|Spectrum Software Scene|
THE EVIL Redmen have captured the ITA Express as it hurtles towards an unknown doom. As a special security agent you have to Stop the Express on your 48K Spectrum and round-up the Redmen before the train reaches the border, when they will be out of your jurisdiction and free.
There are two stages. In the first you have to run across the top of the train, jumping each carriage as you reach it. You must be careful, however, to avoid the attempts by the villains to eliminate you with their knives or fists. You should also beware of the low-flying electric pylons above your head.
Despite the near impossibility of your mission you have one friend, the Snakebird, which you can catch as you travel over the carriages and release into the arms of the Redmen, who will suffer the same fate they had planned for you.
Once you have completed stage one you will be able to get inside the train, where Redmen and other assorted nasties will lunge at you, trying to shorten your life.
If you reach the end of the train, the express will start to slow and you will be congratulated on your efficiency as an agent. Then you are promptly dumped on top of the train again to run the gauntlet with more Redmen in the next round.
Stop the Express is well on its way to being a classic game. The idea is original and the graphics are of cartoon quality. It is also difficult enough to be addictive and, even when you have discovered the second level, you will want to keep playing.
Sinclair Research only occasionally releases a piece of software which establishes itself as an industry standard. This is one of those occasions.
|STOP THE EXPRESS||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: ZX Interface||Gilbert Factor: 8|
WELCOME to the Artic Computing loopy laundry. If you expect to do any washing, however, you had better forget it unless you are very fast on your feet. Mr Wong's Loopy Laundry, for the 48K Spectrum, is too much like the last Artic game, Bear Bovver, to be a great step forward in games software.
The idea is to rush round the platforms and up the ladders, gathering clothes and depositing them down the chute at the top of the screen. Unfortunately there are soap suds, a giant iron and a dirty bag of laundry waiting to pounce on you if you cannot avoid them. You can turn the wayward washing utensils stiff by blasting starch in their direction, although you must be careful not to exhaust your supply of powder.
The game is good clean fun but is unlikely to be a best-seller. The graphics flicker and the actions you have to perform are repetitive. It might appeal to children but even they might be washboard-stiff after a time.
|MR WONG'S LOOPY LAUNDRY||Memory: 16K/48K||Price: £6.95||Joystick: Cursor, Kempston, ZX Interface||Gilbert Factor: 5|
IN THE fifth circle of Hell the damned stare glassy-eyed from the depths of gelid marches. Not in the imagination of the latest swords'n'sorcery film director but in the great religious epic poem Inferno by 15th Century Italian poet Dante. Dante's symbolic world of hellfire and lost souls is the setting of Inferno from Richard Shepherd Software.
You take the role Dante wrote for himself - a pilgrim to the underworld, with the Roman poet Virgil as your guide. Inferno is a text adventure with graphics depicting each location, somewhat in the style of The Hobbit. As you travel deeper into Hell, you will meet the damned and the monsters which guard and torment them. You will have to find a way into the City of Dis and pass through the Forest of Despair before you finally reach your goal.
With such an imaginative idea for a game and the works of the great poet as a source of images it is a pity the graphics are not more inspiring. One can only assume that Richard Shepherd Software felt the true picture might be too horrific for gentle Spectrum owners. That said, the game moves at a fair pace and, although there are not so many problems to be solved as in some adventures, the atmosphere is maintained well and provides some compensation for a simple plot.
|INFERNO||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.50||Gilbert Factor: 7|
IN THE DAYS of lead overcoats and concrete boots, when bootleg liquor cost blood and Bogart ruled the Bronx, there was one gangster whose exploits have until now remained obscure. His name was Mugsy.
In Mugsy, the new release from Melbourne House, you play the part of a gangland leader. The game requires you to make decisions as to how much money to extort from your protection rackets, what to set aside for bribery and how much to spend on arms for your underlings.
Thus far the game is a moderately simple version of King, the land management game. Melbourne House has taken the concept and, by the use of extravagantly marvellous graphics, turned it into a minor masterpiece.
Each decision you make is portrayed in cartoon form, with the words in speech bubbles; a respectably large number of screens complement the story, in the style of old gangster movies. The pictures look to have been designed by a genuine artist and add immensely to the atmosphere of the game. At the end of each 'year' you also have an animated cartoon of an event during that year. There are only two of those short films but both are interesting to watch and they use the Spectrum graphics capacity to the full.
With so much visual display, the game must suffer from memory restrictions and there is not a great deal of variety in what happens from year to year compared to programs like Dictator by dK'Tronics. That said, Melbourne House has captured the atmosphere of old Hollywood movies so well that one tends to forget the limitations of the game and enter into the spirit happily.
Inevitably the graphics will tend to become uninteresting after they have been seen enough times but while they remain fresh they are a delight and make the game a pleasure to play.
|MUGSY||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Gilbert Factor: 8|
BORIS THE BEE, hero of the Bug-Byte Birds and the Bees, is back again and his wanderings have landed him into trouble with a nest of ants in which he is lost. Antics, also called Birds and the Bees Two, puts you in control of Barnaby, one of Boris' friends, who is out to rescue his mate. To do that he must move away from his hive and go down into the ants' nest.
All the action takes place underground, where a surprising number of flowers are growing in the nest. Do not question the logic of the ants' flower power, as the plants will give you pollen. If you have any pollen in your bags and an ant, or other creature, attacks you it will go for your pollen before making an attempt to take away your strength points.
