|ZX-81 Software Scene|
RECENT RELEASES from Romik Software all seem to follow roughly the same well-tried shoot-them-before-they-shoot you formula.
Galaxy Jailbreak for the 16K ZX-81 features a prison somewhere in space. You have captured some evil alien generals whose soldiers are trying to free them by nibbling away the walls of the jail. You control a stellar base which fires five missiles at a time and can attempt to shoot the soldiers before they get the generals out; if they get out, the generals start dropping bombs on you, making your life much more difficult.
Another mysterious law of outer space also decrees that if you shoot a general, he turns into five soldiers. You score 50 points for hitting a general, 20 for hitting a soldier.
Although the concept is not brilliantly original, Galaxy Jailbreak is enlivened by some fast action, and easy-to-use control keys - half the bottom row moves you left, the other half moves you right - are an additional bonus. Make sure you read the opening instruction screens carefully, as the game does not give you a second chance to see them without re-loading.
Galactic Trooper, also for the 16K ZX-81, is in a similar vein. Again, you must be careful to read the instructions, as the graphics are a little confusing and they will not be explained again once the game has started.
The idea is to amass as high a score as possible by destroying a galactic attacking force and prevent it landing on earth. If a landing craft touches down, you lose your firing base.
The screen display shows the enemy mothership, worth 500 points, ranging back and forth above the ranks of drones; drones give you 20 points if you shoot them before they drop, 40 points if you catch them in mid-air. A mystery score is attached to the saucers, otherwise known as landing craft. You receive an extra ship if you reach a score of 10,000 points.
Unless you are an experienced player, you may not find that easy. Although it is easy to increase your score quickly at the start - just keep firing - stopping the saucers landing and putting an end to your activities is a good deal more difficult. Again, not a strikingly original game, but one which should appeal to addicts of the fire button.
Other games for the 16K ZX-81 from Romik Software include Bubble Bugs, which entails firing spiked missiles at enemy bubble bugs to burst them before they destroy you with their bombs. Bank Robber, for a change, does not take place in space - or does it? - but involves removing as many money bags as possible from the bank and getting them home, while avoiding the meteorites, bricks and pills some unexplained force is hurling at you.
The game also features open and closed doors to negotiate, and you can choose the number of meteorites and speed with which you would like to be confronted.
All the games are available from Romik Software, Berkshire.
|Memory: 16K||Price: £4.99||Gilbert Factor: 6|
|Spectrum Software Scene|
JUST BEFORE its long-awaited premiere, the Sinclive diamond was stolen from the jewel room of Microdrivia. It is the player's task to find and replace the diamond as soon as possible and then to bring back the fake diamond to the Secret Police headquarters.
The game follows a conventional adventure format, with descriptions rather than pictures of locations. Hazards abound. You are likely to be found and killed by the police, run over on a busy road, shot down by a man with a gun, or die of starvation, all before the first series of locations has been left. The threat of dying of starvation effectively puts a time limit on the game. The player has a maximum of 29 turns in which to deal with the problem before dying.
Playing the game raises some questions. Why is the key where it is? Why are the police trying to kill the player? Who is the strange man with the gun who shoots you whenever you attempt to buy a train ticket? Some players may find the questions simple to answer - or there may be no answers.
The level of difficulty is well-thought-out. There are sufficient accessible locations, clues and red herrings to keep the player involved in the game for a long time, before finding the diamond even becomes a possibility remote on the horizon.
Diamond Trail is produced by Gilsoft, South Glamorgan.
|DIAMOND TRAIL||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
DODGE CITY is made up of two games, an arcade and an adventure which are supplied on different cassettes. The player's aim in the arcade game is to elude pursuers, dodge cacti and collect the mail. Six successful mail collections completes a skill level and 12 skill levels must be completed before the adventure game can be played.
