Living Guide to Spectrum Software


For many arcade enthusiasts defender and scramble games are the kings of flying, shoot ’em ups. They require quick reflexes and excellent hand/eye control. Of the home computer they demand programs with sensible control key layouts or joysticks for good results. In scramble games you fly a mission against a hidden enemy base, whereas in defender games you must rescue humanity at the same time. In either case the game is played in profile, showing the topography of the ground over which you are flying. Missile defence is simpler, showing missile traces descending on your cities. You must guide the anti-missile defence by sighting cross hairs at the leading points of the enemy missile traces.

Producer: Ocean, 16K £5.90
This version is a classic missile defence game with excellent graphics, especially the sunburst explosions. The missile traces split into several traces, coming thicker and faster with each wave. The available number of missiles in your armoury for each wave is shown at the base of the screen and above that are your six cities which you are protecting. After each attack wave the program updates your score and cities left. Nice title graphics and ‘end’ card. Recommended.

Producer: Silversoft, 16K £5.95 (1)
Author: C Knight
Silversoft’s version of the much-copied ‘Missile Command’ arcade original is well up to scratch with good use of colour, and average sound. The graphics are simple but effective with very nice explosions and a suitably disgusting frying sound to accompany them. Features six cities, three missile bases, aircraft and bomb-dropping satellites, and heat sensitive missiles which hover above a detonation until it’s safe to descend further. Gets increasingly fast, medium addictive, sensible control keys and Kempston joystick (via a 2-part load). Overall CRASH rating 88% M/C.

Producer: Mikrogen, 16K £5.95
You must race across the planet and destroy the alien master ships in the lair. The cityscape beneath is densely populated and green grabbers keep abducting the humans. Knock out the aliens with smart bombs, but then you must catch the falling humans before they splat. Hosts of other alien fighters threaten you. Features long range scan, reverse. Long range shows the whole distance to travel. Keyboard positioning is sensible, which is as well, as this game does not have a joystick facility.

Producer: Mikrogen, 48K £5. 95(2)
Author: C Hinsley
Mikrogen actually say in their inlay that this is a copy of ‘Missile Command’, and it [turns out] to be a respectable version. Six cities but only two independently firing laser bases, and incoming torpedoes as well as missiles. The graphics are very good, one reviewer actually thought they were better than the arcade original, especially the explosions. No user-defined keys despite the inlay claiming it, but reasonable keys provided. Joystick; Mikrogen. Sadly only one skill level. Above average, overall CRASH rating 65% M/C.

Producer: Mikrogen, 48K £5.95
Author: C Hinsley
The title says it all, and it turns out to be a pretty classic looking ‘Defender’ game with the familiar zig-zag outline landscape, waving humans, and assorted alien craft. There is the radar screen at the top as well. Control is quite good with sensible keys allowing for thrust, reverse, laser and smart bombs as well as a hyperspace facility. But there is something lacking in the feel and play. Perhaps it’s the speed which seems slow compared to other versions combined with the fact that it seems quite easy to play. Inlay states user-definable keys, but there aren’t any. Good, bright graphics and reasonable sound. Overall CRASH rating 63% M/C.

Producer: Artic, 16K £4.95 (2)
Author: Donald Campbell
Another ‘Missile Command’ of course. Six cities, three missile silos, no satellites or torpedoes. A useful feature is the cross hair sight which leaves an after image when the firing key is pressed while the main sight dashes off somewhere else on the screen. Fairly simple looking graphics and a very fast version. Pity, then, that the control keys are badly placed, 6/7/8/9 and 0. 3 skill levels, joystick: Kempston, Sinclair 2. Above average, overall CRASH rating 63% M/C.

Producer: Abacus, 16K £5.95 (1)
Author: K Flynn
This is a very superior ‘Missile Command’ style game and a games designer in one — another from the specialists in games for eight-fingered players. Your base has 4 missile launch pads supplied by underground tunnels, and 2 laser bases at either end of the screen. Incoming alien missiles split into 4 small and hard to hit warheads if not destroyed quickly. You must select the launch pad required, fire the missile, guide it to its target and detonate it at the correct moment. If that’s not enough, low flying alien craft bomb your installations. If you like a fast, difficult to master game, then this is for you. But many factors can be modified by the clever POKE facility which allows you to redesign the game to suit your own taste. On the reverse side is a free game called ‘Destroyer’. Uses 6 control keys, no joystick option, excellent graphics, recommended. CRASH overall rating 78% M/C.

Producer: Silversoft, 16K £5.95
This is similar to ‘Penetrator’ by Melbourne House, but is nowhere as good a program. It’s the sister game to ‘Orbiter’. Here you must attack the aliens in their underground caverns. Weapons are bombs and laser and there are fuel dumps for points. Thrust and decelerate and nine skill levels (different speeds of play) with the cursor keys and 9 and 0 for direction and fire, which is not the best arrangement. No joystick facility. There are better value games around of this type.

