Another favourite Frey subject — Fred Astaire films. Plans for a lavish and largely monochrome Astaire cover had been formulated ages before but never carried out. When the great Hollywood star died Oliver insisted on dedicating the issue of CRASH to him, and featuring him with his most famous partner, Ginger Rogers, on the cover. The other elements, dancing on a newly-arrived Spectrum +3, were the issue’s lead games: Tai-Pan, Micronaut One, Exolon and The Big Sleaze. It was another compilation cover, a style for which Oliver has become justifiably celebrated.
The Fred Astaire cover found an echo on page 63, detailing the results of the 1987 CRASHtionnaire, where his face (and Ginger Rogers’s) appeared at the foot of a reproduced Radio Times page. That was to illustrate the CRASHtionnaire’s findings on your TV viewing habits, but it was a good example of the kind of detail the art department has to consider when laying out. In recent months everyone on the team had become more aware of the value of cross-referencing items within an issue, and even a tiny item like the Astaire picture can add to the enjoyment of reading a magazine.
Our big thrill (well, there were two really) was the new Spectrum +3 with its Amstrad-style disk drive. The reviewers weren’t particularly impressed, largely because it was nothing more than a 128K with a disk drive instead of a datacorder, and also because there were no really good games available on the disks yet. Simon N Goodwin wasn’t raving either, though he considered the machine professionally-made and well-documented, because he felt you could upgrade with better disk systems than the one Amstrad provided. Software houses were cautious about releasing disk games for a machine which nobody had bought yet, too, as one of CRASH’s increasingly common in-depth news features reported. And there was the price — £249 was far too high. We all suspected Amstrad of hiking it so as not to ruin +2 high-street sales — a cynical supposition which would be proved all too true within a few months.
The other thrill was the arrival of Hewson’s Uzi pump-action water pistols — prizes for the Exolon competition. Naturally they had to be tried out, and anyway, we needed photographs for the competition page. Richard, Roger, Robin and Skippy went out dry and came back soaked. Fortunately, as the picture showed, it was a hot day. Several innocent bystanders got squirted, including Markie Kendrick from art. His David Sylvian-style hairdo was ruined, so he sulked, which resulted in the little remark from the comps minion. But we all forgot; art always has the last laugh...
Tie-ins fared pretty badly; The Living Daylights, Challenge Of The Gobots, Road Runner, Flash Gordon, all did from bad to average, only Ocean’s delayed Tai-Pan — and then only on the 128 — got anywhere, and that was a Smash.
Meanwhile, another of those news features focused on The Bug and its arguments with the software industry — the first sign of CRASH’s reborn interest in fanzines, that was to show itself in a renovated Fanzine File.
During the latter part of the schedule, THE GAMES MACHINE got under way, and Graeme Kidd got his portfolio back as its Co-Editor. His other half turned out to be none other than Gary Penn, who had decided that he would like to work on the new magazine (Ciarán Brennan had taken over ZZAP!). They set themselves up in Gravel Hill, using the offices not long before vacated by LM. TGM — as it became known — was going to cover more than just computers, and one of the first articles written was a comparison of laser-tag systems. Suddenly the water pistols had a rival as numerous different electronic guns began to appear. It was not, of course, very conducive to hard work in the CRASH offices to know others were zapping each other (or ‘testing’) nearby, but somehow we managed to keep our reviewers’ minds on their own games.