Living Guide to Spectrum Software


‘Strategy’ says the dictionary, ‘is Generalship, the art of war; management of an army or armies in a campaign — art of moving or disposing troops or ships so as to impose upon the enemy the place and time and conditions for fighting preferred by oneself.’ The best strategy games attempt to simulate real conditions in a wide spectrum (ahem!) of activities, and ask you to manage your forces, whether they be armies old and new, or an awkward work force. Most computer versions are lengthy games, so it’s important to be able to save them for another convenient time.

Producer: CCS, 16/48K, £5/6.00
Start off with £3 million and turn it into £30 million and take over British Airways. Hijacks, strikes, crashes and rising fuel costs all take their toll. If you enjoy strategy games revolving around empire building, then CCS are the people for you. Clear text and illustration graphics. Good value for money.

Producer: Red Shift, 48K £9.95
‘Apocalypse’ is a game of nuclear devastation. It’s a long two-sided load and a game for 1-4 players. It can take between four hours and four years to play and if you outgrow the scenario, Red Shift have others to add on. A large selection of maps allows the action to take place anywhere and at almost any period. You set up the empires, their centres, their armies and weaponry. This is a very flexible game of real war strategy which should keep the addict going for a long, long time. Very good value.

Producer: CCS, 16/48K £5/£6.00
You have a million in capital and must increase this to 25 million in the shortest possible time. The problems you must cope with include wary shareholders who are watching your every move, assessing your performance and who may even force you to resign if you’re not doing well. Inflation, a sluggish economy and copious strikes are other problems you will face in this lively strategy from CCS. It’s all very well eating fast food, but how fast is the money?

Producer: Temptation, 48K
Author: Simon Mansfield
The game is for 2 to 4 players and takes you back to medieval times (apart from one noted anachronism). At the start of the game each player is awarded a castle, lands, workers and money in the form of ‘dubloons’. The object is to plant your acreage, feed your workers, hire mercenaries (and feed them), buy them weapons and raid your neighbouring barons to take money, slaves and land. Slaves are useful because they do as much work as your workers but only eat half as much food. The weapons your mercenaries carry depend on what you spend and can include lasers (?) There are natural disasters to contend with like plague and rats, and if you feed your workers generously they’ll give birth to babies. Games of between 5 and 55 moves may be pre-selected, the winner being the most powerful baron at the end of the selected number of moves. There are no graphics to speak of and the response times are quite long. Overall CRASH rating 48% if you’re in a group. BASIC.

Producer: CCS, 48K £6.00 (2)
This program won the 1983 Cambridge Award. It is a unique mix between a conventional wargame and chess, with the board, or war zone, laid out not unlike a chess board. The opposing armies face each other in formalised ranks with the battle area between them. This is full of obstacles like barbed wire, mines, water and forests. Each side has a King, artillery units, tanks, cavalry and infantry units. The object of the game is to capture the opponent’s King. The units move as a group, but can be split up into individuals by the terrain. Each unit has its own characteristics in how much it may move per turn, and what terrain type it may or may not cross. The moves are prompted on screen, so extremely complex wargame instructions are not necessary. If you like wargames, this is quite an original concept with reasonable graphics despite the BASIC. Amusing instructions in the 2-part load. Overall CRASH rating 63%.

Producer: CCS, 48K £5.00
Author: K A Wells
If you’ve ever thought about putting the British car industry back on its feet, here’s your chance! You are the Chairman of a small sports car company, and by careful management you must accumulate a bank balance of £1,500,000. At the start you are presented with a bar chart showing the last 6 months production, histogram showing days lost over last 6 months, a status report, and a bank account and profit/loss account for each month. From then on a monthly option menu allows you to: open a new production line, close one, raise the prices of cars, lower them, or continue on with the other problems in hand. These include annual pay negotiations, industrial injury, a wide range of union demands like longer tea breaks and shorter working hours, and discipline problems like pilfering. The game offers a wide range of strategic options and takes into account the morale of your workforce if you are too autocratic. Good, clear text graphics back up the well thought out program.

