NEWSFIELD LTD, the publishers of CRASH, will launch a major new computer magazine at the PCW Show in September — covering 16-bit machines like the Atari ST and Amiga, games consoles, and the major 8-bit machines (including the Spectrum).

THE GAMES MACHINE, a 116-page monthly costing £1.25, will join CRASH and ZZAP! 64, the country’s best-selling machine-specific titles.

‘THE GAMES MACHINE will offer readers the widest coverage of any home-computer mag,’ stressed Newsfield Director Franco Frey, ‘as well as the honest, fair reviews which are the secret of CRASH and ZZAP!’s success. There’ll really be no competition.

‘We’ve got access to some of the country’s most experienced computer journalists, and they’ll pool their talents for THE GAMES MACHINE. Of course, we’ll also be going ahead with some exciting projects we’ve got cooking for CRASH and ZZAP!...’


MATTEL has slashed the prices of its new Nintendo games consoles. The simple version is down to £99.99 from £129.99, and the Deluxe (which features a light gun, a robot and two games) to £155 from £199.99. The move follows trade criticism of the high original prices, but Mattel warns that shops can still set their own prices for the console.


RAINBIRD’S first CRASH Smash, Starglider, will be the first British computer game to enter the arcades. Top coin-op manufacturer Bally/Sente has been licensed to convert the 3-D space shoot-’em-up.

‘This is only the beginning,’ predicted Rainbird boss Paul Hibbard. ‘Starglider has broken the barrier of computer conversions to coin-op games.’

And ‘it’s always been my dream to have one of my games in the arcades’, says programmer Jez San.

Not satisfied with this fame and fortune, Starglider (released Christmas) is also appearing weekly on ITV’s popular Saturday morning show Get Fresh.

The game stars in a nerve-racking team contest — from now till the end of August, competitors must blast away to save friends from getting sludged in front of 4.8 million viewers.

Going places: Rainbird’s Starglider features on ITV’s Get Fresh


Attack of the mutant contrived photo opportunities: CRL’s Ninja Hamster game

BEHIND every great hamster there’s a turtle. At least, that’s what CRL found with their new name-’em-up Ninja Hamster, scheduled for release at the end of June.

The man behind the turtle was Ian Ellery, Creative Director at CRL when Ninja Hamster was conceived (he’s now at Nexus).

‘It actually started off as a practical joke on Your Sinclair magazine,’ admits Ian. ‘We just made up a load of things we were releasing, and Ninja Hamster stuck. I was only doodling...’

And behind the doodles, of course, was the trendoshop of 1987 — your local comics outlet. ‘It was making fun of the comic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ recalls Ian. ‘I was in the shop and everyone else was making fun of ninja comics, so I decided ‘why not’?’

The black-belted warrior of CRL’s new game (programmed by Colin Ajayi ’Obe) battles with eight opponents, including Sinister Rat and The Lizard Of Death, in a struggle to keep his village safe for decent rodents to live quiet lives.

According to Mike Hodges in the software house’s ‘Zen room’, where men are men and hamsters are gerbils, ‘it’s an ordinary karate game with a hamster’... which kind of says it all.


Martech boss David Martin gives Reagan a POKE for The Armageddon Man

IT’S nukes with everything in two apocalyptic new games — Activision’s High Frontier and Martech’s The Armageddon Man.

High Frontier, rather quietly proclaimed as ‘one of the most controversial pieces of software yet’, puts you in charge of the American Strategic Defence Initiative (President Reagan’s proposed Star Wars system, which would use weapons in orbit to wipe out nuclear attacks).

Written by Alan Steel, coauthor of the grittily realistic Theatre Europe, it’ll be out in July for £7.95.

Also in July comes The Armageddon Man (£12.95), a peacegame set in the year 2032. As the eponymous controller of an omniscient satellite, the player has to keep 16 superpowers happy and avoid war by preserving a balance of power.


