It’s been an exciting week! I just heard that EMAP and Sinclair User got an injunction granted to prevent the August CRASH going out on sale unless the spoof pages 123―126 were removed. Lord EMAP’s fist has landed heavily. Still, it’s business as usual...
Some good letters in this month with two broad categories predominating, first the Jeremy Connor letter backlash, and second the Robin Candy Playing Tips backlash. But having gone through everything, I was still impressed with the sheer fantasy and irrelevance of the first letter here, so it’s Letter of the Month for...
Dear Manic Mangram,
I’ve got you sussed. Having noticed that your esteemed colleagues’ physogs get published on a regular basis, whilst your visage remains conspicuous by its absence, I was interested to read your comment in the June issue.
‘I hate being photographed. it’s almost a phobia’
Oh please! The truth is out, The name Lloyd Mangram is a pseudonym, not to mention sounding like a kind of tropical fruit. In fact you are a WOMAN or my name isn’t Dinky O’Hara. How did I discover your guilty secret, you may ask?
Hole in the ground out of which one draws water (RC 1985), at one time I considered the possibility that you were Lord Lucan, but soon the truth rang in my head like a great bell — or at least a trumpeting Spectrum ... what if LM was really a woman?
Immediately, all the facts fell into place. I remember that you once mentioned living in Nigeria. Now as everyone knows, Nigeria is an African country, and significantly ‘Africa’ as a song, was a hit for a group called Toto. Coincidence? Perhaps, but Toto was the name of Dorothy’s dog in The Wizard of Oz, so admit it Mangram, you are Dorothy.
Humble CRASH person by day, ruby-slippered adventuress by night. However, you are an adventuress with a teensy problemette: Yes Dorothy, I am familiar with your little dilemma of the heart — your relationship with Robin (’we’re just good friends’) Candy has sadly hit the rocks, and your lover’s tiffs have become the reading material of tens of tens.
Why? Because of the attentions of Roger ‘Heartbreaker’ Kean, illustrious champion of justice in general, and the Spectrum in particular. Ol Rog’ is so consumed with passion for you, Dorothy, that he could not prevent himself from inserting a ‘groan’ in your letters column (painful) in issue 17. So it seems you have a problem on your hands, no amount of toe-tapping can solve.
But a choice must be made, so which of these pillocks of society should you choose? Well, photographs of both Dash Ed and the Candyman were published in Crash No 17, and as Rob has teeth uncannily like those of the shark from Jaws (or at least Donny Osmond), Dash Ed looks to have the advantage.
After all, he can offer you money, power and would offer you no intellectual
threat. But in all conscience I must propose that your true love is Oli. No,
not Oli the erotic artist, but Oli the foal, your new dinky mascot. Then the
course of true love would finally run smooth, and all thanks to little ’ol me... aah!
Great stuff, Dinky (or is it really Babs Carthorse, the internationally famous writer of romantic fiction!? As a matter of fact we have probably shared the same bookshop shelves, because YES — it’s all true. Dorothy is in fact the pseudonym under which I concoct ruby-slippered adventuress novelettes for the languishing housewife and ultra-modern non-chauvinist househusband. How else do you think I could survive on my pitiful CRASH salary if it weren’t for the royalty cheques from Pills and Boob? Ah, the silvery moonlight on sultry waters etc. etc...
Now come on guys, this is a computer magazine! How about some alien
When I printed Jeremy Connor’s letter in issue 18 (July), I had
no idea of how much reaction there would be, but I’ve received a veritable
(look it up) flood of mail on the subject and, I have to say Jeremy, almost all
of it horrified by your comments. Most were well reasoned arguments — here’s a
What does Jeremy Connor think he’s talking about? The Signpost is great as it is. I like the ‘gore’, I mean it’s art isn’t it? Anyway, it’s not in bright colour so you can’t see all the blood (I can’t anyway, am I colour blind?)
Of course it’s art...
‘I am writing this letter to warn you of the terrible danger you are risking’ (quoting Jeremy Connor in Issue 18) ‘Having a look at my July issue of CRASH I feel you could be losing a great deal of readers due to printing letters written by Jeremy Connor’ (not quite quoting his letter).
Who does he think he is? He sends us a letter (us being CRASH and its sensible and faithful readers) giving a lecture on how horrific the pictures in CRASH are. It would be understandable if it was man killing man, but how many futuristic or prehistoric monsters do you see nowadays? How can these pictures upset somebody when they know full well that they are not and never will be true? Anyhow, all brainy and normal CRASH readers know that the pictures are linked with the adventure games in the tips and must therefore appreciate the unquestionable talent of the artist.