When you get into the next you may find your path blocked by green walls. Skimming gently over the sides of the walls will reveal any secret passages there might be so that you can hover into the next compartment of the maze.
Antics is not so good as the standard of Birds and the Bees but it is an interesting maze game which does not suffer too much from sequel-mania where the author has repeated the same basic format but with new characters or more levels of difficulty.
It can be played equally well with keyboard or joystick, which is a change from the usual zap 'em arcade games which require a joystick to reach the higher levels. Antics is for the player who likes to consider what action to take before being blown to Hell.
|ANTICS||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.50||Joystick: Kempston, Programmable||Gilbert Factor: 8|
CUT-PRICE software inevitably begs the question of whether the games are any good. Mastertronic produces what, at £1.99, are the cheapest so far.
Gnasher is a Pac-Man derivative. The graphics are the conventional ones of maze, yellow Pac-Man and multicoloured ghosts. All the usual features are included - power pills, bonus fruit, two-player option and so on. The joystick response was slightly slow and sticky but if you must have Pac-Man in your lounge, you might as well save a few pounds and buy Gnasher.
Spectipede is rather more exhilarating to play, although that might reflect the virtues of the excellent arcade game Centipede rather than those of Mastertronic. Again, there is little of originality but the game is a fast version of the standard, with spiders, toadstools and multiple levels.
Also available is a darts simulation, Bullseye. The game is slow to play, much of it being written in Basic, and it is not very user-friendly, as it is possible to get into Basic by making a mistake when pressing the wrong keys.
That said, the game provides five versions of darts, including Cricket, 501 and Killer. There are also three ways of playing a shot; you can either state what you are aiming at, position a cursor on the appropriate part of the board, or enter the angle and distance of your shot.
The cover picture shows three dart-shaped spaceships homing-in on a red star. When you realise the nature of the game you can understand the point of the cover but it might well tempt the incautious lover of space games into buying something unwanted.
|GNASHER||Memory: 16K||Price: £1.99||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 4|
|SPECTIPEDE||Memory: 16K||Price: £1.99||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 5|
|BULLSEYE||Memory: 48K||Price: £1.99||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 4|
ARCADE GAMES involving alien spaceships and destructive droids have taken another step forward with the release of Psytron by Beyond. The scenario is not startling - you have to defend a space colony against alien attack. The aliens try to bomb various installations and drop saboteur droids into the tunnels below which self-destruct when they reach their target.
What sets Psytron apart from the herd is its staggering complexity and extremely high-quality graphics. The game is played across 10 screens representing different areas of the colony and each picture can be called-up instantaneously. Beneath the view are status reports, including a continuous scrolling report simulating the kind of screen window associated with far more sophisticated machines than the Spectrum.
The first level may seem tedious. All you have to do is hunt the saboteur droids through the tunnels; when you have achieved a 50 percent score five times in a row the game allows you to continue to the next level, where you shoot at spaceships. More and more elements are included, until the final level arrives.
At that advanced stage not only do you have to keep zapping the aliens but you must also manage your crew numbers, deciding your defensive priorities to ensure the survival of the colony's buildings and the population. If the medical unit is destroyed your wounded will die; if the docking bay is damaged vital supplies may be lost.
Beyond is offering a Sinclair QL to anyone who can survive for an hour at the highest level. If anyone can, they might be better employed running the NATO central defence systems, or imprisoned forcibly as a potential danger to the public.
|PSYTRON||Memory: 48K||Price: £7.95||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 9|
YOU MUST be mad to carpet the floors of a local lord's manor, in Carpet Capers for the 48K Spectrum. The lord has also invited your rivals into the house to do as much of your work as possible and so take away money from you.
You score pounds for the amount of carpet you lay, and the number of rivals you carpet. You must also remember not to put carpet up to the doors for as any good fitter knows, you must not tread on newly-laid carpet.
There are nine rooms and it is best to use a joystick, as the action can be hair-raising. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the graphics, which are amateurishly stiff in movement and are a character square wide.
Full marks, however, can be given for the concept which makes the game addictive, perhaps even playable for more than half-an-hour.
|CARPET CAPERS||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Programmable||Gilbert Factor: 7|
HAVING thrilled gamers with the dusty attics and caverns of Atic Atac, Ultimate has transported you to steaming jungles in its latest Arcade-Adventure, Sabre Wulf. The concept is similar to the earlier Atic Atac. You must seek four parts of a hidden amulet to escape from the jungle maze; on the way you must battle a dazzling variety of foes, some weak and others seemingly invincible. There are numerous treasures to inflate your score, some of which may prove of use in the game.
The game is played over an enormous maze of jungle paths and clearings. Of the monsters, against which your only weapon is a sabre, we particularly liked the hippos, which charge down the corridors and must usually be dodged rather than skewered.
A major feature of Sabre Wulf are the various coloured orchids which, when eaten, have strange temporary effects on your abilities.
The disorientation orchid, which reverses all joystick controls, is particularly infuriating.
While the graphics are not entirely flicker-free, with the usual problems when figures pass over each other, they are up to the high Ultimate standards and the action is fast.
The main criticism of the game is price. Ultimate claims that is because of an increase in development time but the price still seems high. If the game is anything like as successful as previous releases, and it should be, we fail to see how Ultimate could avoid making a big profit even at the old figure of £5.50.
|SABRE WULF||Memory: 48K||Price: £9.95||Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Sinclair||Gilbert Factor: 8|