Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the CRASH Readers’ Awards Poll Winners Party!
For years now Spectrum games have led the field in design and innovation, and CRASH and its readers have always been in the forefront when it comes to promoting the achievements of those who produce them. So who better to as for their views on the software releases of 1989 than the readers of CRASH?
Tonight anyone who’s anyone in the software industry is assembled in the Barbara Cartland suite of Ludlow’s answer to the Savoy Hotel (local pub in other words) awaiting to hear your views.
Let’s give a cheer for your host on this resplendent occasion: none other than former CRASH tipster, the famous Robin Candy! (Cheering — and the odd boo.) Take it away, Robin.
This is probably the most prestigious award for a software house to win. Past winners are regarded as classic games, the kind you return to time and time again without getting bored. Releases such as Ghouls ’N’ Ghosts and Hard Drivin’ made 1989 another great year for Spectrum games. But for the second year running this category was dominated by Ocean. To announce the winner here’s Nick DJ Roberts and girlfriend Julie.
Julie: ‘Oh Nick, you’re so dreamy. Each month I cut out your picture from the top of the Playing Tips and stick it on my bedroom wall. All my friends are jealous of me. Oh Nick, you’re wonderful.’
Nick: ‘Chooor, Julie you’re not bad yerself. I’d do anything for ya, I’d even go to Boots (knowarrimean?). But keep yer hands off me for a minute, I’ve got to open this envelope and read out the — ouch! Gerroff! — Right then the winner of the Best Overall Game of 1989 is... (rips open envelope in a designed-to-impress-the-girlfriend manner) some Chinese game. Eh? Oops, sorry I’m holding the results paper upside down.’
Julie: ‘Oh Nick you’re so funny — and you’ve got a car (even though you’ve only insured it third party fire and theft and will probably write it off by the end of the week).’
Nick: ‘I know what I’m doing — if I want to spend loads of money on my first car then spend 10p on insuring it, that’s my affair. Anyroad the winner is Batman — The Movie.’
Licensed from the 1989 smash movie of the same name, Batman — The Movie is Ocean’s third hit with a Batman game. The previous two both received CRASH Smash awards and are still regarded as great games. This third game is the only one based on a particular story rather than the characters. Split into four levels your ultimate goal is to seek out and destroy the malevolent Joker.
Coin-op conversions have been with us for a good few years now. Ocean were largely responsible for creating their popularity, so it’s no surprise to find that they dominate this category.
(Crash, bang, wallop, mutter, sound of general mayhem somewhat akin to that made by a bull in a china shop.)
If you hadn’t already guessed from the noise, here to announce the the nominations and present the award is Mark who stuck that filing cabinet there Caswell.
Mark: ‘Coo, I’ve only had four gallons of extra caffeine coffee today so I’m not my usual talking-to-PR-girlies-for-hours-on-end self. But bear with me a mo while I get myself together (audience waits for an age while he searches through his coat for the golden envelope). Here it is! Coo, and the winner is The New Zealand Story.’
Probably one of the most original arcade games for a long time: The New Zealand Story’s success was built entirely on addictive gameplay rather than a gimmicky arcade cabinet. Ocean’s conversion captures all the cuteness of the original and was a hit across all formats.
Film licenses and the like have been with us since the early days of the Spectrum. As far back as 1984 films were been being licensed and used as the basis for games. Of course many of the early games sold on the popularity of the licensed products rather the merits of the games themselves. And this led to the whole original-versus-licensed games debate. It’s pleasing to see that software houses are now putting as much effort into developing a good game as they do pursuing the license deal. All this year’s nominees are top-class games in their own right. To announce the nominations and winner here’s the software cutie himself, Richard Eddy.
Richard: ‘By jimminy, viewers. It’s sooooo thrilling to be here. And the award for, hey!, best licensed game (not coin-op) goes to (rippp! Tear! Bloomin’ envelopes!), it’s erm, — berlimey!, it’s Ocean for The Untouchables! Hurrah! Let’s hear it for Ocean, folks! (Hurrah!)
A great example of how a licensed game can turn out when properly done: The Untouchables follows the plot of the film as well as any computer can hope for without compromising gameplay. Graphics are great, the game addictive. All in all, another slick product from Ocean!
