your reviewers are, and not so amazingly brilliant as Paul Bell seems to think in his rather creepy letter in October (hoping to win his £20 of software). But I bet there are people like me who every month read your mag, see a CRASH Smash, think ‘oh great!’, buy it, play it and think what an abysmal game and think of the £10.00 that has just been wasted. A few games that spring to mind are: Starstrike 2, Zoids, Jack the Nipper, Pentagram, Gunfright, Nightshade, Batman, Winter Games and Sweevo’s World.
Don’t try getting out of it by saying I’m a miserable sod who doesn’t like anything, because there are smashes which are very good: Dynamite Dan 2, Robin of the Wood, Quazatron, Elite, Bombjack, Commando, Shadowfire and more.
But you cannot get away from the fact that your reviews are abysmal, and I think take too much notice of the Producer eg Ultimate for Pentagram, Ocean for Batman, Gargoyle for Sweevo’s World. Now can you imagine Ultimate getting anything but a CRASH Smash? Wouldn’t that be a surprise? But I bet it won’t happen no matter how abysmal the games are that they write.
While I think about abysmal games, Superbowl springs to mind. (85% indeed, I’ve never played such a ridiculous game). If any software houses are listening, please write an American Football game, in the same sort of way as Matchday and World Series Basketball. As American Football is becoming ever more popular in England I’m sure that a game like this would go down very well. The only company I could see doing this would be Ocean/Imagine.
I somehow don’t think you’ll publish this, but show this letter to your
reviewers and see what they think.
PS I do think that your reviews are very good, long and detailed — they’re just ALWAYS WRONG.
ALWAYS WRONG indeed! What about the reviews for Dynamite Dan 2, Robin of the the Wood, Quazatron, Elite, Bombjack, Commando, Shadowfire ‘and many more’.
Then you go on to say that the reviews are very good... some internal
inconsistency in your argument here, I think. No doubt other readers will wish
to have their say in due course.
Do I have a story to tell or do I have a story to tell? Sitting comfortably are we, then I shall begin.
It all started a week before Issue 34 of CRASH was due to be in the shops. I usually receive my CRASH a week before the shops (I don’t know if other folk do also), so as you can imagine I was eagerly awaiting the rattle of the letter box. Well I waited and waited but it didn’t come. I thought this very strange, as CRASH have been very good in delivering to my door. Anyway, as I was thinking over the situation in the living-room, I happened to glance at the local newspaper and Gasp! Shock! Horror! on the front page in bold writing it said ‘Postal Strike Hits Dundee’. Pulling my hair out in desperation I took it for granted that this was the reason why my CRASH hadn’t been delivered. So I waited patiently ’til the strike was over thinking I would receive my CRASH any day, but, after a few days I still hadn’t received it and decided to investigate.
More problems hit me as I couldn’t find the piece of paper with my Mystical
Number and when my Subscription ran out. Luckily I remembered I had written my
number on an offer in the magazine months ago but hadn’t sent it, so digging
through past copies, I found my number and remembering the Mystical formula for
finding out if your subscription is running out, I added 11 to my number which
started CP22, and found to my dismay that it had indeed ran out and CRASH
wouldn’t be coming through my door till I sent another cheque through the post.
So here is a warning to all other CRASH subscribers. Don’t let this happen to
you and always check your number.
Luv and kisses, G Brown
A cautionary tale indeed, Mr Brown.
I am writing in defence of the Spectrum 128, and also to tell PA Rosbotham to read manuals and books before making crap statements about computers of which he knows nothing about.
1. If Spectrums (48K) are so outdated, why do software companies still write brilliant games for them? I admit that the sound on the Spectrum 48K is not up to scratch but the graphics are improving all the time. Take Lightforce — somehow there are no attribute problems, and it looks as good as anything on the Commode (whoops!) Commodore.
2. With regards to the 128’s sound, I admit that the first few games lacked imagination, but after buying Glider Rider I forgot about those. If you talk to the sound chip using OUT commands you can control the three channels in 128 sound and also control BEEP at the same time, meaning you could have 4 to 5 channel sound — better sound than the C64. The 128 sound chip can play while pictures and text are running on the screen.
3. I would also like to point out that both the 48 and 128 Spectrums are more ‘user’ friendly than any of the Commodores could dream of being. This is because of the old fashioned BASIC that Commodore have included in their machines.
4. A last word for P A Rosbotham. Before dragging Sinclair’s name through
the mud, think about how many Commodore computers have been unsuccessful or
crap!. On the crap side there’s the VIC 20. On the unsuccessful side there’s
the Commodore 128. Mr Rosbotham should learn to read and listen before he
writes next time.