At the end of alternate skill levels the player arrives to find that a telegram containing a clue for the adventure has been delivered. They appear and disappear slightly too quickly to be noted at the time but the game is so difficult that frequent re-starts will mean that most players will have memorised the clues by the time they reach level 12.
Various groupings of Indians, Mexicans and Confederate soldiers appear chasing the player during the game. Moving to the correct part of the screen at the proper time means that they can be shaken off quickly, although finding the proper place and the correct time can take hours.
An infuriating feature is that the mail collector can be shot at any time, even when no bullets have been seen to fly, or the pursuer behind is dead, or even when there is no visible pursuer behind. Another problem for the player is that Confederate soldiers seem to have nine lives, possibly because there are two of them on each horse.
Once the twelfth level has been reached and the player arrives in Dodge City the adventure begins. The sheriff's deputy is dead and what better suspect could the sheriff have than the mail rider who just arrived in town?
Dodge City is produced by Phoenix Software Ltd, Middlesex.
|DODGE CITY||Memory: 48K||Price: £9.99||Gilbert Factor: 7|
THE I CHING, or Book of Changes, is an ancient collection of oracles refined and expanded by Chinese sages over 5,000 years. Reflecting a cosmology founded on the simple opposition of light and darkness, of Yang and Yin, the oracle is usually consulted by dividing heaps of yarrow stalks or tossing coins, and those generate patterns of broken and unbroken lines known as hexagrams.
In the Salamander Software version of I Ching, for the 48K Spectrum, the coin-tossing is simulated on the computer, the hexagrams displayed, followed by the interpretation of the questioner's present and future situation.
As with all fortune-telling, much depends on how you interpret the answers but the I Ching is frequently disturbing in its analysis. When asked: "In the event of a nuclear confrontation will mankind survive?" the oracle replied "Change, sudden surprise or shock. Worrying at first, but on a second look there is no problem and even a chance to learn from the situation."
The program appears to be faithful to the original, though it is annoying that the hexagrams are given only Chinese names and are not numbered. There are also some inexcusable spelling errors.
Those familiar with the I Ching might be more aware of the program's shortcomings but for others it is an enjoyable, intriguing introduction to an ancient philosophy.
Finally, it seemed appropriate to consult the oracle as to its own worth. Asked "Is this tape of benefit to Sinclair users?" the resulting hexagram was unchanging: "Understand the steps required between what you have and what you want. Work hard but allow time for rest and pleasure."
You can make of that what you will.
|I CHING||Memory: 48K||Price: £7.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
COMPOSER is another of those programs which allow their users, with a little practice, to play, compose, edit and save BEEPing sounds which bear some resemblance to tunes on the 48K Spectrum.
Using the BEEP instruction on the Spectrum is not a difficult matter. The manual explains it clearly in four pages and expects the user to be able to program the computer to play Mahler's first symphony at the end of that time. The instructions for Composer are longer than that chapter and add nothing to the user's programming knowledge.
Composer is a fairly difficult program to master, for the unexciting screen layout contains many abbreviations which are confusing even to those experienced in musical theory. Further, the instructions on the cassette insert, which are supposed to form a kind of crib sheet, contain a misprint which makes the matter even more difficult.
Before buying the program it is worth reading chapter 19 of the manual. If that is comprehensible, Composer is unnecessary; if it is incomprehensible, there is every likelihood that the Composer instructions will be as well. Check, too, if you have no experience of composition that you have a supply of sheet music to hand before attempting to program a piece of music, or the results will not prove worthwhile.
Composer is produced by Contrast Software, Hampshire.
|COMPOSER||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 2|
GARDENING can be a lethal business in the post-holocaust world of Millypede, from Add-On Electronics. In this version of the standard arcade game, plant and animal life has mutated after an inter-galactic fusion bomb has devastated the Earth. To prevent mutant bugs and creepy-crawlies getting into your family anti-fusion shelter you must zap and zap again as the mushroom patch is invaded by inexorable splitting millypedes.
