|ZX-81 Software Scene|
MiCROL is now moving its attention from the Spectrum to the 16K ZX-81. The company has released a word processor and VisiCalc emulator on one tape. Both programs have been built around existing software which has already been market-tested for the ZX-81.
The word processor was originally called ZTEXT. The program allows full editing facilities and the cursor can be moved up, down and across the text to alter mistakes in type-script. You can also move around the text file with specific commands to transfer you to the beginning or end.
The processor will search for and replace strings specified by you - for instance, if you want to change the tense of a piece of text.
Incorporated into the word processor is a formatter/printer routine. With a Centronics interface on the ZX-81 it would then be possible to print text in upper- and lower-case.
A spreadsheet program is also being provided on the same tape as the word processor. It works in much the same way as the Sinclair Vu-Calc and consists of a matrix of squares in which numbers and formulae can be entered and processed.
The package provides the same kind of cover that MiCROL is providing for the Spectrum. Both programs are of a good quality and as they are being offered together, they are good value.
The cassette is accompanied by full documentation and is available at the usual MiCROL rate of £9.95 from MiCROL, Cambridge.
YOU CAN now take part in the re-building of the economy of the planet Venus and make money on the side.
Your adventures on Venus are all part of a new graphics game for the 16K ZX-81 called The Merchant of Venus. A corporation on Venus has employed you to make its investment programme profitable. You must decide where you will invest the money given to you under your contract and, if you fail, from where you will get that pound of flesh.
You make all your decisions from your Hi-liner freighter while flying around the planet. You must use your judgement to decide which spacecraft you want. You can deal in machinery, robots or fuel; it does not matter so long as you make a profit.
Crystal Computing should make a profit with this complex action-graphics game.
Crystal also provides a series of 1K games on cassette. They include a version of asteroids which takes some beating, a ski-run slalom game, a dungeons and dragons adventure and the inevitable but excellent space invaders.
The standard of programming is technically excellent to put the games into I K and the games are fast and addictive.
The Merchant of Venus is available from Crystal Computing, Sunderland. It costs £5.95. The ZX-81 1K Games pack is priced at £4.95.
A MUNCHEE is a Pacman-like creature which wanders around a maze in the new Quicksilva game, Munchees, for the 16K ZX-81. The game is slightly different from the usual Pacman mould because you can choose with how many ghosts you want to play. The number of ghosts does not matter much, as they are not very intelligent. Unless you are only two centimetres away from a ghost it does not want to know about you and in some cases it does not seem to know you exist.
The keyboard layout is difficult, as only three of the cursor keys are used and the keys are grouped into UP and DOWN and LEFT and RIGHT. Once you are used to that, however, the game is very addictive.
The graphics of Munchees equal some games which are available commercially for the Spectrum. It is, on the whole, the best Pacman-type game we have seen for the 16K ZX-81.
Quicksilva also has a good version of the popular arcade game Galaxians. The game is fast - perhaps too fast and it is almost impossible to stay alive very long.
High scores reaching the thousands are possible and a high score table is included in the program to record the names of those who are most adept at the game.
Also included on the Galaxians tape is another maze game, Gloops. Two games on the one cassette is good value for money. Both are for the 16K ZX-81.
Munchees and Galaxians are available from Quicksilva, Southampton. Galaxians costs £4.95 and Munchees £3.95.
THE MASSIVE asteroid chunks spinning across the screen are only some of the obstacles you will meet in your efforts to conquer ZX Asteroids from MikroGen. The asteroids, large hulking crustations, are supplemented by UFOs and space mines which appear often.
The keyboard layout is slightly disconcerting. You use the '7' key to start each round, '2' to rotate anti-clockwise, '4' to rotate clockwise, '8' to thrust your ship forward and the usual '0' to fire. Those keys are not easy to remember during the game and when the pressure is on a game could be lost if you have to fumble for the clockwise key and confuse it with another key.
The game starts when you enter your level of difficulty, measured by the speed at which objects move around the screen. There are 10 levels of difficulty, marked by the keys from '0' to '1', where '0' is slow and '1' is very fast.
ZX-81 owners should beware because once bought and played, you will never be able to put it down. ZX Asteroids is produced by MikroGen, Berkshire. It costs £3.95.
|Spectrum Software Scene|
IF YOU WANT a quiet day at the zoo, we advise you not to visit Dr Bongo's Safari Park. The park is a base for the evil doctor's missiles. Any player brave enough to enter this adventure, for the 16K Spectrum, accepts the task of finding the island base at the centre of safari-land and the missiles which could destroy civilisation as computers know it.
One thing we noticed during our wander through the park was that very few of the dangerous animals attacked us. We were, however, stung by a swarm of bees for stealing honey.
Some simple commands are not understood by the adventure. For instance, you must use 'e' for east and 'n' for north. That is the same for most of the direction keys.
The game is ideal for someone who enjoys trying to discover which words will work and which will not during an adventure. Others may be disenchanted by it.
We found the game frustrating - we seemed to be getting nowhere fast. The concept is good and the plot is unusual but it would have been better to present the player with some easy tests at the beginning and grade them upwards as the game progresses.
The game is rather slow and the reason seems to be that it is written in Basic, although slowness should not worry the player as it gives a certain amount of time for thought.