SPRING came late to the Spectrum this year; the ‘spring’ Microfair didn’t arrive till the penultimate day of May. Ardent micromaniacs ignored the sunshine and crowded into London’s (not very) New Horticultural Hall, seeking out the latest in Spectrum and QL goodies.

The Spectrum +3, with a built-in disk drive, made an appearance on several stands, though manufacturers Amstrad didn’t turn up themselves.

But all the +3s at the show were development prototypes. The new beast isn’t expected in the shops before mid-July, and the user manual hadn’t been printed in time for the fair.

It comes in a black box, like the +2 launched last autumn. The cassette unit is replaced with a three-inch disk drive, as used on other Amstrad computers, Tatung’s Einstein, and very little else.

Each side of a plastic-cased +3 disk holds almost 180K of programs or data, in the format used by drive A of Amstrad’s PCW-8256 glass typewriter.

The software to control the drive is held in an extra 32K of ROM. The disk system, written by Locomotive Software, is derived from that of earlier Amstrads, though you can access it with the standard ZX BASIC commands that used to refer to the cassette.

The other 32K of ROM Is similar to that of the +2, though hackers will be pleased to find that the NMI bug has been fixed. The +3 is NOT compatible with Interface 1 or Microdrives.

The audio and video outputs mimic those of the +2. The audio socket is also used to load and save cassette files, and the video connector is now labelled ‘Peritel’; many new TVs have ‘Peritel’ inputs. The same socket supports colour and black-and-white monitors.

Telephone sockets are still used for the MIDI/Serial port and the nonexistent keypad, now labelled ‘Aux’. There’s a reset switch, but you still have to control the power at the mains, as there’s no on/off switch.

The joystick sockets have scrambled connections, as on the Plus Two, so you’ll need an adaptor from Frel or Cheetah before you can plug in a normal stick.

The first of the few: Ocean’s Cosmic Wartoad is among six games packaged with the +3

The +3 is supplied with a ‘free’ SJS-1 joystick. This is compatible with Amstrad’s scrambled socket wiring, but has little else to recommend it.

At long last there’s a Centronics parallel printer port built in — this is easier to wire up and compatible with more printers than the serial socket which earlier 128s had, and may make the +3 suitable for simple word processing.

But there are two problems.

The old concentric nine-volt power slot has been replaced by a five-pin DIN socket carrying power for the disk as well as the computer. The new plug is bulky, and fits just three millimetres away from the edge-connector. Many peripherals extend into this area, so it will be impossible to plug them directly into the +3. Other add-ons have plastic loops intended to trap the old power plug in place; you may have to remove those to make room for the new plug.

And the +3 edge-connector also lacks a vital signal called ROMCS (ROM Chip Select). That signal is used by press-button copiers such as Multiface 1 and the Mirage Microdriver to switch in new ROM and RAM and allow ‘protected’ programs to be saved.

The +3 comes with six games on disk: Supertest 1, Supertest 2, Cosmic Wartoad, N.O.M.A.D., Gift Of The Gods and Mailstrom, all from Ocean.

But it’ll be a while before popular titles are available in the format, and you’ll probably have to pay extra for the convenience of disk loading. Software houses haven’t responded very positively to Alan Sugar’s suggestion that they supply games for the machine in groups of four titles for £10!

Publishers could cut their overheads by providing Amstrad CPC and Spectrum games on the same disk, but it’s unlikely that many will publish material on disk till tens of thousands of machines have been sold. In the meantime, compatibility with tapes for the original Spectrum and earlier versions of the 128 should be good. The hardware includes two ‘lock bits’ to make the machine impersonate a 48K Spectrum or a +2.

And there’s another way of getting cheap disk software for the +3. At long last, the new hardware lets the Spectrum run as a 64K RAM machine, with the screen display held in a switched page. This setup will support the old business operating system CP/M, from Locomotive Software — conversion work is almost complete.

The machine will sell for £249, but trade rumour has it that Amstrad intends to cut it to around £200 by Christmas. The company refuses to comment.