With the demands on my time that LM makes, I have the feeling that I am not going to be able to keep up with the weeding once Spring has sprung (which it is showing every sign of doing any day now).

Still, enough of my preoccupations and on with this month’s selection of letters. The arcade debate started by Mr Evans provoked a flood of angry letters — a raw nerve was obviously touched there. But the Letter of the Month and accompanying £20 of software goes to a female person this month, for her well-reasoned contribution to the POKEs debate...

IN PRAISE OF POKES

Dear Lloyd
Once upon a time, I bought a game called Avalon, I thought it was very good but didn’t get very far with it. Before I could select the servant spell, get a key and try it in the door I was dead. Old fumble fingers here couldn’t do it so the game got left on the shelf. Then a friend came with a listing he called a POKE (understand, this was before I discovered CRASH). I was instructed on how to use a POKE, so the old game got dusted off and tried again. This time it was brilliant — all the time that I needed was there to discover what did what and how.

The result is I feel I’ve got my money’s worth from this game and wasn’t ripped-off after all. I’m searching everywhere for Dragontorc — no luck though — any ideas? My point is aimed at that raised in Richard Yendall’s letter (Issue 37) saying ‘don’t print POKEs’. Please please, ignore the chap.

I appreciate that as a female my views may be different concerning computer games. For instance, I feel in no competition to complete a game before anyone else, nor do I dump a game because so-and-so in the 4th Year can scam millions and I can’t get through the third screen. Nor do I feel in competition with the programmer. I play games solely for entertainment. I don’t understand Mr Yendall’s views on programmers at all. Sometimes I read the last chapter in a book before reading the middle, but so what? If that’s how I get the most enjoyment from a book, and have paid for it, why not? Is the author really going to throw up his hands in horror and forbid me to buy any more of his books? Of course not, he’s selling books to make money. I don’t think programmers are much different.
Linda Rigby

An interesting perspective on the non-competitive school of games playing, Linda. I think your arguments surrounding the use of POKEs are well-reasoned and very sensible. I’m in generous mood, so you might like to claim Dragontorc as part of your £20 prize for Letter of the Month.
LM

128 PONDERINGS

Dear Lloyd
I hate to use your precious pages as a speaking pedestal, but:

1) Could software houses please adopt some universal logos involving 128K products with or without independent 128K version. Some inlays are printed 48K/128K, 128Plus/128K, 48K and some have nothing branded on them. Aaarrghh! It’s very confusing as most shops these days take out the instruction leaflets for display purposes.

2) Could Ocean please stop churning out ‘big-name money-spinners’ that turn out to be rubbish? (Knight Rider, Miami Vice and so on.) The only two games of any calibre recently from Ocean are Cobra and Top Gun. Come on Ocean please just release quality software. Fair enough, after such massive advertising campaigns it’s hard to back down on releasing a game. Take Street Hawk for example, it took ages to come out and when it did it was crap. But, surely folks would rather wait longer for a better program. And now think, think deep, think back — Ocean used to produce the bestest software in the whole wide Bwittish Isles.

3. And now to make my letter have even less effect. Hats off to Ocean for bringing out a 128K compilation package. What a great idea! We need more of these I say. (Cue Dambusters Theme Music). These compilation packages could be the heart and spirit of every 128K Spectrum (or Plus 2) owner. In the ever-developing war of rivalry between the Spectrum and Commodore owners, our two latest machines powered with 128K compilation tapes will help us defeat the Commodore owners on playability on graphics, on addictiveness and on the sound capabilities. Long live the 128.
Paul Robinson

Glad to hear that someone has lots of positive things to say about the 128 Plus 2! What about Top Gun and Cobra...
LM

IT’S THE GAME THAT COUNTS

Dear Lloyd
I am very sorry to disappoint all the moaning minnies, but there is no limit to improvement on the humble 48K! Those who think so are in the same position as people in the early 20th century who ‘proved’ it was impossible to run a 4-minute mile — in fact there will always be improvement to athletic records. That doesn’t mean that a mile would be ran in 1 second in the year 2087 because although the number of record-breaking runs will continue at the same rate, the margin of reduction will decrease.

Similarly, it will always be possible to write better programs, but the rate of progress will slow. And by perhaps 1988/89 a simpler course of action might be to get a more powerful computer. But is it worth it? The point should be, that if you have a good game it has practically infinite possibility — for example chess is superficially simple but is unimprovable as a game that can be played endlessly by an individual without repetition. And personally I believe that games such as Knight Lore (pick your own similar classic, don’t quibble on that account!) in practice is similarly unimprovable (though unfortunately possible to complete) — you just don’t need better sound (a silly and eventually irritating distraction), 200 colours, different wall detail in every room and so on.

