For over eighteen cycles I have been orbiting Earth in my Command module, sent to this miserable, pathetic orb of a planet to discover whether indeed its puny organic life-forms are ever likely to show any skill at this art of wielding the joystick.
On my home world, youngsters are trained as Joystick Warriors from an early age, and as their biocircuitry evolves and becomes keener of reflex, the better young apprentices enter the Videodromes to perfect their skills at attaining high scores.
Nearly one and a half of your Earth years ago, I was sent on a mission. A mission that has caused me great pain and physiological damage — damage which is beyond the capabilities of my ship-board mediputer to repair. A mission which required me to discover a member of your pathetic species who was truly worthy of a scholarship to the Videodromes.
I made an error, shortly after arriving in orbit. A minor malfunction in my navigational computer (which is unused to identifying such small hamlets as those inhabited by your species) resulted in my arrival in the offices of a magazine devoted to Commodore 64 games-playing. Having established contact with the backward beings that I encountered in the ZZAP! offices, I set about discovering which of them was the better player of games — and my problems began. The vile ego-centric creature Rignall became my first Earth champion in the time period you refer to as ‘May 1985’ and since then my monthly attempts to discover other, better Joystick Warriors from the puny population of Earth has continued. Readers of ZZAP! will be familiar with the damage caused to my bio-ROMs and with the suffering I have endured as a result of my endeavours.
The strange, mutoid beings responsible for producing comment on Commodore games have continued building their egos. The ZZAP! chamber is awash with self congratulatory noises as the revolting Spiky Haired demons of Ludlow continue reviewing games. Their Egos have been growing uncontrollably, and they resist further challenges against members of the ZZAP! readership for fear of defeat and public humiliation.
It was time to change this state of affairs.
So confident were the foul ZZAP! duo of Penn and Rignall in their self-appointed roles as games-playing champions of the magazine publishing world, that they suggested they be allowed to pit their skills in a contest with reviewers from the other computer magazines produced in the vicinity. As a time of celebration approaches, which your sentimental race refers to as ‘Christmas’, I issued the order that the NEWSFIELD REVIEWERS CHALLENGE should be arranged.
The CRASH and AMTIX! staff were commanded to select the prime of their reviewing team to face up to Penn and Rignall. Each of the six reviewers selected a game that runs on their computer, and the contest to discover the most able Joystick Warrior began.
In choosing a game, each reviewer believed that he was attempting to thwart his five opponents by selecting a game that they were unfamiliar with and that he was good at playing. They all believed that I would award six points to the person to gain the highest score in each game, five points to the second highest and so on, and would award an overall Championship to the individual with the highest total score.
A foolish assumption. Particularly foolish on the part of the ZZAP! egomaniacs, who know me of old...
Before relating the tale of the challenge itself, let me introduce you to the pathetic specimens who stepped into the arena and tell you a little about the games that they each brought with them:
A decidedly evil and puny creature whose ego began to grow many years ago when he was awarded a title by an antique computer magazine by the name of C&VG. Since those days when the tiny Rignall first brushed with fame, his body and ego have grown at disproportionate rates. Currently, his ego is large enough to be regarded as a second moon for your planet while his body and musculature are still on a par with a two-week-old Orang u’tang.
His choice of game is Dropzone, a horizontal scrolling shoot em up, available only on the Commodore. In essence Dropzone resembles an arcade game by the name of Star Gate — a sort of enhanced Defender. The player controls a man with a jet pack, laser, smart bombs and an inviso cloak that grants temporary immunity to aliens and their weapons.
Known as ‘Girlie’ to ZZAP! readers on account of his Pennchant for dressing up in nighties made for pre-pubescent schoolgirls, as well as for huge, elaborate tonsural sculptures created with the aid of giant economy sized tins of Boots Own Brand hair lacquer, Penn’s prime claim to fame amongst his readership is achieved by performing Dangerous Brothers type stunts. So far he has stuffed the entire ZZAP! storecupboard’s supply of joysticks down his trousers and eaten four fingers of Kit Kat sideways.
His choice for the Challenge is, again, a Commodore-only game, this time by the name of Sanxion. It’s a one-way horizontal scrolling shoot em up in which the player zooms through forty increasingly difficult levels shooting anything that moves.