Producer: CCS, 48K £6.00
Okay cornballs, time to get your hands dirty down on your 30 acre farm! There’s the buying of seed crop to do, ploughing, planting, irrigating, harvesting, storing, hiring of hands, spraying the bugs and keeping an eye on the bank balance. Weather plays an important part, and as usual with these games life just isn’t a doddle. Good, clear and colourful graphics.

Producer: Lothlorien, 48K £7.95 (3)
This is a wargame for two players versus each other, you can’t play one against the computer. There is a master program to which various scenarios may be added, one is included with the game, but others will become available later. Each player is given 12 various units which he may move across the map and which include many modem equivalents that may be omitted if playing a game set in an earlier period. Like most other Lothlorien wargames, each player must move all his units in turn and by one square. This makes it a long and involved game unlikely to appeal to anyone except wargame addicts. The screen is very crowded and the symbols are hard to read without practice, the graphics are slow because of the BASIC in which the program is written. Overall CRASH rating 45%.

Producer: CCS, 48K £6.00
The name of the city has become synonymous with oil and JR. The object is to take over the Ewing Empire or be taken over by them if you lose. A map of the Dallas area is divided into a grid and you are offered the option of buying up likely sites for drilling. You can do surveys before or after buying, move rigs to the site, drill, set up production and build pipe lines. The more successful you are the more likely you are to be hit by sabotage and other disasters. Oil prices fluctuate all the while, affecting your revenues. A good strategy game on the whole, although the random elements do seem to intrude too effectively.

Producer: DK Tronics, 48K £4.95
One of the best early games from DK. You’ve just become President of Ritimba, an equatorial banana republic. Your reign will be brief and unenviable. How long can you survive your greedy and hated secret police, bullying army, irritating guerillas, bothersome commies, snot-nose landowners and revolting peasants? Money may be borrowed from the Russians or Americans (if they feel like it). As the game progresses the options run short. Can you make it to a wealthy exile or will you die at your post? Recommended.

Producer: Richard Shepherd, 48K £6.50
You have 20 days to reach the summit of Everest, starting off with limited funds (money comes in from sponsors if you seem to be doing well, but it isn’t credited to you if you’ve forgotten to buy a radio). You must hire Sherpas with homely names and varying strengths and the habit of deserting you if you’re not fed properly. Their equipment and supplies are expensive and they eat like horses. Neat graphics and the familiar prompt menu for buying and moving about. It takes some getting into and early expeditions usually last a short time until you realise what’s needed most. A good average.

Producer: CCS, 48K £6.00 (1)
Author: P Boulton
The object of this amusing game is to become top dog of Spectral City. You’re gang leader up against 4 other rival gangs trying to own the city through operating speakeasies, distilleries, casinos and brothels. This can be done by buying up various joints, raiding those of your rivals, bribing the appropriate authorities, assassinating your rival gang leaders and generally carrying on like an utter rotter. The success of your gang will rely heavily on their numbers, equipment and morale, all of which must be carefully regulated. The game follows the traditional strategy formula of option menus and results. The Moral Majority are unlikely to approve! Good value. Overall CRASH rating 59%. Offers 9 skill levels. BASIC.

Producer: Simon Hessel, 48K £6.95
You are Prime Minister of Great Britain and your aim is to stay in power as long as you can. Having chosen which party you wish to represent you are presented with the state of the nation, the rate of inflation, unemployment rate, exchange rate for the pound and dollar, your popularity rating, nation’s balance at the bank and so on. Factors taken into account are population figures and relationship of OAPs to children, number of companies in business, tax income from various sources, expenditure for the previous year, and the prices of commodities. The general aim is to work towards the General Election and win it. A highly complex program which takes you to the thrills of Election Night — and beyond (if you’re a success). Recommended.

Producer: Bug-Byte, 48K £6.95
Author: I Wason and O Wolff
The object is to win more seats in parliament than your opposition (it’s a realistic simulation anyway). There are 100 constituencies split up into five regions. In each region seats are graded as Very Safe, Safe, Marginal or Very Marginal. From the title card of Maggie shouting the game’s title, it’s all go. Unfortunately so much of the game is a dice-throwing board game and it’s beset by piles of confusing instructions as complex as an explanation of Einstein’s relativity laws. In the end, rather boring to play.