On the same point, the only children that are usually affected by ‘violent pictures’ are very young children who either have not learnt to read properly and wouldn’t get CRASH, or wouldn’t own a computer because they are too young. Any other young children who do buy CRASH must be aware of violence in the papers and especially on TV, so the pictures in CRASH will have little or no effect on children.
If slagging the pictures wasn’t enough, he then went on to say to cut the cost of the mag, get rid of Robin Candy! This would be like taking away Big Ben from London, it’s just not on. Robin is a pillar of CRASH (LM is the foundations, slurp, slurp) and getting rid of him, as LM said, would hardly decrease the price of CRASH.
Jeremy Connor’s last point was really stupid (much more than the first two).
Have you ever seen heads, that have just been severed from a body, that are
smiling? I do wish Jeremy Connor would think things over before he writes
I reckon I agree with your points here. Certainly the ‘severed
heads’ of the Hall of Slime, appear to be very popular (whether or not you
argue it has little to do with games hi-scores or not), so much so that I’m now
getting photographs that have been carefully composed to fit in with the
general air of gory mayhem. As for your comparison of RC and Big Ben
— I’m not so sure, he’s definitely as loud, but whether he’s as accurate is
In answer to your plea to hear from us readers about Jeremy Connor’s niggles, I think he is just creating a fuss to get his name on your pages. Can anyone be so gentle that he or she (my sister reads CRASH) cannot stand to look at pictures in a magazine without feeling ill? I would say not.
However, ‘romantic’ pictures of princesses being rescued would be quite nice to look at... if they were in a state of semi-nakedness!
The price, also, is fine. I would be willing to pay £1.50 for your
magazine (please don’t let this statement influence you at all).
Perhaps if we were just providing you with pictures of
princesses in the manner you suggest, we could probably charge you £1.50
— however, and despite this block of letters, computer games are what we’re
supposed to be talking about — strange how you can get sidetracked, isn’t
Forget the junk about how good your mag is (it’s true, I know), and let’s get straight down to business: I was so disgusted by Jeremy Connor’s letter in Issue 18 that I have been moved to write a letter before I’ve finished reading CRASH. (Shock, horror).
In my humble opinion, Jeremy Connor is the sort of reader you can do without, or at least do without hearing from. His comments on the illustrations in Signpost are utterly stupid — the pictures are certainly not disgusting in the least, and they add to the atmosphere of the column. Notice, will you, that he doesn’t complain about the gory descriptions of how you get bumped off in most adventures ‘Your skull has been cleaved neatly in two’ from The Hobbit, to name but one.
About the price, he should be pleased about the amount of entertainment he is getting for 95p. You can’t even go to the cinema for 95p these days.
And what does he mean, cut Robin Candy’s pages from the magazine to reduce the price? Robin’s playing tips are an integral (LM’s Big Word Dictionary) part of CRASH just as Angus’ strategy column, Derek’s adventure column, Oli’s amazing artwork, Roger (which way is Mecca) Kean’s editorial and, of course, Lloyd’s letters. Once you start cutting some sections out, the standard of the mag will plummet.
Yes, Mr Connor’s readership would probably be welcomed by the Mary
Whitehouse fan club journal.
I did make the point in answer to Jeremy’s letter, that adventure games often have gory descriptions in them, or are designed to conjure up a bloody incident, an awful lot of fiction does do this. CRASH has grown over the months to become what it is, and all the people involved in producing it every month add to its flavour. You’re quite right, the loss of any part would be damaging — even Robin (well, almost).
I have just about managed to stop laughing over Jeremy Connor’s letter in the July issue. So CRASH is now overflowing with disgusting pictures of carnage and gratuitous violence. Probably Mr Connor is also one of those plonkers wanting to ban Tom and Jerry cartoons because they are too violent.
I can remember the sort of comics I used to read as a young lad. Those I enjoyed the most were full of blood and guts, war stories or horrible alien monsters. In my view it is only escapism. Indeed it could be argued that they serve a necessary purpose, as a harmless outlet for our dominant primitive instincts for hunting and killing. Wow! Heavy!
I bet Mr Connor also objects to the cover painting. A tasteful study of a scantily clad girl and a bronzed young man done up in chains. What filth! Perhaps in future CRASH will be sold in sleazy back street sex shops or sent through the post in a plain wrapper.