Known as ‘Dick’ to his friends and ‘Dick Ed’ to his enemies, Mr Eddy is Cornish by birth and upbringing and was prised from the land of clotted cream by the Editor of AMTIX who though he could do with another clot on his team. Since arriving in Ludlow a few of your Earth months ago, the small but imperfectly formed creature has elevated himself to Software Editor status, fallen in love with Berk from Trapdoor, and covered his corner of the AMTIX! cellar wall with pictures of Mandy Keyhoe of Piranha and Berk of Trapdoor in roughly equal quantities.
When pressed to make a choice of game for the contest, Eddy plumped for Xeno from Argus Press Software, believing that this Ballblazeresque futuresport wasn’t due for release on the other two machines before the Challenge was to take place. Sadly, Dick Ed was wrong — this High-Tech Ice Hockey variant in which players aim to knock the puck into their opponent’s goal with giant sleds arrived in the CRASH office in good time for the Spectrum reviewers to get some practice in...
A Stallion when it comes to playing Elite’s Scooby Doo, this Italian was fully aware that the doggy game has been well played in the CRASH office (although unavailable on the Commodore). Mass, as he is known, claimed to be the champion when it comes to playing Scooby Doo and based his choice on the probability of an easy six points...
A resilient fellow, El Ducci is rumoured to have contacts with the famed Ludlow Mafia and has already used his influence and means of persuasion to arrange for AMTIX! Editor Malcolm Harding to collect him every morning and drive him to work and then chauffeur him home again at the end of the day.
A veritable lounge lizard from the tiny and remote Earth dwelling-zone known as Tenbury Wells, Ben Stone has been associated with CRASH for a considerable period of Earth-time. Having completed his studies at the Tenbury Wells Academy where he specialised in playing the antique arcade machine provided for students’ amusement, Ben has entered another training scheme which permits him to lounge around the CRASH office on a semi-permanent basis, supplying comments on games and generally assisting in the writing of the magazine.
The Beau Brummel of Spectrum gaming, Stone invests the majority of his paltry income in his wardrobe and is rarely seen without a set of labels, including Reebok trainers, Lacoste and Fila jumpers and Benetton playsuits. The man who took Posing to Tenbury chose Cobra for the Challenge — a game which had only arrived on Microdrive in the CRASH office 48 hours before the appointed day and which had only been seen and played by the CRASH staffers when the Challenge began. The game is a left and right scrolling shoot em up, full of gratuitous violence and eating, loosely based on the film of the same name...
Nicknamed ‘Skippy’ for a reason that has been lost in the mists of time, Dunn’s early claim to fame arrived shortly after he joined the CRASH team as a reviewer. He was chosen to model for the AMTIX! hat and T-shirts advertisement in the arms of a rather strange young lady. An interesting biological specimen, Skippy has the ability to render his entire face, from eyebrow to earlobe, the colour of an over-ripe tomato whenever reference to that girlfriend is made.... A man who harbours a number of guilty secrets?
Full Throttle was this blushing reviewer’s first choice — a motorbike game that appeared over two of your Earth years ago. Dunn no doubt believed that the other reviewers in the Challenge would have long ago forgotten how to play this two-wheeled race game and no doubt expected to be able to romp home to an easy six point lead in at least one event...
Aim: to score as many points as possible in 10 minutes
After much wingeing, the Spiky Haired ones from ZZAP! prevail upon the other contestants and are allowed to commence the Challenge with Dropzone. Rignall insists on starting, as the game is his choice, he whines. It is one of his all-time binary conquests — a conquest on which he has been building his ego for some time.
The puny one gets off to a shaky start — presumably the thrill of playing with an old flame again — and he narrowly manages to complete the first two levels without losing a life. Suddenly, within the space of ten seconds, Rignall loses two lives — am I to be rewarded with a crushing defeat on the part of one of my arch-hates so soon?
Sadly, it is not to be. Misery crosses the Rignall face as defeat looms, and spurred on by the inertia of his massive ego he manages to survive, completing his allotted 10 minutes as a score of 154,870 shows on the screen.
Dressed to kill, but capable of rescuing scientists? Stone steps forward muttering about having played this game a couple of times, and does his best to prove that this is indeed the case.
He starts off reasonably well, expiring at the end of his first game with a score of 14,840 and a fair amount of time remaining in which to improve his status.
In his second game, Ben doesn’t lose a life until at least 3 minutes have passed and 28,460 points have been logged on the clock. Unperturbed, he plays on with a maniacal gleam in his eye, expiring gracefully just as the 10-minute klaxon sounds. A creditable 55,080 points are entered into the communiputer’s log against Stone’s name.
