|Soft Centre 2|
GENERAL ELECTION is a simulation of the events leading to a poll for two to four players but not the computer. Once you have chosen your party you start on the campaign trail round the country, trying to persuade the population to vote for you. After you have visited all 100 constituencies you sit back and wait for the results.
The screen layout is a 10 x 10 board on which your candidate moves, the moves being decided by the throw of a dice. That is scarcely the ideal use for a computer; some board games have been translated to a computer successfully but this is not one of them.
To throw the dice the 'R' key must be pressed, as it must for almost all events. The only time it is not needed is when you have to guess the best policy - similar to letting the computer think of a number you then have to find, and about as interesting.
Once you have toured the country the results of the election are displayed. That takes almost half an hour. If you have never been bored by a game, try this one. It can be obtained from Bug-Byte.
|GENERAL ELECTION||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Gilbert Factor: 1|
FIND THE ISLAND, find the treasure and return home with it. That is the challenge presented by The Island, an adventure game for the 48K Spectrum.
Leaving home and setting off for the island are simple enough if the player remembers to examine the map before leaving. Sailing towards the island produces one of the action sequences which are advertised on the cassette cover. The boat must be guided round numerous rocks and a crash will result in the central character's death.
It is a simple little game which seems out of place in an adventure game and which will send players expecting to be tested on their mental, not their manual dexterity, back to the beginning of the game many times.
The adventure has sufficient openings to persuade a beginner to continue with it and sufficient problems to test anyone. An addition to the normal adventure format is sound; the mosquitoes buzz ominously, the flute plays tunelessly, and the computer reacts with different sounds to statements which it understands and to ones it does not.
The Island is produced by Virgin Games Ltd.
|THE ISLAND||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
FARAWAY islands, perilous quests, hidden treasures and ancient temples are the raw material of many classic adventure games. Crystal Computing's The Island is no exception. The program drops you from your aircraft on to a long sandy Pacific beach with the promise of an ultimate test of logic and deduction.
The island is set within the Ring of Fire, a chain of volcanoes bordering the ocean. Many explorers are said to have perished attempting to unravel the island's secrets and you are unlikely to be any luckier than the others.
The adventure is of the text-only type and is designed to run on a 48K Spectrum. The initial instruction page tells you that the game will take the standard two-word commands and warns you to beware of red herrings, one of which you might unwisely pick up at the first location. It will explode with awful consequences shortly after. Movement is in the traditional N, S, E, W format but you may find it extremely difficult to get anywhere remotely interesting, as you will probably die or at least become irritated with the whole process after a relatively short time. Compared to similar adventures, The Island is dull stuff with nothing out of the ordinary to recommend it.
|THE ISLAND||Memory: 48K||Price: £7.50||Gilbert Factor: 4|
BILLED as a game which will frustrate and intrigue, Lojix will certainly frustrate you. The idea is that you have 18 different shaped pieces you have to fit into a grid.
If you complete the puzzle, Virgin, which has put 50 pence into a prize fund for every game sold, will send you your prize. It should be noted that the only other condition for collecting the prize is that you should be sane - hardly a good condition for anyone buying this game.
There seems to be little point in paying for a computer game when the same thing could be done as easily and far more cheaply with a few pieces of plastic.
Lojix can be obtained from Virgin Games.
|LOJIX||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 3|
Magic Meanies, for the 16K Spectrum, gives CDS Micro Systems an opportunity to produce yet another version of Pac-man, although this time there is not even a maze.
CDS has dressed-up the concept a little by calling the Pac-man Meltec and giving him hero status. Meltec has to collect all the lead and cherries in the various levels of the game, being careful not to fall into the hands of the meanies which can move around the paths he has created.
To get rid of a meanie being particularly dastardly you can fire one of five crystal balls. You can also block their paths by dropping cherries in their way. After you have completed one screen you will find another, and another, and another, which all look similar in make-up.
Once you have finished you will find yourself on the high-score table which looks interesting until you discover you have to experiment to use it. The author tells you that you must use up, down, left and right keys to compose your name but there is no information how to do it.
Magic Meanies ranks as one of the poorer pieces of machine-coded software and has little to commend it. It can be obtained from CDS Micro Systems.
|MAGIC MEANIES||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 2|
AT FIRST SIGHT it may seem strange to study a great work of literature by means of a computer tape but Mansfield Park does not claim to form a substitute for careful reading of the text. What it does, and does well, is provide a large range of questions and answers at secondary school examination level on which a student can be tested.