How, for example, can you better Cobra as a game, rather than as a pretty spectacle for the non-player? (Bring on Cobra II, more levels please!).

So cheer up one and all! The game’s the thing — you can play chess with pieces six feet high that move on their own, fight with real weapons and die dramatically, but in the long run you’ll have more fun with a classic set bought for £2.00. Long live the Spectrum!
Bill McClelland

I tend to agree with your sentiments, Bill. Although the new generation of 16-bit computers like the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga have a great deal of potential when it comes to sound and graphics, such added facilities are all gloss if there isn’t a good, playable game underneath all the impressive presentation. There’s plenty of scope for new, innovative game ideas that take advantage of the pool of programming knowledge that has been created around the Spectrum. All we need is the innovative people...
LM

A PROGRAMMER WRITES...

Dear Lloyd
Being the author of Fat Worm Blows a Sparky, I would first like to take this opportunity to disclaim any responsibility for the embarrassing name, the gross painting of the green maggot on its cover and any choice of colour during the gameplay — this was supposed to make people laugh.

What I really want to say is that this being my first independently original Spectrum game after several previous low-key ventures with BBC games, I looked forward to the reactions from the multitudinous Spectrum publications which I was surprised to find existed.

Of course CRASH instantly recognised programming genius and gave the game a 95% CRASH Smash. Later in that month, October, I discovered a mention in POPULAR COMPUTING WEEKLY where in John Cook’s private column, Software Hotlines, the program was slammed along with the programmer — he called them a Dodo and Basket Weaver respectively. YOUR SINCLAIR cheered things up shortly afterwards with a megagame rating. Following that was three out of five stars from SINCLAIR USER and an average of 6.5 out of 10 from C&VG. ZX MONTHLY completed my collection yesterday, with a GRIM rating.

Now, could anyone in the CRASH Towers possibly account for the enormous range of reactions from reviewers on the same game? And secondly, why outstanding reviews from the two best-selling magazines as well as a moderately large advertising campaign have not influenced the popularity of this particular title? Does it come down to the fact that the people who buy the products do not ultimately play the game (eg parents?) and do not read reviews or see adverts and will only be swayed by the cover and the name, which would explain the success of licensed film products.

Do I actually see before me five months of days and nights over my entire summer with hardly any breaks go completely to waste owing to the triviality of someone’s choice of name and a poor artist’s conception of a worm?
Julian Todd

I’m sure there’s more to it than a ‘strange’ choice of name and a giant green maggot on the cover. Perhaps your game fell into the trap that catches many innovative games — people seem happier to stick with a straightforward game concept, especially if a ‘Big Name’ is associated with it.

As for the variation in opinion amongst computer magazines — it happens all the time. Reviewers can only pass subjective comment on games, and opinions are very personal. Readers don’t always agree with reviewers, as I so often see in the mail I receive for the FORUM!
LM

THE HACKERS WRITE...

Dear Lloyd
We write in protest to Richard Yendall in the POKEs debate. A programmer does not always strike a balance between the game being too easy or too hard — take Legend of Kage for instance, ten minutes (that’s exaggerated) of playing and you’ve rescued the princess, WOW, a lot of went into that game (we thought UDG’s were dead). Then on the other hand there are games like Frost Byte or Olli and Lissa that are a little hard to complete without POKES. A person’s money is not wasted if he/she uses POKES to complete a game, because he/she may have stuffed the game on a shelf to gather dust because he/she was sick of it. In this respect POKEing can bring a game back to life. However, we believe a game can be over-POKEd, like Jet Set Willy (RIP) — or take the case of the Elite editor published in another mag, which was far too long and ruined a perfectly good game. It is up to the reader to decide when to use a POKE published in a mag. We’re not sure that everybody goes out, buys a game, puts in the pokes, completes it and bins it like Mr Yendall seems to think.

How sorry he is for the poor programmer that made the game... rubbish! What about that whiz-programmer that made Spindizzy, er, Phil Graveyard or something... the one Hannah is always grovelling to. He’s forever POKEing other people’s games.

If Dicky boy had bothered to examine some of the loaders on games he would be surprised how unconcerned the programmers are as they often leave lots of messages for us hackers. Take a look at some of Elite’s loaders, where you get messages from a bloke from Xcel who likes Prince and can’t spell. Programmers love to show off. The ALKATRAZ protection system (on Bobby Bearing) is a challenge to break: they’re just enticing hackers to try to break it. (Speedlock claimed it would ruin your insanity!)

