I’ve been asked to remind people who had any trouble with their Amaurote 128 version, to send it back to Mastertronic. See last month’s news item on the subject. Some similar problems may have been experienced with Zub. Also that I was over enthusiastic last month in saying that the winner of the mapping competition had been picked, when it only closed the other day (as I write it has now closed).
Enough of that, and on with the letters, which include a couple of disenchanteds and two positively seethings. But first, Letter of the Month...
This month, as usual, I find myself disagreeing with the opinions of many of the reviewers. I appreciate that, as you’ve stated many times, the reviewer’s comments are purely subjective opinions, I feel that the judgements given are often swayed by factors such as game price, publishing house and maybe even by the author’s reputation.
This is not an indictment upon the reviewers, more a reflection upon human nature. I, for one, still find it difficult to compare £1.99 games alongside their full priced (£7.95 upwards) counterparts, without feeling some degree of bias towards the full-priced item. In the software world, more than any other, the old adage ‘You get what you pay for!’ is proving to be less true by the day, but it’s an attitude that persists, having become subconsciously lodged in the minds of a great many of us.
In an ideal system, each reviewer would be given a game tape and playing details and nothing else. Then in isolation, they would play and review the game with a mind relatively free from preconceptions about what the game OUGHT to be like, both in terms of quality and value for money. Having written the main review, they could then be given any remaining details, whereupon they would write a brief summary based on the extra information.
If nothing else, such a system would at least ensure that each game was taken on its own merits and that they all started equal, even if they don’t finish that way!
Before I go I must just mention one review that I DID agree with; PAW. It’s awesome. Well done Gilsoft for being one of the few software houses that can truly be called innovative!
Thanx for your time Lloyd
What a very timely letter, Mat! People will suspect I wrote it specially for this issue, because as you can now see, the Powers That Be at CRASH have decided to drop the Value For Money rating from our reviews. Can anyone argue that Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa becomes a better or a worse painting day by day because influences like the international rates of exchange mean it’s worth £50 million one day and over £90 million the next? It’s still the same painting, whatever it costs.
At the more humble level of Spectrum games, it’s rather hard for us to be kept in the dark about game prices — adverts, press releases and reviewers’ presentation packs usually offer advance advice on price. What’s important is that collectively, all involved with games reviewing at CRASH have decided to try and forget the cost element when reviewing (unless it’s an essential part of a review now and then), and treat all games as equal starters regardless of their price.
You’re the first person who’s written suggesting such an attitude, Mat, so
I’m giving you the prize for Letter of the Month. You wanted two CRASH subs,
one for yourself and one for a friend, rather than any software — consider it
You asked for letters on the necessary qualities of games and here are my (possibly insignificant) opinions.
I would like to dispute the claim that games are always improving. As far
as I am concerned Stargliders come and go while my fave games include
oldies like LOM, Halls of the Things, Turmoil and
A personal view from one reader (can you hear the cries of
horror over those fave examples!? — mind, I agree with many of them), and
By the way, recent changes made to CRASH have improved an already excellent
On your last point, software houses obviously have cost considerations independent of playtesters’ opinions — like how much it cost to develop the game and how much the programmers want for it (!) — but I think many might sometimes be surprised at the reaction to their products by the ‘man on the street’. It’s a valid point.
Let’s hear from some more readers on this interesting subject.
I have some points to make about the reviews in CRASH.
Firstly, how are the final marks for graphics etc arrived at? Is it a joint decision or is one reviewer picked to do the job?
Secondly, why doesn’t each reviewer give his own personal overall mark at the end of his comment? If they did this reviews would be even more accurate. For example, in the review of Loco from Alligata in the March Issue, the overall percentage was 44, which indicates a poor game, but the general rating indicated that the game would ‘appeal to younger players’, so to them the game would not be poor, would it?
Finally, I think the two most important elements in a game are playability and addictive qualities and a game should be marked according to these factors. If this were the case, games such as Cauldron II, Lightforce and Pentagram would not have been Smashed.
By the way, why doesn’t CRASH have a separate percentage for sound, as this is now an important part of games (see Cobra for example).
I hope you find my points valid enough to print this, as I am interested to
see what other readers think of my suggestions.
Like all the ratings currently in use, figures for graphics
are arrived at by averaging out each individual reviewer’s marks. The overall
percentage does take into account playability and addictive qualities much more
than any other rating, and if you look, nine times out of ten the overall is an
average between those two. In our continuing policy of improving the ratings
system there is some discussion going on at the moment about letting each
reviewer offer their overall mark, with an editorial decision then made about
whether a game is a Smash or not. Sound, too, may well become a rateable factor
before much longer.