Producer: Simon Hessel, 48K £6.95
This is a two part game. Great Uncle Arbuthnot is dead and you inherit his entire estate, but first you must prove your financial acumen by turning £10,000 into £100,000 in 26 weeks by investing on the stock market and the Metal Exchange. You can also gamble at the casino or at the races. Only on completing part one can you load part two; here you have got the manor house plus its ailing soft drinks factory. The aim is to find the secret formula for Paradise Cola and successfully market the drink whilst coping with fires, strikes and frauds. The game is all text but it moves at a lively pace and is playable from the start.

Producer: K-Tel, 48K £8.95 (3)
Part of a ‘double bill’ with Tomb of Dracula; neither side of this tape comes up to scratch. It’s Only Rock ’N’ Roll purports to be the sort of strategy game where you pit your wits against the established music industry to become a pop star. Having chosen a name for yourself you can do concerts, tours, make records, buy status symbols, write and record or sell songs, and hire yourself a manager. With the money you have at the start doing any of these things except hiring a flea-bitten manager is out of the question. Select CONCERT and you’ll be told busking is more your line. The song writing facility is the only lively element in what is otherwise tedious and unrealistic. Overall CRASH rating 41%. BASIC.

Producer: Elephant, 48K £5.55
A text strategy game in which you, as Joshua, have a go at bringing down the walls of Jericho. You are provided with certain siege implements like ballistae, battering rams, towers and carts, plus 300 men. The art is to assign men to particular tasks while juggling with the necessities of building further siege engines, gathering the material for them, keeping food supplies up and attacking the weak points of the walled city. Unfed men desert — it’s a tough life.

Producer: Artic, 48K, £5.95
As the title says, this is a computer jigsaw puzzle. The program contains 2 pictures, an old steam train and St George and the Dragon. Both graphics are very nicely done and can be seen for a flash during the loading, or on pressing the Help key. During play the pictures are divided up into squares and muddled up. You use the cursor keys to shuffle them into the correct sequences. Depending on the selected skill level there are more or less squares to shuffle. Our reviewers found the game amusing and difficult at first, but unable to hold the attention for long. Overall CRASH rating 47%. A game with a difference and likely to appeal to puzzlers.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 48K £6.50
Lothlorien specialise in battle strategy war games which require hours to play properly, involving military units of varying strengths and related weaponry. Each player in turn is allowed to move some or all of his units their pre-ordained number of squares, and then use them to attack. The game is set in the American Civil War and the idea is to capture the enemy unit’s flag. The graphics tend to be small to fit in everything and it takes some time to get the hang of how to play, but once that’s done there’s hours of fun if you like war strategy games. It has proved very popular.

Producer: Virgin Games, 48K £6.95
Author: Stephen Webb
This is a puzzle game where the object is to fit 22 irregularly shaped pieces into a square shaped grid. On the left is the blank grid, and to the right the 22 vari-coloured shapes, each identified by a letter of of the alphabet. To fit a piece you select the one you want by pressing the appropriate key, whereupon a black cursor dot appears in the grid which can be moved by using the cursors to the centre of where you want the shape fitted (this is the grid square which corresponds to the square in the shape where its identifying letter is situated). The shape may be rotated before fitting using key 9. It may also be removed from the grid by using key R. Looks simple but is likely to take a player a long time to sort out and if you like these puzzles, offers good value. Overall CRASH rating 53%. M/C.

Producer: Virgin Games, 48K £6.95
Author: John Hunt
Lost is a graphics survival adventure. You are lost in a forest clearing, surrounded by mountains with only 5 days supply, of food. There are animals and snakes which pop up now and again and may be killed if you’re quick enough off the mark — or they may get you. A complex list of graphic symbols at the start tells you what you are seeing, fruit trees, caves, water, settlements etc. You can move 4 characters at a time, but this allowance decreases over poor terrain. Weather plays an important role and between each move the weather forecast is displayed. This is built up so slowly it renders the game almost unplayable after a few minutes. Colour, graphics and sound are all quite well though out, but in the end it becomes more baffling than enjoyable. Keyboard response is poor, no joystick option general rating: average. CRASH overall 57%. BASIC.

