Front End


Well, not much time or space for a ramble this month. It’s all been a bit hectic with Phil absent, I don’t think I could’ve finished the issue without Erstwhile Ed Dominic Handy helping out, so thanks to him. Thanks also must go to the Art Department — Wayne Allen, Melvyn Fisher and Yvonne Priest — who came up with what I think is a great new design to go with the editorial changes. We think the new CRASH is the best ever, and the next one will be amazing!

Piracy, ahoy!

This month’s pick of the paperback’s is Tim Powers’ epic seafaring fantasy On Stranger Tides out now from Grafton books. It’s violent, fast-moving and spooky...

‘... the sand rippled and jumped... white bones began poking up out of it and rolling and cartwheeling together into the pile; the pile heaved and shifted and shook, then steadied, and Shandy realised it was now a human skeleton in a crouching posture... Blackbeard spoke, and the skeleton lowered itself and knelt on one boney knee.’

And it gets better! After writing one fantasy classic, The Anubis Gates, Powers has certainly done it again. Set in 1718 the story follows the high seas adventures of John Chandagnac and his confrontation with the notorious pirate Blackbeard. Complete with dramatic naval battles, zombies, a mummified two-headed dog and a beautiful damsel in distress this is essential reading.


Observant CRASH readers will notice a drop in the number of Phil comments this month, and sad to say it’s not because he’s off with his flock due to it being the lambing season. No, the blame for this must squarely lie with the makers of all those skateboard games. After playing a few of these Phil seemed to think himself pretty good at it, and when asked for a real-life demo at a nephew’s birthday party promptly attempted a series of Ollies and Handplants...

‘Get well soon’ cards for Phil can be sent into the Forum to be passed on, there’s no firm news when the plaster will come off but Phil asked for this story to be printed as a warning to others. And definitely didn’t say; ‘I hope you’re not going to put this in the Front End...’


AFTER LOSING Bob Monkhouse (like we wish BBC1 would!), Domark are back on the licence trail with 007’s latest epic, Licence To Kill. Once again Timothy Dalton is Bond, and this time his opponent is the evil drug baron Sanchez. Whilst defeating Sanchez (oops! I spoilt the ending!) Bond will go on a stomach-churning helicopter chase, descend into watery depths to take on sharks and thugs, then chase after Sanchez’s drug smuggling convoy of petrol tankers in a stolen crop duster plane. All these highly meaningful scenes will be duplicated by the Domark game which should be out in June.

Rather further in the future, and considerably more bloody, is Ocean’s latest film fie-in deal: Nightbreed. This movie is scheduled for an Autumn release and is based on Clive Barker’s latest bestseller, Cabal. The finished product should have some of the best and most terrifying monsters ever seen — so it’s unlikely to get a ‘U’ Rating. But then RoboCop’s ‘18’ rating didn’t do the computer games sales any harm did it?

The game Nick’s most looking forward to seeing, though, should be ready for a very special kind of release right now. This is Total Eclipse: The Sphinx Jinx, a remixed version of the original with completely different puzzles. You’ve got to rebuild the mighty sphinx by collecting 12 pieces in just one hour. Incentive’s incentive for you to make a really high score this time is a £2,000 holiday in Hawaii, where you can see a total eclipse for real. Unfortunately the game’s only going to be available from the Home Computer Club as part of a special double pack costing £11.20. Bwah!

Requiring yet more brain work will be Level 9’s latest adventure, Scapeghost. The idea is that you’re this hero detective killed while investigating drugs smuggling (obviously no James Bond, huh!). Now you’re dead ugly rumours have begun that you were involved with the smuggling. Determined to put a stop to this, track down the drug smugglers and free a hostage, you come back from the dead. One advantage of being a ghost is that you can walk through doors (without opening them!) but on the other hand you can’t very easily move things or communicate with people. As has become common practise with Level 9 the game will come in three loads, and cost either £14.95 or £19.95 depending on whether you want tapes or a disk.

And last, but most definitely not least, we have CDS’s announcement that they’ve got the licence to the TV Quiz Show Sporting Triangles. Quoth CDS, ‘Yes, there have been a number of quiz show conversions... (but) Sporting Triangles is deemed to go down in history as the best ever’. While cynics may note that wouldn’t be too difficult, ‘the best ever’ should be out now for £7.99 on tape and £14.99 on disk.


LAST MONTH it was decided to keep with tradition and do an April Fool story ‘Amstrad’s New Hardware’. Unfortunately the story turned out a lot more realistic than intended, and was in any case very poorly thought out. CRASH would unreservedly like to apologise to you, the readers, as well as Acorn, Amstrad, Alan Sugar and most especially MGT’s Alan Miles who was at no stage consulted over the article, and has never said anything of the kind falsely implied in the article. To further put the record straight, none of the new Amstrad hardware mentioned in the article is real and as far as we know recent rumours about a cut-price Archimedes have nothing to do with Amstrad.


Wot? Not another mistake? — ’Fraid so. In CRASH 62 we went on about ACG owning RARE and Ultimate: Play The Game when in fact they don’t. ACG used to own Ultimate, but then sold it to US Gold when the games writing side of ACG left to concentrate on RARE (which mainly did Nintendo games). It’s RARE, not ACG, which have bought back Ultimate and are writing Speccy games again.

