Still relying principally on the dynamics of a large, powerful face for a cover image, Oliver turned his attention to the adventure market. He’d done many illustrations for books dealing with mystery and horror subjects, and since so many adventures featured evil wizards and sorcerers, the character on this cover sprang easily enough to mind. Discussion, however, revealed that Oliver was unhappy with the finished picture because it didn’t seem to have any computer relevance. Roger suggested adding the ‘what now’ cursor to the eye and the visual gag was complete.
Reflecting the cover, and probably because he felt guilty at not covering adventure games as much as he should have done, Roger Kean spent many hours writing an adventure with Gilsoft’s new machine code utility, The Quill. As I can testify, the result was quite unpublishable, but the time wasn’t wasted because he managed to write a fulsome article on the use of The Quill, as well as reviewing several Gilsoft Quilled adventures.
This was a time when young hopeful programmers expected to get their games accepted for publishing for the simple reason that they had written them. To some professional programmers The Quill seemed a frightening idea, a means of making adventure-writing simple, so anyone could do it and take away their living. But The Quill was a tool, not a source of inspiration, and it proved that there can never be any substitute for imagination.
Still with adventures, Issue Four saw the modest beginning of Derek Brewster’s Adventure Trail. For some weeks, Derek had been persuading Roger that CRASH desperately needed someone who understood the genre to write a proper column. Politically, appointing Derek to the chair was a good move, for he had a pedigree both with adventure and arcade games (his Code Name Mat was one of the CRASH Smashes, which made their first appearance in this issue too). There were a lot of points to be earned for the still-struggling magazine by having notable like Derek write for it — and it was a nice one in the eye for the more established titles!
In addition to Code Name Mat, with its complexity of 3-D space gameplay, others in the new Smash breed included two from Software Projects, Jet Set Willy (about to cause havoc by being both immensely exciting to play and containing the famous ‘Attic Bug’ that stopped you from completing the game!) and the appealing but difficult Tribble Trouble. Steve Turner finally got his reward for long service with a Smash for Hewson’s 3-D Lunattack, and for further pushing forward the barriers of his major interest, realistic-perspective games.
It was also a time when large concerns not normally involved in computer games tried testing the water. One of the biggest, Thorn EMI, launched some games through its label, Creative Sparks, and Orc Attack became a Smash, not so much for its graphics, which were amusing, but for its fiendishly difficult gameplay. Creative Sparks was to have a roller-coaster existence, finally ending up as Creative Sparks Distribution, which recently went into receivership.
But one small, as yet unknown, software house made its first appearance in CRASH month with a game we really liked, one largely ignored by other magazines. It was Ad Astra and the programmers had thought, perhaps, of calling themselves Gargoyle Games...
This was the issue where we revealed the CRASH Reviewers competition results. The blurb noted that the winner had won by a faint margin. One of the runners-up was a certain John Minson. To think, had the margin been a touch fainter he could have been writing for CRASH a fraction of the exorbitant fee he now commands! Well, we all make mistakes. Looking at his entry, there’s little to suggest that this man will one day turn into a voracious ligger of vituperative prose and metamorphose into the Hunter S Minson we all know and ...
May’s Living Guide dealt with board games, simulations, strategies and adventures. At the end it said ‘Next Month: Arcade Games’, but the Guide had become too huge to fit in, and too much effort for the overworked team — it was destined never to return.