Producer: Incentive, 48K £5.50 (2)
Author: R. Cafler
The time is now. Can you do better than Maggie and ride out three terms as Prime Minister and survive two General Elections? This highly complex strategy game runs along conventional lines of offering a menu of options and problems to be solved. You will have to balance the books over such matters as VAT, Income Tax, Govt Loans and Contracts, Corporation Tax, Grants to Industry, Public sector spending, Govt wages, Pensions, Unemployment Benefit, Child Allowances, Foreign Aid and interest on borrowing. The personalities involved bring you into constant conflict over things like wage demands. The game is accompanied by a booklet called ‘A Pocket Guide To Running Britain’. The text is clearly laid out and responds fast to inputs. This is no toy government game, but a fully blown program that should tax anyone’s brain. Overall CRASH rating 76%, machine code.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 48K £5.50
If you enjoyed ‘Redweed’ or ‘Johnny Reb’ then you will find Paras a suitable follow up. The object is to bring the war to a swift close by destroying the enemy’s line of communication — a bridge. To do this your 15 men are dropped behind enemy lines. They may be equipped with 5 different weapons and an unlimited number of grenades. As in the previous war games each man may be moved according to a strict table of squares allowed, and then allowed to fire before the enemy get their turn. Unlike the 2 previous titles, Paras has far more complexities built in and will provide endless fun for war game addicts. Bright graphics, but many symbols to digest. Good instructions enclosed on a leaflet.

Producer: CCS, 48K £6.00
Author: O G Evans
Plunder is a pretty massive strategy game where you find yourself in command of a British Galleon with the object of stopping the Spaniards from running gold from the New Lands to Spain. There is a short, medium and long game option with 3 skill levels for each. The screen gives you a high resolution map of the North Atlantic, divided into squares by a grid. You move your ship about with the cursors, seeking enemy galleons, troopships and battleships. If one is encountered you may attack or retreat. Attacking gives the option of firing or boarding or both. Firing on a galleon may be a mistake — if it sinks then you lose its gold. Depending on your battle success the morale factor of your crew goes up or down. There are several ports open to you which must be entered via an arcade style sequence for docking. In port you may take on extra crew or weaponry, have repairs made, buy food, jewels or opium, or sell if you already have any. The display informs you at all times of the gold stopped, gold acquired and spent, weather conditions (which affect finding enemy shipping), number of victories, men lost, ships sunk and soon. The length of the game is determined by the number of moves you make, and these are also displayed. All in all, an entertaining game, but one that can become repetitive with playing.

Producer: CCS, 48K £6.00
Another standard from CCS in which you get only 12 weeks to make the profit which will stop the bank from closing down your printing business. Work scheduling, staffing, purchasing and estimating to clients for their work are aimed to test your business acumen to the hilt. Each month you receive a balance sheet to see how well you have done. This is a text game with option menus.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 48K £4.50
It’s a good price but reflects the fact that this is an updated ZX81 program and looks like it. A 3-phase naval war game which gives you command of a Royal Navy ship fighting French Privateers. It is a suitable game for an introduction into the whole battle strategy area, but too simple for hardened veterans.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 48K £6.50
This is a real time simulation of World War I plane to plane aerial combat with you, as the pilot of a Sopwith Camel, pitted against air aces of the German airforce. A main menu offers 6 options; Enemy plane spotting, which at length shows you what an enemy plane is doing graphically; Training flight, which familiarises you with the controls and graphic display; Level of play — there are 19; Campaign game, in which enemy planes are sent up against you; Design your own game, where you can alter the specifications of the planes and plots; and Quit. The main problem with what might be a really good game, is that the cockpit view is very disorienting. If an enemy is behind you, you get a view over the back of your plane, which doesn’t seem very realistic — it’s almost as though you were flying backwards, or sideways if you look left or right. Controlling your aircraft takes some getting used to and the real time element is likely to put off shoot em up addicts. However, for those who enjoy simulations, this one represents fairly good value for money.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 48K £5.50
A scenario borrowed from H G Wells puts you in charge of London’s defence against the invading Martian war machines, whilst semi-sentient Redweed threatens to put your units out of action as it grows across the map. You have many and varied units from heavy artillery to flamethrowers (used against the redweed). Your enemy is three war machines and your task is to out think them. Small but effective graphics and a menu driven game where you and the Martians take your turns in a very civilised manner. Fifteen skill levels to test your tactical abilities. Good value for this popular game.

