Living Guide to Spectrum Software


We were tempted to call this section CARDBOARD GAMES. Sadly, quite a lot of games in this section are pretty flimsy. Part of the problem is that as soon as you remove the physical reality of dealing cards, gambling real money or playing with friends, the game loses a lot of its interest. But in cases like the Psion Scrabble, the programs are not only excellent, but some of the tedious setting up is taken away. It’s obviously a question of personal choice...

Producer: Visions, 48K £6.95 (3)
An awful lot of memory and effort go into the long-winded and entirely irrelevant history of this game’s name, but it turns out to be none other than a 3D noughts and crosses played on 4 x 4 grids, four of which are stacked one on top of the other. A winning line is a straight one up or across a grid or vertically through the grids, diagonals included. Two players may oppose each other, one player play the computer, or you can have the computer play against itself. The program is a slick one, but its main drawback is the complexity of the option menu that poses a major task in logistics just to get to play a game. Cursor keys are used to place your move, so AGF or Protek joysticks may be used. General rating: very good for puzzle enthusiasts, especially with its 9 skill levels. Overall CRASH rating 57%, machine code.

Producer: CP Software, 48K £5.95
Backgammon is a board game using dice and counters. Its complexities are too detailed to go into here, but it is important that the cassette inlay contains full instructions for the beginner. The CP Software version does so. Full board and counter display with two on-screen dice. For a single player against the computer.

Producer: Hewson, 16K £5.95
Clear and simple graphics make this a good version which does well within 16K. Full instructions on program and game contained in insert. Invalid moves refused with alternate moves suggested. On-screen dice, four game options. For a single player against the computer.

Producer: Psion, 16K £5.95
One can usually expect a lot from Psion, and this game is no exception. Very good graphics and instructions with four skill levels, on screen or throw your own dice. Good demo mode.

Producer: Micromega, 16K £6.95
The object is to find hidden numbers under a covered grid. You are given 100 tries per grid. If you open a grid square, or ‘door’, and the answer is wrong, then the number under that square is uncovered for about one second before disappearing again — a memory testing game. The second program, Puzzler, has the computer generating a random letter matrix and your job is to rearrange the matrix so as to match the computer’s letter matrix. Not an easy game, mind boggling in fact.

Producer: Bridgemaster, 16K £24.95
If Backgammon is a difficult game to explain, then Bridge, the ultimate card game, is impossible. Bridgemaster is a marvellous beginner’s course in learning how to play the game. The package includes a computer tape, a commentary tape, very well read and which takes you through the early playing stages, and a book Begin Bridge with Reese, which is included for general reference. The demo ‘automode’ plays through a hand for you in combination with the commentary tape. This is very much a tutorial program — you can play through a hand where the program only allows you to play the card it expects, beeping if you play the wrong one. In this way you become accustomed to the Bridge ‘conventions’, and it shows you how to take tricks, bid and make contracts and the esoterica of scoring. Uses 55 different deals for teaching. If you want to become proficient in playing Bridge then this is an excellent program, making fine use of the computer and well worth the high price.

Producer: CP Software, 16K £5.95
Two programs, each at £5.95, Beginners and Advanced. Works from 40 pre-dealt hands, each hand used to illustrate a particular aspect of bidding and card play. Conventions used are Acol, Blackwood and Staymer. Accepts only correct bid or card.

Producer: Temptation, 16K £5.95
Challenge provides two games on one tape, a version of Higher Lower, and Master Code deluxe. In the first you guess the value of the next card turned up and may gamble a winning line of five cards. In Master Code you must guess the colour code the computer sets up, or set up your own for the computer to guess. Graphics generally very good, but playability seeps away rapidly.

Producer: Artic, 48K £8.45
There isn’t much to choose between the quality of graphics in most of the chess programs available, all are pretty good. This program offers seven levels of play, four of which are within competition time limits. Full analysis, recommended moves, save game.

Producer: Psion, 48K £7.95
Psion’s sensible graphics make this an easy game on the eye. You may play either black or white against the computer, reverse roles or change the skill level during a game.

Producer: Artic, 48K £9.95
There’s much argument over which is actually the best chess program for the Spectrum. Artic have produced a number of fine tapes, but this one stands out well against everyone else’s. There are 1000 levels of play — you choose the maximum response time for the computer, and that dictates the skill level. When pitted against other computer programs, Artic’s has consistently beat them — so they claim! But see for yourself. You may change sides, add or remove pieces, list or print out all moves made, and the computer will recommend a move.

