Ocean’s Frankie Goes To Hollywood was the obvious cover choice for the month; the band members didn’t appear in the game, but Oliver was determined they would on the cover. For his departure point he picked the kitsch theme from the Power Of Love promo video where they all appear as gilded cherubs around an ornate picture frame. It was then a question of fitting in some of the elements of the game. This, perhaps the most unusual CRASH cover, was also the most accomplished representation of a particular game Oliver had done to date.
Once again, we took a little dig at Your Spectrum on the cover flash, this time in a reference to computer repair shops: ‘Is Your Spectrum fit for the Scrapheap?’ But the real issue of the month was Denton Designs, the talented group of programmers who had started at the old Imagine. Now, part-financed by Ocean and contractually supported by Beyond, they had formed a nucleus of games designers and programmers. Denton Designs was the most visible tip of a new development in the games-software industry.
The back-bedroom days were over; larger and more financially powerful companies like Ocean, US Gold, Argus and British Telecom were taking over smaller independents who had survived from the pioneering days. There was a more professional approach. Programmers no longer wanted to bother with marketing and distribution, programming was their strength, and so a number of development groups were springing up, people who didn’t want to spend time selling their work but who also didn’t want to be part of a large corporation. They were the new software contractors, and none received as much publicity as Denton Designs.
Gift From The Gods for Ocean was Denton Designs’s first released game; in this issue we extensively previewed Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but it was Shadowfire for Beyond, the game Denton Designs first contracted for, which was reviewed. Looking back, Shadowfire actually lacked content, but its shallow qualities were well disguised by the novel icon presentation. Pete Cooke’s Ski Star 2000 may have been the first game to use icons, but Shadowfire was the first to base the entire gameplay and control on these graphic devices.
In fact, Robin Candy found Shadowfire so easy he’d completed it on the second day after its arrival and was able to prove the point in this issue’s Playing Tips!
Much more enjoyably frustrating, though decidedly without the evident programming cleverness of Shadowfire, was US Gold’s Tapper, a beer-swilling experience of keeping bar customers satisfied that defied everyone’s arcade abilities. It just made a Smash because it was irresistible!
If there had been any doubt the month before about the demise of sports simulations as a genre (and history has certainly proved it to be an ill-founded doubt), then New Generation’s endorsed Jonah Barrington’s Squash helped put fears on the shelf, though few reviewers thought the presentation had advanced much on Psion’s Match Point.
What it did have was synthesized speech for the scoring (Death Star Interceptor had also had a go at that), which prompted Matthew, in a rare reappearance as a reviewer, to say it was difficult to hear without his ‘famdabidozy-super-blaster radio amplifier’ — a precursor of the 128, no doubt.
Derek had a couple of Smashes in Witch’s Cauldron from Mikro-Gen, an adventure using Wally Week-style graphics, and the excellent Runestone from Games Workshop, whose graphics showed it wasn’t only Mike Singleton who could provide ‘landscaping’ techniques.
At this moment a crisis arose. Though Newsfield’s new Commodore title ZZAP! 64 had taken off extremely well, production problems were emerging with its editorial base being far away in Yeovil. Chris Anderson had provided a marvellous product, but he didn’t want to move up to Ludlow, whereas Newsfield’s management wanted the magazine in its own premises. There was a head-on clash which resulted in Chris leaving the company and the ZZAP! team arriving in Ludlow in the middle of June as we started on the July issue. We all had to move round to make room...