Once again, my pigeoncave groaned under the weight of mail, and nearly all of it lashing back at the Barbarian backlash. On behalf of Oliver Frey and the rest of the CRASH team, may I thank everyone who wrote in support of the cover. (Speaking of which, rumours that I modelled for the Renegade cover simply aren’t true, it was Roger Kean did it — well his arms anyway, Robin Candy’s washboard stomach was required for the... stomach I suppose). But I just couldn’t face another massive Barbarian debate column again, so I moved on to the remaining letters, and from those, here’s this month’s pick, with Letter Of The Month first, earning its sender £30 worth of software.

RUNNING AWAY

Lloyd
Do you remember me moaning about consoles in Issue 39? There seems to be a general agreement on my main point; that whilst the consoles can make noisy explosions and pretty colours, the Spectrum and other home computers will still be popular because they are better suited to the development of original games.

So where are the original games?

Issue 44 contains reviews of 28 games (not counting strategy and adventure, but there weren’t any really innovative ideas in those departments either). Three were sport simulations. Eight were arcade-adventures. A massive 13 were pure arcade action, mostly shoot-’em-ups (this is the computer that isn’t suited to arcade conversions, remember?). That leaves only four original games; Rebel, Mercenary, Satcom and Stifflip & Co. 24 very unoriginal games out of 28 opportunities for exciting new ideas seems a bit of a waste to me.

The strange thing is that two of the four were Smashed, and Rebel also received a very good rating. Of the arcade-clones, only two of the 24 (Joe Blade and Renegade) received marks high enough to justify purchase.

The cause of this glut of boring games? Well, I suppose the culprit is the inevitable way in which the industry has become more and more commercialised. It makes me sad to say it, but I don’t think the magic enthusiasm that made the Spectrum what it is (was?) is there anymore. You may consider this nostalgia on the part of a veritable old crumbly of 16, but I long for the days of the involved adventure quests of Dun Darach and Dragontorc, when Ocean released unlicensed titles and every game contained a new idea. But now it appears it is safer to churn out an average shoot-’em-up with a snazzy title, preferably backed up by an advertisement featuring a semi-naked girl.

Gargoyle have stopped making their classic problem-solving games and switched to arcade games with FTL. Ocean have decided to spend their resources on finding licences rather than on game development. And, though this is a minor point. it is symptomatic of the commercial trend; CRASH has departed from tradition and featured non-Smashes on covers. Renegade and Barbarian were used, I believe, because the images they presented were better for selling magazines. Enduro Racer was featured rather than the fantastic and totally original Sentinel. Now, it’s not the fault of CRASH that the industry is growing more commercial, but the side-effects are dire. The original games now shine like dazzling beacons from the drab dullness of the arcade clones and film/book/TV/cartoon/cuddly toy tie-ins.

It is a tragedy because programmers aren’t running out of new ideas; they are running away from new ideas. And originality doesn’t mean that a game can’t be commercially successful. So please, programmers (and more importantly, software houses and distributors), please don’t turn your backs on originality. It can be financially rewarding, and it will help to prolong the lively life of what Roger Kean has termed ‘Arcade Computer Enjoyment’ rather than the current phase of Licences, Empty Tie-ins & Horrendous Arcade-Ripoff Games in Computing. Programs should be ACE not LETHARGIC!

What do other readers, especially the more recent Spectrum owners, think about all this?
Anthony Bailey

I don’t regard your comments as being nostalgic, since nostalgia is usually seen as a state of looking fondly at the past in an uncritical way — you do seem to be trying to live in the present! As to the cover illustrations, you’re both right and wrong, CRASH has featured the occasional non-Smashed game on the cover in the past, but it’s true that games like Enduro Racer, Barbarian and Renegade provided what was considered to be the best illustrative opportunities at the time.

I would welcome some reactions to Anthony’s letter; off the cuff, here’s a couple of mine: I also think a lot of program developers are running away from ideas, because for an enthusiastic, inquisitive mind, it is just impossible to run out of ideas. And perhaps in the past Ocean could have been accused of thinking more about licences than the result, but I’ve detected a definite change in the company’s policy towards game development recently (even towards arcade conversions). A lot of care, attention and polish seems to be the result, and they have had some very fine programs well rated lately.