A strong rebuttal of Mr Rosbotham’s views indeed, Matthew.
Another letter from the pen of Mr R appears in the FORUM this month
— he anticipated the outcry his last missive would generate...
I have brought CRASH since Issue No 1 and never had any complaints before, but Lloyd what’s happening? Glider Rider by QUICKSILVA received a review rating of 92% for the 128K version and wasn’t CRASH Smashed. To quote CRASH “If only software houses would write games for the 128 it might become as popular as the 48.”
Well come on CRASH, if only you gave 128 games proper reviews, then the 128 might become accepted by games freaks.
Also, at the top of reviews could we have an indication as to machine
compatibility as per the old days eg. 48k — 48/128K — 128K, as I have purchased
several games reviewed by CRASH which will not load on the 128.
128s rule, A R Woodley
We decided that putting a CRASH Smash logo on the Glider Rider review might have lead to confusion as it was only the 128K version that was worthy of the accolade. This month, you will notice, Starglider from Rainbird is a Smash for both versions of the Spectrum and we have made this as obvious as possible.
As for supporting and reviewing 128K games, cast your mind back to our
review of Knight Tyme — the ‘first 128K Smash’. The whole question of
machine compatibility is complicated by the fact that there have been several
issues of the 128K machine already and it is difficult to be definitive. All
new games should be compatible with most 128s and the 48 Spectrums — it’s the
older games where the problems seem to lie.
As a subscriber for two years running, and a loyal fan of CRASH magazine, I decided to send you this letter to complain about a certain review in Issue 33 regarding Addictive’s Head Coach. I purchased this game some time ago at the PCW show, and was astounded by its qualities in keeping the user totally involved at all times by calling the plays and deciding match tactics, as well as by trading deals between matches. What amazed me the most was the up-dating each season of the statistics, including the player’s ages, season record, overall record, super-bowl victories and so on.
On reflection, your adverse comments coupled with pathetic ratings in the various categories baffled me completely. If you cast your mind back to the Football Manager game, one can find many annoying elements — each season, players’ skills/energy get changed and also the graphics are no better than your flimsy review of Rugby Manager. Yet Head Coach at least gives the user a fair representation of the game, if indeed it is only stick men graphics.
While on the subject of comparisons, the league fixtures in Football Manager leave a lot to be desired as a team is only played once and not home and away. And as for the other teams’ scores, they sometimes resemble a rugby league match. Meanwhile at least Head Coach attempts to make some effort by printing out decent scores, and by randomising league fixtures so that there is a constant variety of opponents, depending on league success.
Anyway putting these various points aside, my main bone of contention is
that if you can give Football Manager a 100% review or thereabouts,
then Head Coach should follow close behind. Before I sign off, my
personal opinion is that Head Coach may lack some of the rules of
American Football (such as 4 downs to make 10 yards), but I’ll reckon 80% of
the fans of American Football would love this game. I suggest you pick another
wally who at least likes American Football and give the game what it
deserves... A DECENT REVIEW!!!!!!!!!!
J T F Hooley
The best thing I can do in the circumstances, is to hand over temporarily to Dominic Handy — our in-house American Football afficianado and the driving force behind the review in question...
I’m sorry that you didn’t like the review of Head Coach John — I can assure you that all the reviewers like American Football and I, at least, am sure of the rules and know plenty about the game. When comparing the Football Manager to Head Coach, you must realise that there was a completely different review team then, with a different editor — and the magazine was relatively new. You must also take into account that programming techniques and knowledge have improved since 1984. The review of Head Coach was written as an assessment of a simulation game. To be a good simulation game, the program must be written accurately with proper attention to the rules and regulations of the sport involved — and it has to be said that Head Coach is very inaccurate as far as rules go — you say that it lacks the rule allowing 4 downs for 10 yards. This is the backbone of the whole game: the whole point of it is to progress down the pitch in the right number of downs. You also say that the graphics are as good as, if not better than Football Manager, yet the ratings are worse — surely if all reviews were compared to old games then most new games would be Smashes? I think it is much better to compare with present day standards. As to 80% of American Football fans liking it, I must disagree, as any knowlegable fan would be annoyed with the amateurish way in which it was written. You only have to look at Argus Press Software’s American Football to see how good the game could have been. Lastly, I must stress that the criticism that appeared in our review was a personal opinion from American Football fans.
Thank you Dominic.
A Warning: All spectrum owners with joysticks, printers or anything else which uses your expansion port please read on...
I have sent my Spectrum to Mancomp LTD, three times (unreliable Spectrum).
