It’s here!! The CodeMasters CD Games Pack has arrived at the Towers. Does it really offer something new for Speccy owners? Richard Eddy grabbed a compact disc player and gave it a spin.
The things your Speccy can get up to these days are amazing — and here’s something else to give it a Taste of What’s Yet to Come: a compilation of thirty games stored on CD.
What CodeMasters is offering here is not truly CD ROM, because CD ROM really needs a dedicated slave CD player, which naturally your average Amstrad Hi-Fi doesn’t have. With a slave CD player the computer selects the tracks of data information to load in and when to play them. Using an ordinary CD player you have to select the tracks, and the computer just accepts them. And that’s what this games pack is all about — a simple and very effective way of stroing data to load in.
So, what do you have to do? Well, the first thing is to connect your CD player to the Speccy. This is fine if you’ve got a Discman or any kind of personal CD player that can easily be shifted around. But, if you’re using a stack hi-fi CD player you’ll have to get your Speccy within seven feet (about two metres) of your CD, because that’s how long the interfacing cable is.
The cable connects from the headphone socket of your CD player (the cable has a 2.5mm jack attached, but a quarter inch jack adapter is included) to the joystick port on your Speccy. The ‘box of tricks’ which was originally going to stick out half way along the cable has now been condensed and sits inside the joystick plug.
At the heart of all this technology is a good old cassette: the system requires an initializing program to be loaded from the supplied cassette to prepare the Speccy, though it is a very quick load. Additionally, it helps you set the volume on the CD player correctly — you first turn the volume down to zero, then as track one plays, slowly increase it until the screen turns from green to red. It should all work fine now...
To actually load in a game select a track, say track 8 for Dizzy, just select ‘load’ on the screen and press track 8 and then Play on the CD player. When it’s loaded, disconnect the cable from the joystick port, plug in your joystick and play. Should you leave the cable in the port, the game could well play itself, getting directional information from the CD player!! Games load in roughly 30-40 seconds, not the ever-so-quick 20 as originally thought.
The arrival of Speccy CD ROM is brilliant, though there is a risk of it being a short-term sensation which fails due to lack of support. If you buy it, you’re encouraging other publishers to take a good look at the system and, hopefully, use it. Ideally, by next Christmas, CodeMasters would like to see all games put on CD single, all formats on one disc, and those who don’t already own a cable could buy one separately.
But for now, is it worth getting? We reckon yes — as long as you’ve got access to a CD player. You’re getting nearly £90 worth of games — a varied mix which are good to pretty brilliant; and, of course, it’s the ultimate in Speccy one-upmanship.