In most respects, Issue 14’s was the first CRASH cover to be absolutely tied to a particular game, Everyone’s A Wally. Though it’s not his favourite working style, once in a while Oliver likes to get away from the action-packed, atmospheric mode and do something a touch more comic, and the six characters in Micro-Gen’s arcade adventure offered the month’s best opportunity. The picture with its bright, brash colours is in complete contrast to the previous month’s. Then as now, Oliver always tried to keep readers guessing what the next issue’s cover surprise will be...
Secret negotiations had been taking place with Chris Anderson, Editor of publisher VNU’s Personal Computer Games, and at the start of February they came to fruition: he joined Newsfield to edit a new magazine for the Commodore 64 to be called Sprite & Sound. Shortly afterwards PCG ceased publication as part of VNU’s planned reduction in computer titles. And just weeks after a jingoistic blast in the press from Big K editor Tony Tyler about the qualities computer magazines needed to survive, IPC axed his magazine after not quite a year of existence.
The dramatic changes in the outside world were reflected in CRASH Towers. The earlier financial struggles during the lean times had eased as CRASH’s circulation rose, so the company could afford to hire some more staff to ease demands on Roger Kean’s time. In this issue, Graeme Kidd’s name first appeared as Assistant Editor, while shortly afterwards Jeremy Spencer joined CRASH to look after software and the reviews. The art department, too, expanded; Gordon Druce, now Art Director of CRASH, started as a humble paste-up artist to help David Western, who was still responsible for the photography — and had the added burden of the forthcoming Commodore magazine to cope with.
CRASH ended up on telly again, this time on TV South West’s Saturday Freeze Frame programme. TSW wanted Matthew Uffindell and Robin Candy to discuss how CRASH reviewed games. It meant a trip to the Plymouth studios, a nerve-racking wait of four hours and then 15 minutes before the cameras. The two lads carried it off admirably, able to be blasé now that TV appearances were becoming commonplace!
Giving us one of those exclusives, Firebird brought early copies of a game called Hedron to be reviewed. The only change Firebird made before releasing it was to the title: Hedron was renamed Gyron — a fortunate alteration when, many weeks later, a rival magazine quietly laid charges of piracy at CRASH’s door. Illegal copies of Gyron had found their way into the market before the game’s late-spring release date. Our security was understandably called into question by Firebird, but we were able to point to our early copy, still with its original Hedron loading screen; recovered pirate copies had a Gyron loading screen. The rival magazine made no further comment.
Gyron, a 3-D maze game of great originality, requiring fast thinking and joystick dexterity, received a well-deserved Smash, as did Mikro-Gen’s Everyone’s A Wally for improving yet again on the Wally Week saga. Adventure International caught a Smash in the sticky web of Spiderman, second in its Questprobe series from Marvel Comics and American adventure-programming whiz Scott Adams. Classic game themes earned Incentive and Bubble Bus Smashes too — Incentive for a licensed conversion of Moon Cresta, an unusual departure for the software house best known for its text adventures. But the shoot-’em-up was lovingly adapted for the Spectrum and proved that a well-implemented alien-zapper could still be a winner.
Previously Bubble Bus had only been a Commodore 64 house, but with Steve Crow’s Wizard’s Lair it had a Spectrum winner, and the game went on to be converted for the 64 where it became an early Sizzler in ZZAP! 64...
ZZAP! ... ? Well, no-one really liked Sprite & Sound. Newsfield was expected to come up with something as sharp-sounding and short as CRASH, so in the end we settled on ZZAP!, adding the 64 as an afterthought. But as events were soon to prove there was nothing ‘afterthought’ about ZZAP!