Producer: Quicksilva, 48K £6.94
The Chess Player speaks, at least briefly when he announces himself, thereafter he contents himself with on-screen remarks like, ‘that was a pathetic move’. A useful feature is the ability to alter the colours of board and pieces to suit yourself. Six skill levels with varying response times. A good starter’s program, because the computer does lose on the lower skill levels, which is encouraging! Computer-recommended moves, but watch it closely — it cheats sometimes!

Producer: OCP, 48K £8.95
Author: J Hutchby
The strange title refers to the famous ‘turk’, a chess playing machine built in 1769 for the Viennese Court. The modern ‘Turk’ is your computer. This chess version has arguably the best graphics of any available, very clearly defined classic pieces on a white and beige ground. A 14-option menu allows for a wide variety of play, printing, listing and editing and includes a demo mode and ‘Blitz’ game, where a time limit is set for the game. The computer can also be used to display the moves of 2 players, or it can set up a board in any configuration you like for playing newspaper chess problems out. There are 6 levels of play with response times ranging from a few seconds up to 6 hours. Moves are made with the traditional algebraic notation and the game allows for castling, en passant capture and promotion to queen. Certainly one of the most flexible, playable and best looking chess games for the Spectrum.

Producer: Artic, 16K £5.95
Whilst limited in its playing levels, this game allows you to learn chess against the computer, by showing you how. You can also play a game against the computer and all legal moves are allowed. Recommended moves, setting up board and save game.

Producer: Intelligent Software, 16K/48K £9.95
This program is winner of the Second European Microcomputer Chess Championship. The 48K side has more sophisticated options such as altering the colours of board and pieces, printouts and game saving. Cursor keys movement allows you to analyse a move or take the piece back. Illegal moves are buzzed. Eight skill levels and a problem level system whereby the computer can be instructed to look for a mate in one, two or three moves. Comes complete with an instruction manual and a library of opening moves. Excellent value.

Producer: CRL, 48K £5.95
This race simulation game offers all the fun of the gee-gees without the stress of attending a meeting; or replaces those parlour versions with the rolled out track and wooden horses that were once popular. Up to five players may bet either for points or pence — if it’s money, you keep your own book. Three levels are offered and when all is ready the computer scrolls the race before your eyes (machine code) slowing down to slow motion as the race nears the finish line. If required a photofinish is provided. Good instructions and graphics.

Producer: Micromega, 16K 124.95
A competent version of the famous pub game, marred by a complex and unorthodox way of presenting the play. Dominoes may be familiar to most, but if not there are sensible instructions — provide your own beer though.

Producer: Phipps Assoc, 16K £4.95
Phipps’ version is somewhat better as far as playing goes, with the familiar right angle shapes making life easy, adding up the adjoining ends to make multiples of five or three. 72 points to win.

Producer: Work force, 48K £6.95
A very good computer version of THAT FAMOUS GAME whose name no one dares utter for fear of law suits. Up to six players can take part with all the usual features like buying, selling, mortgaging, houses, hotels, jail, passing GO, Community Chest and Chance. Each player gets £1,500 to start and the screen displays all the relevant info you could want. A pad and pencil are handy though, if you don’t want to keep asking the computer to list your possessions. Very good graphics within the Spectrum limitations. The game can be saved at any time.

Producer: Oasis, 48K £4.95 (3)
Oddly, Draughts is a board game which doesn’t seem to have attracted much computer attention. In this version there are 10 levels of play with zero being the fastest and easiest. Traditional rules are used with computer refusing illegal moves. Pieces reaching the opposing back file are automatically promoted to Kings. The game boasts excellent, clear graphics and uses the traditional algebraic notation for entries. One player versus the computer, for what it is and for its price, well recommended. Overall CRASH rating 71%, machine code.

Producer: DK Tronics, 48K £4.95
The title says it all — the only money you can lose here is the price of the cassette! Features nudge, hold and gamble with good, colourful graphics.

Producer: Automata, 48K,£6.00
Automata’s version of THAT FAMOUS BOARD GAME differs from the one by Workforce in that it doesn’t show the whole board at once, preferring to concentrate on three squares at a time. This does make the graphics a little easier on the eye, but removes some of the fun as well. 2-5 players can take part, with the computer acting as either a banker or a player (useful because you can play in one against the computer). The computer is a pretty mean tycoon as well. Contains every usual feature of the board game and is good value for money.