Areas such as themes, content and characterisation are covered. A series of questions together with very full answers can be called-up on each subject and the student can be tested on the random order while being timed.
For those who learn by being tested, the program would form an excellent revision aid. Minor flaws in the program are that multiple-choice answers are shown singly rather than together, making choice more difficult than is necessary. Also, minor grammatical flaws and spelling mistakes grate in an educational program and it is to be hoped that they will be removed from a subsequent editions.
Mansfield Park is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Sussex Software, Wiltshire.
|MANSFIELD PARK||Memory: 48K||Price: £10||Gilbert Factor: 7|
NONE but the tone deaf and owners with additional hardware attached to their machines would be able to detect a high degree of musical quality in the high, piercing sounds emitted by the Spectrum. The proliferation of programs devoted to its musical functions is therefore puzzling.
Music Maker allows users to compose, play and edit tunes for the Spectrum but does so in very slow fashion. Key signature, speed, notes and their length all must be picked-out laboriously. Those who are not gifted musically could probably produce similar musical effects after spending an hour programming with the Spectrum manual to hand. Musical notation would not be produced in the latter case but programming techniques would be developed.
Although no knowledge of musical theory is necessary to use the program, the use of musical notation to show notes already chosen would probably deter those who cannot read music.
Music Maker is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Bellflower Software, Middlesex.
|MUSIC MAKER||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.75||Gilbert Factor: 3|
MUSICMASTER, for the 48K Spectrum is supplied in the now standard Sinclair presentation box and includes an instruction manual and a keyboard overlay. During loading you are given a screen display of two music staves which are re-drawn once the program has loaded. That is obviously a waste of time on a long program.
In use, the program, which is menu-driven, gives you the option of a stave display which spans two octaves or a keyboard display which has only one. You then have a choice of notes on music, create a tune, play, amend, save or load a tune, stop or switch mode - keyboard or stave; there is also the option to COPY your tune.
The notes on music begin by playing and drawing a very, slow chromatic scale in both modes. It then explains the use of key signatures very well, using sound and a visual display. That is probably one of the most valuable parts of the program but is slightly spoiled because the Spectrum does not BEEP precisely in tune.
When writing a tune the program is again interesting and fairly effective. You set your own time and key signatures - you can use only accidentals in stave mode - and each note is sounded and appears on the stave as you key it in.
It is possible to play back the tune at any point and at any speed by entering the number of crochets per minute. The only problem is that the stave is rather short, allowing you to see only about three bars of music at one time.
After a slow start it warms up to become an interesting program with educational possibilities, especially for children who are more excited by the idea of computing than ordinary music teaching. Available from Sinclair Research Ltd.
|MUSICMASTER||Memory: 48K||Price: £9.75||Gilbert Factor: 6|
NINETEENTH Century England is designed as a revision aid for secondary level learning, a function which it fulfils admirably. The program LOADs in eight sections, each of which treats a separate aspect of the nineteenth century in England. Headings include The age of Palmerston, Empire and foreign policy, and England 1866-1885, among others. Each section contains a series of questions and answers which can be viewed together as revision material, or used as a timed or untimed test.
Unlike a book, there is no instant reference facility but, also unlike a book, there is scope for repeated testing of a student.
The program is aimed directly at those studying for examinations. Computer owners wishing to gain a clear picture of the nineteenth century would be well-advised to look elsewhere. Likewise, those who have passed secondary standard will find the program, like many other revision aids, most interesting for the way in which it highlights the merits and deficiencies of the examination system with which it deals.
Ideal for schools and useful for students, Nineteenth Century England is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Sussex Software, Wiltshire.
|NINETEENTH CENTURY ENGLAND||Memory: 48K||Price: £10||Gilbert Factor: 8|
THE YEAR 1984 has, for some time, been associated with dictatorial regimes and the tight fist of fascism. You can change that state of affairs in a government strategy game, 1984, for the 48K Spectrum. It will first produce a bar chart of the state of the nation, which contains the figures for such national economic indicators as government spending, money put into industry and agriculture, and the economic situation for individuals.
To keep your books in order you will need to juggle with budgets for the various taxes, as well as those for allowances such as old age pensions and child allowances.
You will be rated at the end of each year depending on how well you have done your sums and whether you have a gigantic surplus or deficit for the year.
Also included with the package is a 'free' pocket guide to running Britain. It is useful if you do not understand what is happening in some parts of the game. It also shows that running a country is not as easy as it would seem. 1984 is an excellent game for the strategist who likes a challenge. It can be obtained from Incentive Software, Reading.
|1984||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.50||Gilbert Factor: 7|
IT IS DIFFICULT being a penguin and having to push ice blocks all your life. It is even more tricky if you have to take part in a game such as Pengy, for the 16K Spectrum, and dump the blocks on top of killer bees to stay alive.
