It had been decided to run a sports-simulation feature in May’s issue for some time, so a topic for the cover wasn’t in question, but Oliver’s problem was how to portray the subject without using the trite picture-montage method. In the event, he turned the idea on its head, creating this startling montaged footballer, his body entirely made up of recognisable sporting equipment, booting a spaceship towards the onlooker. Perhaps what’s most remarkable is that the picture was painted in only three to four hours while Oliver fitted in his new commitment to ZZAP!.
After a few verbal run-ins with the rival publisher of Your Spectrum (now Your Sinclair) we had some innocent, esoteric fun on the cover by referring to the sports games article as: ‘Sports Scene — Last gasp of a dying genre?’ (The publisher of Your Spectrum was called Sportscene Publications.) A rather more virulent form of such fun was shortly to get CRASH into a lot of trouble, but more of that later...
Despite the time of year — start of the summer slump — software held up really well, and there was a lot of it about. The six Smashes were very varied: two from the arcades for US Gold, Bruce Lee (the first of the kick-’em-ups, except perhaps Bug-Byte’s Kung Fu) and Spy Hunter were great fun, Hewson’s Steve Turner repeated his successful 3-D adventure formula with a return to Avalon in Dragon Torc and made it even more fluent, Level 9 predictably delighted Derek Brewster with the unusual Emerald Isle, the name of Imagine reappeared under its new owners, Ocean, with the interesting simulation World Baseball, and Melbourne House offered a mixture of brain-teaser and 3-D action in Starion.
There’s a story attached to the last. Paula Byrne, then at Melbourne House, came up to Ludlow to show the CRASH team an early version of the game. Supposed to arrive for lunch, she finally appeared at four o’clock, worn out by the drive and having lost her way several times. As you can imagine, Paula wasn’t in the best of moods, but it worsened when she opened up the cassette case to find that the tape inside was not only an old Commodore 64 game, it wasn’t even by Melbourne House! We received Starion by post a few days later. The story has remained a secret till now, but, Paula, the statutory 30 years is too long to wait to reveal the truth!
It’s interesting to note that during 1985 the average price of Spectrum games had already risen to £6.95 and, in many cases, £7.95, an increase of some £2 over the two years 1983-85. Today’s prices reflect a further rise of £2, again over roughly two years. The major exceptions then were Ultimate at the top end of the scale with £9.99 games, and Mastertronic, Firebird and Atlantis at the lower end, all of which have maintained their budget structures of £1.99 and £2.99.
And at a budget price John Minson was given his first tentative try-out for CRASH, turning in some news items, while in the fledgling Tech Niche section another new contributor appeared: Jon Bates. Composer and computer musicologist, he reviewed nine music programs, further expanding the scope of CRASH.
After their TV tie-in deals Fall Guy, Dukes Of Hazzard and Airwolf, Elite popped up with one of the oddest endorsement deals of the day, the not unsuccessful horse-racing game Grand National. (Elite was about to go one better and produce a tyre tie-in with Dunlop for the appalling 911TS). Another, and less successful, tie-in was Quicksilva’s Fantastic Voyage based on the 20th Century Fox film. Computer games hadn’t quite matured enough to deal with the big boys of Hollywood, and Fantastic Voyage was an old hat film by some years. But this situation was changing; soon tied-in games would compete with their film sources for simultaneous release.
While we were working on CRASH, down in Yeovil, Somerset, where Chris Anderson lived and the ZZAP! 64 writers were based, the new magazine’s first issue was being completed. Newsfield was about to double its production base.