Another Dropzone virgin. Another expected failure as far as the ZZAP! rivals are concerned. Richard bravely steps forward to take his place at the joystick and commences play — only to demonstrate his lack of experience by losing his first life after a mere ten seconds. A true hair-trigger performance.
Gathering a little composure under a barrage of verbal abuse and loud hilarity from Penn and Rignall, Eddy presses on, but his first game lasts barely a minute and he collects a paltry 4,580 for his efforts.
Nine minutes remain for him to develop a technique, but Dick manages three more complete games before the time limit expires. He has to be satisfied with an overall personal best of 15,440.
The first of the lambs brought to the Commodore for slaughter in front of the Spiky Haired vile ones. Skippy has not played this game before — so understandably finds it difficult to survive. Within a couple of minutes his first attempt is over, and a score of 9,480 is all he has achieved.
Pressing on, Dunn seems to be a quick learner. His second foray sees him nudge over the 20,000 mark but then he suddenly goes to pieces. A life is lost at 23,780, another at 24,040 and the last remaining incarnation is removed as the clock hits 24,800.
Valiantly, this petite player sporting a red LM hat starts again, but is rapidly wiped out after scoring a mere 5,430 points. There is no time remaining in the 10 minute allocation for a fourth attempt. It is yet very early in the Challenge, however...
Another cocky Commodorian. Penn marches up to the playzone, straddles the chair, oozing selfconfidence and a strong aroma of Boots hairlacquer...
Penn’s familiarity with the game shows the moment he begins play — within 23 seconds he has gathered up and rescued the eight scientists to complete the first level. He continues to romp through the second and third levels at a rapid pace and I find myself becoming annoyed at this mutoid’s arrogance.
Ha! I am quickly pleased — overconfidence combined with the desire to show off causes the worm to lose concentration for a moment, and he loses two lives. He slows down a little, playing more cautiously but nevertheless manages to scrape a huge score of 123,010 in a single game by the time the klaxon goes and his time in front of the Commodore screen is brought to a timely end.
Champing at the bit, Mass throws himself into this totally unfamiliar game like ‘a bull at a gate’ to borrow an illogical linguistic construction from your Earth language.
Another hair-trigger merchant, El Ducci grimaces, sneers and snarls his way through early failure — taking less than 90 seconds to expire with a score of 6,530.
He fares a little better in the second game, clocking 15,090 before dying — thus forcing his AMTIX! colleague firmly into last place. He continues, attempting to improve his ranking, but despite cramming three more short games into the remaining time, fails to improve his score.
Aim: to score as many points as possible in 10 minutes
This is another of those ‘cute’ games that seem to attract Dick Ed’s attentions — rather like Trapdoor. He claims to ‘love’ playing Scooby, and sets to, making strange cooing noises.
This would-be spiky haired reviewer (he gave up emulating Penn when his meagre wages would not cover the enormous cost of hair lacquer and gel) seems competent at this game. He finishes the first level with a score of 8,590 and without the loss of a single life. He continues to complete the second level without death and has 31,450 points to his credit.
El Duca begins to make threatening noises and starts talking loudly about ‘concrete trainers’ (whatever they may be) as Dickie passes the 37,000 mark which he celebrates with the loss of a life. Another life is lost as 37,700 appears on the clock and the Stallion whinnies in anger. Another life goes at 38,000 and another at 38,450. The game ends on 38,700 after a little over eight minutes.
Confident with his high score, and apparently oblivious to the dark threats from the Mafiosi, Eddy kisses his Trapdoor poster with glee and skips off for a cup of tea, declining to begin another game.
Not a total virgin when it comes to this doggy game, Rignall demonstrates the sneaky side of his vile personality the moment he begins play. Rather than attempting to complete levels and rescue his mates, the puny one remains rooted to the spot killing ghosts to collect points.
Howls of derision echo round the arena and Rignall is forced to make some token effort towards actually playing the game. After 4 minutes of manipulative play, he is on the second level with a score of 21,100 when his lives run out.
Commencing a second game, the odious creature collects a mere 9,800 points before timeout.
Claiming moderate proficiency at the Spectrum version of this game, Dunn begins play and the spectators soon wonder if the Amstrad version is a different platter of Scooby snacks! For a tense half minute he is crowded by ghosts which he has difficulty in keeping at bay and eventually loses a life.