Sickly bouncing spiders trampoline across your field of fire and you have to stay well clear of their trajectories if you want to survive to do the weeding another day.
You move and fire your laser with the QWERTY keys and you can shift the base up into the lower part of the screen to avoid any ravening bugs which have reached the bottom line. The machine code graphics are colourful and the millypedes snake and ladder down the mushrooms at an alarming rate. Your score is reckoned by the number of mushrooms, millypede segments and spiders you eliminate and there is a high score initialling facility.
Millypede is a reasonably fast and compulsive variant of an arcade oldie and will have you returning for just one more try, but watch for that darned spider. The game runs on any Spectrum.
|MILLYPEDE||Memory: 16K or 48K||Price: £5.00||Gilbert Factor: 7|
THE LORDS of Ket rule a strife-torn land where magic and mayhem are normal. Raiders from the east sweep in and devastate the countryside, spurred by the villainous priest-king Vran Verusbel, arch-mage of the cult of Mad Monks, and by the beautiful though utterly evil priestess Delphia.
You know little of that as you languish on Death Row awaiting execution for a crime you did not commit. Suddenly, on the eve of your demise you are summoned before the Lords who give you a stark choice - die tomorrow or travel east through the perilous Mountains of Ket. Your mission is to destroy Vran and Delphia and thus end the troublesome raiding. Of course you accept but, in case you were thinking of running away, the Lords have placed a magic assassin bug call Edgar on your neck to ensure loyalty to the cause.
That is the setting for Mountains of Ket by Incentive Software, billed as the first in a trilogy of interlinking but independent adventures. Mountains of Ket is a text-only game which features combat, creature interaction and a monetary system. Your prowess, energy and luck determine your likelihood of surviving in combat and it is wisest to steer clear of fights wherever possible. You do not begin as a very expert swordsman and you will get further by cunning and commonsense than by chopping away at every creature you bump into, and once you get into the mysterious mountain there are many unpleasant characters roaming the caverns.
As in The Hobbit, your score is calculated on a percentage basis and there is a save-game facility. The creature interaction is somewhat limited, however, and talking to the characters can be difficult. Edgar will not give you much help if you are being lazy but has useful suggestions at crucial points.
You would be wise to keep a map as you progress; the path is long and there are many perils as well as rewards in the form of treasure, false beards, magic wands and the like. Mountains of Ket is a stimulating adventure which will keep you busy for some time.
|MOUNTAINS OF KET||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.50||Gilbert Factor: 8|
HOW ARE the mighty fallen! The self-righteous Piman has returned from Hollywood where he clearly picked up some terrible habits from chain-smoking Groucho and has now become a skid row problem drinker. The new Automata release, Pi-Eyed, for 48K Spectrum, is an arcade-style descent into the unsavoury depths of Pi-Land pubs.
Using the cursor keys or a Kempston joystick, you must steer the tipsy Pi-Man along the road, avoiding irate motorists, and get him into various noisy and messy hostelries like The Merry Corpse or The Gay Dog. You may also enter some of the other buildings on the Pi-Land main street, where you will receive encouraging or abusive messages.
Once inside a pub the Pi-Man must drink all the pints of beer on the bar before he can weave his unsteady way out to find another watering hole. You do not increase your score in this game - you start with a high score which is reduced progressively the more you drink. Points are also deducted if you annoy motorists, tread on packets of Rhino crisps or even more unpleasant substances, or disturb other pub patrons.
When the Pi-Man finally reaches rock bottom zero, his beer intake for the game is displayed; if the hangover is not too bad you can then totter back and start all over again. It is always opening time in Pi-Land.
Pi-Eyed continues the Automata tradition of bizarre, inventive games design and combines the usual garish graphics with a loopy setting and maddening music. The loading logo of two awful bloodshot eyes is disturbing. The game is reasonably entertaining though the format is repetitive after a time.
|PI-EYED||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.00||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 6|
ADVENTURES of St Bernard for the 48K Spectrum was produced by a husband-and-wife team and the graphics by former fashion designer Linda Ferguson are very attractive.
