Living Guide to Spectrum Software


With some exceptions, Asteroid type games tend to be less colourful than most arcade programs — some are virtually black and white, but the category is still one of the most popular. Also included under this heading are ‘space’ games which have very little to do with asteroids.

Producer: Blaby, 58K £4.95
There’s something of a ‘frogger’ feel to this ultra-fast game. Alien ships zip along parallel tracks which you must traverse, shooting them for points. Impossible without a joystick and difficult with, goes with Kempston or AGF or Protek. Generally less than one expects from the usually excellent Blaby people.

Producer: Fantasy, 16K £5.50
Centre screen is the Black Hole, from which emerge three types of alien craft. Two of your weapons are deflected by the force of the Black Hole, which makes aiming difficult, and the third weapon has a limited range. Indiscriminate shooting leads to loss of power, and the aliens fire back. To make matters worse there is space debris to avoid on the left of screen, the area to which you’re confined. Control in eight directions, but too many keys make this game hard to enjoy, and there are too many for a joystick to handle.

Producer: Thorn EMI, 16K £6.95 (1)
Author: Graham Johns
You’re on this supply ship, running the blockade of earth by some nasty aliens and there are 5 layers of defences to get through. First a dense shower of meteors which can be dodged or shot, then a layer of vertical laser barriers which you must dodge, then tractor beam units try to pull you off course, finally a fleet of alien ships try to blast you to kingdom come. You must then transfer your cargo pods to an earth ship. Control response is frighteningly fast and violent — it has to be to dodge the laser beams. Pity the control keys are laid out for the Sinclair joystick — they’re very awkward. A popular game for shoot em up addicts with plenty of playability, but maybe lacking in great lasting appeal. Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston. 6 skill levels, 5 lives. CRASH rating: fairly good, overall 63% M/C.

Producer: Artic, 48K £4.95
An archetypal ‘asteroids’ game with hardly any colour at all. Hollow outlines for the asteroids which shatter into smaller fragments when hit. Rotate, thrust and hyperspace and typically nasty flying saucers that appear when you don’t need them. Two speeds (fast and suicidal — and they mean it!) with bonus ships for points. A game this fast should have continuous fire facility, but doesn’t. No popular joystick facility. Good value for asteroid addicts who like a fast game.

Producer: PSS, 48K £5.95
A standard version of asteroids with rotate left and right, thrust, hyperspace and fire, wrap around screen and alien ships. Can’t comment on the game’s quality since none of our three review copies would load.

Producer: PSS, 48K £5.95 (2)
The gateway to the anti-matter world of Migon is actually an oblong grid line with radiating lines from an off-centred inner square. Your ship whizzes at amazing speed round the outer edge of the outer grid, firing inwards at (first) enemy ships which come outward, one to a segment and which will destroy you if you are still on that segment when it reaches the edge, (second) at meteors and (third) at more enemy ships plus an energy force which zips around the inner edge of the grid line getting closer and closer to you. It has a specialist appeal for those who like simple asteroidal games played at an almost insane speed and that require split second timing skills. Reasonable use of colour in the very small graphics, an ample selection of control keys, joystick: Kempston. Progressive difficulty, fast and medium addictive. Overall CRASH rating 68% m/c.

Producer: Ultimate, 16K £5.50
There’s not much can be said about Ultimate that hasn’t already been said. Graphics and presentation are of the highest standard. In Jetpac you must get your spaceman to assemble a rocket and fuel it, steal as many gems as you can and avoid the irate aliens or kill them with the laser. When assembled the rocket takes off for another planet to plunder. Re-assemble the ship after five planets. Five levels of different aliens. Joystick: Kempston. One or Two player games, continuous fire and movement in eight directions. Highly recommended.

Producer: Blaby, 48K £4.95
There’s a factory below on the planet which you must plunder, guiding your ship through the heavy alien space traffic. Deceptively simple looking game with good graphics and sound and really a ‘frogger’ variant. M/C. Joystick: Kempston.

Producer: DK Tronics. 16K £4.95
In a way it’s as well this game is in the cheaper bracket because it isn’t a very good program. The graphics are jerky in movement and the relative speed of craft to asteroids is too slow. Worst of all you can only use one function at a time so you can’t fire while rotating or thrusting. There is a useful ‘redefine’ function which allows you to change keyboard options and alter the way in which the game plays. No joystick facility, unless redefined to cursor keys to use AGF or Protek.