Progressing through the first level with plenty of close shaves, he manages to rescue Thelma and attain a score of 5,000. Collecting three new lives in quick succession, things begin to go well: then disaster strikes. After five minutes of play the game comes to an abrupt end with 19,500 on the clock. Restarting rapidly, Skippy plays a remarkably similar game and is on the point of rescuing Fred with a score of 19,250 when time runs out for him...
Aha! This is a game that Penn has not played before. Maybe he is due for his first come-uppance!
Grudgingly, I have to admit that he does rather well. Rescuing Thelma to complete Level One, Penn has lost one life as the second level starts. He begins to get smug. Five lives are lost in the space of a single minute, and the smugness disappears. With one life remaining, he battles on, desperately trying to rescue Fred. I am pleased to see him meet a swift end at the hands of a marauding Jack-in-the-pot.
With a score of 19,240 to his credit, Penn takes a second crack at rescuing Scooby’s chums but has little time to improve his score and is left with a score of 11,850 as the ten minutes allocation ends.
A chance to pull back from a previous poor showing. El Ducci settles in front of his favourite game and sets about proving to the assembled throng that he is the Godfather when it comes to Scooby Doo.
And he certainly does a good job. Although the first few minutes of play reveal no spectacular skills — the Italian One loses his first life after a minute and a half when 950 points have been amassed — staying power is obviously the Stallion’s strong point... he continues playing until the time limit is up. He has galloped up to the second level and has a score of 37,050 when time runs out.
Mr Label wears a few more microns from the soles of his Reeboks as he approaches the joystick and states that he is ‘cool’ at the game. Mr Cool loses his first life two minutes into the game — towards the end of the first level. In less than a minute, he recovers his composure, cranks his designer score up to 13,150 and completes Level One. Thereafter he loses lives at roughly one minute intervals, steadily building up his score until the last life goes at 9 minutes and 15 seconds with the clock at 33,200.
Evidently a practitioner of the Designer Endgame, this lad: he finishes as close to the expiry of the time limit as he can.
Aim: to achieve the shortest time for a three lap circuit of Silverstone
Demanding that he at least be allowed to leap into the saddle of a Moto Guzzi as he hasn’t seen this game before, our macho hero screams round the track, remaining firmly in last position for the entire first lap. He moves up to 35th place on the second lap. The third and final lap begins, and Mass finds himself back at the tail end. Some jostling improves his placing temporarily — he reaches 37th place — but manages to regain his tail-end placing in time for the finish line. The race ends after 2 minutes and 43 seconds of dubious riding.
Not a designer game, this one, in the opinion of Mr Trendful. Moan, gripe, complain “This is years old.” Admitting to having played the game “ages ago”, Stone zooms off and completes the first lap in one minute dead, attaining 30th place briefly. On the second circuit he shaves a few seconds off his lap time, crossing the line in 1 minute 53 seconds in last position.
An uneventful final lap sees Ben finish the race in a total time of 2 minutes and 44 seconds — in last place. Not a leader of the pack when it comes to biking...
“Har Har” quoth the weedy one, “I played this one back in the good old days before I got a Commodore”, and settles down in front of the screen.
A slight problem is encountered on the first corner, which has the Rignall rump in danger of severe damage, but a rapid recovery is made and the noxious creature gets into his stride, attaining 17th place during the first lap. He fares less well on the second lap, dropping to last as he crosses the finishing line for the second time. A minor recovery takes place in the final lap and Rignall takes the chequered flag with a time of 2 minutes 40 seconds.
Clearly this is Skippy’s game. He proves to be rather good at it, burning round the track and gaining first position with ease. He suffers a collision during the first lap, but isn’t penalised too badly in the event, crossing the winning line with a time of 2 minutes 30 seconds, 12 seconds ahead of the first of the computer controlled bikers.
Strange, I would have expected the ZZAP! Dirty Tricks Department to have swung into distraction action with loud references to Skippy’s girlfriend, but they remained silent. Odd. Most odd indeed...
There’s nothing cute or cuddly about motorbikes, and seeing as the Cornish Clot hasn’t played this game before, no-one in the arena seems to believe that the AMTIX! Accolader is going to fare very well.