In times like these, when the software market is dominated by arcade and film licenses, truly original games seem to be few and far between. In the past the Spectrum led the field in original product but now has to content itself with the odd gem. ‘International Treasure Hunter’ and CRASH designer Mel Fisher was to make the award, but his car has broken down somewhere between here and Dudley, so we’ll have to proceed without him.
The winner for best original game goes to Rainbird for Carrier Command.
Originally programmed for the 16-bits, Carrier Command was one of those games which they said couldn’t be done on the Speccy. So long-time Spectrum programmers Realtime (a CRASH discovery years ago) went and proved everyone wrong by producing one of the best non arcade games to ever appear on an 8-bit computer.
The Spectrum more than any other computer was responsible for changing the face of adventuring. Early games were text only with poor input parsers. It wasn’t just a matter of solving problems, but also choosing the correct phrases to make the computer understand what it was you wanted to do. The Hobbit introduced graphics to the genre and featured, at the time, a very sophisticated input parser.
Some say working with Nick Roberts is an adventure, others maintain that driving with him is the closest you can get to being your own Indiana Jones, so who better to make the award for best adventure than Nick’s driving instructor Les Bytheway.
Les: ‘When I was a lad, if you wanted adventure you’d get some of your friends to tie you up, smear you in jam and sit you on a wasps’ nest. We played real games in those days. None of this namby pamby computer stuff. I didn’t get where I am today without getting smeared in jam a few times. Kids today have it easy. They never want to wait for anything, always in a hurry. Take that Nick Roberts for example, always too eager on the accelerator. never knew the meaning of the word brake. How he passed his test is beyond me, turned my hair white he did when he attempted a three point turn. Thought you got brownie points if you did it in one. (Get on with it — three million readers). Impatient lot. The winner is Myth.’
Bit of a surprise this one since the game wasn’t widely available. Programmed by top adventure team Magnetic Scrolls Myth was given away free when you joined the adventurers’ club Official Secrets. Nevertheless, a great game and a worthy winner.
Strategy games have rarely been popular with the mainstream games buying public, but every now and then one of them pops up to show us how good they really can be. Such notables as Lords Of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge are still regarded as great games. This year’s winner is another game to add to that list. Lloyd Mangram was to make the presentation, but unfortunately with office moves in progress, he’s had to stay behind and supervise the move of his 1922 Hermes typewriter (apparently they’re very heavy). CRASH readers were almost united in their choice for the winner of this category, with Times of Lore from Origin receiving over ten times the number of votes as the nearest runner up Heroes of The Lance.
Despite attribute problems, the Spectrum has always been capable of producing a good picture when in the hands of a talented graphic artist. However, this category not only takes into consideration the graphics but also the animation. Drawing a pretty picture is one thing, but getting it to move smoothly and realistically can push a graphic artist to his limits. One time pixel star and full-time cartoon caperer, Jetman has bumbled his way across the universe to make the award.
Jetman: ‘Bwa. I yam Jetman and hero of the planet earth! And I yam here to present this award thingy for the bestest graphics. Of course none of them is as good as me, so they aren’t the bestest graphics really. Loony CRASH readers voted Operation Thunderbolt as the game with the bestest graphics, but this here bang stick says that I yam goin’ to keep this here award.’ (goes on in this manner until withstrained by several large men in white coats).
The Spectrum has never been noted for its sonic capabilities. It wasn’t until the release of the Spectrum 128 in 1986 that it was capable of producing anything other than a basic beep. Spectrums these days contain the same three channel sound chip as the Atari ST and the Amstrad CPC range, as well as the old buzzer. By clever programming techniques it’s possible to combine the output from the sound chip and the buzzer to give an incredible six channels of music. CRASH Art Director and budding pop star Markie Kendrick announces the winner.
Markie: ‘Hey music lovers! Don’t I look like Mark Shaw from Then Jerico? I’m in a synth pop band called Fused and I’m going to be famous. I love me! Come on girlies, let me hear you scream! Right then, when you’ve all calmed down I’ll announce the winner (has to wait about one trillionth of a second for all the girlies to calm down). The grooviest tune to appear on the Spectrum in 1989 was featured in... US Gold’s Ghouls’N’Ghosts.