The first and second times they did a good job of it and I was pleased, so when
I had another problem I sent it to them again. This time when it came back,
horror of horrors, I found a piece of printer paper saying that I couldn’t use
my joystick, printer or anything else for three months (that’s why this letter
is typewritten and not thermally printed). What can I do for three months
without my peripherals? (answers on a postcard please...).
It seems a few repair firms are putting stickers over the expansion port when they’ve fixed a Spectrum. An awful lot of faults are caused by people connecting or disconnecting peripherals while the power is on, or wobbling the connection during a frantic session of alien-zapping. This tends to cause the tracks to short out, and can result in damage to the works of the computer.
I don’t think Mancomp actually mean you CAN’T use a printer — it’s more
likely that they mean they won’t repair your computer under their three-month
warranty if you do plug something into its expansion port. Whether this
approach is entirely ‘fair’ is open to question. Any repair firms like to
I must say that I find your magazine interesting, full of hidden messages and cryptic information.
F’rinstance, from page 162 of your November issue it’s obvious that Palace Software’s Sacred Armour of Antiriad was programmed down under in good ol’ Oz. Ah well, back to the old amber nectar.
No. Just a slight Antipodean inclination (LMLWD) ‘down’ in
Having read all the complaints about 3D games, Ultimate, and the complaints about reviewers and how they review, I decided to compile the overall CRASH Hotline Top 30 chart for all 33 issues, and it turned out like this.
Out of the first 17, only 2 didn’t get a CRASH Smash, and out of 30, only 7 didn’t receive his great accolade. Four of the seven were so close that people shouldn’t be complaining about having the reviewers’ names (initials) next to their comments, because the ‘jury’ of three usually get it right. The other three games I do not think were reviewed, but if they were I am certain that they would have got exceedingly high marks, because they were all very good games at the time they were brought out.
Then there are all the people who complain about Ultimate. If you look at the Top 30, Ultimate have 7 out of the Top 30 games. Who says they don’t produce brilliant games? The people who read CRASH voted for this chart so you can’t complain.
The three games which have had most of the arguments against them are all in the Top 30, so it isn’t surprising that Ultimate, and other companies like them, are using this format.
So stop complaining because you can’t do anything about it, and for a change
can’t we have some constructive comments?
An interesting statistical analysis, John. I am forced to agree
with all your sentiments. The next correspondent, however, puts forward a
I agree with Robert Hayden’s letter in last month’s CRASH. I paid out a fiver for games like Maziacs and Escape which are pure garbage. The only quality the games had was the artwork on the inlay cards. I don’t know why people grumble about games costing £10.00 — take a look at some of the new budget games available. I have recently purchased Molecule Man from Mastertronic and Pro Golf from Atlantis which are two of the most accurate and enjoyable games I have ever played. At only £1.99 they are both great value for money.
Lastly, you’d better get your comp’s minion seen to by a doctor. The
Shaolin’s Road spot the difference competition only seemed to have one
difference!! (probably a printing error) which was a tiny dot on the man on
the right hand side’s head!
Generally you get what you pay for. Sometimes you get more than you pay for — in the case of Knight Tyme perhaps — and other times you get less — Great Space Race et al.
The lack of differences wasn’t really the downtrodden Minion’s fault —
someone ‘Up in ART’ was doing his very best to present the drawing in the most
gorgeous way and slipped up, putting the same picture in twice. Words have been
exchanged, and the competition re-run. Sorry for the eyestrain it caused...
I must write to you (which I already have) concerning competitions in CRASH — the problem is age groups. You see, although many readers of CRASH are pretty old, (17+) I am only 11. I have been reading CRASH since Issue 1, and have every issue so far. I love entering competitions, and I enter quite a lot of them, but now I am wondering whether should carry on, because every time I enter, I’m beaten by people who are about 10 years older than me (especially in drawing comps). I have no chance. Okay, I am quite good at drawing and answering competitions, but not as good as people who are twice as old. I have written before about age groups. That is what you need! (10–15, 15–20, 20+). Please consider this point, because there are other young kids out there!
A reasonable point, Nick. I have a feeling that our Competition Minion would panic if we told him that from now on there would be three age groups for event competition — the extra administration involved in effectively running three competitions for every one would be enormous!
As it is, we do try to have a mix of competition types, including simpler wordsquares and spot the differences, where age isn’t really a barrier to winning. Admittedly, the older you are the better you are likely to be at drawing and we do try to take into account ages of entrants when compiling the list of runners up. I seem to remember a six-year-old getting an ‘honourable mention’ in a Frank Bruno Boxing competition many moons ago, for instance.