Mr ‘I’m too clever for my own good’ Skunk from Fife got around the Bobby Bearing type of protection. Well just leave it to us from Haxby and Pock, Jock. We not only supply POKES but where possible, we supply solutions so the reader can have a choice of whether to type in the POKES or use the solution to advantage.

Yours in fear and loathing (Yes we like Hunter S, even though nobody knows what he is talking about)
The industrious hackers from Haxby and Pocklington

Thanks, lads
LM

RABBITTING ON

Dear Lloyd
I think it ought to be brought to your attention that there is a nasty fiend on the top of the Editorial page of your magazine. For the last three years the aforementioned bug has been beating up a poor, defenceless little rabbit. I think it’s about time the rabbit got its own back. If the situation is not remedied in the near future, I shall set my man-eating goldfish on you.
Nicola Weston

Take another look!
LM

TAMARA AND TAMARA

Dear Lloyd
I have read many stories in my time, but this was incredible — I know Mel Croucher is known for his totally original computer games, and how little effect they have on the public, but TAMARA KNIGHT has got to be his best idea yet — a totally original story in fact. The way he twists the spoken word makes Hunter S Minson look like a scriptwriter for Bill and Ben. Not only is it incredibly convoluted and complex, it is also stunningly funny and had me in hysterics from the first paragraph. So much is packed into each sentence I don’t know how he keeps it up, but I think that Mel Croucher has fulfilled an aim in life by completing a literary version of Pimania — both are highly addictive and are liable to turn you into an hysterical raving maniac.

I just hope this doesn’t happen before next month’s installment... Gibber!
Stephen Graham

Glad you like it, Stephen...
LM

PRE-JUDGING THE ISSUE?

Dear Lloyd
I don’t have a computer, but my brother has a 48K Spectrum and is a fan of your magazine, which is why I read CRASH and why I’m writing now. I believe your game reviews are commendable in that for people with limited cash flow (like my brother) there has to be a guide on the good, the bad and the ugly. What appalls me however is the amount of games that are churned out, of terrible quality.

Without magazine reviews, buying games would be financial human roulette. But the reviewing (as good as it is) does not go far enough. Why cannot an independent review board be established by mutual consent of as many companies as possible, whereby, before every game hits the market, it must be reviewed by the board, and given a percentage rating with a breakdown of individual traits — your system in other words. Every copy of every game reviewed must then carry this rating clearly, providing an instant guide to the buyer.

Of course, you might claim that a judgement by the board would be subject to individual preference: any review is subjective but people place a lot of faith in you. Just to make things fairer, why not classify each game the board sees into categories, to be shown with the review percentage of arcade-adventure, shoot ’em up and so on. In case you’re worried, people would still be buying CRASH for an in-depth review, but a monthly publication means large time-gaps before games are reviewed. As soon as a game reaches the shops it will now have at least some measure of its worth.

Before you point out that this board would probably not include every company, it is obvious that good companies with nothing to hide would jump at the chance to have their games given high percentages and it would encourage them to higher standard because they would make sure that their game was up to scratch rather than have it publicly panned. Should a company refuse to take a part in the system, then a boycott could be instigated against that company’s games — by refusing to take part they’d be showing lack of confidence in their own games anyway.
Michael McGuiness

It all sounds very sensible and reasonable on the surface, Michael, but your system reminds me a little too much of Big Brother and the totalitarian approach — it would remove too much of the element of free choice from both software houses and games purchasers.

Effectively, people have the option of reading a review before they purchase a game the way things are at the moment — and every now and again a software house will bring a part-finished game into the office and ask our opinions on how it should be improved in the final version. They don’t always take our advice, which is just as well. Who are we to dictate what games other people should play? All we can do is offer our opinions, and in the eyes of quite a few of our readers, we don’t always get it right.

The next correspondent has a similar plan for software world domination...
LM

CONTROLLING QUALITY

Dear Lloyd
While wandering around the shops I saw the Spectrum Plus 2 pack. It had a few free games with it, so in I went to examine these freebies. ‘AMSTRAD Quality Control’ they said. ‘Obviously Amstrad are doing something about software quality’, I thought to myself, ‘preventing such crap as Kung-Fu Master — what a good idea!’

Now, wouldn’t it be a good idea if a ‘Software Quality Control’ examination by certain magazines and computer companies was compulsory for all games so we don’t get ripped off?