Thanks for the letter Anthony, it isn’t often end up giving Letter of the Month to someone twice, but felt your letter deserved it, so that’s £30 worth of software for you — I hope there’s something available you really would enjoy having...
LM

BORED

Dear Lloyd
I’ve had (yawn) enough! CRASH is just so (yawn) boring. Where’s the controversy, sparkle, excitement or humour?

The reviews: these are just so drab. Don’t think just because you’ve splashed a lot of colour around that they’re lively now, they’re just so monotonous and predictable. The reviewers don’t have enough space to express themselves properly, the result being that they all just burble on about how good/bad/average the game is and not a lot else. Why not give one reviewer three-quarters of the available space to get much deeper into the game and have the other two give a quick comment and their own percentages at the end? Also, take a lesson from ZZAP! The way they explain each percentage in a quick sentence or two is much more accurate and interesting.

General entertainment value of the mag is sinking. There is just no humour any more, what with Tamara leaving, Hannah disappearing and no real characters left in the mag ie no Angus Ryall (remember him?), Minson only getting a page and yourself on every second page. (August 43 you had 16 pages all to yourself). I’ve nothing against you but you can get a little much, month in month out, as everyone else would too, no matter how interesting they were. Even your Forum is getting totally boring. There’s been no really angry or interesting letters tor ages, no silly or funny ones and no controversial issues of any real issue. The Barbarian cover was only an excuse to be disgusting on the part of Oli, and stir up a little excitement it did, but still who cares? If you feel so strongly about the mag’s cover, don’t buy it! Newsfield will get the message soon enough!

Excitement: What’s that? Apart from colour CRASH has become stagnant. Apart from that OINK! thing (did anyone find that amusing in the slightest?) CRASH has done nothing interesting for years. Perhaps it’s because you are the market leader, and are resting on your laurels. (It’s worked for the past four years, why shouldn’t it keep on working?) Well I’m afraid you’re going to start losing readers unless you break from the norm fast.

Please take note.
John Hay

No controversy, sparkle, excitement or humour? Reviews so drab? Well, it’s only a personal opinion, of course, but as a fairly close CRASH watcher over the years, I’d say the reviews were more tightly written, more to the point and without any loss of humour or sparkle — but then, I’m biased. The magazine still gets through more reviews than almost any other comparable periodical, and manages to fit in numerous articles. Do you really want what you refer to as ‘depth’ in games reviews? Damn it all, they are reviews, not a replacement for your finding out what the games are about.

The entire tone of your letter suggests that no-one at CRASH has any regard for the reader other than taking their money off them. I suggest you have a go at producing a fanzine, as many CRASH readers do, and you might begin to realise just how much effort goes into every month’s edition. And naturally, Oliver Frey just loves being disgusting, that’s all he has time to do...
LM

CRASH BRITANNICA

Dear Lloyd Mangram
I’ve collected CRASH since Issue Five, but I have lost a few old and precious ones, and I was wondering if you could do a CRASH Encyclopedia containing all the games reviewed, and what they got (apart from Sabrewulf Ha Ha). Then you could average out the CRASH’s all time top 50 greats, for the normal games, adventure and a top 20 for strategy. You could also ask the readers to vote for the best all time game from Wheelie to Starglider. You could have this free with one CRASH (Christmas Special) or put the price up to £1.50 for that issue.

Off the subject now, and I have been wondering, what has happened to Matthew Smith’s new game Attack Of The Mutant Zombie Flesh Eating Chickens From Mars? I have seen the adverts in CRASH for a few months, and wondered if you knew anything, like was it to be a platform game?
Paul Coman

To some extent, I think we’re about to answer your prayers Paul. Starting this issue there’s the CRASH History with general details of events and software over four years. Additionally, the collectable series will be completed with a detailed index of all games over the period, and on top of that, plans are afoot for a special binder to enclose the whole which will probably have some extra special encyclopedic bits and bobs to go with it. Watch out for future issues!

Software Projects are being a mite cagey about Zombie Flesh Mutant-Eating Chickens Attack Mars and indeed its creator, so we can only hope...
LM

PLUS PROUD

Dear Lloyd
I’m a +2 owner and proud of it and so are many others, but the trouble is you keep trying to avoid 128s in your reviews. A few games that I think are very good because of their enhancement are 180, Gauntlet, Strike, Army Moves and Enduro Racer, but in your reviews there’s nothing to be seen about enhancement.

