|ZX-81 Software Scene|
FIGHTING space invaders, being a spacefighter pilot and zipping around a Pac-man maze are just three of the delights on the Micromega Arcade Action cassette for the 1K ZX-81.
There are five games on the cassette. The first is Overtaker. The title gives a clue to what you have to do. You are a racing driver and have to overtake the slower cars on the track. The speeds your supercharged car can attain are amazing, even if you take into account that the program is written in machine code.
The second game is Missile Man. You are in charge of a missile battery in space. With your weapons you must destroy the usual enemy invaders. Spacefighter Pilot is the third game on the tape. You must protect your mothership from enemy guns which are firing into space from the planet surface below.
Pac-man had to poke its nose in somewhere. Greedy Gobbler is the fourth in the series. The controls are difficult to master, as they are set out like a keyboard joystick. When your fingers are positioned on the keypad defined by the program you will have difficulty in hitting the start key.
The final program is named after a rather too-well-known alien, Extra Terrestrial. The aliens may seem like ETs but they are intent on destroying a map of the world. The unnerving thing about the game is that you are the nasty alien but if you are of a sadistic turn of mind you may derive some pleasure from the destruction.
Arcade Action is excellent value. It can be obtained from Quantec Systems and Software Ltd, London. The cassette costs £4.95.
THE PATTERN of the stars of destiny looks good for Steller Services which is producing computer programs for the Spectrum and ZX-81 to help budding astrologers. The first cassette in the series calculates ascendant, mid-heaven, planet positions and planetary aspects using the equal house method, which is common in the world of astrology.
The chart can be constructed with a fair degree of accuracy for any time and any place in the world.
Accuracy is something the author of the program is trying to improve all the time. For that reason the program has been amended several times, although users are welcome to talk to the company and the after-sales back-up is good.
The company claims that several professional astrologers are using the program to make the drawing of charts for clients faster and more accurate. The program is not a toy and anyone who buys it for a party gimmick will be disappointed.
The good-quality program will work wonders for those who put their faith in the stars. It is available from Steller Services, Leeds. It costs £10.
THE SINCLAIR computers are ideal machines for displaying information to adults as well as children. The First Aid Program for the 16K ZX-81 gives the user a self-help course on how to save a life, or how to try to prevent death.
The tuition is given by an animated character who appears at the beginning of the training session, called First Aid Bill. He asks how you would cope with an emergency. When you have failed miserably on that part of the program, Bill will give you a guided tour of the principles of first aid and how to recognise the danger signs in an accident victim. That is the first choice on the main menu shown by the program and takes about 15 minutes.
The other options include a section for revising a part of a subject under such headings as shock, suffocation and broken bones. The list of subjects for revision is very comprehensive.
When you feel confident you can take a test. The computer quizzes you and you can reply, using one or two words as a minimum answer. The computer seems intelligent and understood most of the answers we entered.
First Aid costs £9.95. It is available from Network Computer Systems Ltd, Beds.
|Spectrum Software Scene|
TRIAD is not an ancient oriental sect; it is a series of three games for the 48K Spectrum. The difference between this cassette and others of its kind is that all three games are included in one program and each of the games would sell separately if the manufacturer decided to do so.
The first game is as original in its title as it is addictive in its playability. It is called Snackman and, as you have probably guessed, you take the part of a little creature with a big mouth which eats its way around a maze while being pursued by a variety of ghosts.
The ghosts in Snackman are very intelligent and very fast. If you make one mistake you are dead.
The second game is Sub Track. We reviewed it last month as Amba Software has produced it separately so that 16K Spectrum owners can play it. It is a good ploy, as many people still have the 16K machine.
The third Triad game is a maze quest where you have to move a little man around the maze and pick up the treasure which has been strewn around the tunnels. The game is simple to play and is very addictive. There are various levels of maze and they range from the easy, with few obstacles in your way, to the complicated, with winding tunnels and invisible barriers.
Triad is priced at £9.50. It is available from Amba Software, Cambridge.
PROGRAMMERS are going further afield to find uses for the 48K Spectrum. Hilton Computer Services has just launched an 'expert' system, called Garden Birds. It will allow budding ornithologists to identify birds they have spotted with a pair of binoculars in a field.
The program starts by giving the country code with suitable and very interesting bird graphics. Then there is a long wait while the rest of the program loads.
When loading is complete, the computer will show the names of the birds in its data bank. The user must then enter the markings and the behaviour of the bird which has been seen. Users must be willing to enter plenty of data, including size, colouring and call sign of the bird. The ornithologist computer will then process the data and a reading will be given.
We found the general reliability of the system to be accurate with the commoner birds. For instance, the computer can spot a blue tit.
When the analysis has been made you can compare the subject bird to other birds on the menu. You will score depending on how closely your subject bird compares to the other birds.