A ‘PASSED QC’ sticker or ‘FAILED QC’ sticker could be put on the cassette, so giving the purchaser a guide on what to buy. The game would still be fairly reviewed in magazines, but would be mentioned as ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ Quality Control. Even if it put the price of the game up a bit, we wouldn’t get ripped off, and have to spend hours in the shop going ‘Shall I, shan’t I’... It would save a lot of bother (and money).

Also please tell me what has happened to the ‘Journal of Mystical Affairs’, as I haven’t been receiving mine for some months now. I also feel I must agree with your view on Americana’s Bullfighting Game, and I see no point in publishing such a game, as people are quite unlikely to buy it, unless they are quite tasteless, though I think it should still be reviewed (taking into consideration the topic of the game).

Continuing on the POKES debate, I think that if one of my games were hacked I could see where I had gone wrong with an ‘impassable’ bit, or made the game too hard, and change it next game, so POKEs can be a help to a game’s programmer!
David Hosier

The Amstrad quality control scheme isn’t intended to act as a guide to the quality of the game, but indicates that the program will run on the full range of Spectrums without problems — a useful guideline for the would-be purchaser, given the compatibility problems that were experienced on the 128K front.

The JOURNAL has been taking a bit of a rest recently — I’m told that the energies surrounding the MYSTICAL SUBSCRIBER NUMBERS have been channelled into other areas. The JOURNAL should be back with you soon...
LM

CRITICAL CONUNDRUM

Dear Lloyd
I am writing to you about two things. First: your new change of rating system. I think the idea is a good one: the Presentation rating instead of the Getting Started rating and Use of Computer ratings.

Last night when I was reading my February issue of CRASH which I had got that morning, my Mum said (she had been reading over my shoulder) ‘Why do they have CRITICISM columns because Ben, Mike and Paul are not criticising the Products — they are commenting on them?’ So she suggested they were called Comments But then you are left with the problem of renaming the COMMENTS column — I could not think of a suitable name. I’ll leave that up to you!

Secondly, I think most games from comics or Films are good. So why does everyone keep complaining? If you like a product then go and buy it, if you don’t then don’t buy it. I never buy a game before it is reviewed, so I have no sympathy for people who do and find the game a bad one — it was their fault.
James Munson

As my semantics teacher used to remind me Mr Munson, a criticism need not be negative — it is a judgement rather than an indictment.

I think your approach to buying games is much simpler and a far better solution to the problem than forcing companies to submit their products to an assessing panel before they are released.
LM

TWO-PART EPISTLE

Dear Crash
I think Alan Sugar has made a mess of the 128 Plus 2.

Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely one of the best home computers on the market. I do, however, think there are many things which should have been incorporated. These are some of them.

(1) The joystick should have been made to be Kempston compatible or at least the user should have a choice of different types of joysticks by a switch or something.

(2) The ‘Datacorder’ should be similar to the standard of the one on the Amstrad. A counter should have been included. What about a disk drive specially for the 128/Plus 2? It would be very useful.

(3) The sound chip should be allowed to run without stopping the computer from carrying out instructions.

Next, I totally disagree with your highly critical review of Super Soccer. Okay, it may be slightly slow, and there is a lot of colour clash, but look at what it offers to the user: a great variety of shots; slide tackles and fouls; speed control; energy bar; a variation of force for shots and for throw-ins; positioning of players; and ultimately, sendings off. Your reviewers must find it difficult to read and understand instructions. It took me a day to work out the rules after which I beat the computer on Levels One and Two.

The availability of shots is incredible. Since when could you chip the ball over the defence at an angle of 80 degrees, and then collect the ball on Match Day? I mean, I’ve done that on Super Soccer, and I really enjoyed it!

I have a few gripes, however. I can’t control the goalie very well. When the computer takes a penalty, it just kicks the ball straight at you, and you don’t have to save it. Also, when you have won the tournament, there is no congratulation screen, and no tune: it just goes straight to the menu. My overall view of this game is that it is incredibly realistic, but far too easy!

People are right, CRASH reviewers are biased against sports simulations, especially football. Any comments, anyone?
Mik Stoddart

The next correspondents feel rather differently about Super Soccer Mik. As to the Plus 2, nobody’s design for a new computer is going to satisfy everyone, and the more complicated the features on offer, the higher the prince. Compromise is the name of the game when you’re launching a new product — unless it’s a luxury yacht for millionaires...
LM

XENOPHOBIA AND A FOUL UP

Dear Lloyd
I have an apology to make. I am sorry for buying Super Soccer before reading CRASH’s review but I was so looking forward to a follow up to Match Day that I just couldn’t help myself. I thought that, considering Imagine’s track record, the game would at least be playable! The animation is appallingly slow, the pitch has a weird perspective, the colour clash is horrific but even taking in these drawbacks, the game was quite enjoyable until I discovered the (main) bug...