Do you always try games on a 128?

For other 128 users I’ve compiled my Top Five 128 music chart.

  1. Glider Rider
  2. Amaurote
  3. Stormbringer
  4. Leviathan
  5. Starglider

For sound FX Amaurote must be the best 128 game.
C O Fulcher

The reviews do mention any significant differences between 128K games and 48K, and yes we do play them on both machines. However, I do feel a little more attention might be paid to the 128 end, but in fairness, there hasn’t been that much to write about, other than those games you mention.
LM

MORE MUSIC

Dear Lloyd
I’m writing in response to your request for a chart of Spectrum music. This is for the best 48K tunes.

  1. Milk Race
  2. Ghost Hunters
  3. Agent X
  4. Mikie
  5. Terra Cresta
  6. Renegade
  7. Chronos
  8. The Fifth Quadrant
  9. Survivor
  10. Rasterscan
J T Charlton

Any more computer deejays with charts?
LM

GOT THE VOTE

Dear Lloyd
Thank you for the Spectravideo Joyball I got with my subscription — it’s great and works brill with a Ram Turbo Interface. Being new to computers I wanted a mag with the best information on software. So I paid out for four mags, C&VG, Your Sinclair, Sinclair User and CRASH. CRASH got my vote and my money for a sub, there was no competition in choosing.

Just a couple of things: what about a hardware surgery and previews on computer books, what do you think?
Andy Muirhead

The only reason CRASH has avoided too much hardware or technical jiggery-pokery in books is that with every questionnaire, these subjects seem less and less popular. And most hardware is made in such a way that it’s not really fit for surgery, more for the trashcan. Computers, of course, can be sent to reputable repair firms now.
LM

CRASH COVER UP

Dear Lloyd
This is the first letter I’ve written to CRASH, because I’ve never felt the need to before, but I believe credit should be awarded where it’s due, so in recognition of this I must congratulate you on a most informative and very interesting all-colour magazine. It’s brilliant. It’s great. It’s decent too.

Decent?

I say decent, because I saw through (wish I could) the sly, deluding artwork on the Imagine ad for Game Over (the one with the naughty bits some magazines have been trying to cover up — Issue 43, inside back cover). The artwork was cunningly done over the... um... naughty parts, they weren’t just plastered with a big, ugly splurge of some company’s trademark, as in some magazines. In CRASH the naughty bits were disguised under some devious and stylish artwork. Is Oli responsible?

Speaking of Oli, I think his artwork is absolutely amazing. I’m just astounded at the sheer volume of work he gets through in a month, considering he circulates between several other mags. His covers, with the added touch of the CRASH logo (don’t change it) stand out among the other periodicals, making them look drab. So all the disrespectful ingrates who don’t appreciate Oli’s brilliance can go and *?$£%!!! And tell Oli not to feel discouraged and to keep up the good work.

And finally to sign off, I think the video reviews are a good idea, but you could review better-known films and also computer/film tie-ins. Also your Playing Tips section is very useful and helpful, but why do you wear a paper bag over your head?
S Alam Hannan

The Game Over ad was one of those things Oli just couldn’t resist, and felt we should do our best to retain the original as much as possible, rather than slap a logo over the well-proportioned lady’s superstructure detail. For the technically minded (as they say in photographic magazines) the added bra was done by tracing off the shape onto art paper, lightly painting a black outline of the detail, and then Oli air-brushed the shape in black ink. This small patch was shot to film and a mask made to hold back the offending part of the original in each colour layer. Then the new piece was added to the blue and red layers only.

Am I giving away a secret when say that someone from Ocean rang Oli asking whether he had the bit of artwork that they could use to make a large poster from? Unfortunately, his touching up was only on a small scrap of paper and it had been thrown away!

I like wearing a paper bag.
LM

HOLE IN THE BACK

Dear Mr Mangram
Could you please explain to me, how to put POKEs into my computer, as I bought my computer second-hand, I didn’t get a manual.

I’ve tried to put the POKEs into the computer, but I don’t know when to put them in exactly. I’ve tried to put them in at the beginning, and some way through loading, but they never work. I have also tried to put them in through the MERGE"" but still they do not work.

