After the Christmas cover and those of the two previous issues, Oliver wanted to get back to the feeling generated by Issue One’s picture, a strong, grotesque, large-face image. The impact of this technohorror is undeniable, working even more effectively when you compare its organic, slavering toothiness and the multifaceted, fly-like eyes. But a closer examination of the brilliant eyes reveals them to be illuminated Spectrum keyboards, the famous colours just picked out in a refracted flare at the bottom left. This painting was not related to any known game.
In March we had reviewed Richard Shepherd’s Ski Star 2000, a sports simulation by Pete Cooke, remarkable for having a downhill-course construction kit and its use of icons — it was the first game to really implement this new ‘user-friendly’ technique. Sadly, it was to be Shepherd’s last release. The text-adventure market had shrunk financially and Shepherd’s almost total dependence on the genre left the business vulnerable. Only those with powerful adventure product could hope to succeed: houses like Level 9, for instance.
In April stalwart Micromega came up with the disappointing Day In The Life, a spoof on Sir Clive Sinclair. It proved to be Micromega’s last game, and the label was absorbed into its commercial-programming parent company as quietly as a ship sliding under the waves.
April’s issue presented more features than had been possible before. Articles on Mizar, Scott Adams, pop/computer star Chris Sievey and the regular cover-artist slot showed clearly the effect of having more writers on the staff. Two new regular sections appeared: Tech Niche, soon to attract the talents of Simon N Goodwin, and my Merely Mangram preview column — recognition of the increasing importance to readers of early games news, and made possible by Robin taking over the Playing Tips.
But we effectively lost a reviewer at this point; after 15 months of unremitting critical game-playing, Matthew Uffindell felt he had burned out. He had borne the brunt, writing a comment on every game ever reviewed, and now he felt it was time to concentrate on his other CRASH job up in the art department, the technical side of making printers’ halftone pictures and the rudimentary film-planning techniques which he and Roger Kean were developing. Though Matthew remained on the masthead as a contributing writer for several more months, he handed over his function to the very capable Jeremy Spencer, coming down to editorial thereafter only on rare occasions.
For three years the magazine Leisure Electronics Trade had organised a computer-entertainment trade show, and at the start of this issue their biggest show yet was held at London’s Olympia. It was a huge success, though at the time no-one knew it would be the last and that before the year was out LET would cease publication. At the show a tall, bespectacled young man wearing an atrociously-coloured Hawaiian shirt under a dark jacket approached Roger Kean and announced himself to be a runner-up in the CRASH Reviewers’ Competition. It was John Minson, then setting out to break into journalism. What he wanted was an opportunity to write for CRASH, and soon enough he would do so.
Also at the LET Show, exhibiting for the first time, was System 3. Its cheerfully aggressive proprietor Mark Cale had his first Spectrum product almost ready and wanted a Smash for it. He got the game in just before the issue closed for press, and Death Star Interceptor was a Smash. So was US Gold’s Raid Over Moscow, the CRASH team happily oblivious to the controversy raging in both trade and consumer press about the game’s dubious political xenophobia.
An unusual hit came from a company better known for utilities than games: Romantic Robot, which produced Wriggler. Jeremy fell in love with the cute graphics, but it was Robin Candy’s favourable decision on playability that made it a Smash. Everyone, however, considered Alien 8 to be marvellous despite the climate of opinion on Ultimate’s releases and their continuing similarities. The Ultimate debate would dominate my letters pages for ages, but I still think Alien 8 deserved its accolade.