The story features Brandy the St Bernard dog, who is trying to rescue his mistress from the clutches of the Abominable Snowman. In the first stage of his mission, Brandy is besieged by a pack of wolves. If he manages to kill them all, by turning to face each one, he goes on to stage two which involves jumping over icy pools, in many cases inhabited by a walrus which makes a successful leap more difficult.
Stage three features tumbling snowballs and more wolves. Then there is the Snowman and finally more pools and a horde of skating penguins.
The game is an addictive one and should appeal to anyone with plenty of persistence and a good sense of timing. It also makes a pleasant change from the more violent scenarios of most Spectrum games.
The Adventures of St Bernard is produced by Carnell Software.
|THE ADVENTURES OF ST BERNARD||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Protek, AGF II||Gilbert Factor: 7|
THE PLAYER'S aim in Demon Chase is to move round the screen, avoiding the tombstones and walls, catching the demons and hitting the diamond-shaped bonus-point scores. Inexplicably the player's on-screen persona is what appears to be an ever-growing caterpillar, which creates the further obstacle that players must avoid their own tails.
The first level bears a distinct resemblance to a variety of amateur games, most of which are based on the adventures of a worm or caterpillar. On subsequent levels the amount of obstacles is greater, as is the amount of devils to be captured.
Demon Chase LOADs with a title page containing as many symbols of evil as could possibly be crowded on to a television screen. The graphics in the game are, by comparison, unimpressive, consisting for the most part of individual user-defined graphics-type figures.
The game is unoriginal and does not inspire the player to continue to higher, more sophisticated levels. It would appeal most to players who like games which depend on fast reactions. Such players, however, might be able to find more exciting variations on this theme elsewhere on the software market.
Demon Chase is distributed by Mansfield Computers and Electronics, Notts.
|DEMON CHASE||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.50||Gilbert Factor: 4|
3-D SEIDDAB ATTACK from Hewson Consultants puts you in command of a space-age tank, or "drone", in which you must patrol the city streets, shooting down any Seiddabs - whatever they are - within range.
The screen display offers a 3-D representation of the streets and the view through the drone's windscreen. You can move your sights up and down to frame the enemy and the left and right keys move your vehicle in relation to the outside scene.
If you clear the first screen, by shooting down at least 10 Seiddabs followed by the enemy task force leader, you are transported to the open countryside, where you must face the fresh hazard of enemy bombs.
In spite of a sophisticated concept and some very satisfying explosive effects whenever you make a direct hit, the screen display of 3-D Seiddab Attack is not as clear as it might be, with flickering graphics adding to the confusion.
Improving your skill at scoring in the game is reasonably addictive and it offers the well-tried pleasures of shooting things out of the sky to addicts of that pastime.
3-D Seiddab Attack is produced by Hewson Consultants, Oxon.
|3-D SEIDDAB ATTACK||Memory: 16K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 5|
IN MUNNERY'S Mergatroids, for the 48K Spectrum, you must pilot your ship, The Spirit of Watford, across the desolate valley of the Mergatroids, blasting the aliens which swarm up to meet you from the distant mountain range.
Graphically the game resembles the arcade Battle Zone, with both aliens and scenery outlined against the dark backdrop. The simplicity of the graphics is more than compensated for by the 3D effect and the speed of the game, and quick responses are needed as you swerve to left and right while hammering away at the enemy.
Lacking originality, the program is nevertheless instantly addictive. It is accompanied with a B side bonus, a trivial game called Night Driver in which the graphics are minimal and the action monotonous. The two-game cassette - and to describe Night Driver as a game is to use the term loosely - is produced by Abacus Programs.
|MUNNERY'S MERGATROIDS||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Gilbert Factor: 6|