Please help, I’m desperate.
Paul Watson

Paul Sumner says, there’s a little hole in the back of the computer through which you stick them... no, he’s joking. Actually, I’m surprised you’re having trouble because it’s really pretty simple. Unless otherwise stated in the Playing Tips POKE routines should be typed in before loading a game, checked thoroughly, RUN, and unless a DATA error occurs the game should then load complete with the POKEs firmly in place. Wherever that isn’t the case, the tip almost always says so. Hope that helps.
LM

SAFE TO STARE

Dear Lloyd
I’ve just bought and read CRASH August 1987. My purchase of this edition was quite unintentional. I had meant to get the July issue with the OINK! pull-out in it. However, after reading the magazine I was no longer angry with myself for buying the wrong issue. I found your £1 mag well worth the money and, having only got a baby Spectrum, very addictive, enough so to want to go and update my Spectrum and try all the games you review so well.

Having finished with the praise, I wonder if you could help me. Do you know of any guidelines as to the legal or safe limit of staring at a television screen with regards to your eyesight. I work on an IBM at work, eight hours a day, and although I enjoy programming/playing games on my computer I’m a little concerned about my eyesight. Please could you advise me and other people to a safe guideline to using computers without damaging our eyesight.
Maria Lyne

To be honest, Maria, no, I can’t. I’m sure tons of research into the subject has been done, although the very little I’ve read sounds inconclusive and sometimes hysterically silly. Certainly screen static can cause eyestrain and headaches for some people susceptible to it, and I guess no-one thinks it entirely healthy to spend hours, weeks and years peering a little green, orange or white characters on a small screen. At CRASH we’ve ben staring at the darned things for well over three years (which probably explains why everyone keeps bumping into lampposts) with no discernable ill effects — but after fifteen years... I don’t know. Often, I’m thankful for my good ol’ Hermes.
LM

THE UNSWEET PILL

Dear Lloyd
I was very annoyed after reading your review of the new Spectrum +3. To start with it seemed like a good enough follow-up to the +2, despite a loss of memory in the RAM disk (nothing drastic). But I was really fuming when I found out half the add-ons made for the other true Speccies don’t work on this inferior machine, and that the extra port in its back has been made specially for Amstrad hardware! How dare Alan Sugar stoop so low as to mutate our beloved (true) Spectrum into a half +2, half CPC/PCW! All Mr Sugar has done is to use the Sinclair logo to try to sell this new model, gladly I don’t think it will.

Also what is happening to your rating boxes since 1986, looking through issue 34 there were seven headings for ratings, then it went down to six, but from issue 42 (last month) we were reduced to five: Presentation, Graphics, Playability, Addictive qualities, and Overall.

What has happened? Has everyone’s brain been worn out by the big calculation or something?
Paul Smith

PS I thought the Barbarian cover of Issue 41 was really good, and if the people who complained about it were annoyed, I would advise them to take a look at some back issues of ZZAP! for some really gruesome pictures!

Perhaps the real points about the +3 will only emerge when people start buying it in great numbers, but there’s a lot of right to the argument that whereas Sinclair created an entire industry out of his machine, Amstrad are determined to keep as much of it to themselves as possible, and probably to its detriment in the long run.

Changes in the review ratings have been explained in each issue where they changed, but the plain fact is that over the years the original CRASH ratings have become outdated. I think it’s fair to say that the current ones, and the comments too, fit the bill better now.
LM

BUGGED!

Dear Lloyd
When I read about a small fanzine and their extreme political views I felt I had to write and express my views on such an apparently blatant exercise by a few people to get some cheap publicity.

The Bug shows some alarming traits in its encounter with Creative Sparks. The most alarming one was politics in computing. ‘Politics!’ I first thought when reading your article The Bug That Roared, August edition. Since when has politics had anything to do with computing for fun?

Since the average age of CRASH readers is 16 years they are too young to vote, naive to politics and impressionable to such material as published by The Bug.

In addition to this The Bug and its political standing is also questionable. Note what Jaron Lewis said about Mrs Thatcher’s contribution to their series on famous people.

I bet he wouldn’t say that to Mr Kinnock’s contribution.

May I remind you what politics has done to sport over the last two decades. What I’m suggesting is that as soon as politics gets into computing for fun then it would be ruined beyond repair.