Gripping the joystick as if it was a handlebar is not the brightest way to play the game, the assembled throng points out, and eventually Dick Ed stops living up to his name and sets out on the gruelling ride. He gets off to a decidedly shaky start, weaving all over the track, and is soon miles behind all the other riders. Even with no other riders in sight, the Cornish Pixie seems to be suffering from clotted reflexes and has severe difficulty remaining on the track.
Eventually he catches up. He keeps nudging other bikes repeatedly yet manages to make his way to 33rd place at one stage during the second lap. Disaster strikes: he hits several bikes, falls into last place and drags over the line in a time of 2 minutes 42 seconds — a surprisingly good time, given his riding abilities.
More moaning: “It’s like a poor man’s Super Cycle”. Winge, complain. No doubt the wide-jawed, joystick-trousered one is suffering from a lack of hairspray, for his morale seems to be drooping a little, along with his strangely coiffed hair. “The flickering bikes are putting me off”, he winges, bumping his way around the track.
An uninspiring ride from such a self-proclaimed game player — high spot of the three laps is the brief moment when Penn squeaks into 36th place, but he manages to finish 39th in 2 minutes 41 seconds. A fairly close matched ride all round, with Skippy justifying his personal choice by a comfortable margin.
Aim: to score as many points as possible in 10 minutes
More designer complaining from the Effete One. His first game lasts a little over two minutes in which Ben claws his way to a score of 6,480. Apparently he has played this game a little, but from his performance he might as well not have bothered...
Game Two gets off to a slightly better start — 10,580 points are on the clock when the first life goes, but then the second, third and fourth lives are all lost on the walls and no extra points are gained! Wasteful playing, indeed.
After a couple of hundred seconds, Wave One has been negotiated and the score pushed up to 11,380. When he finally expires — with 3 minutes playtime available to him, Stone throws in the towel and gives up. Pusillanimous play indeed.
The soft, wimpy Eddy likes Sanxion. The soft, wimpy Eddy rapidly proves he’s not very good at playing Sanxion. Three games are played in a little over three minutes and 2,700 is the highest score reached.
Game four gets off to a slightly better start — only two crashes in the first 30 seconds — but before long D-Ed is having problems again, flying slowly, shooting slowly and bumping into things. What this Cornish Patsie needs is something big and colourful and girlie like Trapdoor. I despair of him.
Oh rarity! He has managed to squeeze onto the second level. No bonus achieved in the transition, though. A bomb puts paid to his run for glory at 7,640 points.
Starting out again with less than four minutes remaining, he negotiates the first level successfully, running into a bomb once but otherwise managing a clear run. Entering the bonus level with 2,950 the cutie starts the second level with 4,765 points and starts having a hard time again. Somehow he survives — and almost begins to shine, but crashes into the first set of barriers at the end of the level with 9 minutes 15 seconds elapsed and 8,910 points on the clock.
A manic style of play characterises El Ducci’s attempts at Sanxion — a game he admits to having attempted on a couple of occasions. His first game lasts a mere 47 seconds and yields 1,650 points. Second time around he lasts 4 seconds longer, but still comes out with 1,650 points. Cunningly consistent if a little short and sweet! Manic stabs of the fire button combined with rather slow reactions don’t help...
Slowing down a bit from the premature ejection style of missile hurling, the Stallion takes his third game a bit more steadily, survives the first level and progresses carefully until his last life is removed by a collision with a barrier at 9,000 points. Another quick game sees him enter the second level and survive long enough to collect 7,400 points — a performance he repeats once more, crashing just as the klaxon sounds and 5,960 have been collected.
Stacatto stabs combined with staying power seems to be the gaming style adopted by the Italian Stallion in all but Scooby Doo.
Slithering into the hotseat, collecting the joystick coolly and starting play, Penn takes to Sanxion like an Umbertian swamp slug to a rippling pool of slime. It is a sickening sight, watching him play casually and almost competently. He has nearly made it to the end of the third stage and collected over 28,000 points before he loses the first life of the game, a mere 3 minutes 42 seconds after starting. Two minutes and another 13,000 points elapse before the second loss of life — but it only takes another 7 seconds for the Mohican Monster to die again, I note with some satisfaction.
A tricky moment follows around the 49,000 mark and Penn opts to commit suicide when confronted with the Mother Ship. One minute remains as he enters the last bonus screen and Bonus Level 5 looms nigh. ‘Girlie’ commences Level 6 with 71,770, and six seconds before timeout he loses a life, achieving a score of 73,070.