Producer: Artic, 16K £595
Author: Brian Neenan
This is an original strategy/puzzle game where you must move a torch around the edges of a 12 by 12 grid and discover the locations of invisible mirrors by seeing where the torch beam is reflected. You can select between 10 and 39 mirrors. If the beam is reflected when ‘fired’ you may then elect to guess the cell in which the mirror is placed and then its angle. If you are wrong you lose points and you spend a point for every firing of the torch. The graphics are simple but effective and it requires quite a bit of thinking. Likely to pall with much playing however. Overall CRASH rating 50%. M/C.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 16K £550
In this cast of thousands it is the first century BC and you are the Emperor. (A working knowledge of ‘I Claudius’ might be useful but isn’t essential!) What you have to do is simply conquer ten countries which hate you, and do this wiping out their troops (under-paid and under-trained) with your 90,000 men. There are nine generals on your side, including yourself, and 18 legions of 5,000 men each. The idea is to build up armies from the men, appoint generals and launch campaigns to persuade the barbarian hordes how wonderful life under the yoke can be. Three levels of difficulty.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 16K £5.50
You are a Samurai warrior living during the Kamakura period in Japan (1185-1333). There are no bonus points for killing Richard Chamberlain, but there are for defeating your opponents and surviving into old age. You can, of course, commit Seppuku if you would rather. Up against you are six groups of bandits and nine other samurai of differing abilities, any of whom may be superior to yourself. Challenges and hunts occur in simple graphics and are not very good. Results are in direct relation to the combatants’ strengths. Seems pointless.

Producer: Virgin Games, 48K £5.95
This can’t go under an ‘arcade’ heading and should probably be consigned to the dustbin anyway. But if anything does come into this game it is a touch of strategy and a hell of a lot of luck: The object is to get your electronic collie dog to herd a load of sheep into a pen and prevent them drowning or chomping the crops. It’s all incredibly slow and tedious to play, and very BASIC.

Producer: Richard Shepherd, 48K £6.50
You an officer in the Royal Navy or the 17th Century, in command of a ship of the line in the Mediterranean, and the object is to do battle with other ships in order to win favour with your superiors. The ship in question is a cutter with a crew of 50. Pressing any key gives you a graphic view of the sea. If a ship is sighted you may engage her or run. Should you engage you are told the enemy’s strength. If you win the encounter you may sink the ship or it may surrender, in which case you win prize money. All in all a rather simple and undemanding game with few thrills.

Producer: CCS, 48K £6.00
Author: P A Hainsworth
The inlay says that skill, inspiration and calculated risk are the main ingredients of success. Five levels of play allow you to move and store goods, buy goods, sell them, buy a boat, sail it, and consult the bank. It is the 19th century and the object is to amass a fortune of £250,000 by smuggling goods in from the Mediterranean (avoiding Ships of the Line). Factors to juggle with include crew costs, commodity costs, port dues, maintenance costs, size of vessel and how far it can safely travel and at what loading. Random elements include the weather, which may sink your vessel or run it aground, and there are always the pirates to watch out for.