In response to Don Elliot’s letter complaining about the CRASH logo. I must say that I quite like the logo as it is, it’s become an old friend.
However, I do agree with Don in saying this it needs a face-lift, so here’s
my version with 3-D perspective, shading and no sparks — and I’ve kept the same
style of writing. What do you think eh?
Very nice too Andrew. For those of you with black and white monitors at home, Andrew has kept the blue ground, and highlighted the insides of the letters with an orange-brown landscape effect with pale blue-grey sky. The hand-stitched sequins are an optional extra...
But Andrew has competition...
No! Don’t let them do it. We will fight them in the newsagents, we will fight them in the RAM and we shall fight them in the mags, and we shall not waver. Yes it’s happened, the SPOCL has sprung into existence (through a hole in the space-time tunnel but that’s another story along with the one about the time I went to Torquay... but!) — the Society for the Protection of the CRASH logo. How dare Don Elliot insult a national institution. For three years now I have looked upon the cover of CRASH and admitted the artsmanship that goes into it. In those three years many changes have been made and I kept my pen quiet, but this is too much, Don Elliot must die.
I suggest nailing him to a large sign of the CRASH logo, there to rot and be eaten by the FORUM BUGS, and to realise his mistake. The SPOCL needs members, as long as you pay £1,000 into a specified Swiss bank account, and so long as you are not called Don Elliot, you are welcome. Come on Lloyd stand up for your mag.
My Toytown cheque is in the post David (it has to be Toytown
on the salary I’m paid). For my part, whether it’s elegant, brash, out-of-date
or whatever, changing the CRASH logo would be the equivalent of Delilah cutting
off Samson’s hair. There have been magazines that altered the design of their
logo, and look what happened to them (veiled reference...)
A little message to Steve. HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE OLIVER FREY’S BRILLIANT ARTWORK!
With art as my main hobby, I know just how annoying it is when some stupid idiot comes up and moans about a picture that you’ve just spent hours painting. Especially when they’re pretty rubbishy at drawing themselves. I’m absolutely amazed at just how much work Oli gets done in the space of a month and just how brilliant it all is.
To show how strongly I feel about the matter, I’ve drawn a picture to scare
all those nasty little ‘Oli’s art moaners’ out of their pitiful little boots
(and anyone who says its rubbish can look forward to a short and painful
future). Oh, and don’t worry Oli, at least you’ve got one real admirer!
I had to put this letter in because Oliver actually does read
most Forum mail as it arrives, and he demanded it be printed! Loved the drawing
I would like to congratulate Ocean, and in particular Martin Galway, for providing some excellent title tunes to some of their recent games such as Top Gun, Cobra, Terra Cresta, and in my view the best title tune ever on a Spectrum so far, Short Circuit.
Before Ocean started to really capture my imagination with these excellent tunes, many companies attempted to produce good sound with the Spectrum but found it impossible, given the Spectrum’s limitations, and only a few quiet burps and coughs resulted. Now, when I get a hold of a new Ocean game, I load it up excitedly, because even if the game falls short I know I can look forward to hearing some funky new sounds.
Now I have to complain to probably the best software company in UK, Elite. I’m certainly not complaining about the quality of their games, but I just think it’s a shame that they can’t be bothered to include a good title tune. I’m sure it isn’t beyond their capabilities!
Here’s my Top Five chart for music on the Spectrum:
There’s nothing like a good tune for extra added value, but
more importantly, music can add tons of atmosphere — witness the 128 music
on Amaurote — actually more like film music than a tune, but great
stuff. How about some other CRASH readers’ music charts?
I want to comment on how the standard of software testing and debugging has declined dramatically over the past few months. Once, you could walk into a shop, buy a game and not have to return it to its creator. No more, I fear. Practically every game available at the present contains an error, from a niggling glitch to, in the worst cases, glaring bugs which cause the game to lock up inexplicably.
I offer Dandy as a case in point. Dungeon Three really put the mockers on my several hours’ work. A major error (there’s a similar one in Dungeon Two) ensured that it is impossible to complete level two of this dungeon, and thus the game.
To be fair to Electric Dreams, they immediately offered me a replacement game from their range, and said that the Dandy wouldn’t be available for some time. The replacement game which I selected (Enduro Racer, which also contains a bug — try pressing the graphics key mid-race a few times) also arrived promptly.