As part of RARE’s expansion they’ve hired Alan Ward as General Manager. Alan used to be a senior officer with Marconi (one of the UK’s biggest and most high tech companies). As his title suggests he’ll be responsible for a wide range of things, including PR — fans of the Ultimate mystique need not worry though, as so far he’s firmly sticking to the company policy of, ‘I’m afraid we can’t say anything yet’. Spectrum games are being written is all we know so far. As for Alan’s interests, apart from RARE games of course, he’s an avid motor racing enthusiast and is a senior official with the British Motor Racing Marshals association. Expect Trans-Am 2 maybe?


The weekend the software business spent in cloudy Majorca. ‘And didn’t we have a luvverly time?’ pipes CRASH’s Richard Eddy

Should you have wanted to contact any of the big bods in the software industry between March 17–20 you would have found it pretty difficult — they were raving it up in Palma, Majorca, at Computer Arena 89, the software industry’s annual conference.

Friday: Hullooooo Majorca! A few ‘delegates’ are ready to discuss the fate of the industry. L-R: Richard Eddy (CRASH), Steve Merrett (ST Action), Lesley Mansford (Electronic Arts) and Oli Frey (CRASH).

Saturday: Bob Hay of FAST delivers his super speech on piracy

Monday: off to the beach for the holiday day. Erstwhile CRASH Ed Roger Kean practises his clothed surfing in the freezing gale!

120 ‘delegates’ (drinking partners?) turned up from software houses, magazines, distributors and publicity companies, all in good spirits... especially after a few jars of San Miguel, the local brew.

The main conference took place on the Saturday, an early start at 9:30am. Weil, tell the truth it started slightly later due to the fact that Ocean boss David Ward, the conference’s first speaker, wasn’t awake. There were eight speakers covering a wide range of topics, with some very strong views being expressed.

Paula Byrne, General Manager for Telecom Soft (currently up for sale — Telecom Soft that is, not Paula), made a strong and enthusiastic speech on ‘Licensed or Original Games?’, with the main argument being that no matter whether a game is licensed or original it should be well-programmed and developed.

Nick Alexander, boss of Virgin/Mastertronic/Sega et al, took the stand for the Console Challenge. Obviously, as Nick heads the UK arm of Sega, he is convinced the Sega Master System and Mega Drive are set to dominate the computer entertainment world.

But then, seven years ago Nick was saying that the old Atari consoles were dead — long live the computer! No doubt in a few years time Nick will be back telling us that Sega are bringing out a keyboard machine — consoles are dying!

The most productive element of the conference was an excellent speech by Bob Hay of the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST). Bob made it very clear that commercial piracy is at an all-time high, costing the software industry incredible sums of money which would otherwise be used to produce more and better games. In fact, if the piracy problem increases any further games may well go up to £12.99 on cassette and £17.99 on disk. A worrying thought indeed.

To provide support for FAST, CRASH, along with the rest of the computer magazines will be advertising the problems caused from illegal duplication. A FAST slogan will soon be appearing on advertisements and packaging — similar to the health warning on cigarettes.

Many important points were raised throughout the piracy discussion, the most relevant being: every time you pirate a game you are depriving a software house, and therefore the programmer (and one game can be around a year’s work for a programmer) of £3 or £4, that’s the software houses’ cut of what a game costs you in the shops. Without that bit of money coming in software houses won’t be able to afford to write computer games any more. But, we’ll save our moral preachings for another day...

After the heated discussions which continued in the hotel bar (hic!) after the conference closed at 6:00pm everyone donned their dicky-bow and dinner jacket and prepared for the Gala Dinner. With entertainment provided by Mel Croucher and his Spanish-speaking dummy of Activision boss Rod Cousens (who never turns up for anything, cancelling at the last moment); the twits from Domark, Dominic Wheatly and Mark Strachan (a side-splitting rendition of the Two Ronnies proving to be masters of the in-joke) and the industry’s first alternative comedian Roger Bennett — CRASH’s Advertisement Director. With his cracking one-liners ('Tomorrow is Sunday!') (obviously everyone was totally inebriated at this stage — Ed) and his unprintable stories of his mate Denziel from Devon and that laugh... Well, it was superb. We’re hoping for a repeat showing at this year’s PC Show!

And then Sunday finally arrived and the industry took to jeeps and small Spanish cars and headed off into the mountains and onto the coasts desperately trying to turn a working expedition into a holiday despite the force ten gales, the rain, the clouds and all that traditionally goes with a March holiday.

And, should we forget the Domark twits before leaving Majorca, they provided us with a brief entertainment slot on the concorse of Palma airport wearing plastic sombreros and chucking Bryn Gilmore’s (of Mastertronic) passport between them. It’s enough to give the industry a bad name...

But enough of this wandering gossip and down to the main business of the awards, which were given out on Saturday night, as voted by CRASH. ZZAP!, TGM, Your Sinclair and ST Action readers. They were:

  • Game of the Year: Operation Wolf (Ocean)
    Runners-up: RoboCop (Ocean), Last Ninja II (System 3)
  • Best Software House: Ocean
    Runners-up: Thalamus, US Gold
  • Best Arcade Game: Operation Wolf (Ocean)
    Runners-up: Afterburner (Activision), RoboCop (Ocean)
  • Best Adventure: Bard’s Tale (Electronic Arts)
    Runners-up: Lancelot (Mandarin), Guild Of Thieves (Rainbird)
  • Best Strategy Game: RISK (Virgin)
    Runners-up: Carrier Command (Rainbird), Platoon (Ocean)
  • Best Music: Cybernoid (Hewson)
    Runners-up: Out Run (US Gold), RoboCop (Ocean)
  • Best Graphics: R-Type (Electric Dreams)
    Runners-up: Operation Wolf (Ocean), Cybernoid (Hewson)