Unable to resist an opportunity to demonstrate the sheer size of his ego, the revolting creature continues to play while all around him yawn with boredom. The arrogant fellow finally leaves the computer with a large, smug grin spread across his large, smug mouth and 124,500 on the clock...
It’s all new to him. Looking particularly frail and Rignallesque behind his specs, Skippy plonks himself down behind a Commodoreful of Sanxion and prepares to do his best at a game he has just seen played for the first time.
His first attempt lasts almost 30 seconds, and before the 90 second mark is up, two more games have taken place. The Blushing One’s third game begins to look a little more promising as he blasts his way through to the second level. It looks like a probable personal best for the Nervous Creature as he expires on the barriers at the end of the second level with a score of 10,620 points. And indeed, that is exactly what it proves to be — a further three short games fail to yield significant scores as the 10 minute limit ends.
Rignall must sense defeat, for he begins a litany of moans covering a range of subjects to do with not liking the game, not having had the chance to practice enough, and hardly having time to pilot a Sanxion Fighter long enough to get used to the controls. All this, despite hours playing the game when it came in for review. Ha! he will lose to Penn, that is for sure.
He starts badly, losing a life after 20 seconds. Thus un-nerved, he only just makes it to the second level. The small Spiky creature copes with the third level with manic precision and enters the fourth level with 35,380 points to his credit. At the start of level five, he gets a little over-confident and loses two lives in quick succession. Two more lives disappear before the Mother Ship is encountered and disposed of.
The defence barriers at the end of the fifth level prove a major problem. After severe effort, which appears to raise strange bruises on the thorax of this spindly being, Rignall fails to avoid death and ends the game with a score of 43,990. Only 90 seconds remain, so it is clearly not worth continuing with a second game.
Aim: the best score from two games played on Average Skill level is used. Each game consists of four minute-long quarters
The Cornish Piskie believed that Xeno would only be available on the Amstrad by the time my Challenge took place — and his decision to include it in the AMTIX! portfolio of games was clearly influenced by this factor. The diminutive one is overtaken by events, however, and the game arrives in the CRASH office in good time for Stone and Dunn to get plenty of practice.
This news is broken to him just as he starts to play, and somewhat petulantly, he commences. Clearly, the foolish fellow is un-nerved by the news. He fails to score in the 1st quarter and it ends 0-0. The computer scores 16 seconds into the 2nd quarter and shortly thereafter Dick Ed pulls back to 1-1. Plenty of active play ensues and just before the 2nd quarter ends Dickie is about to shoot and... the quarter ends. Not his day, it seems!
He concedes another goal early in the 3rd quarter, but manages to pull back to a 2-2 draw by the end of the rather uneventful game. If this is the best the lad can do, needlework might have been a better choice of occupation...
The Cornish Clot’s next game goes rather better — he maintains the edge over the computer, scoring early in the 1st quarter and after about 20 seconds in the 2nd quarter. As the 4th quarter starts, Dickie is winning 3-0, and is beginning to look pleased with himself. Pride always comes before a fall, according to one of your Earth interjections, and the case is proved yet again. A mere 9 seconds before the end of the game, the computer scores and Dickie is left with a best score of 3-1. He appears less than pleased...
Maybe Eddy was put off by the fact that the CRASH team were gloating about all the practice they had been able to put in. Now is the time for the pudding to be proved by consumption — to paraphrase another of your strange linguistic constructions.
My Pleasure Circuits thrill as Dunn begins to lose. By the end of the 1st quarter the computer leads 4-0, a lead it expands to 5-0 by the end of the 2nd quarter and to 7-0 by the end of the 3rd. At the end of Game One the blushing Spectrum-wielder is 8-0 down to the computer. I have not had so much pleasure watching a Challenger play a game since my Mission began, and I sense my Pleasure Circuit overload fuses warning for the first time in eons.... What can Skippy do to amuse me in the second game?
His second session starts rather better. In the 1st quarter the computer only succeeds in scoring one goal. My Pleasure Circuit fuses cool a little. During the second quarter the computer hammers two more goals home, and in the third quarter scores three. The final quarter begins with Skippy a gentle shade of pink and the computer 6-0 in the lead. it ends with a 7-0 defeat and a rather more intense shade of pink reflecting off the monitor screen...
