HORIZONS is the new software cassette from Psion which is to be included in all orders of the Spectrum from now. It consists of a series of programs which will help the beginner master the machine. It is a welcome companion to the manuals.
The programs on side A include a description of the hardware architecture of the Spectrum, a keyboard trainer which explains the various functions and takes the learner around the keyboard, and a dictionary of the keywords on the keyboard. The dictionary is particularly useful to the beginner who is just learning about the version of Basic used on the Spectrum, pressing any key on which brings up the definition of the corresponding keyword on to the screen.
Side B includes several games, a program to design graphics characters and a program which is used to draw high-resolution graphics pictures.
The games on side B are very colourful and use user-definable and high-resolution graphics wherever possible. There is a good version of Breakout, which is very addictive.
Also included on side B are a sophisticated version of Life, a Bubblesort routine, and Monte Carlo.
The presentation cassette is very good. It should keep Spectrum users happy for hours and is well worth waiting for.
THE GRAPHICS capabilities of the Spectrum take a good deal of exploring and getting used to. With a good knowledge of them you can produce very detailed pictures on the printer or the screen. Until then you could use Phantasmagraphics. The program demonstrates just what can be done with the Spectrum graphics. It produces 2D and 3D shapes on the screen according to the dimensions you enter at the start. The program also gives you control over the Ink and Paper and Border colours.
The display build-up of the 3D shapes is slow but that is the fault of the Spectrum graphics system and not of the program. It is interesting to see how the shapes build slowly and how they are formed.
Phantasmagraphics can be obtained from Saxon Computing, Humberside, for £6.95.
THE high-resolution graphics of the Spectrum make games like this version of Golf possible. The computer displays the layout of each hole, using user-definable graphics for the fairway, rough, bunkers, woods and greens.
The ball is shown as a flashing dot until the player decides to play.
The player must first enter the direction of his shot, a number from one to twelve as on a clock face, and decide how hard the ball is to be hit.
The ball will then move to the new position on the screen. It could finish in the woods or in a bunker.
There are several tips which could be given as to how to get out of the woods and bunkers.
The courses are created randomly but there seems to be some kind of order to the conditions on certain parts of the course.
The game requires a certain amount of skill and patience. For someone who wants a quick arcade-type game it is not ideal. For the person who likes to reason out moves, who likes quiet games of cunning and skill, this is a good game.
There are two lengths of course included in the game. You can go onto an eight-hole course or on the longer 18-hole course.
Golf is a good competitive game for one or two players, although there is no reason why any number of players should not take part in a tournament. It is pot luck as to whether you will get an easy hole or a difficult hole but that is all part of the game.
The scoring system of the game uses the par of the various holes on the course. After each hole the par for the hole and the course so far is given. At the end of the course the overall par is given. So far we have managed only 22 over par.
Golf is available from R and R Software, Gloucester, for £3.75.
THE meteors are rushing thick and fast in the new Quicksilva version of Meteor Storm for the Spectrum.
The player has three ships with which to wreak havoc on the screen. There are three types of asteroid to avoid or crash into, depending on how the feeling takes you. Once hit, the asteroids break into smaller versions of themselves and can still be dangerous. Two types of enemy saucer fly across the screen at odd intervals, giving the space pilot even more about which to worry.
The game is similar to the one produced by Quicksilva for the ZX-81 some months ago. The difference is that the screen display is in high-resolution graphics and the player's ship can move around the screen and go into hyperspace if it is in trouble.
As with the other Quicksilva game for the Spectrum, Space Intruders, Meteor Storm has an attract mode which informs the player of the points system and the play keys. It also provides a sample game to get the player used to the display.
Another interesting feature of this game is its capability for speech. This is from the Spectrum speaker during the game. It is not really loud enough to be intelligible.
Meteor Storm is produced by Quicksilva, Southampton, Hampshire, and costs £5.95.
BEING BOMBED by a flock of alien birds from the depths of space can be an experience and it is in a new game for the Spectrum called Winged Avenger, which is based on the arcade game Phoenix.
Your laser base is at the bottom of the screen and you can switch on a defence shield to protect it from the evil aliens.
The first three assaults on your base are carried out by drones in an effort to soften you for the main attack by the big birds. The avengers flap about the screen in formation trying to destroy your base with laser and bomb.
You can return fire but the aliens are really difficult to hit. Winged Avenger is available from Work Force, Beds. It costs £6.95.