But there is, of course, no excuse for releasing games which don’t work. I know, as a programmer myself, that bugs can be difficult to eradicate, but the knowledge that they exist should prevent the company from marketing the product. All that’s required is a simple few days’ testing (not by the programmers) and all would be a lot better. Many errors could be found in just a few minutes; and although righting them would take longer, the end result would be a far more attractive proposition for the customer. But too few companies do so, and isn’t this highlighted by the fact that Dandy is already available for the Spectrum on another company’s compilation tape — is it still unplayable?
There are worse offenders: honour must surely be bestowed upon Superbowl (original version) which without doubt had more bugged features than working ones, even the revised version has its problems (whoever heard of a two-player game where you’re not allowed to use two joysticks? — and the keyboard layout is horrendous), DT’s Supertest still crashes on the skiing, and World Series Basketball still crashes any time it wants.
The best software house I’ve come across is Durell, and I’ve yet to find even one minor bug in any of their products.
Finally, I’d like to say how much Crash has improved in recent months. The
new ratings system (and still the one I tend to go by) and more colour makes it
the best Spectrum read on the market.
To be honest, I’m not so sure that de-bugging is any worse
(or any better either) than it used to be, but perhaps with more hype for each
game these days, you notice the worst ones more. Whatever, I fully agree that
enough games are definitely rushed out complete with bugs, and it shouldn’t be
I’ve just flicked through my copy of CRASH 41 and there are a couple of items I am not enthralled about.
The Video Section. Stop it while it’s in it’s infancy. Just because LM has stopped, it doesn’t mean Roger Kean (blessed be his name) can add a section from the ill-fated magazine to CRASH. The section has completely nothing to do with computers in the least. (Apart from the tie-ins.) Okay, so they are a part of a standard entertainment, but not the entertainment we buy CRASH for.
Philippa Irving is so annoying. The reviews she writes are fine but in every introduction there is something about Oxford. Why? Again, it’s nothing to do with computers, so please stop Miss Irving. Or is it because you want to show off? I don’t care which but cease the Oxford crap.
The two cartoon strips are just great. Terminal Man is excellent. I’m afraid I missed the first series but the story has filled me in on what I did miss. Jetman I absolutely love. Dead funny I think. I just hope that Terminal Man doesn’t replace it. Tamara Knight is not a cartoon strip but just as good.
I know what you’re going to say now — ‘but they are not part of computers’. So, they are the likeable parts which aren’t part of computers, so keep them.
Welcome back Roger Kean. Long time no see. He has brought SOME good ideas with him, like CRASH Readers Offers, all colour screen shots, names in criticism boxes and more competitions.
Lastly, don’t change the CRASH logo, Oli Frey is great.
Early indications are that many readers do like the video reviews, but it remains to be seen how widespread the approval is. As for Philippa — Oxford is where she is (as a student), it’s a nice enough place, why shouldn’t she mention it?
What you’re really saying is ‘get rid of the non-computer bits I don’t
like’, which is a bit of a selfish attitude Robert. Tsk tsk.
Dear Sir/Madam Lloyd
I’ve just sat down with a fag in one hand and cup of tea in the other and CRASH on my lap (Issue 41), and read Roger Kean’s article on LM closing down. As an avid reader of CRASH and LM, I have never written to a mag, or a paper before, but I felt I really should point out how LM will be missed.
Even though it was only around for a short time it has, I believed, carved a niche in the market for youth mags. It has had varied and interesting interviews, it has provided info on pop, sport, fashion, hobbies and generally things which interest the young. There are lots of mags for the young, I hear you all cry, but not like LM. Most of the mags for the young are usually specialised like sports, or as in CRASH, computers. And as for the mags which are not specialised — well they’re 99 percent girls mags.
I think it will be missed by people like me who enjoy a good read. LM was
beginning to get a cult following if you like. I personally think it was a
great mag and if it goes, then there will once again be a gap in the market,
because there really isn’t anything to replace it. There was nothing like it
in the first place, it was one of a kind and I hope it can somehow make a
Thank you for those comments Peter. I can only echo the
statements Roger made in last month’s editorial. We’re all sad about it, but
Newsfield is springing back with a new magazine soon, though it’s in the realms
of computers again.
I read with interest the articles in issues 39 and 40 regarding fanzines and so decided to write with a bit of advice for future editors.
Our publication costs 65p and is called TURBO.
I hope the above advice is a help to other fanziners, and I
can tell you that another Fanzine File is imminent, maybe even next
The CRASH Forum is your debating column, and any opinions you have are welcome (though some may be snarled at, I make no guarantees!). And now it’s time to pack up the ol’ Hermes (1938) and peddle off into the summer sunset (for summer, read rain).