The manic technique comes to the fore again. I have little desire to report on the Stallion’s performance here. Suffice to say he wins his first game 7-0 and then goes on to perform like an agitated rabbit running away from myxamatosis, ending up exhausted with a lead of 14 goals to 0. I am displeased.
My early pleasure in observing the computer win at Xeno looks set to be ruined. Stone has decided that this game is a game for posers such as he, and fights the computer every inch of the way. He wins the first match, 6-2. Spurred on, he manages to play even more designer shots in his second match, and concludes with an 11-1 lead. May the kangaroo skin on his trainers moulder...
Strange indeed. Rignall has never played this before. Yet the puny one desists from the usual defensive barrage of whining that usually forms a part of his binary foreplay if he feels in the slightest danger of doing less than well. I am bemused.
Aha! He has been studying the gameplay of his opponents and has worked out a sneaky way of scoring goals against the computer. He plays an underhand match, and as a result I find myself having to cope with Rignall’s 15-0 lead at the end of the first game.
In the 1st quarter it becomes apparent that the sneaky mode of play is not infallible — the wimp only scores two goals. In the second quarter he fails to score and gets stuck on the elastic so gives up in disgust... There’s nothing worse than a cheat cheated!
Another Xeno virgin, Penn appears strangely confident, too. What is going on in the spiky minds of these Commodorians?
He beats the computer 3-2 in his first match. To my eternal disgust, he does rather better in his second game, winning 4-0. See how easily pleasure turns to pain — I was overjoyed in the early stages of this section of the contest, and now find myself suffused with frustrated anger. Those who I least wanted to do well have given a creditable account of themselves...
Aim: to score as many points as possible in 10 minutes
This is supposedly the trump card in the CRASH armoury — only Dunn and Stone have seen it before this moment. Once more, Dunn seems unable to capitalise on an advantage. Within 90 seconds his first session has ended with a paltry score of 6,300. His second effort lasts a little over a minute, but his score improves to 17,000. Four minutes or so after restarting yet again, he has amassed a score of 36,950 and ends the game. HA!
Desperately trying to avoid blushing, Skippy rapidly starts his fourth game — and runs out of time with 44,400 on the clock.
The unpleasant creature desists from moaning yet again. I fear the worst. He starts off, collects a pistol almost immediately but then loses the pistol and a life in quick succession. Next, he finds a machine gun and starts to massacre everything in sight — his score has crept up to 30,550 before both gun and life are lost. I am aggrieved.
Invincibility comes to his on-screen persona in a hamburger, but it soon wears off; he is stunned by a pram and loses a life. At the end of Level One the score is 43,550. Seconds later, the pasty-faced mutoid loses his remaining lives and ends up with an overall score of 44,050.
Three short and pathetic attempts follow with Rignall deliberately ending one of them to start again. Nearly 5 minutes remain on the clock as the fourth game begins. Rignall does passably well, moving on to Level Two with 30,000 points and his score creeps up. With less than a minute remaining, he is killed off totally and 41,650 shows on the clock.
After 90 seconds the Italian Stallion has finished his first dose of crimebusting. It seems to be over very quickly for him. His second game takes 99 seconds, his third 47 seconds, his fourth 69 seconds and his fifth bash lasts all of 63 seconds. Top score so far: 8,700 achieved on the first attempt. Strange, given that he and Mr Stallone share the same national origins...
Less than four minutes remain — time for another trio of tries at least, all no doubt pathetically low-scoring. I am amused by the inept attempts of this ‘tough guy’ to score points by on-screen killing. Maybe in real life, this baby Mafiosi is, as your strange Earth language would have it, “all mouth and trousers”.
Things do not look well — he is shot, stabbed and shot again early into the next go, but soon Mass begins mass executions with a machine gun. Points build up at an alarming rate, and the clock registers over 20,000... At last the Italian one has found his form, to my dismay. The Stallone-emulation attempts end at the hands of a bazooka-wielding granny with a score of 24,050 after 9 minutes 18 seconds of play.
Another bad start. Dead after 53 seconds with 4,450 points on the clock. In Dick Ed’s second game, he manages to get the machine gun and begins an orgy of mindless slaughter. Soon the would-be Spiky Haired One has amassed 25,150 points and become temporarily invincible. Death follows quite rapidly, however, as his score hits 28,600. Six puny games follow before timeout, in which the best score the foolish fellow can create is 8,300.