Producer: Quicksilva, 48K £6.95
It’s 1753 and you are on a hunt for Blackbeard’s famous treasure, hidden in a complex of caves on the north Cornish Coast. The program burbles away at you in pirateese of the ‘Argh, Jim lad, me scupper, there ’e be,’ type. The top half of the screen contains well designed and instantly appearing location graphics, but the game gets nowhere. It seems impossible to get beyond the first few locations and then it ceases to be any fun.

Producer: A J Rushton, 48K £5.95
I’ve been told that this game is now marketed by CDS Micro Systems, but they haven’t confirmed that yet. In any event it is a jolly and original mixture of arcade bits with text/graphics adventure which should keep you on your toes unless you’re a D&D purist. The idea is to take your party of stranded explorers across an island infested with highly intelligent wildlife with university degrees, and beset with natives who want to barter away their food and men to replace that eaten by the men or the intelligent wildlife. Once you have visited a village it disappears forever, presumably wiped out through lack of resistance to some vile white man’s disease, but it teaches you caution in your bargaining, if you’re getting short of explorers (lives) in your party. Losing them all means death to the player. The main object is to find the only boat, buy it and sail away from this Magnus Magnusson madhouse. Every animal encountered has some problem for you; sometimes it’s an arcade style situation, sometimes they want to know the answer to a difficult mathematical problem. If you fail a member of your party gets eaten. Nice clear graphics and a veritable MGM musical score makes this a very enjoyable game. Recommended.

Producer: Richard Shepherd, 48K £6.50
Cross and recross the world in search of Dr Death’s secret island lair. Full of coded messages and puzzles, mysterious packages, waitresses, hotel managers, taxi cab drivers and the like. Be wary of parcels and flowers that explode and watch out for Dr Death’s horrid little midget. It could be a lively and fun game to play, but in the end it settles for mere confusion which tends to wear the player down. If you like this type of game, probably worth it.

Producer: Mikrogen, 48K £5.95
This is a game in which you must find the pieces of your craft which have been scattered throughout time owing to an accident in warp-space. Throughout your quest you must defend yourself from the inhabitants of that time, such as a bunch of Roman soldiers in 137 AD. The screen displays your attackers, weapons you may pick up, and the salvagable bits of your craft as well as yourself. To the right is a status table and below a series of text options which are activated by pressing the desired initial letter. These options allow you to move across the screen, choose the direction, and attack, pick up, change weapons and so on. The game has very limited graphics and is neither arcade nor really an adventure. It claims to be in real time (a clock ticks away with every move made) but as it’s staged across eons of time this is scarcely possible. Poor. Overall CRASH rating 33%. BASIC.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 16K £5.50
Another text strategy game from Lothlorien. It’s the fifth century BC and Athens is beset by hostile armies and fleets from other powerful Greek states as well as the Persians. All you have to do is survive long enough to turn Athens into the most feared state in the Mediterranean by building warships, training troops and fighting battles by sea and by land. No mention of democracy here, and philosophy’s strictly for the cissies. Not one of their best games, but reasonably playable.

Producer: Legend, 48K £14.95 (1)
Valhalla is much too lengthy and complicated to go into in a brief review. It boasts the best animated graphics in an adventure yet, numerous locations, lots and lots of inter-reactive characters who carry on with or without you, and kill each other off all over the place. Interrupt-operated text input allows you to type in commands while other actions are taking place and the program accepts quite complicated sentences. There are six separate but linked quests, although much fun may be had just living life as it comes in Valhalla. Accompanied by an excellent book which tells you all you need to know in no-nonsense language. Expensive but worth it, although there were mixed feelings about the ultimate value of the game’s central objectives. Overall CRASH rating 82%. M/C.

Producer: MC Lothlorien, 48K £5.50
This might be seen as a sequel to ‘Samurai Warrior’ as it is set in the same country and the same period of time. You rule a small coastal village which supports itself by slave labour and by raiding other small villages. In turn your village may be raided by other villages or by the pirates off the coast. This is a considerably expanded game compared to ‘Samurai Warrior’. Menu options allow you to train troops from your villagers, set some aside for land cultivation, hire mercenaries, attack pirates, raid other villages, hire samurai and build ships. Text only game. Average fun.