When first played, the game seems difficult and the player will not last long as the ice bees are intelligent enough to root out any penguin which treads on their turf. It is also difficult to decide whether the ice block you intend to push will slide forward or just melt. If it melts the bees, which look like Pac-Man blobs, will not be affected sufficiently to die and you could lose one of your three lives.
The graphics are fairly simple and flicker when they move. It is difficult to decide which block of ice will move when you push and in that way the game seems to have no direction.
The difficulty of the game and the simple concept of pushing ice on to bees produces what can be described as only a mediocre game, although with a little polishing the standard could have been raised. The author has not provided onscreen instructions on how to play.
The Pengy concept may be new but the initial interest in the game soon departs. It can be obtained from Micromania, Surrey.
|PENGY||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: AGF, Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 4|
PROTEUS has a complicated scenario in which you act as pathfinder for your main fleet of starships. You have to clear a route through a screenful of planet debris, at the same time knocking out your enemy's communication points and defending yourself against enemy attack. The game is much simpler to play on screen than the cassette insert implies.
It is written to a good arcade standard, is fast-moving, and requires considerable practice for success, all the more since you cannot fire your guided missiles and manoeuvre your spacecraft at the same time.
Supplied as a bonus on the B side is Android Pit Rescue, a Basic game where for a change you do not have to kill anything but rather rescue trapped miners from a flooded pit. It has the appearance of a watery Kong type of game, without the ladders, but is entertaining to play nevertheless.
Proteus can be obtained from Abacus Programs.
|PROTEUS||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 5|
AIMED AT the home education market, Quazar is a collection of four programs for the 16K machine, all in the same format. The idea is that you are presented with a maze and are then given a general knowledge question. From the choice of three answers you must select the correct one then find that number in the maze.
Once you have found it you have a limited time to guide a little man to it. If you take too long a bow and arrow chases you and eventually shoots you, a change from simply getting a black mark. For a successful answer you receive a score and another question.
Each of the programs contains different questions and each contains enough to avoid continuous repetition. They range from simple Drake is to Duck as Sheep is to ... to mathematical problems of the kind where If Mary has six green beans.
If the game is too fast for a particular child, instructions are given with the cassette to alter the speed. It is a difficult area to know what would hold a child's attention but this seems to be a reasonable attempt. Quazar can be obtained from Rose Cassettes.
|QUAZAR||Memory: 16K||Price: £4.95||Gilbert Factor: 4|
QUETZALCOATL comprises four fully illustrated, three-dimensional mazes. The aim is to descend from one to the other, collecting glass beads on the way, to escape. The mazes are intricate and the player begins without map or compass.
Various dangers are to be found in the mazes. Descent from level to level must be via the blue chutes and not via the dangerous black chutes. Walking into a wall is apt to result in being burned alive. Each level contains a god, either benevolent or malevolent and, somehow, the malevolent gods are always easier to find than the blue chutes.
The instructions are clear and the game easy to begin. Drawing a map for future attempts is slow and somewhat laborious. Glass beads should never be used as markers as they appear and reappear, even after they have been collected. The graphics are excellent; the view is drawn quickly and clearly; gods appear magically when approached and the map crumbles convincingly whenever exposed to light.
It is an excellent maze game, containing elements of danger, difficulty and skill which can be recommended to all except those in whom mazes produce a blind panic. It is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Virgin Games Ltd.
|QUETZALCOATL||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 8|
THE FIRST question which enters into the minds of players of Robot Panic will be how could any manufacturer have the audacity to put this game on the relatively-sophisticated computer market and expect it to sell?
The graphics are painfully amateurish and jerky; the characters to be shot are virtually indistinguishable save by name, and the skill levels so lacking in thought as to leave the player bored in a few minutes.
The aim is to move a robot through the cargo hold of a spaceship, shooting down the dangerous creatures in each hold and avoiding the crushing walls. The easy level is ridiculously simple, while the impossible level is just that.
The cassette cover is one of the most professional aspects. Do not be fooled by it - the game is nowhere near acceptable professional quality.
