|Spectrum Software Scene|
THE ARMIES of Doomdark are rising, swarming like locusts over the plains and passes of the land of Midnight, bringing with them the ice-fear, which drains the soul of courage and renders the bold sword arm numb with fear. Midnight's last hope is Prince Luxor, holder of the powerful moonstone. That, as if you had not guessed, is where you come in.
Lords of Midnight is a truly epic adventure from Beyond Software. You play the part of Prince Luxor and his allies, whose movements you control through the telepathic power of the moonstone. During the day you, and those you have won to your cause, travel the land raising armies, fighting battles, and sending ambassadors to recruit more Lords to your side.
The most striking feature is the superb graphics system, whereby the screen displays your view of the land from where you stand. Distant objects become bigger as you move towards them and you will need to develop a keen eye to spot significant features on the distant horizon. Fortunately, you are provided with a map of the Land of Midnight to help you plan your campaign, although deliberately it omits many features and gives only an approximate indication of distances.
The graphics are built of standard pictures for various parts of the landscape; it is claimed that there are 32,000 possible views, all different in some respect from each other. Fortunately there is sufficient variety and detail in the pictures to sustain interest and the information contained in them is vital to the game, as there is very little accompanying text.
Unlike most adventures, Lords of Midnight is not played with pseudo-English commands but with a keyboard overlay setting out your options. In certain circumstances the CHOOSE option will provide a menu of further decisions, such as initiating a battle or recruiting men. Those decisions depend on the qualities of individual characters; if a commander is very frightened, he will be less likely to consider joining a battle. Likewise, movement is determined by terrain and physical stamina. The system of menus may appear slightly confusing at first but rapidly becomes easy to use and the response time is excellent, with pictures generated almost instantaneously.
There are two distinct types of game combined in Lord of Midnight. First, there is a quest, as Luxor's son Morkin is set the task of travelling into the heart of the realm of Doomdark to seize and destroy the ice-crown, the source of all evil power. Only Morkin is pure and bold enough to do that.
Second, Luxor and his armies must attempt to conquer Doomdark militarily, or at least prevent the enemy capturing the key citadel of Xajorkith. Thus the game can be played either as a war game or as a quest but both elements affect each other, for the war may distract Doomdark's armies from Morkin, and the closer Morkin gets to success, the less Doomdark can direct his ice-fear against Luxor's armies.
If you love fantasy and wish to immerse yourself in a genuine tale of epic adventure, Lords of Midnight will provide as authentic a taste of Tolkien or Donaldson as any game yet produced.
|LORDS OF MIDNIGHT||Memory: 48K||Price: £9.95||Gilbert Factor: 9|
BEFORE common churls such as French peasants and Spectrum owners are allowed to become knights, they have to win their spurs. In olden days the process involved all kinds of unpleasant rituals and ordeals but technology has changed all that. Today all you have to do is beat Cavelon, a new release from Ocean Software.
Cavelon is a near replica of the arcade game produced by Ocean under licence, in common with many of that company's products. The object is to guide an apprentice knight through a series of mazes to rescue a fair damsel from the clutches of an evil wizard. There are five mazes to traverse and a final shootout with the evil wizard who has a supply of fireballs for the express purpose of incinerating cocky young would-be knights.
Cavelon is not a sophisticated game relying on a proven arcade success and general playability rather than originality of concept or majestic programming, but it is certainly fun.
|CAVELON||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.90||Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Protek||Gilbert Factor: 7|
WIMBLEDON has gone and strawberries are out of season but the Psion Match Point tennis game for the 48K Spectrum will be popular all the year round.
The simulation has more than the classic quality and style of Chequered Flag, the Psion racing game, and provides some of the most spectacular graphics for the Spectrum.
The screen display shows Centre Court at Wimbledon. The panorama provides a view of the net, umpire, crowds moving their heads, and even the benches on which the players sit after a game.
You can play either a quarter-final or semi-final if you are inexperienced, or a final if you want to be thrashed soundly by the other player. If you have no human friend with whom you can play, the computer will always be on hand for a game.