If a foul is committed sometimes the injured party stays lying on the pitch indefinitely and very soon you can find that half of your team is ‘dead’. This happens regularly now, and makes the game totally unplayable. It is quite obvious to me that Imagine rush-released this game for the Christmas market — it is unforgivable. This is the most bug-ridden and useless game since Superbowl.

Enough of that and on to the important part of my letter. I noticed in the December issue of CRASH on page 75, a competition to win a copy of Handball Maradonna. I noticed question three which asked ‘Name the three goalkeepers in the World Cup Party in Mexico this year’. Easy I thought: Jim Leighton, Andy Goram and the legendary Alan Rough. Well, I didn’t actually think that, I’m not that naive, but I object to the wording used. THE World Cup Party, to me and many others, was the Scotland Squad and one must not forget the Northern Ireland team either.

Also, in that issue there was a review of The Great Escape in which ‘you play an English POW trying to escape....’ Am I mistaken or didn’t the rest of Britain also fight in World War II? Frankly, I think this is an insult to all Scottish, Welsh and Irish men who game up their lives to save not only their own countries but England as well.

Scotland gets a raw deal from all areas of the press and society and for CRASH to add fuel to this fire really annoys me.

England is not the centre of the Universe and CRASH is a British publication.
Chris Lafferty

You’re quite right of course, Chris. It’s a clear case of thoughtless xenophobia on the part of the CRASH Team, and I have taken steps to reprimand those responsible. Rest assured that with a name like Graeme Kidd, our Editor has nothing against the Scots!
LM

GENEROUS, REF, GENEROUS

Dear Sir LM
Might I just say how generous you in the review of Super Soccer by Imagine (who are I think a bit of an ENIGMA). Let me first say how I came about to buying the game. I was just sat down reading my local paper when I chanced upon seeing the local computer charts. There at No 4 is Super Soccer by Imagine. It was then that I remembered about seeing the advert and here comes the fatal mistake, reading about John Ritman and Chris Clarke doing a new football game. This is it! I thought. Hang on wasn’t that to be like Three and In? I eventually kidded (no pun intended) myself into believing they had changed it into an improved Match Day. I bought it. Raced home, loaded it. Then on the screen appeared the ‘written by D J Anderson’ message. I began to play purely and simply because the graphics looked good. The sliding tackle is a joke. I think I got penalised every time. Goal-line incidents are impossible for the player to score or save because the ball disappears amongst the mess. The irony being I had a chance to pirate Match Day but refused on the grounds that the real Mccoy, Spock, Kirk or whatever was on its way. (Think about it!)

TIE-INS. Lets go back to the early days. All games were original and not many software houses were around. Rumours began ‘Teenager earns £40,000 a year!’ A-ha! Big business everyone thinks, here’s a chance to make a quick bob or two. Money does not come in. Software Houses need something original, so the first Tie-in is born. What is this fool wittering on about? I hear you cry. The fact is the public creates the market: we fell for the tie-ins, software houses realised this. They then turned out puerile garbage knowing that because of the name, the game would sell. So software houses ‘Where are the original games?’
‘Mad Max’

That is, of course, the ultimate question concerning Tie-ins. If they’re bad, then why do they sell so well? Maybe people really DO want games that bear a famous name, and software houses are only catering for the demand in the market place. Why should they go to all the trouble involved in creating a ‘different’ game, with all the attendant risks of being scorned for being too innovative, when they know perfectly well that a mediocre game that carries a famous name is likely to sell very well. Whose fault is it, if indeed there is ‘fault’ involved?
LM

UPGRADE BLUES

Dear Lloyd
How I wish I could buy a computer which was the best and it would not get updated. In Christmas of 1983 I bought my first computer, a Sinclair ZX81. At the time I thought it was the best computer going, until Christmas of 1986 when I updated my computer to a Spectrum 48K. I still have the machine and I never regretted buying it.

Now the Spectrum 128K and Plus 2 have come out. I would love to get one, but I can’t afford one. All my mates smirk at me — they’ve got 128s and I go round their houses playing 128 games, and sob my heart out that I cannot hear that cool 3-channel music and extras that you don’t get on the old Spectrum.