If the pictures in the Hall of Slime are anything to go by, then I must be
one of your oldest readers. At 30 years of age, I suppose I should be putting
my Spectrum to better uses than just playing games. But I enjoy it, and there
are times when I think it keeps me sane.
There were some rumours (and some people did ring in to confirm)
that the issue made the top shelf in some newsagents! Information to date
suggests that this hasn’t hindered sales at all, but come on, let’s get back to
Dear Sir Lllloyd,
I AM WRITING SLOW BECAUSE I KNOW YOU CAN’T TYPE VERY FAST.
‘I am writing this letter to warn you of the terrible danger you are risking’. CRASH issue 18, July 1985, Jeremy Connor’s letter.
The terrible danger is that of making some readers sick! The letter sent in by the above pansy at first made me laugh. Upon reading for the second time, I realised the little twerp was serious! This was when a feeling of deep repulsion set in.
He called it ‘constructive criticism’; more like what Mary Whitehouse wants! Perhaps whilst taking heed of his points you could change the name of the magazine to something less violent, like ‘FLUMPH’ for instance.
OH, while you’re at it, the picture in the July Issue — I could have sworn the woman’s armpit was visible!
Oh yes, another point... please make sure the Olibugs comb their hair before O Frey draws them.
Please CRASH, take no notice whatsoever of J Connor’s letter, else people
will send in all sorts of demands, like ‘change your artist’ and ‘review Acorn
Electron games as well’ or other such stupid ideas.
Now there’s a great title for a mag — FLUMPH! It has a certain
ring to it. I think you’re being a bit harsh on poor Jeremy — one minute he’s
referred to as an amphibian creature, and the next he’s turned into a flower
(first feature in the new flower column perhaps)? Mr Bailey has kindly provided
us with a logo for FLUMPH and I think it looks very nice indeed. You needn’t
worry about Robin Candy, because the only way we’ll be dropping him is from the
top of CRASH Towers. But back to computer games...
I am writing this letter to warn you of the terrible danger you are risking. I feel you could be losing a lot of readers due to certain aspects of your magazine.
1) The picture on the Signpost pages is not nearly disgusting enough. You could easily raise the calibre of your excellent magazine by increasing the level of gratuitous violence a bit. The government has already done its best to stop the kids getting hold of the gore and carnage that they rightly deserve as free individuals in a free state by banning their horror movies. At least you could make up for this in some small way by giving them a good full colour dosage of flying flesh and mayhem every month.
2) Don’t cut out Robin Candy.
3) Print Hall of Slime in Colour, and make it into a double spread depicting the detail the lucky individuals’ heads being ripped from their bodies with full splatter effects.
4) I’m sure boring little prats like Jeremy Connor can avert their sensitive little eyes when they come to a nasty bit, or maybe they should stick to reading Enid Blyton books or better still go and live in Russia, where I’m sure there’s absolutely no chance of anything unpleasant being available for small children to see.
Carry on the good work, and ignore the little fascists like Jeremy. I’m sure
his mum my put him up to it anyway.
An amphibious, flowery, political thug... hmmm. Never mind
Jeremy, just remember, there’s always computer games to console you, and surely
killing aliens in blinding blasts of annihilating laser fire is harmless
My 12 year old son is an avid reader of your magazine, and finds much of the material interesting and useful. However, concerning the July issue, I feel obliged to return to you the front cover. I trust that, on reflection, you will agree that the illustration is vulgar, even perverted. Our continued support of your publication is conditional upon an improvement in the tone of your artwork.
E A Jones
This letter came stapled together with the offending front
page. As a matter of fact, I don’t agree that the illustration was vulgar or
perverted, but your comments have been passed onto Oliver Frey and I hope
you’ll find the next cover a vast improvement — that is if you were able to buy
a copy from your newsagents after Lord EMAP and Sinclair User stamped on it and
prevented its distribution.
Please could someone have a quiet word with Oliver Frey about his cover designs? On going into my local W H Smiths to buy the July edition of CRASH, I went straight to the computer magazines section but it was nowhere to be seen!
After some hunting around, I eventually found it in the euphemistically named ‘General Interest’ section. In other words it was in with the Playboys and Mayfairs!
I am not objecting to the picture — I thought it was great
— but to avoid further confusion for newsagents, I feel that such pictures
should be hidden away on the inner pages.
There we go, I told you someone had seen it on the wrong shelf.
Still, having to stretch that high up every month will make you grow up big and
strong — and tall.
I’m sick of it. I won’t stand it any longer. Could you CRASH people, especially that Robin Candy, stop giving away solutions to games!