Apart from those criticisms, Dr Bongo's Safari Park is certainly recommended as an adventure game and its complexity should keep players happy for hours.
It can be obtained from Custom Software, North Yorkshire. It costs £4.95.
MUNCHER, Slippery Sid and the Cyber Rats are all arcade creatures from three new games for the 16K Spectrum. The games are from Silversoft, no stranger to the Sinclair arcade scene.
Cyber Rats is the most impressive of the three. The game is a little like Centipede but instead of one long worm there are dozens of metal rats moving down the screen towards your laser base. The hopping spiders of the centipede game are replaced by deadly purple rats which appear from nowhere.
The second is Slippery Sid. You must drive your snake around the screen, eating the mushrooms as you go but not hitting the stones. You must also beware of poisonous toadstools which cannot be eaten unless you have first devoured a mushroom.
When you have cleared one screenful another screenful appears with more obstacles between Sid and the mushrooms.
The final new release is Muncher, which is almost a standard Pacman game. There are a few subtle differences between it and the traditional game. The Pacman is a skull and the ghosts are slimmer than normal. The centre of the maze is no longer the home of the ghosts - it houses a prize cherry. During the game two doors will slide open, giving Muncher access to the prize.
All three games are excellent but there are a few errors in the documentation accompanying them. In Cyber Rats the location of the fire button, the space key, is not disclosed and in Muncher the down key should be 'N' and not 'M'.
Each of the games costs £5.95 and they are available from Silversoft, London.
ZEUS was father to the gods and the new Zeus assembler for the 48K Spectrum is the big daddy of all assembler programs. It is very simple to use for the beginner but for someone who has even a basic knowledge of the subject the program can be a powerful machine code tool.
The lines of assembly code are given line numbers so that it is possible to enter new lines or to alter old ones. There is an auto-line number routine in the program, which will prevent the user having to put in line numbers, and a re-number routine which will re-number the whole program or only part of it.
If errors occur during the assembly process the computer will list the errors with the line on which they occur. If there are no errors you can save the machine code and run it using a one-letter command "X".
Crystal Computing, the manufacturer of Zeus, also produces a monitor and disassembler for the Spectrum. As well as doing a full disassembly, the program will display the current state of the registers and alter them if necessary. It will also substitute lines of code and move around blocks of memory.
The Zeus assembler and the monitor and disassembler have been sadly neglected in the past. Both packages can be used together and form a very powerful tool. Zeus costs £8.95 and the disassembler and monitor cost £8.95. Both packages can be obtained from Crystal Computing, Sunderland.
HOW ANYONE seriously could market a game like the ICL Embassy Siege we may never know. The program is arguably the worst piece of software around for the 16K Spectrum. The player has to enter a three-dimensional representation of the embassy of a foreign power, search for the code room and escape with the codes.
The program is annoying because you have to wait up to three minutes for the maze to be defined. You also have to wait a long time for each 3D position to be drawn on the screen after you have made your move.
The reason for those problems is that most of the program is written in Basic and, as a result, everything is slowed. It almost makes one enquire whether ICL has discovered machine code.
Another side-effect of using Basic is that the clock against which you have to play stops when an operation is being performed by the computer. When you have your finger on the buttons to make a move the time stops ticking away. We managed to enter the code room and finish the game in two seconds.
It is a pity that Sinclair Research had to associate its name with such a program. Embassy Siege can be obtained from Sinclair Research, Surrey. The program costs £4.95.
SIMPLE GAMES are often the best and most addictive to play. That is the case with Hot Foot and Crevasse for the 16K Spectrum from Microsphere. Both are sold on the same cassette.
We found Crevasse to be the most addictive. The player must manoeuvre a buggy across the ice to the other side of the screen. The buggy is easy to move and smoothness of movement is an interesting part of the game. That may seem very easy until the ice starts to shift under you and cracks begin to appear. It will take all your skill and cunning to move the buggy around the continually changing gaps without falling over the edge. Some cracks may close just when you want them to do so, but others will appear. Who knows, they may even start under your buggy.
The second game is more complex. You are a rabbit and you have to find the carrots which are strewn around the fields. When you have collected all you need to eat you must return to your burrow.
There is, however, danger in those fields and the fatter you become through eating carrots the bigger target you make for your enemies.
Both games are enjoyable and are suitable for young children, although we are sure adults will be intrigued.
The cassette is available from Microsphere Computer Services Ltd, London and costs £4.95.
IF YOU want a chess program for the 48K Spectrum, Superchess Two, from CP Software, is one to choose. Apart from its quality, the program offers an amazing range of options.
To view the options available all you have to do is to type 'help' and the commands page is displayed. They include recommended move, change of playing level, resignation, self-play and even a technical information page about how the program works. It is also possible to set up a board and let the computer analyse the positions of the pieces.
The self-play mode will continue a game in which the computer will play itself. One move is made at a time and the next move is not made until the user presses 'enter' as a prompt. The computer will ignore any other instructions you try to give it in that mode.
The amount of time and quality of play from the program is governed by the level number. There are seven levels, numbered from zero to six. At level zero the computer gives its answering move almost immediately but when playing at level two the time taken between moves lengthens considerably.
The Superchess Two program costs £7.95. It is available from CP Software, Bucks.