John Gilbert assesses the new major range of cassettes and finds they do not compare to the machine's qualities
WHEN THE Spectrum was launched, Sinclair stressed that a software library containing business, household and games cassettes would be released soon.
The first batch of tapes was launched at the Personal Computer World Show in September. The launch was billed as one of the great attractions of the show. Spectrum owners were looking forward to putting their machines to good use. Unfortunately, unlike the Spectrum computer, the new tapes are disappointing.
The Spectrum library, with a few exceptions, seems to be a repeat of the ZX-81 range of tapes launched in early 1982. The new software library comprises several sections which include the Fun to Learn series, Pastimes and Games. There are also several cassettes, such as Bio-rhythms and Vu-Calc, which stand alone.
There is a set of five games cassettes. Each contains four 16K games which have been written for Sinclair by ICL.
The games are very simple and it is easy to lose interest in them in a very short time. Several of them, such as Martian Knockout, Invasion from Jupiter, and Galactic Invasion, are all based on the same principle - guessing the velocity at which you have to fire a laser cannon at a group of marauding aliens.
The game consists of entering the guessed velocity and pressing NEW LINE. That becomes incredibly tedious after the first 10 minutes' play. The rest of the games are either of the Invader, Mastermind or maze types.
Daylight Robbery is not only the phrase which might be used to describe some of the new software but is also on the Games Three Cassette, although it has slightly more depth to it than some of the others. The player moves around a maze full of safes. For every safe which can be cracked the player will have the amount of money in it added to the total score.
|'Of the five games tapes Games One seems the best value'|
The only danger encountered with entering the safes is that the player must dodge the guards in the maze. The game is enjoyable for a short time but it plays rather like Pacman and is much less addictive.
Of the five games tapes in the series so far, Games One seems to be the best value. It contains one of the few games which will last longer than five minutes. Labyrinth is an adventure maze game in which the player must fight monsters to find hidden gold in the maze.
Each of the games cassettes costs £4.95, which is somewhat expensive for what they contain. It would have been better to have sacrificed quantity for quality on this occasion. The illustrations on the insert cards are of good quality but people expect better games for the price.
Two of the cassettes in the library mysteriously are labelled Pastimes but would have been better-placed in the Games series. They include a Mastermind game called Secret Code; a memory game Kim; and a puzzle, Magic Square.
Magic Square is interesting for a time but soon it becomes just another trivial observation game. The computer displays a square filled with rows of letters of the alphabet in a jumbled sequence. One space in the square is empty. Letters can be shifted around using the blank to place the alphabet in the correct sequence.
Kim also displays a square but with numbers in it. The numbers disappear one at a time in a random sequence and the player must guess which letter has disappeared each time. Again, the game is interesting but becomes dull and repetitive after a time.
The games on the two cassettes do not warrant the title of Pastimes as they are too repetitive and because of the lack of depth the player may soon begin to feel disappointed. Pastimes cost £4.95 each.
The Fun to Learn cassettes provide the user with a series of question-and-answer races on various subjects. With only one exception the graphics capabilities and sound facilities of the Spectrum are not used to full advantage. Neither is there a real reward at the end of the tests to induce the user to try again.
The cassette which redeems the whole Fun to Learn series is Geography. The computer displays maps labelled with numbers and the user has to guess which numbers correspond to towns and countries displayed below the map.
The idea behind the cassette is good and the map display is reasonably detailed. The cassettes in the Fun to Learn series are £6.95 each.
The Bio-rhythms cassette from ICL is also very good value. The program will plot bio-rhythms and also calculate the critical days for the intellectual, physical and emotional cycles. The graphics are fairly good but the display is confusing when all the cycles are plotted on one graph.
The best cassettes in the range have been produced by Psion. They include Vu-calc, Space Raiders, Planetoids and Hungry Horace, a new Pacman-type game.
Space Raiders is an addictive space invaders game. The only thing wrong with it is that it is too easy to achieve a high score. Scores of 10,000 have been reached in less than 10 minutes.
Planetoids is an above-average asteroids game which is very difficult to beat for any length of time. The asteroids are displayed in 3D and the players' ship is easy to move around the screen. The game is more difficult to beat, faster, and much more fun than Space Raiders.
|'There are no really outstanding tapes in the series so far'|
Hungry Horace is an ideal game for young children. It uses the Pacman mould but is a great improvement on the popular arcade game. Horace is a large purple blob with arms and legs. He wanders up and down the maze-like park eating everything in his path and avoiding the guards who try to capture him. He can scare away the guards by ringing the alarm in the maze. If he can reach the exit he enters another sector of the maze and continues to the next exit.
The game is difficult but after a time a degree of skill can be developed in evading the guards. The mazes become more difficult as the game proceeds and we managed to reach only the third section of the maze. Hungry Horace costs £5.95 and is well worth the money.
The cassettes in the new Sinclair range can be split into programs which can be played and enjoyed again and again and those with which the user will easily become bored. There are no really outstanding cassettes in the range so far, although Planetoids, Bio-rhythms, Space Raiders and Hungry Horace can be recommended.
Those games have the depth in them to be played for months, while the others may leave the Spectrum owner disappointed. All the cassettes mentioned use 16K memory. Further details about the range can be obtained from Sinclair Research, Camberley, Surrey.