And I hear of more people updating to 128Ks, while I just have to play my old games and sulk. But I’m glad to say that CRASH still keeps up reviewing 48K games, and I never miss an issue. The Spectrum is one of the oldest and most popular computers going, so let’s keep it up. Thank you Clive.
Robin Plummer

You could always try entering the competitions we have planned for the April, May and June issues — we’ll be giving away a Plus 2 and colour monitor every month!
LM

TOTAL AGREEMENT

Dear Lloyd
Congratulations are in order. After years of people begging, pleading, praying, asking for reviewers to sign their comments, they are going to, at last! I was slightly amazed to see one of them was only 15 — the same age as me. His opinions are similar to mine on the games I’ve shelled out for. Strange they should all look like Miss Piggy though (sorry lads).

The ratings system itself has changed slightly as well — for the better in my opinion.

Next, onto Mark Edwards’ letter about the Space Harrier review: I agree with you lot. The graphics get too messy as well — the bonus screen when you sit on the caterpillar as it batters things up is soooooo flickery. The game seems a lot clearer to see in black and white.
Paul Rylett

What did you expect, Paul? Thirty year old reviewers? Glad you like the new ratings system — it seems to have been generally well-received (like Space Harrier).
LM

BUDGET BASHING?

Dear Lloyd
I feel compelled to write, and so write I must to tear apart the very fabric of the software industry as we know it. The danger must be brought to the attention of your readers for only your readers can repel it.

‘What danger?’ I hear you cry — well it is manifest in two ways:

1) Budget software. This is, if we admitted it a mixture of boring dross and banal gamesplay dressed up (in some cases) by nice graphics. Let’s face it, the only budget software that is played for more than one day is that which has formerly been released at full price like Full Throttle, Kentilla and so on.

On the rare occasions that I play budget software I must admit that I feel like I am merely going through the motions of playing a game, I’m not really enjoying it.

2. CRASH Smash awards. Now I’m not a person who attacks something just for the sake of it. I feel that CRASH as a whole has become just like the big companies it condemns for releasing games just because they look good. The CRASH Smash label is now being stuck on anything which looks pretty and plays reasonably well. If you were honest you would admit that your reviewers hardly play a game for more than two/three days. A game which looks good, plays well and is free to your reviewers has the danger of being made a CRASH Smash, but to a punter who pays £10 for a game the program must contain another quality, lastability. Games which I own which do not contain this are Top Gun, Druid (utter dross) and Starglider 128, which has been heralded as a great program but is, in reality, a normal game with things bolted on. I’m not saying all Smashes lack lastability (Academy is ace), just most.

So how can these dangers be eradicated? Simple, just don’t buy budget games on looks alone — be more selective in your buying. As to the CRASH Smash problem, it’s up to you Lloyd. Smashes should only be awarded to programs which have lastability and if this means holding a review back a month until the reviewers thoroughly play it, than this is your responsibility as a service to your readers.

Better a late review than readers casting aspersions on your ability to judge a game fairly.
Jeremy Connor

I think you are being more than a little harsh about the quality of budget games. Some of them are very poor indeed, but the overall quality of original budget releases has been improving dramatically over the past twelve months or so.

It is the middle of February as I write this, and our reviewers are still playing Top Gun and Starglider. Furthermore, Starglider has done very well in the Readers Awards. When it comes to Smashes, the reviewing team thinks particularly carefully about awarding ratings, and I feel that holding reviews over for a month or more would annoy more readers than it would please. Your opinions as to the lastability of a game must remain your opinions, and it seems that they differ from the opinions of our reviewing team.

What do other readers have to say on the points raised in this letter?
LM

CONCEPT NOT EXECUTION

Dear Lloyd
I am replying to a letter from Nick Drewett in the Christmas Special, about age groups for competitions.

When you enter a competition in CRASH where you have to draw, surely it’s the idea that counts not the artwork?
Michael Whitlock

We do try to take account of age when judging ‘arty’ competitions, but the idea that lies behind an entry takes precedence over the execution. It’s often the case that someone who can draw comes up with the best idea as well as the best execution, but not always.
LM

ALTERNATIVE CHART

Dear Lloyd
I have recently bought February’s CRASH and read the letter concerning music by Frank Bouts (Mr/Mrs/Miss) and I disagree. I have a meagre 48K and here is my top 10:

  1. Top Gun
  2. BMX Simulator
  3. Dynamite Dan (1)
  4. Olli and Lissa
  5. The Great Escape
  6. Uridium
  7. Quazatron
  8. Biggles
  9. Stainless Steel
  10. Cauldron II

Matthew Rhodes

NEAR MISSES

Dear Lloyd
How many times recently have you noticed reviewers saying of a game ‘Not bad would have made a good budget offering.'?