No sooner had I managed to buy Everyone’s a Wally, than the solution is printed for the world to see! That’s ten quid down the drain — thanks a lot CRASH! Couldn’t you have waited at least five months (three months to allow people time to buy the game and two months to ENJOY the game)?
I, for one, shan’t be buying Dummy Run, because I know you’ll print the solution in a month or two. How’s about that Mikro-Gen?
It’s by no means the first time, Tir Na Nog, Pyjamarama, Avalon, Shadowfire, and even Lords of Midnight, which is an adventure and surely Derek Brewster’s business? At least Derek does his job properly. Please don’t suggest that I ignore the articles. If you knew the agony, frustration and difficulty of facing problems in adventure games, you must appreciate how annoying it is to be given the answer. It’s like reading books or watching films, when some prat tells you the all-important ending.
Working on an adventure, you may wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, itching to try it out. But this confusion is still, to decent adventurers, enjoyable. But, if you’re going through this stage of frustration and see the answer in CRASH, it’s almost impossible to resist the temptation. If you use the hint, when and if you pass the final problem and the game is complete, you don’t feel 100% satisfied that it was you that did it. It’s a grave tragedy.
What made me sick was Rob Candy’s comment, ‘I’ll make you suffer another month’, referring to Dun Darach. I have two points to make:
1) Most people won’t have even got hold of a copy by then, let alone played it;
2) We’d rather sort out our problems ourselves, Mr Candy.
Bearing this in mind, could I propose a new rule to CRASH? No solutions or
sub solutions until five months after the game is reviewed — just maps, which
are helpful, but not giveaways.
You’re not the first person to complain about Playing Tips
giving away solutions too early, but you certainly are in the minority, because
most letters of complaint are that solutions aren’t given out soon enough. I’m
sorry, but the argument holds good anyway — don’t want to know the answer —
don’t read the piece. The Playing Tips are there to help people who are stuck
and can’t find any other way out of a problem. In fact every single example you
quote, the games tips were released over either one, two or even three months.
Are you honestly trying to tell me that you are the sort of person who turns
his newspaper upside down in order to solve the crossword?
Wait for us!
Tell that Tin Candy bloke to slow down a bit will you. Let me explain....
Having read the review of Starion I thought ‘that’s the one for me’. I grabbed the June edition while I was in Smiths getting Starion, and sitting down at home with a cup of tea and a biccy, I glanced through the mag while my new game was loading. As I come to Robin Candy’s pages I see one bit entitled ‘Starion’. I read it, and find, that in the space of 30 seconds I know all the answers to the first time grid of a game which I wanted to enjoy solving.
After playing and greatly enjoying Starion, I had another look at
Candy’s pages and find that just because he has had Shadowfire in the
office for weeks and has played it more than any normal person in the country,
he gives out the solution to the whole flippin’ game in the same edition as the
review, so that no-one would have time to read the newly laid out, excellent
review of the game, take note of it and buy it before being told exactly how to
If you really wanted to enjoy solving Starion, why on
earth did you carry on reading when you realised what it was?! Okay, so the
solution was pretty early, but there were a lot more grids to
beat — Robin only offered 9 anagrams out of 243! This seems entirely reasonable
to me in order to help people get going (although heaven forfend I should
defend RC)! As regards Shadowfire, it was one of those reviews that
just missed the previous issue, and so Robin’s tips were not quite as early as
they may have appeared to be despite being in the same issue as the review, and
in fact Beyond themselves requested playing tips for the game to be printed.
Again I repeat — the tips are to help, you don’t have to read them all or even
at all if it is something you don’t want made easy for you.
I am a compulsive reader of CRASH ever since I got a Spectrum. I heard from a friend who owns a Commodore and reads ZZAP! and he says that you can send off to ZZAP! and buy any game you want as long as they have reviewed them. So why can’t CRASH do the same?
If you’re that compulsive a reader, Simon, why haven’t you
noticed the CRASH Mail Order page in every issue? It says exactly that — what’s
more, you can order anything even if it hasn’t been reviewed in CRASH, and as
long as the very lovely Carol Kinsey can get it for you, she will.
Not very long ago, I wrote to you giving you all my tips on Hewson Consultants’ new game, Dragontorc of Avalon. I posted the tips, all six sides of A4 paper, to you which took me three days to write and re-write to try and make it perfect, and waited eagerly to see whether you would publish it. Then, in your June issue, I saw some tips on Dragontorc which I began to read through. To my horror and disgust, I saw parts of my very lengthy letter, virtually word for word, printed in your playing tips section. Not only that, but my name wasn’t printed at the bottom.
