Christmas 1984, Issue No. 12

Released on December 13th

Well, what do you do for a Christmassy cover illustration? It isn’t a time for taut statements on the nature of violent life and sudden death. The painting was intended as a strong contrast to the first cover, which set the tone for CRASH, and Oliver opted for a gentle picture depicting Santa handing out Spectrums to the deprived natives of a distant planet. He employed a technique which he uses occasionally, that of spraying the background colours over lightly drawn figures, then picking them out gently in colours which blend with the background.

The Christmas Special was going to be a nightmare, everyone knew it. Only two-and-a-half weeks to write and produce it due to the schedule being compressed, and it was intended to have 196 pages, bigger than anything we had tackled before.

On top of that, the first floor of King Street had become vacant with the educational software company moving on, and it was felt sensible to move editorial down there, giving art more room upstairs. The evidence is there to see in the issue, because Roger put together a feature about how CRASH happens, and there’s a photograph of himself sitting at an L-shaped desk with Matthew, ostensibly reviewing a game. How empty and tidy the place looks compared to now! This move further delayed the writing however.

And what were we looking at? The original plan had been to do an issue full of competitions, special features and few reviews, on the grounds that everyone would already have released everything for Christmas. It didn’t work out that way of course, for so many software houses were late, and there were still over 30 games in. Among them was the double bill from Ultimate, Underwurlde and Knight Lore, which continued the Sabreman saga started in Sabre Wulf and at the same time undid everyone’s hopes that the Midland company would return to a sensible price level from the earlier game’s, then-outrageous £9.95. Still, there was no doubting their quality, and they were Smashes. The better of the two, Knight Lore, was to initiate an entire genre, the isometric perspective 3-D exploring game.

Derek’s Smash was for The Runes Of Zendos from Dorcas (formerly Doric). It was their second game, but despite its Smash, here again was an adventure game that failed to find the market it deserved. A different tune entirely for Boulder Dash and its hero Rockford, who would soon be adopted as a mascot by Newsfield’s second title, ZZAP! 64. If its graphics weren’t outstanding, that hardly mattered. This was a maddeningly addictive mind-game and its strength lay in the idea more than in its appearance.

After all the interest, Fantasy’s Backpackers Guide To The Universe was a little disappointing, though a genuinely unusual game. Somehow the market generally thought so too, because after good starting sales, it slumped, eventually taking Fantasy with it.

Ghostbusters was still under wraps, so it fell to Elite to come up with a major TV tie-in, The Fall Guy. However the game was hardly major although I recall it having some good points. Perhaps more effort went into setting up the licence deal than into the design and programming, a feeling which would persist for a long time when it came to big licences. Elite were going for TV tie-ins in a big way, and the issue also carried a preview of their next intended game, Airwolf, and mentioned its follow up, Dukes Of Hazzard. Airwolf was unwittingly to do CRASH a big favour, but more of that in the appropriate month.

I still retained my Playing Tips, but only by a hair’s breadth as Robin Candy waded in with three pages of POKEs specially compiled for Christmas. It was to be my last month on the Tips for many a moon, Robin would take over in the New Year.

As my first job for Issue One had been to write the Look Back, it seemed only fitting that it was also my last task for Issue 12 — to complete the first Year of CRASH.