Robot Panic is produced by Soft Mill, Cambs.
|ROBOT PANIC||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.05||Gilbert Factor: 1|
ONCE SATAN'S PENDULUM has LOADed the player is given a glimpse of the torture chamber of Prospero's castle where the heroine, Pixel Ramtop, is being held prisoner. By the look of her, Pixel has already been tortured by the over-application of plastic surgery but she is, at present, being tortured by Satan's Pendulum, which swings lower and lower until, eventually, it will cut her to pieces.
To save Pixel, the player must move round a ground plan of the castle. In each room there are evil monsters which attack and which must be destroyed if possible. The more monsters killed, the greater the player's strength becomes. The greater the player's strength, the greater the number of rooms which can be entered. The torture chamber is most difficult room to enter.
There is a time limit, for you must save Pixel before the Pendulum reaches her. If not, you are transported to the torture chamber to watch her die.
The game involves strategy, as the player must decide whether to build strength slowly by fighting the easily-killed snakes in the outer rooms or to try to increase it quickly, with the greater risks entailed, by advancing towards the centre. It also involves co-ordination to kill the excellently-drawn animated monsters.
The booklet accompanying the cassette explains the principles of animation on the Spectrum in some depth, together with short sample programs. That useful addition is the finishing touch to an excellent game which is marred only by the needless and vicious sexism of Pixel's portrayal.
Satan's Pendulum is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Minatron Computing, Bristol.
|SATAN'S PENDULUM||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 7|
DIVE INTO the depths of the ocean to collect pearls from the oysters in Scuba Dive for the 48K Spectrum. You must jump into the water from your boat and scuba your way through the hazards, including sharks and squid. If you pass them you will have to slow down so that you do not hit your head on the sea bottom. When the oysters open you can collect your treasure but, again, do not get trapped.
As you go down further, aquatic life will change and the sharks will get bigger. You will also meet the octopus which guards the way into another level.
Pass the octopus and you will enter an even more dangerous domain. Once you have entered you will have to collect your pearls from the giant clams and they have a nasty tendency to close on your head.
Scuba Dive is an impressive and original game. The effect of underwater diving is achieved so well that you could imagine you are looking into the perils of the deep.
The arcade display has a three-dimensional quality about it and the movements of the various sea creatures you will meet have been incorporated carefully into the game to make it a fairly accurate interpretation of life under water.
As well as having the pearls to collect you might find a treasure chest from a sunken galleon on your travels. There are three types of chest and the amount of points you score obtaining the treasure will depend on which level of the game you are playing.
Scuba Dive, with full aquarium of dangerous predators, can be obtained from Durell Software.
|SCUBA DIVE||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Most programmable||Gilbert Factor: 9|
THE OBJECT of Shark Attack is to cross the sea, avoiding the sharks, protecting the octopi and leaving as much net as possible trailing in the sea. As with so many Romik Software games, the story-line seems to fit the game uncomfortably but who buys a speed-and-reactions game for its storyline?
Leaving sufficient net produces a bonus, depending on how many octopi have been saved, and a fresh screen containing an additional octopus. A shark which eats an octopus becomes a super shark which can eat nets for a short time, so octopi should be protected by rows of net as soon as possible.
The graphics are not all that could be expected of a professional game these days but, even so, the gradual increase in speed and difficulty make it suitable for all arcade game lovers.
Shark Attack is produced for the Spectrum by Romik Software Ltd, Berkshire.
|SHARK ATTACK||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.99||Gilbert Factor: 5|
SPACE STATION ZEBRA spins silently in space and you, the pilot and sole survivor, look out into the void until your radar screen warns you of approaching craft. As the space wheel shudders from the first alien onslaught, you attempt frantically to slow the spinning speed of the station to aim your lazgun at the approaching extra-terrestrials. Before you can even pinpoint the enemy in your wandering sights the attack is over and the station destroyed. Press any key to continue, the computer suggests, hopefully.
The graphics in Space Station Zebra, for the 48K Spectrum, are excellent, depicting the control panel and the starry blackness beyond, dotted with the hulks of dead spacecraft and lifeless planets. The aliens, too, appear suitably fearsome in the brief seconds they take to zoom towards you.
Keyboard operation, however, is fiendishly difficult, and firing the lazgun involves the simultaneous operation of five keys, four to aim and one to fire. Destroying the aliens requires more luck than judgement and high scores are difficult to obtain.
Space Station Zebra, from Beyond Software, is certainly challenging and not a game for the novice.
|SPACE STATION ZEBRA||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Gilbert Factor: 6|
SPECTSOUND for the 16K Spectrum was written in 1982 and shows remarkably how much Spectrum programming has advanced since then. Once loaded, you have to RUN the program and, worse still, you have to break into it to save or load a tune. As a bonus, if you enter GO TO 45 instead of RUN and then press the B key you are treated to an inaccurate rendition of Hava-Nagila.