So Candy, don’t chop other people’s letters up and take the credit by
publishing them. Watch it, or you might lose a reader.
Patrick, you obviously haven’t been reading Robin’s
Dragontorc tips properly, or you would have noticed that in the first
batch they were properly credited to Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants, who
supplied the entire solution on the condition that it was released only over a
period of time. You may have thought yours was similar, but there is absolutely
no way it was ‘word for word’.
I am writing to you to say Hi and in reply to Matthew Newman’s letter in the July issue of CRASH.
I am Sheldon Coulthrust, and am alive and well and living in Colchester, Essex.
How could he think I was made up with a name like COULTHRUST!
Never mind, Sheldon, you and me alike, I keep getting told that
with a name like Lloyd Mangram, I must be a pseudonym. Life just isn’t fair,
but I’m as real as you are.
Every month I scour the pages of CRASH, looking for it, but to no avail.
I’m talking about a competition with a prize to beat all others, a prize that any self respecting CRASH reader would sell his Spectrum to win. And the brilliant thing is, it won’t cost much (no grovelling on bended knee to the Ed for this one).
The prize? A visit to Ludlow to meet the CRASH team. An invaluable chance to get answers to all those niggling questions. Do you and Robin really hate each other? Is Robin as sweet as he sounds? Does the sun come out in Ludlow? Does the office cat eat Whiskas? Well Lloyd, how about it?
Oh, by the way, my sister Maria who has no interest in computers (poor girl)
asked me, after I’d forced her to read five copies of CRASH, ‘Does Robin Candy
really go to school?’, ‘Where’s Ludlow’ and ‘Why is CRASH called CRASH?’ Funny
that, because she’s normally quite intelligent.
I’ve no interest in computers either and I always ask intelligent questions. But really there’s no need to struggle all the way up here to Ludlow to get the answers to these questions. The answers are: YES, OBVIOUSLY NOT, NO, WE HAVEN’T GOT AN OFFICE CAT BUT THE MOUSE PREFERS PAL, HOW ABOUT WHAT? Your sister: YES HE DOES REALLY, SOUTH SHROPSHIRE, HOW DO I KNOW I’M ONLY THE LETTERS EDITOR.
I know why you are going on about Robin, you’re the Anna Peters who wrote
him a fan letter in issue 17.
Why, oh why does someone at CRASH have it in for me?
In issue 13, in the Playing Tips section, my name was credited as CHRIS ROLURSON, while in Issue 18, Hall of Slime, I was credited as both CHRIS ROBERTSON and CHRIS ROBINSON! And just to make matters worse, you printed my photograph with some stupid eyes printed in, giving me a ridiculous expression!
Just for the record, my name is ROBINSON, not ROBERTSON or ROLURSON. Got
Hope your eyes are better Kris. Have you considered improving
the quality of your handwriting? Here lies the problem perhaps, that in our
essential haste, none of us can decipher your scrawl. Please don’t think I’m
being either facetious or rude, but it just could be the case, don’t you
I am writing to tell you of the terrible times I have to face... I’m computerless. Yes, it’s happened. Why me, I ask? Well, the story goes like this:
Our family had gone out for the day, leaving the dog at home with my grandma and, shock horror, when we got back the stupid dog had chewed through the wires of the power supply. (Boy, dog soup tastes good). ‘But what’s so bad about that?’ I hear you cry, ‘buy a new power supply.’
Well, there’s this wimpish prat who lives with us called Travis, a sixteen year old great docile lump of an gangrenous codfish who thinks ‘Ah, maybe we can save eight pounds by rewiring it!’. My efforts were in vain, I tried to stop him, but he’s bigger than me. He got a screwdriver and began to fiddle about with it.
Ten minutes later he came back, proclaiming that he had fixed it. We connected it all up, and we heard a very loud buzzing and could smell smoke coming from the Spectrum. Hurriedly, and I mean mega-fast, we switched it off and hoped nothing was wrong. After a bit of grovelling and persuading, we managed to borrow a friend’s power supply, hooked it up and... nothing.
Arrgggh. No more Starion, Alien 8, Tir Na Nog or
Shadowfire. No Schizoids, Great Space Race,
Formula 1 Simulator or Don’t Buy This. Hey ... maybe it isn’t
Can great docile lumps of gangrenous codfish actually be
wimpish, especially when they’re bigger than you? And I won’t hear of anyone
slagging Schizoids, some games are so bad they become classics — just
get your Spectrum mended and suggest to your dog that hoover cables are more
I am writing to you about that old topic, Software Piracy, and how CRASH and software houses help the pirates.