There could only be one winner in this category. No other software house has managed to produce as many top quality games in one year, and their performance in the other award categories only confirms the esteem in which CRASH readers hold their games. Inevitably the winner is Ocean.
Advertising has always been an important part of the software business. Magazines rely on the revenue that it generates while a good ad campaign can boost sales of even a poor game. Software houses have tried any number of ploys to fix their product in the minds of the buying public, from stunning artwork, scantily clad females to simple bold mono teaser ads. Subject of an ad campaign himself MGT’s Sam announces the winner.
Sam: ‘Beep, whirr, whiz, click, fizzle, beep, pop, qrrrrr. Splatter, boop, chin, beep.’
Which roughly translates as ‘The winner is the ad for Ocean’s Cabal.’
The quality of budget software has improved tremendously over the years. Originally it was very substandard product, stuff that would never sell at full price. There were notable exceptions, such as Firebird’s Booty, but by and large you paid your money and took your chances. These days budget software also includes classic rereleases. If you buy a rerelease game, you’re almost certainly getting something pretty good, since there is little point in rereleasing something which everyone knows is duff. However, despite the attraction of rerelease games CRASH readers preferred something more original.
To announce the winner here’s CRASH mail (or should that be male) order supremo Aunt Aggie.
Aunt Aggie: ‘(hic) Ooo I love this buck’s fizz. The bubbles go straight to my head (hic). ’Ere Jackie, who’s that bloke on that table over there (goes off stage and grabs side-kick Jackie Morris — from our ad dept. then point at a blushing software company rep). He’ll do for me (hic). Hold on a minute everybody while I tear open this envelope. Right then, the winner is Treasure Island Dizzy 3 from those lovely Darling boys and CodeMasters (hic).’
The Spectrum has been around for eight years now. Each year there’s a major new development, or a new software house emerges to became the one to watch. Even at a time when 16-bit computers are becoming increasingly dominant the Spectrum can still grab the headlines. CRASH has just moved into a new building, so we thought we’d get one of the builders to make the award.
Builder: ‘Ere, you canna move in yet. We anna finished. We’ve got to put blobs of paint on all the windowpanes and the carpets. Then we’ve got to scatter wood shavings around and make some cups of tea. And when we’ve finished all that we’ve got to stand around the stairs looking serious, nod our heads and say “it’s goin’ to take a couple of weeks to fix that.” Anyway, to keep you all happy I’ll tell you who’s won this award. The winner is MGT with the Sam Coupe.’
It’s taken a long time coming, but the Sam Coupé really is a super Spectrum. Not only is it compatible with Spectrum games but its got an improved sound chip, it’s capable ot creating ST standard graphics has all the add-on ports you could possibly want and costs less than £150.
As well as the thrills, each year brings its fair share of disappointments, from games that looked promising but turned out to be poor, to delays in long awaited product. No strangers to disappointment (their last album was nowhere near as successful as their first) brothers Matt and Luke from Bros are here to make the award.
Matt: ‘Wotcha! We love you all. Before we present the award we would just like to say a few words. While we’ve lost a few of our fans, we’d just like to thank the ones that have stuck with us through the hard times, they’re the important ones. We love you.’
Luke: ‘Yeah, like my bruvver says, we love our fans. You’re the most important people in our lives.
Matt: ‘Yeah, right. The winner of the Most Disappointing Product category is the Sinclair Magnum Light Gun.’
Bundled with the Plus 3 the Magnum light gun was a throwback to the early days of the Spectrum. Previous light guns were inaccurate and there was little in the way of software support. The Sinclair Magnum Light Gun did little to remedy this and even produced unsightly on-screen glitches on some games. Ironically Cheetah also chose to release a light gun at the same time. This was a much better product; accurate, sturdy and with games specially written for it.
And that folks brings to a close the CRASH Readers’ Awards Poll Winners Party. May there be many more!
Mel Fisher: ‘Err, um sorry I’m late everybody, but my car broke down (again).’