Fear and Loathing

John Minson


It’s trebles all round as the software industry just survives another month of Minson — the man, the appetite, the water pistol. CRASH Smash Zynaps makes a good excuse for a fight...

I thought it was bad in Stockholm when a round of four beers came to 13 quid, but at last I’ve found somewhere here in London to challenge it.

‘What,’ you exclaim, ‘Minson buying drinks?’ Well, yes, because after last time’s prophecies of screaming paranoid doom I thought I’d better diversify in my ligging, and when the free invite to the hip Limelight nightclub arrived (to celebrate the start of the Piccadilly Film Festival) I started polishing up my new boots and panties.

So, there’s a sort of a buzz as the bouncers, arrned with their dinky little walkie-talkies, clear you a path through the poor, ordinary punters whose admission will depend on whether they’re victims of the week’s ‘def’ (hip street talk, probably out of date as you read it) fashion.

But nothing can compensate for bar prices like those, even if the décor is carefully contrived to look like the builders haven’t moved out yet.

Then there was my brush with smooth Stringfellows, site of the launch of a new society magazine — by ‘society’ we mean Debs and Sloanes, not the Chipping Sodbury Spectrum Users’ Group. The construction workers have finished off properly here, but somebody should buy the waitresses legwarmers — they’ll catch their deaths running round half-naked like that.

We kept looking out for famous people but the best we did was some bimbo with a miniature dog stuck on her shoulder, like a living fur collar. I just hope it was house-trained.

The sight of the highly sophisticated Lesley Mansford from Headlines PR was much more welcome, and when the free wine had run out and we decided none of us could afford a second mortgage for a half of weak lager shandy and four straws, we did a runner to a local hostelry.

In the comfort of the smoky bar, Lesley whispered in my ear that there were nasty doings in the East End. Prostitutes have been found murdered. Could it be the work of Jack The Ripper? No, it’s the work of the good ladies of St Brides, who are hard at work on the third of CRL’s trilogy of ghoulish adventures, and this time they’re hoping to go the whole hog and get an 18 certificate from the BBFC.

After all this frantic nightlife, it was a relief to come back to earth and attend three lunch-time ligs in a row, casting off with a boat trip, courtesy of Microprose and Origin Systems. Major ‘Wild Bill’ Stealay wasn’t there but that didn’t stop speculation that he’d make a sudden appearance, performing a perfect landing on the deck of the Thames pleasure Cruiser.

Those of you with long memories, and the infinite patience needed to suffer this column for more than six issues, will remember that once, in the halcyon days of yore, Mastertronic held a party on the Pridella. A delight, therefore, to find that it was the very same ship — and that the food is still as good.

There can be few ways of spending a lunch time as civilized as running up and down the murky waters of the Thames, from the Houses Of Parliament to Docklands and back. Add to this the unexpected delight of an appearance by Roger Kean, and the day is made. The editorial one kept mumbling something about how he’d only come down to conduct an interview with Origin, but I have my suspicions he fancied a nautical luncheon too.

I’ve no doubt he got all the heavy stuff, but I’ll just mention that as well as the appearance of Microprose simulations F-15 Strike Eagle and Gunship on the Spectrum, the company has a range of joysticks on the way. And I reckon any hardware that satisfies Wild Bill has to be tough.

A genius who did the impossible, slobber, worship, Smash: Zynaps designer Dominic Robinson

A more modest setting for the next launch — Hewson held another of their regular gatherings above a trendy Covent Garden pub. Hewson launches are like parties, though, where you meet friends, chat in a relaxed fashion, look at a few games and go home happy, with a goodie bag containing a press kit and a prezzie.

The prezzie this time was a water pistol to match the theme of the launch, which was shoot-’em-ups. With Christian Urquhart’s Gunrunner, which I’ve mentioned before, and Zynaps, which I’ve not, both on show this seemed a fairly logical decision. Zynaps is the first original game by Dominic Robinson, the genius who did the impossible and put Uridium on the Spectrum. It’s fast and tough for all you quick-on-the-draw artists out there.

Talking of quick-on-the-draw, I’m not sure whether it was debonair Debbie Sillitoe or jaunty Julia Coombs who had the bright idea of the water pistols, but with a well-stocked bar the temptation was too much for the increasingly increasingly well-stocked journos. Character assassination has nothing on the real thing when you can send your opponents to a watery death, and many a duel was fought along Long Acre that afternoon.

This trilogy of free lunches concluded with a visit to Ken Lo’s Memories Of China near Victoria station... and what a conclusion. An Ocean launch is a rare and wonderful event. Last time I made this observation Jeni Beattie promised to send me luncheon vouchers. This time she offered an alternative of a Vesta instant chop suey, but nothing would keep me away from food of this calibre.

The reason for the Oriental setting was the imminent launch of Tai Pan. (Thank God they didn’t call it Deep Pan or we’d all have been guzzling pizza.) Like I said. Ocean bashes are fairly infrequent, but when they go to town they do it in style. The game looks like it will be as good as the food undoubtedly was.

You start the game as a penniless peasant, but if you borrow money and buy your own milk, you can sail away to sell junk around the China Seas. It looks like it could be one of those totally engrossing experience that become a way of life, much like Elite.

The meal also marked the second appearance in a week of one of the Newsfield mafia. ‘Does this mean that London has attractions which Ludlow doesn’t?’ I asked Graeme Kidd as he tucked into his Bang-Bang Chicken.

‘No,’ the bearded one chuckled. ‘It’s just that we thought we’d better check up on you!’

Well, I’m glad to report that I never let the side down — my table manners are always impeccable, even with chopsticks.

Okay, then, so maybe I should change my tune. After my soothsaying of last month the software industry has produced three superb products to prove me wrong. Perhaps the end isn’t nigh... at least not quite yet!