Producer: Oasis, 48K £4.95 (3)
Invader Cubes is a novel presentation of 3D Noughts and Crosses. The game is played by one player against the computer on four vertically stacked 4 x 4 grids. What makes this game an excellent version is the novelty of using space invaders as markers, and its utter simplicity in play. Despite being in BASIC, the program runs quite rapidly and without any of the confusing frills normally attached to 3D Noughts and Crosses for the computer. All entries are prompted and then verified before your space invader jiggles its way over to the tower of grids and places itself. A winning line results in all four responsible invaders jumping up and down gleefully. The graphics are extremely effective and our reviewers put this version down as one of the best despite its lack of skill levels. Overall CRASH rating 69%.

Producer: CRL, 48K £4.95
A fruit machine game with full features including nudge, gamble and hold. You start off with 200 units and each spin costs 10. A neat touch is the money token rolling along the bottom of the screen into a slot, and the payout, which on a jackpot can take almost half a minute! Written in basic, but reasonably fast and smooth.

Producer: Artic, 48K £5.95
This program contains two screen pictures which are broken up into squares. Only one picture may be attempted at a time. The pieces are all muddled up, and the obvious object is to recreate the picture. It’s done against the clock. The two pictures consist of large graphics, one is St. George and the dragon, and the other is of an old fashioned steam engine. Although the game is quite difficult to sort out at first, it soon becomes easy and then boring. Very good for younger children though. Overall CRASH rating 47%, machine code.

Producer: DK. Tronics, 48K £5.95
Another jigsaw puzzle game, but with more pictures than Artic’s game offers. The object again is to recreate the original picture from the pieces. The graphics are very good, with plenty of detail and smooth animation. The sound is also excellent, with one or two different tunes for each puzzle. Good instructions. Overall CRASH rating 64%. May be used with Kempston joystick. Machine code.

Producer: Temptation, 16K £5.95
Author: Neil Streeter
This tape contains 2 programs, ‘Super Nudge’ and ‘Black Jack’. The first is a fruit machine which features the usual options; nudge, hold, gamble and cross wins. The nudge feature is slightly odd in as much as you can’t see how many you have won and they only seem to nudge in one direction. ‘Black Jack’ is Pontoon, the card game where you try to get as close to 21 as possible. You can’t split hands, burn or buy cards. The graphics are good, especially on the cards, but both games suffer with the usual lack of fun in playing gambling games against a computer. Overall CRASH rating 48%. Programmed in Basic with UDG.

Producer: Mikrogen, 48K £6.95
A program with ten playing levels, options to alter the board and piece colours to suit, setting up the board — good for problem solving — recommended moves and game saving, all make Mikrogen’s chess game a strong contender.

Producer: Micromega, 16K £4.95
Two games on one tape, casino style Blackjack (Pontoon) and Craps. The Blackjack games has fine graphics and plays the standard rules, but suffers from a lack of interesting options, like buying cards, burning and splitting. The Craps game is the famous dice game of American movies and features a hand shaking the dice until you press the key to release them. Despite the usual lack of atmosphere that you expect when playing communal games with a computer, this program is an attractive one, even addictive.

Producer: CDS, 16K £6.95
The 19th Century board game is simple to play, difficult to win. Also known as Reversi, there are several versions. This is a standard one. You can play another person, play the computer, or watch the computer play itself (useful for learning, but not much fun). If you want to play another person, then you’re better off buying a real board game version. Computer-recommended moves if stuck.

Producer: Severn, 48K, £4.95
Author: Tony Churcher
Quincy is Yahtzi by another name, basically a five-dice game that resembles Poker Dice except that the dice are traditionally engraved with dots 1 to 6. Severn’s version is probably the best, with clear on-screen instructions as to the complexities of play (which are numerous). 2 to 6 players may take part with individual screen cards to keep score. The graphics are very good, and if you like these dice games then this will be a must for your collection. It’s also excellent value for money.

Producer: Artic, 16K £5.95
Author: Brian Needham
In Reflections you are presented with a grid in which mirrors (invisible) have been placed at a forty-five degree angle. The object is to locate them all by shining a torch into the grid and deducing where the mirrors must be by where the beam emerges from the grid. Each time you use the torch you lose points, and you are only allowed three goes before making a guess as to the position of the mirror for which you are searching. Each correct guess reveals the mirror in question. The graphics are necessarily quite simple. The game appeals for a while but has little lasting value. Overall CRASH rating 50%, machine code.