Firstly, CRASH encourages Software piracy by printing in the reviews the keys needed to control the game. Surely this helps those who copy the software? Instead of attempting to find out the keys needed by trial and error, they simply refer to the CRASH review of the game.
Secondly, the software houses help the copiers by putting User Definable
Keys options into their programs. Surely this helps those who use the copied
programs immensely? Also, on screen instructions help the pirates. So really,
software houses are cutting their own throats instead of the pirates doing it
I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, Andrew, and think that
you’re joking. Not the old we-print-the-control-keys chestnut again. I mean
H-O-N-E-S-T-L-Y!! (That was frustrated anger showing through). We often
get early copies of games without full instructions and for the averagely
intelligent, methodical person, it takes a minute or two to work out the keys.
As to your second point, I suppose you could argue that the best way to stamp
out piracy is simply for the software houses not to market games at all...
It’s nice to see someone giving something away for nothing, but I was surprised to see your magazine describe as ‘fantastic’ the games you are giving away with your subscription offer. I would suggest this is stretching the truth more than a little.
Of the six games on offer, CRASH has reviewed three. Match Day got an excellent write-up, the reviews of Blue Max ranged from ‘great’ to ‘OK-ish’ and the general rating for Zaxxon was ‘a great disappointment’. The only reviews I have seen of Flak describe it as a ‘ripoff’. Roland’s Rat Race and Street Hawk have not yet been released, so we don’t know whether they are any good or not.
Since part of your function is to review games for your readers and warn
them off bummers, it is not very consistent to describe them as fantastic in
another part of the magazine. Would it not be more honest to say you are
offering one great game, one okay game, two lousy games and two unknown
quantities — or would that not sell many subscriptions?
Of course it wouldn’t! Come on now, surely we’re allowed just a
teensy weensy fib now and then to earn poor ol’ Lloyd his pitiful salary? No?
Okay you win. Still, wasn’t such a bad offer was it? And after all, as you so
rightly point out, apart from Flak you could check them out in earlier
CRASH editions, and two brand new as then unreleased Ocean games for free is
Fellow CRASHlings and lesser mortals, lend me your eyes. I have a complaint to make. How do Romantic Robot have the nerve to produce a microdrive copier and then produce a game which cannot be copied using this splendid utility? Yes, my copy of Wriggler usually fails to load. So here is a message to all you security conscious software houses. Don’t be so vicious!
Now some questions. Is the Terminal Man any relation to Shatter, an American
cartoon strip? Since when did Konami change their name to Kunami? Is is true
that CRASH is so good that people eat it when they’ve read it?
J M Shearing
The Terminal Man is no relation at all — it’s purely
coincidental, honest. Konami changed their name to Kunami on my 1922 Hermes
typewriter, and still do so frequently. I couldn’t tell you about the taste of
CRASH because I’m vegetarian by habit but what I can tell you is that there are
a few people round these offices who chew Sinclair User for breakfast!
What a great magazine you’ve got. It’s so good that I caught my mum reading it last week.
Oh well, back to reality. I must say how your magazine has improved over the past few months. I know it’s a team effort, but you’ve got to give credit to Mr Kean for using his imagination and initiative in making the best computer magazine in Britain.
I have a few criticisms, in that the price of your magazine is increasing (not a lot of change out of a pound), not enough playing tips, and the Ultimate of all trash — Jetman.
An idea — why don’t you produce this most colourful and informative magazine
Because I would have a nervous breakdown, that’s why! I don’t
care about the others, but I’ve got to think of my lifestyle even if you won’t.
What’s wrong with Jetman ? And leave MISTER Kean out of it, there are rumours
(highly secret of course) that a certain other computer mag was so impressed
with his ability to design something that looked just like theirs that they’ve
offered him a job (but don’t tell Lord EMAP).
I read with interest Roger Kean’s opinions about originality, but I do not think this applies to software as well as to music.
Half of your CRASH Smashes in recent months have been based on platform games, so you cannot speak of unoriginality while you praise games using the same idea. No, I think the problem is not with originality, but with development.
If in music, someone adds a drumbeat to a piece of classical music, it can’t really improve the tune. However, if someone extends the ideas, it may be enjoyable. It is similar in software: Kong from Ocean was awful, and so were all its imitators, but the idea was developed into Frankenstein, which was at least decent.
