Coming from a film-making background, Oliver Frey loves powerful images and classic Thirties and Forties monochrome movies, interests never better reflected than in the second CRASH cover. It celebrated the proliferation of Donkey Kong clones on the Spectrum at the time, and related it to the Run It Again article in the issue comparing Mario’s many attempts to rescue his girl from the overgrown ape’s clutches. Note Kong’s cavalier treatment of the Spectrum itself — Oliver is to use the computer repeatedly in cover illustrations as a player in the drama, quite revolutionary in 1984.
It was a bit of a conceit to state on the cover ‘Over 400 Games Reviewed’ (345 were in the Guide), but the gung-ho exclamation ideally indicates the small CRASH team’s euphoria at public reaction to Issue One — we wanted everyone to know that we were the biggest and the best!
Attitudes within the trade were equally invigorating; several specialist shops acclaimed CRASH as the long-awaited Spectrum Bible. Even Computer & Video Games sent us a congratulations card, but I fear they saw us as no competition, merely a local fanzine to be encouraged; few people at the time realised that as many as 50,000 copies of Issue One sold nationally. It was a heady figure and one not to be repeated for quite some time.
February’s weather, however, brought CRASH down to earth. The schedule ran late. Oliver worked for 30 hours nonstop to complete Terminal Man, while John Edwards, newly-recruited advertisement manager, stood anxiously by, waiting to take the layout boards down to the London printer who wanted to start at 9.30am. John had to catch the 6am train from Birmingham New Street. At 4am on a freezing winter morning Oliver finished, but Roger Kean (who was still working on the Living Guide) did not.
At 5am, the boards still four pages incomplete, Roger drove John the 40 miles to Birmingham through a heavy snow storm. After ten minutes they were stuck on a steep hill outside Ludlow. Turning back to try another route, they came across a skidded lorry with its nose in a ditch. The unfortunate driver turned out to be a local news trade wholesaler, delivering magazines to Ludlow. Seeing the CRASH boards, as they gave him a lift back into town, the driver exclaimed excitedly. He owned a Spectrum and had loved the first issue. So there they were, John frustrated, Roger struggling with the terrible conditions, and a mad lorry driver who wanted nothing more than to talk about high scores on Lunar Jetman!
They got through in the end, the printer did the job in time, and Issue Two did arrive. To many people’s horror, there were five Games Of The Month (‘confusing to have so many,’ wrote one reader), and in their very different ways they indicated that Spectrum games were improving rapidly and almost beyond belief. Top was Ultimate’s classic Atic Atac, but Android 2 showed Costa Panayi flexing his muscles for Vortex with the best 3-D effects yet seen. Like the first two, Krakatoa (Abbex) offered large graphics which were a novelty in early 84, combined with complex gameplay and a wicked sense of humour (also a rare commodity). Scuba Dive (Durell) also boasted large and effectively fishy graphics with interestingly different game objectives, while Microsphere’s Wheelie was to prove one of the most addictive games of the year.
We also ran our first ‘real’ competition, for Fantasy, promoting Doomsday Castle. It was so successful that it set the pattern for an increasing number of competitions thereafter.
Because of their oddly unergonomic arrangement, games only offering the cursors for control lost percentage points badly in those days! But we praised small-company inventiveness in an article examining some joysticks which were actually attached to the Spectrum to physically manipulate the cursed cursors. Franco had a good listen to Currah’s ahead-of-its-time speech unit, and Hewson’s Steve Turner was interviewed as well as the four lads from Starzone.
I also had quite a few letters to print and answer — among them was a complaint that at five pounds, the price of software was far too high. Things never change...