The Dun Darach cover painting caused a fair stir — some readers reported seeing the magazine on newsagents’ top shelves — though the subject matter is really only a fond reworking of many a pulp SF / sword-and-sorcery theme. As usual, Oliver did not move far away from the Spectrum references either; note the rainbow colouring of Skar’s cloak and the air round her. Perhaps the erotic connotations of having a man in bondage to a woman, even if a sorceress, were too much for some chauvinist CRASH readers, who would feel the same about Issue 31 with its Hannah Smith cover.
A dark month for the software business: confirmation arrived that Fantasy had definitely gone, and the financially ailing independent Micromania was being forced into liquidation, unable to withstand the loss of payments after its distributor, Tiger, collapsed. It seemed a shame; never a front-runner, Micromania had nevertheless produced a handful of interesting games, last but not least being Project Future, a Smash in Issue 14.
The biggest failure, however, was that of Bug-Byte, which went into receivership during June. Bug-Byte was founding father of the home-computer game and many well-known individuals and several software houses had sprung from the Liverpool company. To be fair, the quality of Bug-Byte’s products had dropped; still, it was a sad surprise to many causing almost as many fears that the end was nigh as had Imagine’s disintegration.
But, like Imagine, Bug-Byte would be resurrected: Argus, unable to confirm a merger deal before Bug-Byte went into receivership, later purchased it from the receiver to use as a budget label.
And, to paraphrase, in the midst of death there is life: up came Mirrorsoft. After a short and low-profile history of educational software, Mirrorsoft suddenly produced Dynamite Dan, the ever so attractive Jet Set Willy clone which because of its playability, clever map and fiendish difficulty well deserved the Smash it received.
It was a good month for quality games, in fact. Dun Darach left Cuchulainn fan Robin Candy in paroxysms of delight as he reviewed Gargoyle’s third game (and pleased Roger Kean, because he had a credit in the inlay for thinking up the idea of numbering all the houses, a suggestion he had offered Gargoyle’s Greg Follis during the LET Show). Only recently established on the 64, Palace Software converted its Commodore hit Cauldron to the Spectrum and had it Smashed, while Mikro-Gen revived familiar graphics and puzzles with Herbert’s Dummy Run, in which Wally Week took more of a back seat as his toddler son Smashed up the shop.
What these very different games had in common was that they were new neither in ideas nor in gameplay but their implementation was exemplary. Programmers were now concentrating on providing a long, complex game with large, densely detailed graphics and decent helpings of humour. None of these virtues applied to Domark’s big game, though. For the majors, fighting a battle for the best licences going, it must have been galling to see Domark pick up James Bond in A View To A Kill, especially as the multipart game proved a great disappointment.
How could I know that in another year, the CRASH enthusiast whose Forum heading I used in this issue — a ‘desperate art student’ who’d sent his drawing to the Bug Box — would be working for Newsfield? Was I to blame for Richard Eddy?
ZZAP! staff writers Gary Penn and Julian Rignall arrived in Ludlow during June, halfway through work on their issue. This was the moment when Roger Kean, perforce of necessity, took over editorship of ZZAP! and relinquished his role on CRASH. It seemed to many readers a traitorous act from the man who had become so firmly associated with the Spectrum, but in fact Roger continued to keep an eye on the magazine he had helped found a year and a half earlier, as Graeme Kidd moved up from Assistant Editor to Editor.
In the battle for circulation — and CRASH’s was rising fast, threatening the longer established titles — it seemed to be vital to be seen to be first with the reviews. CRASH staff were increasingly exercised over rival magazines getting to review some games before we did — one magazine, now defunct, appeared to rate on the basis of seeing unfinished copies. It was aggravating, and the situation was about to boil over spectacularly...