And I think this is a very good idea.

Take for instance, the recent releases by Ocean/Imagine. Granted, some of these games have been very good indeed, but a large amount have also been very average.

Now I can imagine their problem. A game idea perhaps with an expensive licence is given to a team of programmers, and they set to work on it. Later, back they come and show their game to the company. All is well if the game’s great, but what if it isn’t?

The company has several choices. Do they send the programmers back and tell them to do it again, possibly risking something like the Street Hawk fiasco? Do they release the game, risking their reputation if it is badly received? Or do they forget about it, losing perhaps thousands in development costs or licence deals?

But they could have another option. Release the game, but at a budget price. This would mean less profit from each game, but higher sales — and the protection of their image might make it worth their while.

There is another thing though. People know when it comes to buying budget games, it’s mostly a hit-and-miss affair — you may get a great game, or a load of rubbish. People might think that all budget games released are bad if companies adopted my idea and released games that didn’t come up to scratch at a budget price. This will all depend on how bad the near-misses are. I think this idea might work and its certainly worth considering.
John McKinley

I think the financial commitments made by software houses to pay royalties to licence owners that are based on the ‘full price’ might cause problems, but the theory is an interesting one. Any software houses like to comment?
LM

ARCADE ANGST

Dear Lloyd
I feel that I must write to you about the topic of amusement arcades brought up by Tom Evans last issue.

I found his letter to be most insulting, and I feel that I must disagree with most of his views. First, he puts the honesty of arcade goers in question: ‘You may wonder where they get all their money from, I’ll leave it up to you to make your own conclusion to this...’ As a fairly frequent arcade goer, I am infuriated to be told that I come by my money by ill means. How can he say this? Sure there are some less savoury characters who may steal money to go down the arcade, but that percentage is so imponderable that it does not bear thinking about. He goes on to claim that if one is ‘addicted’ to arcade games then one will automatically become addicted to fruit machines. Honestly, how can one man make up so much crap? I count playing arcade games among my other hobbies. I do not, however, find fruit machines compelling whatsoever. To play fruit machines you have to be a mug or very rich indeed.

I think he is stupid to say that magazines should do everything against the so-called ‘scourge’ of arcades. The whole concept of games playing was born in the arcades. Without arcade games we might still be playing games like Mined Out and Schizoids, (a terrible thought, I trust you’ll agree). I also disagree with his view that most arcade games make no contribution to the advances of games technology. Admittedly Kung Fu Master was rather poor but Dragon’s Lair? This was the pioneer in video disk games. It was to break new ground in game technology.

He also goes on to say that most arcade conversions are poor: that is possibly true, but most of them fare not too badly in the transition from multi-megabyte machines with dedicated graphic chips and suchlike to the humble Spectrum.

How can Mr Evans say that reviews of good arcade conversions spur ‘gamblers’ and ‘addicts'? If the conversion is good then the games player need not go to the arcade to play it. He need only sit down in front of his computer to seek enjoyment. And why does he call arcade game players gamblers? A gambler is someone who puts up a stake in a game of chance in hope of getting a greater return. There is no gambling aspect in a computer game. Gaming shows skill and judgement and does not have the prominent factor of luck.

I think that Mr Evans’ whole argument was blatantly prejudiced, and I don’t think that I will be the only irate person to complain. Anyway, if he is against game playing why does he read CRASH and others games mags?

You know, I often wonder if you write these letters Lloyd, knowing that it will cause a flood of replies in the next few issues to come. I think Mr Evans name will join the list of other tedious little men like Jeremy Conners and S Valente.

Yours angrily
Tom Kane

You weren’t the only one to react angrily, Tom...
LM

THE ARCADE DEBATE...

Dear Lloyd
After reading Tom Evans’ letter in CRASH last issue on the fact that arcades influence the young, I thought ‘what a prat’! I mean, there are worse things on TV to ‘influence the young’ and in other sources. He also implies that so called ‘arcade junkies’ steal money or get it through other ‘criminal’ means. How can he say this: has he done a survey or something?

He then blames arcade conversions or certain computer magazines for the addiction to arcade games. Does he always speak such crap? He’s like that man who said computer games led to violence. Me and my mates just laughed. I didn’t post my papers through windows because I played Paperboy or run through my village with a gun because I played Commando.