Producer: Quicksilva, 16K £4.95
Mercifully, Quicksilva have proved their originality in the games field by going onto games which make this one look as silly as it is. If you like asteroid games then this is pretty fast. Simple outlines hover in a blank black space. Ship orientation is in eight directions using all the number keys which means you can’t concentrate on the game.

Producer: Silversoft, 16K £5.95 (1)
Author: Jeremy Brown
This is a Lander type game where you must guide your craft down to a planet’s surface and rescue stranded astronauts or miners or something and return them to the mothership above. To get down to the planet you must dodge your way through the masses of asteroids, and then return through layers of enemy shipping. Controls provide a retro rocket for braking, important when landing as an inaccurate or fast landing results in death. On the return journey the retro becomes a gun to shoot at the aliens. On higher levels there is also a force field as a added hazard. Throughout, the graphics are very good and move smoothly. This is a very difficult game and bound to be addictive. Takes time to get good at it. Sensible control keys, joystick: AGF, Protek or Kempston. 3 playing speeds, over 50 screens, generally recommended. Overall CRASH rating 80% M/C.

Producer: Psion, 16K £4.95
A very good copy and a classic version with the best graphics of the lot. Nice bright yellow asteroids which shatter satisfyingly. A bit slow, although the shattered fragments change direction and move faster. Alien ships are well defined graphically. Using Z/X for rotation and SPACE/ENTER for fire/thrust is quite good, but H for hyperspace takes some getting to in an emergency. No skill levels, which means the addictivity rating is low, but good value at the price. No joystick option.

Producer: Imagine, 16K £5.50
Imagine come up with some of the best games — this isn’t one of them. You’re supposed to clear the space lanes of civilisation’s debris by bulldozing it into a black hole in the centre of the screen. The graphics are black and white, though nicely drawn but the game is confusing. Joystick: Fuller.

Producer: Abacus, 16K £5.00
Author: Kevin Flynn
Prevent the enemy from attacking the five Sentinel space stations with your four ships. Careful though — your three remaining ships (lives) are docked with the station so if your protective screen isn’t effective you can lose lives before you’ve even had a chance to use them! Enemy comes in various forms and meteroids make life impossible at times. Your weapons are laser and a guided missile so you have to contend with left/right rotation, thrust, laser fire, missile fire and two controls for guiding it, which makes Sentinel a game for the four-handed player! Oh, and there’s a force field for the station — five-handed player! A good fast and furious game. Good value. No joystick option.

Producer: Blaby, 48K £5.95
Take your shuttle craft from the mothership and descend to two specially created landing spaces on the planet’s hilly surface to rescue the stranded astronauts, which stand on the hillsides waving their arms frantically. You can only take one at a time and landing results in the nearest dashing to your craft and partial safety. Unfortunately the sky is crowded with bi-directional meteors. The graphics are cute and the sound very good, but the inlay card suggests you can fire at something when you can’t. Avoiding the meteors is simply done by dodging them (a sort of frogger). Not the most addictive of Blaby’s games, but still very playable. Joystick: Kempston, AGF or Protek.

Producer: Abersoft, 48K £4.95
A very new asteroid game and one of the most colourful with a pretty packed screen. Wrap around action and multi-shaped objects. Good acceleration and braking but requires a tender touch as the action is quite violent. Hyperspace, no difficulty levels. It looks good but it needs more playability to put it in the top rank. Joystick: Kempston, AGF or Protek.

Producer: Postern, 16K £7.95 (1)
This is the, by now, famous real 3D game which uses red and blue spectacles to create a three dimensional feeling. Sadly the effect doesn’t come off at all, with few people reporting any success with the effect. On top of that, the game itself is not sufficiently exciting enough to be worth the very high price asked. Basically your ship moves vertically at the left of screen, confronting the alien ships which move from right to left. You can ‘zoom’ in and out of the screen to match the depth of the attacking vessels. 6 control keys, no joystick option, smooth movement but not colourful and only average sound. Overall CRASH rating M/C.

Producer: Fantasy, 16K £5.50
This game has an essential difference — instead of firing ahead, you lay gas clouds behind you to destroy the aliens. The aliens are made of anti-matter, so as they rush headlong into your vapour clouds they’re annihilated. You must score 1000 points within 40 seconds to get to the next level, an idea which makes this game extremely addictive to play. Wrap around screen, 8-directional movement in a very crowded screen. Hiding inside one of your vapour clouds is a sneaky way of avoiding death. Joystick: Kempston, AGF, Protek, Fuller or Mikrogen II. Good value.