From what I have read The Bug deserves to go out of business. I’m sorry if that sounds too harsh, but maybe it might do some good to the software industry as a whole.
Michael Thomas

I don’t agree that 16- year-olds are naive on politics, but I certainly do agree that party and unionist politics should have no place in computer gaming. That’s a pretty strong statement, Michael, so it’s fitting that I have here a reply from The Bug themselves...
LM

LETTER FROM THE BUG

Dear Lloyd
After reading Tony Worrall’s letter last issue we thought it necessary to reply, on behalf of the Editorial Team, to some of the points raised.

At present there are about thirty fanzines being published; how Tony can claim to represent them in his letter is beyond our understanding, especially as he has just entered the scene. The Bug is the longest surviving fanzine, we have just celebrated our third birthday, and like Tony we publish for love and not money. All profits are ploughed back into the magazine, and it is written after school and at weekends. The main objective is to provide an independent magazine which features un-biased editorial.

We have also gone through ‘blood, sweat and tears’ to produce issues of the magazine, as has nearly every other fanzine. There’s no point Tony moaning about it, if you can’t take the pressure, give up. Nobody forces you to make a fanzine.

We respect a software house’s decision not to send us software, however, we see no reason why we should feature a company’s games if they don’t send them. If they wished to have a game featured it would be sent and not doing so clearly shows a wish not to have the product reviewed.

The Bug is not run by Jeffrey Davy as stated but by an Editorial Team. Perhaps if Tony had looked at our magazine or read the CRASH article properly he would have not made such a mistake. The Editorial Team does not support any particular political party. A magazine which fights prejudice, whether it be sexism. heterosexism, racism or any other prejudice, is not ‘loony’ as so crudely stated, merely humane. To see how this makes a difference why not send 40p and an SAE to us.

CSD were in the wrong as our contract stated we would have complete editorial freedom. They breached the contract and knew it. I think this proves we do the magazine for the readers and not the money. If we had obeyed their orders and kept the contract (until they went bust) we would have put money before the readers. We have been supported by many people in the industry for standing up to CSD, we did not give fanzines a bad name and were not bought-off by ‘the hand that feeds’.

During the contract, our circulation was at 1,500 copies per issue, the advertising rates at the time reflected this high circulation. The advertising revenue went to pay for essential things like the phone bill and postage costs. If we were engaging in ‘blatant profiteering’ as stated we would not use the phone to obtain review copies and our service to the readers would suffer. Once again we were putting the readers before money. If Tony thinks fanzines should stick together, and that we should have charged a lower rate. why does he write letters like he did?

Towards the end of the letter Tony quoted Jeffrey Davy’s view on a single fanzine making a difference. Obviously this was at the end of the letter and he was getting so into slagging us off he did not even think about the idea. A smaller number of fanzines with bigger circulations would have a lot more impact that many smaller ones, all saying different things. He may not like The Bug, but that does not mean that everything we say is rubbish.

Publishing nit-picking letters, such as you did, does absolutely nothing to further the interests of fanzines. Tony seems to call us hypocrites yet if we behaved the way he seems to want us to, we would be putting money before the readers. If this is what his magazines does, I think some self-analysis is in order before he calls us hypocrites.
Jaron Lewis & Jeffrey Davy — Members of Editorial Team, The Bug.

I feel I have to defend my right to publish letters from readers with opinions, no matter how muddled or obnoxious their contents may seem to offended people. And in defence of The Bug’s editorial team. I’m only too well aware of how office overheads eat the money and force a profit-consciousness on anyone who undertakes a venture like this, no matter how small it may be.
LM

A RITMAN RITES

To all CRASH readers
I feel I must write and thank all those readers who put my last three games simultaneously into the Hotline Top 20 chart for the August issue. Possibly the nicest compliment is Matchday at number six, almost three years after it was launched. Thank you!
Jon Ritman

Go on Jon, rub it in, I know that’s the one we didn’t Smash when we probably should have...!
LM

Well that’s my lot for this month. Soon CRASH Towers will be silent, the Spectrums will be stilled, the Cubs caged and the joysticks boxed. No, it’s not the Christmas holidays, just that everyone will be down in London at the PCW Show (where, thanks to the miracle of publishing schedules, you could be reading these very words). So I’ll have the entire place to myself — luxury. And if I get bored, I’ll read some more of your letters, the ones you send to LLOYD MANGRAM, THE CRASH FORUM.