Computer games are for entertainment not as a way to learn ‘how to be a criminal’.
S Counsel

... CONTINUES

Dear Lloyd
In the area where I live there is hardly anything for teenagers to do. The local community centre closed down. So now the only place where teenagers can go is the local school. It has three squash courts, a sports hall, a gym and a swimming pool. It is very good but can’t cater for over 3,000 youngsters — teenagers. There are no arcades either. The nearest arcade is 10 miles away in the City of Birmingham. I’ve only been once and found it very enjoyable.

‘Arcade addiction should not be encouraged': obvious to even the thickest person, but Mr Evan, writes ‘hardly any arcade conversions are any good’, he is writing utter nonsense. Take Green Beret, Mikie, Ping Pong, Paperboy, Ghosts ’n’ Goblins, Yie Ar Kung Fu and Gauntlet to name but a few. So overall, my personal opinion is that arcades have little influence (if any) on the younger generation. Even if they do, it is really up to the individual.
Ian Hamley

Quite a resounding vote of ‘No Confidence’ in Mr Evans’ beliefs it seems.
LM

REVIEWERS SLAMMED

LM
After seeing the CRASH Christmas Special and reading the February issue I thought I had to write in to support Mark Edwards. I have played Space Harrier in the arcades and I rushed out to buy it as soon as I knew it was available on the Spectrum. Rushed out. Got it. Rushed back. Loaded in. Played. Cor! Wow! Mega! Brill! It was Fab!

Then I saw the CRASH review.

Who the heck do the CRASH reviewers think they are? Fancy taking a brill game like that down. If I see any of them I’ll...

Your absolutely disgustingly
James World

and another, similar point of view...

UNFAIR TO ELITE!

Dear LM
I am writing to say that I have to agree with Mark Edwards (issue No 37) about your review of Space Harrier. This game is very good considering the limitation of the Spectrum and the complexity of the arcade machine, and Keith Burkhill has produced an excellent interpretation of the original.

Now, let’s compare it to another game, say, Lightforce. I think you have to admit that really under all those wondrous graphics, Lightforce is really just another shoot ’em up. So how did it manage to get a Smash and Space Harrier not?
Terry Jones

There’s obviously a fair amount of disagreement surrounding our review of Space Harrier. Not everyone feels we under-rated the game, but the majority of the letters I have received this month would indicate that our reviewers were rather harsh. They stand by their ratings, though...
LM

BULLFIGHTING DEBATE CONTINUES

Dear Elliot Owens
I, too, live in Kidderminster and would quite like to meet you, to discuss the morality of bullfighting. Please think about how the slaughter of a living creature can possibly be entertainment — ‘sport’ it may be, but only to those of us with sick minds and who are obviously so self-centred that they think dumb animals cannot feel pain.

I personally feel C&VG have, for once, done the right thing — a game like this is in very bad taste, and should be discouraged. Have you ever seen a bullfight? I did, once, and let me dispel any notion that you may have of an equal contest. The bull is cajoled, humiliated, and ultimately murdered. Give Americana a break? Or perhaps I misread your letter.

For Heaven’s sake, Elliot, think before you write next time — please don’t compare ‘poor defenceless aliens’ in the trivial world of video game to real, live animals in real life.
Glyn Evans (a dweller of the real world)

And with that final contribution, I declare the Ole Toro debate closed.
LM

128 PERSPECTIVE NEEDED

Dear Lloyd
Thank you very much for printing my letter in Issue 37 (February) and especially for making it the ‘Star Letter’.

However, I am known around here as Stephen Click not Stephen Cluck! — presumably a typing error (combined with my handwriting).

I think you have done a good revision job on the review ratings, they have been made more relevant, but what about having a small 128K comment — for instance, is the sound any different, are there more levels?

Incidentally, well done with LM: it is well written and informative, but could you re-arrange the contents page as in the free black issue with regulars, features etc?

Long live Lunar Jetman!
Stephen Click

Hmm. We might just take you up on the idea of a 128K panel piece with reviews.

Ah well, gardening assistant or no gardening assistant, by the time I settle down to compiling the FORUM for the next issue of CRASH, the seeds I have planted in the propagator should be ready for pricking out. I think the galley proofs for the latest edition of my Long Word Dictionary will have to take second place to the demands of horticulture for a while longer...

The arrival of new life in the garden is a pleasing thing — as is the arrival of new life in your letters. Keep your opinions flowing, mailing all missives to the usual address.