I’d be interested to hear other readers’ comments on the subject of
I am writing to you in confusion. I recently decided to purchase an NLQ printer, and with it a ‘shiny’ new wordprocessor, to replace my ageing Tasword II.
In the search for enlightenment as to which wordprocessor to buy, I delved through my CRASH back issues and came up with the August 1986 TECH NICHE.
I avidly pored over the pages, absorbing the wisdom there abounding, but to what end? I was still as uncertain as to the best purchase.
Now I am well aware that, as with most things, it is very much a case of each to his own. But surely having been locked in a broom cupboard for a few days with only bread, water and a Spectrum (man cannot live by bread alone), Mr Handy could have come up with something less ambiguous than:
At the end of the Tasword III review, “There is no doubt in my mind Tasman have now definitely got the top spot as far as wordprocessors go”.
And then going on to say at the end of The Writer review, “Any self-respecting Spectrum owner who wants a wordprocessor should definitely go out and get The Writer”.
So which is it? buy both and use them on alternate days? We mere mortals
look toward the omnipotent mega-beings at CRASH, keepers of the ‘Eye-of-Oktup’
for guidance. Surely, since Mr Handy (maybe not so handy after all!) had the
opportunity to give these packages a good going over, he could have made a
closing recommendation, and left the final decision to us.
I think the final decision is still probably up to you. Dominic was clearly very impressed with both packages, and as something of a wordprocessor collector, is the kind of fellow who would have purchased both....
Dom tells me that both packages can drive a printer through the RS232 port
on Interface I — and reckons that Tasword III would probably be the
better bet for you, seeing as you already have Tasword II. Thus speaks
Why did you review the Ole Toro computer game from Americana? And why did you not condemn the subject matter? I enclose a recent review of the game from one of your rivals, C&VG magazine, which should have been your attitude to this appalling game.
In your next issue, perhaps you should print a full page colour picture of a scene
from this ‘sport’, or perhaps send out videos of a bullfight. CRASH readers
will then be able to see what really happens here, with the BLOOD and the GORE
and then make up their minds whether or not they should buy Ole
R C Fortune
Hmm. Like Tim Metcalfe, editor of C&VG who wrote the review, you obviously hold strong views on cruelty to animals — and sign your letter ‘Project Basilisk’. You do have a valid point about bull fighting, which I would never seek to defend, but I cannot agree with your suggestions. I don’t much like being told what my attitude should be, either.
We reviewed Ole Toro because it is a computer game — a computer game which doesn’t glorify the violence of bull fighting. Had it done so, we may have felt it appropriate to pass comment. You and Tim are both entitled to your opinions, but ‘reviewing’ a game and doing nothing but condemn its subject material doesn’t seem very positive to me. 0/10 across the board because you disagree with the basic scenario of a game seems very negative...
To take your argument to its logical conclusion, we should print horrific pictures of human mutilation with every wargame reviewed in FRONTLINE — pictures of SS torture with the review of The Great Escape, and pictures of the results on human beings of aerial bombing with just about every flight simulator. And so on. The magazine would become a catalogue of horror and mutilation if we looked for a literal message behind every game scenario.
Sadly, many computer games feature violence, but the violence that takes place between pixels on the screen of a computer is, to my mind, much less harmful and much less ‘de-sensitising’ than the images brought into our homes by television and newspapers.
What do other readers feel?
Supplier: US Gold/Americana
A sick “sport” becomes a sick “game” thanks to the Spanish Dinamic programming people. They’ve taken their national pastime of butchering bulls in public and turned it into the nastiest bit of “software” I’ve seen for some time.
Just like the real thing the idea of the game is to get your little matador to butcher the bull in the most “artistic” manner possible.
The people who created this game ought to have THEIR ears chopped off — and US Gold ought to be ashamed of themselves actually releasing it.
If you see this on the shelves of your local computer store get them to take it off and put it where it belongs. In the bin. It’s a crude and barbaric game that should never have been released.
Please, please, please print this letter for me or CRASH popularity ratings will go down by one! Thank you. The reason I want you to print it is because I seem to be left out a bit (Ahhhhhhh).
My cousin, namely Sean Doran, got his name mentioned twice in Issue 34 — for the ‘Joe Bug’ cartoon in the FORUM and he was also a superhero for Master of Magic. All this seems to have gone to his head. So much so that he is having difficulty getting through the door (sorry for stealing your joke John). My pen pal, John Wilson is a regular Superhero and has given himself the nickname ‘El Supremo’. All this is making me so mad, and so determined to get my name mentioned in the most popular computer mag in the world.