Producer: Martech/Durrell, 16K £6.95
This game seemed to upset a lot of magazine reviewers because of its unstated reference to the Falklands War! Bad taste perhaps? In any event, a completely daft reason to give an excellent game a poor review. You must take off from an aircraft carrier, dodge guided missiles fired at you from an enemy ship, then fly over a heavily defended island, bombing the anti-aircraft guns, avoiding the enemy fighters and shooting them down. Keep your speed up or you’ll run out of fuel before reaching the climactic bombing run on the town (Port Stanley perhaps?) Then it’s back to the aircraft carrier to land. Fast responses and first rate graphics (the sun on the sea is particularly good). Five skill levels. Keys are cursor (pity) with zero to fire, nine to bomb and SPACE to eject. Joystick: Protek or AGF on the cursors. Highly recommended.

Producer: Crystal, 48K £6.50 (1)
A word of warning — this game (indeed all new Crystal programs) has a special loader which makes you think it isn’t loading properly. It is a classic copy of the famous arcade original and features Landers, Bombers, Mutants, Swarmers and Pods. There is an excellent radar screen, one you can really use for lining up shots, and spectacular explosion graphics. Sadly unless you own a Fuller Box, the game is totally silent. As usual with ‘Defender’ games, there is not much colour, but the graphics are fast and smooth. All in all probably the best version for the Spectrum yet. Rather awkward control keys; Z/X left/right and N/M up/down, A to G fire laser, H to ENTER smart bombs. Joystick: AGF, Protek, Kempston, Fuller. CRASH rating, playable and addictive, overall 70% M/C.

Producer: Abbex, 48K £5.95 (2)
Author: Paul Reynolds
One of our Games of the Month last issue, and deservedly so. This lively game boasts tons of [good] graphics with animation and humour thrown in. Your task as a chopper pilot is twofold, one to prevent enemy subs and V1 bombers from destroying the oil tanker anchored in the bay; and two, rescue people from the imminent eruption of the volcano on an island across the bay. When the tanker is hit its crew start to fling themselves overboard and also have to be rescued by lowering a rope. It’s all very tricky, helped by a very good radar scanner and a forward firing gun on the chopper. When the fuel runs out, it’s back to the helipad where a busy workman comes out and does the job (marvellous). A handful of keys is needed, not well explained, and the game is challenging, original and well worth the money. No joystick option. Generally rated as very good, highly recommended. Overall CRASH rating 83% m/c.

Producer: Silversoft, 16K £5.95
This is a much better game than Silversoft’s ‘Ground Attack’ and is a good version of the classic ‘Defender’ of arcade fame. The animated graphics are neat and the sound amusing. Control keys are much better placed than in GA as well. Climb, dive, thrust, reverse, hyperspace, smart bombs and laser all help you protect the humanoids from the marauding alien craft. Features an excellent long range scan. No joystick facility. M/C.

Producer: Melbourne House, 48K £6.95
Probably the definitive ‘scramble’ game for the Spectrum. Four rings of defence surround the alien base, each with its own problems of landscale. Missiles take off continuously guided by radar units (excellent animation) which get more accurate if you fail to destroy enough of them. Special feature allows you to reprogram the game to make your own landscape and alter the enemy’s defences. Highly recommended. Joystick: Kempsoft I.

Producer: Softek, 16K £5.95
Author: Andrew Beale
This is Softek’s version of missile defence and it is a close copy of the original. Its graphics are nowhere near as good as Ocean’s ‘Armageddon’. On the other hand it does have the extra feature of plenty of enemy planes buzzing around to destroy as well as the missiles, themselves and the explosions are satisfactory. It is also faster to play than Ocean’s version, but somehow less fun. One side of this tape is for the keyboard (with a dreadful layout) and the other side is for the Kempston joystick. The inlay card doesn’t tell you that key M is for fire. Eight directional movement, generally okay, but not as playable as Armageddon.

Producer: Mikrogen, 16K £5.50
This is an enjoyable copy of the arcade original and a flexible program as you’re given a 4-option menu (1 = missiles, 2 = UFOs, 3 = Meteors, 4 = Fortress) which means you can leap from part to part as you choose, or fight your way through the correct sequence if you’re a showoff. Three speeds with the graphics a bit shaky on fast. Usual lasers, bombs, fuel dumps, missiles with a neat 2-option on returning to the next life where you left off, or changing landscape each time. The meteors are too difficult to be enjoyable, and the sound isn’t amazing. No joystick option and the keys are a bit of a handful (2 = down, 4 = up, 6 brake, 7 = thrust, 0 = laser) and all lower row are bombs. All in all fun to play and good value.

Producer: Starzone, 48K £5.50 (1)
Author: N Mardon
With a change of one letter, the game everyone has wanted to get their hands on has reached the Spectrum at last and caused a stir at the 9th ZX Microfair where it was to be seen on the Crash Micro stand for the first time. The compiled machine code graphics are surprisingly smooth, considering how much detail has to keep scrolling diagonally across the screen. The object is to take your attack fighter through the increasingly dense defences and destroy the Zaxxan fort. Features gun emplacements, fuel dumps, enemy aircraft, laser beams and walls with force fields — and of course the shadow of your fighter on the floor. Colour is well used and the sound is fairly good. Good control keys and Kempston joystick. Good value for money, addictive to play and a must for ‘Zaxxon’ fans. Overall CRASH rating 74% M/C.