However, these can be overdeveloped. I find myself frequently in need of a good shoot-em-up, because I think the modern arcade adventures too difficult (ie Everyone’s a Wally). I have to relax my poor aching brain after a hard day’s work, and this is not the way to do it!
Surely some software houses could give a help sheet on request for those of us who take too long finding the right key. What do I show the relatives every Christmas? They won’t be interested in great graphics or scintillating sound, but they will want something easier to play.
There is a lack of these games (only two good ones recently). So please, don’t leave the arcade game as it is! There is a lot of room for development, unlike the arcade adventure idea, which I think is almost exhausted. If software producers become obsessed solely with this, then it is obvious that more and more will nose into bankruptcy.
As for an ‘alternative software’, I don’t think this is likely. Even though it has worked in music, there is only one language and a specified memory for the Spectrum and, as yet; even an unknown software producer can make a good game.
Finishing on a ‘minor’ point I think it is offputting that you have so many
errors in your otherwise excellent magazine. Apart from the italics which
suddenly appear in the middle of a line for no apparent
reason, I have recently become infuriated by incorrect prices and
missing pokes (especially Monty Mole). Isn’t it possible for someone
to proof-read the whole magazine before it is printed?
How dare you! It is proofread, ’s’no fault of
mine if the prroff reader is a Russian Eskimo. Seriously though, missing
or incorrect prices are often the result of not knowing the actual price at the
time of going to press and sometimes, of course, there are mistakes brought on
by pressure of work. Shall I trot out the ‘it isn’t easy being a software
reviewer’ line, or would you rather have the ‘considering I was an
underprivileged working class boy wot got no education, isn’t it amazing that I
can spell at all, let alone know what an italic is...’ excuse? The thing is,
when you are reading CRASH you are concentrating on it (I trust), whereas when
we are writing it, all we’re really thinking about is where’s the next beer
coming from (well Graeme Kidd is anyway, I prefer a nice dry American martini
with an olive on a stick in one of those inverted pyramid-shaped glasses).
Ach! Ach! Gargle! Gnurgle! What is this? Little old Oktup really Okt it up didn’t he? He called Jetman a Pollock!!! I am most upset. I don’t look like that, I’m sure.
Never mind, I might forgive Ultimate if they bribe me with gifts and apologise properly!
Gosharootie, what can I say?
I remember some years ago, when arcade games were the fast growing craze in this country, news programmes such as ‘Nationwide’ found it necessary to conduct interviews with what they considered to be the average video game player. From what I recall, the basis for the interviews seemed to be that many people, especially parents, were anxious about the vast amounts of money being ‘wasted’ by games players.
When questioned, not one of the interviewees, as far as I can remember, gave a full answer to the question ‘Why do you like playing video games?’
Back then, it seemed stupid; of course we knew why we liked playing video games! It is because, well... I like... um, yes.
And that’s how it stands. So I decided to do a little investigating of my own. I shall begin by exploding a few of the myths which surround video, or computer game playing. First, the statement ‘It’s a challenge’, which some of the old arcade boys used as an excuse for pumping £100 plus into Donkey Kong, Defender et al. Well balancing a pool cue on your nose is a challenge, getting 5 A Levels is a challenge, but who pays money to do that? I will return to the ‘challenge’ of video games when a few other points have been sorted out.
I understand that current opinion favours the view that programmers write games that they themselves would want to play. Really? If this is indeed the case, then it contradicts several other points. What can computer/video games be successfully compared with? Films, records, books? The average film made today costs several million pounds to make and around £2.00 to see, the average LP takes several months to record and costs £5.00 to buy. The average novel can take anything up to several years to write and paperbacks cost from £1.50 up... Computer games, of supposedly high quality, can cost from £5.00 to £15.00 (games, not business or educational software, that is).
Now, back to the ‘programmers write what they want to play’ question. More like ‘programmers write what they want to sell’. Blasphemy? Well, I don’t really think so.
Do all the authors write books that they want to read? Are all books excellent, and worthy of high critical acclaim? So we don’t want to compare computer games with paperback novels do we? Not unless the prices were the same anyway.
So what about records? Initially, the trends would appear similar, especially with magazines running top 30s etc. But, personal taste has a lot to do with records, and music in general, whereas, if a computer game is awful then no-one will appreciate it. An awful record will still get radio airplay, however.
