It was time for another grotesque cover after three relatively calm ones, and with fangs and venomous saliva foremost in his mind Oliver sought a suitable subject. He found it in Level 9’s Red Moon adventure, which featured mythical beasts. It’s interesting to compare Oliver’s painting with that of the game’s packaging: Level 9 provided a sinuously elegant snake-dragon, vibrantly attractive and decorative, CRASH had this stark, violent monster, virtually bursting off the cover with its sheer ferocity. The startling impact is quite otherworldly and satisfyingly terrifying.
After a terse apology for the delay in putting Issue 19 on sale, the editorial speculated on Sinclair’s rumoured launch of a 128K Spectrum. Commodore had released a 128K machine, Amstrad was about to show its CPC 6128, it certainly seemed time that the Spectrum should be upgraded. Sources suggested Sinclair’s new computer was code-named The Derby, and speculated that it might appear at The PCW Show in September, only a month away. Prediction can be a dodgy game, and as we now know the wait would be far longer.
CRASH Software Editor Jeremy Spencer was part of the local landed gentry (so he claimed!), and on his several acres raised sheep who thought they were dogs, dogs who thought they were writers (a picture of one appeared at an Apricot keyboard) and horses who thought they were artists — well, one foal was named Oli. Oli became something of a mascot, with regular update pictures appearing as he grew up. This rural aspect of what was otherwise a technological entertainment magazine puzzled many of our rivals, and possibly some readers too. but it was all part of CRASH’s idiosyncratic style.
Visitors to the Ludlow offices could have been forgiven for thinking that eccentricity and not idiosyncrasy was the hallmark of CRASH staff, for the place was littered with flashing, whirring dinosaur monsters — Zoids. They were there because Martech had the licence to produce a Zoids game, there for reference because Martech wanted Oliver to do a cover, and there because Jeremy Spencer couldn’t resist them. He interviewed Martech’s Zoids development team, Electronic Pencil Company, a job made all the more satisfying since the team had also programmed Jeremy’s other favourite game, The Fourth Protocol, which Derek had Smashed the month before.
Icons had come a long way since Pete Cooke’s first tentative use of them and they were obviously here to stay. In The Fourth Protocol icons were more than just a useful device, they were the very essence of the game, helping to generate a nail-biting atmosphere in this unusual adventure. Electronic Pencil Company was, like Denton Designs, another example of the new spirit of professionalism in software writing which was making it easier for software houses to concentrate on sourcing ideas and marketing them.
This more forward-thinking approach, however, placed extra pressures on Roger Kean as the publisher of CRASH. Software houses had caught on to the power of having their game featured on a cover. At this stage Martech wanted a Zoids cover soon, Domark wanted one for its Friday The 13th licence, and Beyond wanted one for the much-hyped forthcoming Superman game. Of course, all these would appear at the same time, he was assured, so they all wanted their covers the same month! In the event, both Martech and Domark were satisfied and Superman turned into a debacle.
After a couple of disappointing Monty games, Gremlin Graphics put Monty’s creator, Peter Harrap, back into the hot seat and he turned up with the Smashed Monty On The Run. His original was barely revamped but the sequel was more difficult and had the novelty of a somersaulting mole, a device used many times since. Others were sprinting as well, for Design Design released On The Run, an elegant maze game with large graphics by Stuart Ruecroft, who had earlier been employed by Fantasy. Also among the month’s hits were Costa Panayi’s isometric Highway Encounter, Red Moon and the welcome return of veteran Spectrum programmer Don Priestly with Popeye, using the huge, animated characters that have since become his trademark.