The program is not simple to use, the instructions not being clear. The keys are very slow to react when you are playing and as the only onscreen representation of the notes is their code numbers, you can lose track of your tune quickly. When playing back a tune, you have the option of seeing the code numbers and duration of the notes but that display does not scroll itself automatically.
When the program was first written it may have been useful; it no longer seems to be. It can be obtained from PDQ Software.
|SPECTSOUND||Memory: 16K||Price: £6.95||Gilbert Factor: 2|
FOR THE 16K machine, Strike Four is a compendium of four games all written in Basic. Each includes a title screen containing the instructions which can be printed-out on the ZX printer. Once you have tired of the game, it can load the next one automatically.
The first game, Serpent's Tail, is a new variation on the old favourite, Snake. You have eight screens to negotiate, all with different monsters and difficulties. A reasonably fast game.
The second is 3-D Maze. First you choose the size of the maze and then you have to find your way through it. To add to your difficulties, every now and then the Maze Master arrives to test your reactions.
Next is a graphics utility, Sketch Pad, to allow you to create pictures. Finally, Zombie Island - a game for up to six players where you are marooned on a desert island inhabited by zombies and death pits. Supplied with a six-shooter, you must survive longer than the other players.
All the games show the limitations of trying to write fast arcade games in Basic but you have four of them. Strike Four can be obtained from Spectresoft.
|STRIKE FOUR||Memory: 16K||Price: £4.95||Gilbert Factor: 4|
SUPERCHESS THREE is one of the best versions of the popular mind game for the 48K Spectrum. It is an upgrade of the CP Software original Superchess which has foxed many better-than-average players.
As well as allowing you to play games at 10 levels of difficulty, the program will also analyse chess problems of up to four mating moves. The option will also give you an idea of how mate in various positions should be achieved.
One of the good aspects of Superchess Three is that a relative beginner can play on level one and have the feeling that he is a good match for the computer. On the higher levels, which can take some time to play, the expert at chess will find the computer an impressive opponent.
All the usual features which have become part of computer chess games are included. There is a recommended move option, an option to change sides halfway through a game, and a routine which will allow you to change the colours of both the pieces and the board.
An extra feature which is not included in most other chess games for the Spectrum is the technical information option. The section will tell you briefly about the techniques which the computer uses to find its moves and which are used when it analyses problems.
The program produces an absorbing game which it can modify quickly if the human player changes tactics. It is just as capable of defence as it is of attack.
We have no hesitation in recommending Superchess Three as one of the best chess programs for the Spectrum. It can be obtained from CP Software.
|SUPERCHESS THREE||Memory: 48K||Price: £8.95||Gilbert Factor: 9|
MAZE GAMES for the Spectrum are being produced in ever-greater quantities. In some cases that is justified - a maze game can be exciting, skilful, and even original. 3D Monster Chase is none of those things.
A standard, three-dimensional representation of a maze is shown, through which the player must move to find ever-increasing numbers of keys and to defuse the bombs which, for no good reason, appear whenever keys are found. An additional feature is the monsters, resembling three-legged Easter eggs, which can kill the hapless mazefarer unless bombed out of existence by the grenades provided.
Mazes are such a standard feature of Spectrum software that the monsters in them must be spectacular enough, or the purpose exciting enough, to tempt the player to enter. Being killed or finding a key in this game both produce similar feelings of lack of concern in the player.
Produced for the Spectrum by Romik Software Ltd, Berkshire.
|3D MONSTER CHASE||Memory: 16K||Price: £6.99||Gilbert Factor: 3|
NOUGHTS AND CROSSES can be a deadly dull pastime especially when played against a computer. The concept can be turned into an interesting game when a three-dimensional aspect is incorporated into the computer. That type of thinking has gone into 3D Strategy.
The game is played in a three-dimensional cube but, apart from that complication, is not much different from the original concept although that one difference is a big one.
The computer will play two types of game with you. The tactical play will make the computer move in a risky and decisive way with a good chance for the calm human player. The positional play option will make the computer move in a considered way. That means the human player can tailor the game to any style of play.
To make the competition even tougher you can put a time option, for minutes or seconds, into effect. It operates in a similar way to blitz chess, where the player and computer must complete a game before time expires.
3D Strategy can be obtained from Quicksilva.
|3D STRATEGY||Memory: 16K||Price: £6.95||Gilbert Factor: 8|