The main point of my letter is about the poor state of budget software. Why do so many budget software houses market such totally crap games? Most games are hardly even worth 50p never mind two or three pounds. One glowing example of crap software was Bump Set Spike in Issue 34. Not one of the ratings was above 45%. I think that speaks for itself! Yet, after budget software houses see their new release flop, they release another crap game and watch it flop too. Surely they would have the sense to produce better games than were doing rather than filling computer shop shelves with rubbish. I think that some budget software houses just about manage to scrape up enough money to keep their company going and my advice to them is, stop trying!
Not all budget software houses are like this of course. Mastertronic and Firebird are two of the best around at the moment. I remember when Mastertronic wrote games like Alcatraz Harry and Apollo 2. Now they have come out with big hits with Universal Hero and Lap of The Gods as have Firebird with Olli and Lissa and Thrust. Both of these houses deserve the highest praise, even if they do come off with the odd crap game or two!
Why do popular budget software houses not advertise their new releases?
No-one’s perfect! Budget games have always been a mixed bag — but there seems to be a good market for poor games as well as good games on the budget front. Despite consistently poor reviews of late, one budget house we know of is doing ‘very nicely thank you’ in terms of volume of sales.
Obviously, there is less money to spend on product development when you are only charging a couple of pounds for the finished item, so it’s bound to be a matter of ‘win some, lose some’.
Read the reviews before buying
to avoid disappointment...
I get the feeling that a large number of readers will mis-understand my letter in issue 34, and think that I’m slagging the Spectrum off. This isn’t true.
I think the best way to explain my viewpoint is to draw parallels with another of my hobbies, cars. I own a 1978 Princess. Now there’s nothing wrong with my car — not everyone may like it, it may be getting old, but it still does the job which it was designed to do. Similarly, I own a Spectrum — some people despise them, it’s getting old, but it still works.
However, were someone buying a new car today, I wouldn’t expect them to buy a Princess, even if it were still available — I’d expect them to buy a car with a more modern style, and more economical performance.
Similarly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy a new Spectrum. It could be argued that the Spectrum Plus 2 is a better machine, but my own view is that it’s just the old Spectrum with bits bolted on. Putting a turbo and a few spoilers on my Princess wouldn’t turn it into a modern car.
If the Spectrum Plus 2 had something fundamentally new about it, it could be considered to be a Montego rather than a Princess, but it doesn’t, as I said in my last letter. The biggest sin of all is that the 48K mode is not fully compatible with all the 48K programs.
I have nothing against the 128/Plus 2 in theory. I agree that the only way forward in a world full of computer buffs with large software libraries, is to build machines which are more modern and efficient, while incorporating emulators so that old software can be used.
However, where the 128/Plus 2 falls down is that it isn’t modern and efficient, and the emulator is far from perfect.
So, I hope his has cleared up any misunderstandings of my letter — the
Spectrum is a fine machine — but it is a crime that it is still available as a
P A Rosbotham
A crime! There are a lot of people out there who have yet to experience the fun of owning a Spectrum — what’s criminal about giving them a chance to join in the fun?
Your analogy about cars doesn’t quite hold true I’m afraid. The basic mode of transport for programs, the Spectrum, might be considered a little outdated nowadays, but there is such a thing as a classic car! I’ve always maintained that it is how a machine is used by programmers that counts when it comes to providing entertainment. In car terms, you could still have a lot of fun driving your old Princess, especially if a competent team of mechanics looked after it and continued to improve its performance.
Take a look at the Starglider review this issue if you need any
I thought it’s about time I wrote a letter to you. So I painstakingly (good word that, see LMLWD) analysed past FORUMs to try and find one indisputable link between all the letters. I found it: it’s the fact that they all have points (heavy, medium or light but always points). So this letter will be different: no matter how carefully you scan these words you won’t find the slightest hint of a point. No, no point in this sentence! Nor this! Neither this!
Well there you go then, a totally new and refreshing letter.
PS Please print a double-sided photo of Hannah Smith, suitably positioned (knoworimean) OOPS! that’s a point.
Perhaps you’re missing the point, and reading the wrong kind of magazine...
Another year draws to a close, and with it comes the third anniversary of CRASH. The changes I have seen since first setting up my Hermes in the CRASH office and starting work on the Playing Tips column are immense — for one thing the Towers is now bursting at the seams with magazines and people.
The only aspect of CRASH that hasn’t improved, to my mind, is my salary. Maybe 1987 will be a good year for me. I hope it is for you. Don’t forget, I’m here waiting for your postal missives — and the more I receive, the better my chances of negotiating a pay rise!