Producer: Artic, 16K £6.95
Clear colours make this easy on the eye. Game features four skill levels and game save.

Producer: Sinclair, 16K £7.95
Excellent graphics, nine skill levels to choose from and you can watch the computer play or play against the machine. Hi-res graphics and machine code. One of the best versions, but so it should be for the price.

Producer: Micromega, 16K £4.95
If gambling games lack excitement when issued forth from a TV screen then at least they must have exciting graphics to make up for it. Unfortunately the wonders of the spinning roulette wheel are denied us in this game. All you see is a line drawing of the wheel while a flashing number indicates the wheel numbers. All bets possible, fun in occasional doses.

Producer: Psion, 48K £15.95
It may seem a lot of money to pay out, but if you enjoy playing Scrabble, you’ll love the Spectrum version — even if you don’t like Scrabble, you’ll love the Spectrum version! There’s no denying that this is a fabulous program. It allows you to do anything at all you would do in real Scrabble, and if you’re playing against the computer it allows you to cheat — but you wouldn’t do that, would you? Graphics display is crystal clear; your tile rack can be juggled to make up words, the computer tells you what your word will score and lets you take it back if you think you can do better. Up to four players, the computer may be one or all of them. You can select to see the computer ‘thinking’ if you wish. Only one failing, the Spectrum seems to get away with some rather odd two-letter words — and you can’t challenge its 11,000 word vocabulary. Highly recommended.

Producer: DK Tronics, 16K £5.95
This puzzle is one of the best and most complex. There are 16 x 16 different character positions, which makes for a lot of combinations! In a sense the screen resembles a 2D Rubic cube, the colour of the blocks of which are muddled up by the computer. If you beat or equal the computer’s number of moves to solve the combination, then you are given a garbled message. The better you do, the more readable the message becomes. If you get less than the computer you will have to try again from scratch. The graphics are good, although not important, and the colour is very well used, as is the sound. (Skill levels). Overall CRASH rating 62%, machine code.

Producer: Digital Dexterity, 48K £6.50 (3)
Author: J. Plunkett
Star Trade is an intergalactic version of ‘Monopoly’ with a few variations. The property board is laid out in quite a different fashion, but bears similarities in that properties come in blocks depending on their purchase price range. There are other recognisable features like GO, Jail (or Remand Block), a safe area (or Dock) and chance cards. The properties have exotic names like Phobos, Io or Ceres, and between 1 and 9 players may take part against each other and the computer (or Trader). The instructions are on one side of the tape and the game on the other, but the game is run by computer prompts throughout, so this presents no real problem. The graphics are efficient, although a little hard to read because of the crammed screen detail, and the colour could have been better used to alleviate the overall drab effect. An above average board game for those who like the type. Overall CRASH rating 55% machine code.

Producer: CP Software, 48K £7.95
There has been much argument between Artic and CP Software over claims for this program, Artic saying their equivalent game beats CP’s every time. Nevertheless, this version is very good, with clear graphics, the option to change playing colours and seven levels of play. Several standard openings programed, recommended move and a very helpful HELP which will list the available options.

Producer: Dream Software, 48K £5.95
Author: S Hillyer
Another one arm bandit game with nudges, holds, gamble and jackpot payouts visible at the side of the display. This is a version we haven’t been able to see yet, so judgement is reserved!

Producer: Artic, 48K £9.98
With similar specifications to the ‘Chess’ program from Artic, this version will talk you through your game and make comments. Seven levels of play, save, recommended moves, set up board. A good solid game.

Producer: Workforce, 48K £5.50
Yahtzi, which also gets called Yangtze, Yahtzee and even Yahtcee, is a complex dice game, not unlike poker dice. It is based on the throw of 5 dice, which are shown in the upper half of the screen, while the lower half shows the poker scores, pairs, three of a kind, full house etc. Since between 2 and 6 people can play, it can be party fun time, but I still think this sort of game works better with everyone facing inwards, rather than in a line watching TV.

Producer: CP Software, 48K £5.95
Oddly enough, considering how many chess, reversi and card games versions, there are, there is really only this Draughts program. Perhaps the game is too simple to excite programmers’ attention, which would be a mistake, since Draughts is quite hard to play well. There are ten levels of play against the computer. Illegal moves refused and you are forced to take pieces by jumping if there is the option. Pieces reaching the back file opposite are automatically made into kings. Good value for money and one of the more absorbing board games.