Garden Birds is an ideal piece of software for the bird-spotter. It is available from Hilton Computer Services, Kent. The program costs £4.95.
IT IS PLEASANT to see a company which is not afraid to cover a specialised area in the Sinclair market. University Software produces five cassette tapes for students at A level or university standard. The programs are available for the 16K ZX-81 and the 16K Spectrum. Tape one introduces matrix operations. The second explains polynomials. It includes quadratic equations, Newton-Raphson and half-interval search methods.
Tape three deals with integration, using Simpson's and trapezoidal rules.
The fourth tape covers regression. The program can deal with up to 20 independent variables, with standard errors, and also illustrates interpolation.
Tape five concerns linear programming and is capable of handling up to 20 variables and the same number of constraints.
All programs can be bought separately, or as a package costing £30. The first three tapes cost £5.95 and the fourth and fifth £6.95. They are available from University Software, London.
WE EXPECT you often wonder where space invaders go when they have been wiped from the screen by your laser cannon or smart bomb. You may be surprised to learn that they are brought back to the living-dead and signed-on by MikroGen to take part in a new game for the 16K or 48K Spectrum, called Space Zombies.
It is for one or two players and can be played at slow, normal or fast speeds. The aliens look like space invaders but behave like Galaxians, swooping down and releasing their bombs. The aliens also loop the loop and vanish from the sides of the screen on several occasions.
The problem with the invaders is that they behave like real zombies - of the dumb kind - and would win no prizes on Mastermind. In some cases they line up waiting to be killed.
A player continues until a ship is destroyed by the zombies - then it is the turn of the second player. Space Zombies is an interesting and original game. It costs £5.95 and is available from MikroGen, Berkshire.
THE GUN TURRET of your tank is pointed at the deserted bridge. An enemy tank moves silently into your sights and its turret moves threateningly around to point at you. You press the fire button and a salvo of shells lands on the enemy tank, blowing it to pieces.
That is how a new 3D game for the 48K Spectrum, called 3D Tanx, starts. You can move left and right and move the gun turret up and down. The 3D effect is best seen when you move the turret up and down. The computer allows one or two users to play and it allows you to choose how easy or difficult the game should be. The menu of options also makes it possible to re-define which keys you want to use to move your tank around. The original combination of keys is very difficult to use and it is a good idea to use that option.
The manufacturer of 3D Tanx, DK'tronics also has an exciting version of the arcade game Centipede. It is like the original game in almost every way, with bouncing blue spiders, mushrooms and, of course, the deadly alien Centipede. In this version you have three laser bases with which to destroy the Centipede.
Both games are extremely addictive and show that DK'tronics can still produce good-quality software. Both cassettes can be obtained from DK'tronics, Norfolk. Each game costs £4.95.
COMPUTER LOGIC, strategy and encounters in space are some of the thrills awaiting owners of the 16K Spectrum with three games from Precision Software Engineering. The games are on one tape and are put together under the obvious title of Games Tape Three.
The first is 3D Noughts and Crosses. There are four boards on which to put your nought and each is made up of four by four squares. That means you have three dimensions in which to lose to the computer.
Losing is very easy, as the computer is fast and seems to know what you will do, as well as keeping track of its moves.
The next game is Tower of Brahma. It is colourful, uses high-resolution graphics, is difficult to beat, and is very standard for a computer game.
Wipe Out is a board game for two players. The players have to out-manoeuvre each other and wipe a series of noughts and crosses from the board to gain points.
We regard the last game on the tape, Astro Wars, as the most important piece of software in this release. The game is played in three sections and takes its action from the films Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The sequences are fighting the imperial fighters; destroying the Death Star; and battling the Imperial Walkers. All of those sections are in 3D and movement is smooth and fast.
All four games cost £6.95 and the tape is available from Precision Software Engineering, Notts.
THE RELEASE of the Aspect assembler for the 16K and 48K Spectrum has been delayed several times during the last few months. The result is a finely-tuned and powerful assembler/editor package.
As well as the assembly facility, Aspect has a great deal of flexibility in editing finished programs. It is possible to run backwards and forwards through a program line by line. The editor will also search, or hunt, for specified text strings which are to be used on the screen so that the user can check them before running the program.
A specified number of lines can be deleted by the editor if a user decides that some code is redundant. The program can also be deleted if a user decides that a program is incorrect and wants to start again without having to crash back into Basic and re-start.
Aspect is powerful because a machine code programmer can treat an assembler code program almost as if it were Basic. That is possible because of the use of line numbers to identify separate lines of code, rather like those which are used in Basic listings.
Aspect is an ideal tool for machine code programmers although, because other assemblers have been available for some time, Bug Byte may have lost the lead in this market. The assembler/editor costs £9 and is available from retail outlets such as W H Smith.