Films — now there is a thing! Of course games aren’t like films. I am afraid they are, or rather they have become, like films. Major films are preceded with a lot of hype, glossy adverts etc: supposedly major computer games — Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Lords of Midnight, Valkyrie, Frankie, JSW — are all built up before release. Films all rely on stars, and I’m sure we realise who Willy, Wally, Monty, Dan, Ted (and so on) are. You don’t? Well, you will!
Films don’t run for more than a few weeks. Most computer games are designed to be completed in a short time. Ever wonder why the Ultimate games have a percentage as well as a high score? Well, I’ll tell you — it’s so you know when you’ve finished, and also that it is time to buy the next game.
The old arcade favourites didn’t have a percentage rating or a completion, because the way they made money was to keep you thinking you could always do better next time. With home computers it is different. Once a sale is made, the only way to make more money is to sell something else. A game that lasted forever and was also a good game, would not be very profitable. So sequels are a good idea — for money-making, if nothing else.
I’m not sure that this applies to all games or all software houses — only most of them. When CRASH reviews a game, why not include a rating of estimated life, to give some indication of how long an average player will take to finish or get bored with the game. Do not confuse this with ‘addictive qualities’ — it’s not the same thing.
SO! why do people play computer games? Why do I play computer games? No good books to read I suppose. Sorry, I was almost beginning to sound serious as well.
The problem is: people who like video games also like games that they can
complete. This is playing into the hands of the producers, as it is just as
easy for them to produce a game with an END as it would be for to produce an
everlasting game of a similar style.
What a bleak view of life you have, John. I’m sure you don’t really think quite so seriously, cynically and sadly about it all though. But don’t let me put words into your mouth. As a writer of some seven (unpublished) novels (see Letter of the Month), I can say that I certainly could not write a book I wouldn’t want to read, and I think the same goes for programmers with an important exception — an author is usually alone with his imagination, whereas the computer programmer may be part of a team where programming, games designing and scenarist skills are separated out. This means that a skilful programmer can easily work on something which overall he doesn’t necessarily like and still do a very good job.
An estimated life rating would be impractical because you would be asking reviewers an impossible question to answer. Ratings in general are of dubious value as far as I can see — something over which I think I can say I have been consistency — and to introduce more seems pointless, especially when it is something that is entirely based on an individual view rather than one that several can agree on. Has anyone got strong feelings on some of John’s interesting ideas?
I would like to offer my ideas on what should make a computer game a CRASH Smash:
Computers are for everyone, not just the high scorers. Games should be made
enjoyable, not difficult, and I mention Loderunner yet again as an
example. Here is a game with 150 screens, some easy, some moderate and some
extremely difficult. Due to the infinite lives and any screen feature, however,
I have been able to play the whole game. This is value for money — instead of
waiting for weeks for one of the magazines to come up with pokes, I have a
There’s some very good points. The only two I’ll comment on are
price and difficulty. It’s true that Mastertronic and Firebird have changed the
face of software prices but, at the risk of offending Mastertronic, they did a
marvellous business deal at the outset to achieve enormously wide distribution
of pretty terrible games. Because of the (then extraordinarily) low prices,
they must have made a small (or even large) fortune which has since put them in
a good position to buy in or write better quality games and still keep the
prices low. Firebird, let’s face it, has a rather large financial backer to
enable it to do much the same — British Telecom (not that I’m suggesting they
mustn’t make a profit because of that). As to difficulty, we do tend to
classify games at least in our own minds, and CRASH Smashes may not appeal to
all because of the games difficulty.
In the June issue of CRASH, Derek Brewster reviewed Witches Cauldron in his Adventure Trail. After reading the review, I noticed that Derek called a toad slimy. But in actual fact, toads are nowhere near slimy — they are dry and warty. Frogs, on the other hand, are slimy. And I speak with experience, keeping an American Bullfrog and a Firebellied Toad.
Also, toads walk and frogs jump.
As a reader, I thought that your team had an IQ of 250, after producing such
a fab mag. But after this review I shall decrease it to 230. If Derek is not to
blame, then collar Mikro-Gen, and get it corrected.
Sorry about that Geoff, but you’ve obviously not bumped into
some of the slimy toads we have! As a matter of fact, I would be delighted if my
IQ were as high as you so kindly suggest even after the travesty of referring
to toads as slimy.
Okay, then, that’s the lot for another month. Let’s hope this issue gets the wide sale it should do! I’d be interested in any comments anyone wants to make regarding the injuncted issue (August), but remember I’ll have to be very careful about what gets printed!