A piece of Designer Programming, this, to judge by Ben’s desire to play Cobra. He claims, loudly, that he is good when it comes to mindless violence. His skill is displayed to all in his first attempt: Stone gathers no moss and hardly any points, being wiped out with 4,150 points to his credit. How are the mighty claims defused!
His second game has all the hallmarks of an AMTIX! reviewer, too — 3,900 points before expiry.
Clearly worried, a large amount of effort goes into the next Stone attempt. Casting caution to the wind and risking the addition of unbecoming sweat stains to his expensive garments, Stone cusses and swears his way to 42,250 points. There is plenty of time remaining in the 10 minute allocation, but Stone reverts to the EDDY/VALDUCCI style of gameplay once more...
Ha! Incompetence shows through. Penn has never played this game before, a fact he demonstrates with elegant simplicity by ending his first game with a massive score of 650 points. I feel I am about to have my Pleasure Circuits stimulated once more.
Strangely, this wide-mouthed creature finds his feet with his second game, achieving a score of 31,400 at the end of the Level One and progresses to clock up a massive score of 65,600 before expiring. A large allocation of time remains, but the smugness takes over and Penn merely toys with a couple of short games to amuse himself before vacating the joystick. And on that unhappy note, the last Challenge game has been played. It is time to compile the scores and analyse the results...
My Communiputer had been supplied with the final scores of each game played by the contestants, and almost as soon as Penn had completed his Cobra run a full printout of the scores in tabular form was spewing from my portable console. It was snatched up by the assembled throng who insisted on allocating 6 points for the winner in each event, 5 points to the next highest scorer and so one. Their puny mathematical abilities kept them busy for quite a while while I performed my own calculations on the data shown here...
|Dropzone||Sanxion||Xeno||Scooby Doo||Cobra||Full Throttle|
The sound of falling dandruff dominated the arena as six heads were scratched and fingers counted — an amusing sight to behold. Little did the sextet realise that my calculations had already been performed. Each reviewer had played in pursuit of personal glory. Each reviewer was keen to discover the overall ranking he had achieved according to the system I had allowed them to believe was to be operated.
Groans suddenly erupted as the result of their primitive calculations appeared. Rignall’s smile was so wide that it seemed the bruising on his neck, contracted before the arena was entered on account of some mysterious practice, became even worse. He thought he was the NEWSFIELD Champion!
Not so, not so. For I had decided that the scoring system was inappropriate. As this was a challenge between the reviewing teams from the three magazines, it is foolish in the extreme to allow games played on the ‘home’ machine to count into individual’s scores. Thus Rignall and Penn are deprived of their points for Dropzone and Sanxion, Valducci and Eddy deprived of their Scooby Doo and Xeno points and Stone and Dunn do not get credit for playing Cobra and Full Throttle.
So the scoreboard for the NEWSFIELD CHALLENGE, carrying ‘away’ games only is as follows....
|Dropzone||Sanxion||Xeno||Scooby Doo||Cobra||Full Throttle|
Without doubt, it is Stone who deserves the Accolade, Smash or Sizzler crown as overall champion, not the revolting Rignall. For Stone gains maximum points on ‘away’ games three times — on Dropzone, Sanxion and Scooby Doo, while Rignall only gains two overall victories on ‘away’ games: Xeno and Full Throttle. Rignall begins to sulk as I announce the full results — his ego is apparently more bruised than his neck, which bears strange contusions as the results of some strange pastime the spindly one indulges in regularly. Overall, the ranking based on ‘away’ points is as follows:
STONE ... 15
RIGNALL ... 14
PENN ... 10
DUNN ... 9
VALDUCCI ... 6
EDDY ... 6
Clearly, Stone is Victor Ludorem — the contestant with the highest score and the most ‘away’ wins to his credit.
On a team basis, ZZAP! and CRASH, as befits the senior magazines in the NEWSFIELD stable, come out best — joint leaders with 24 points collected by their reviewers. Both the ZZAP! and CRASH teams collected 3 away wins, 3 away 2nd places, 1 away 3rd place and 1 away 4th place. The AMTIX! teamsters trail hopelessly, with a total of 12 points between them and 4 away 3rd placings and 4 away last placings.
The final words must go to Richard ‘Dick’ Eddy, explaining his magazine’s loss of honour: “I just don’t play games — that’s all there is to it!”. Unless, of course, they are cute and cuddly games featuring large, cute, colour colourful creatures. Pah! He makes my lubricant filters clog...