When you start to play you may have difficulty distinguishing between the ball and its shadow. Once you have played a few games, however, the effect falls into place and adds a three-dimensional quality to the game. The shadow of the ball is the only unrealistic feature of the display as, in real life, the players cast the shadows and not the ball.
Psion can be forgiven for introducing the shadow, as the game outclasses most other sports programs for the computer. Unlike most of the other games available it can be described as a true simulation.
It is a game for all the family and not only for the sports enthusiast. Although it does not replace the real thing it is a worthwhile program, as it is a simulation which provides an exhibition mode which you can sit and watch while two computer-generated players go through the motions. It might even teach the beginner something about the skills required in the game.
|MATCH POINT||Memory: 48K||Price: £7.95||Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston, Cursor||Gilbert Factor: 9|
YOU MAY THINK there are sufficient chess programs on the market, not to mention 3D Noughts and Crosses. We tend to agree but so far as we know nobody has yet offered four games of skill and strategy under a single heading.
Mind Games from Oasis Software does just that. For an admittedly high price you receive two cassettes containing Chess, Backgammon, Draughts and 3D Noughts and Crosses. Oasis calls the latter Invader Cube in the documentation but the Spectrum knows better and prints 3D-OXO on the screen, so you know where you are.
The Chess program is a version of the successful Dragon Chess implementation. It is not the fastest chess program available but plays a strong game at three levels, with facilities to save games, swap positions, take back four moves, and alter the Spectrum playing style from strategic to tactical.
Backgammon is possibly the weakest of the quartet, not on account of the computer skill level, which played a safe if stolid game, but because of slow response times. That is mainly due to pretty graphics of the dice and the pieces moving but takes so long that such refinements should have been sacrificed to the requirements of speed.
Backgammon is a very fast-moving board game, unlike chess and draughts in that respect, and deserves a correspondingly fast program, or much of the pleasure is lost.
The programs are good value if you do not already have them in your collection and would certainly make a good buy for any newcomer.
|MIND GAMES||Memory: 48K||Price: £14.95||Gilbert Factor: 7|
WHEN is chess not quite chess? When it is the Artic Death Chess 5000. Purists will shudder to hear that Artic has produced a chess-playing program in which the result of piece taking piece is decided by an arcade action sequence and not by the immutable laws of the game.
The program consists of two main options. The first is to play a normal chess game with the standard rules. Both castling and en passant moves are acceptable. There are seven levels of play.
Pieces are moved by entering the usual number/letter grid references. Invalid moves will not be permitted and if you are confused the computer will suggest a move.
Choose the death chess option and you are in for a shock. In that mode any attempt to take a piece, by either side, shifts the action to an arcade-style battlefield. There are six settings depending on what pieces are involved. Those are over quickly and swift reactions are needed to win.
|DEATH CHESS 5000||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 7|
WHY any self-respecting pilot should want to fly a jet fighter at high speed through a built-up area a mere 10 or so feet from the ground is difficult to understand but that is the premise behind TLL from Vortex Software.
You are the idiot who has opted for the mission, of course, and your aircraft is the Tornado. You have to take off from a runway and seek six enemy targets represented by small discs. Unfortunately for your health the only way to destroy the targets is to skim above them, thus putting you in the embarrassing situation of risking collision with trees or telegraph poles.
Vortex claims to have produced the best-ever graphics. Such claims should be disregarded on principle but the picture of the town in which the game takes place is beautifully detailed in quasi-3D perspective; the representations of the buildings solid and attractive; and the screen scrolling is absolutely smooth and flicker-free.
The Tornado is less impressive but casts a shadow on the ground which, while irritating at first, becomes very useful as a guide to your altitude and precise position.
There is the mandatory display of fuel gauge, altimeter, time elapsed and so on, as well as a map of the playing area and a small outline of your position and any targets or solid objects nearby.
Because the graphics are so highly-developed, the operating system for the Tornado is simple and cannot be described as a simulation. You cannot accelerate or decelerate except by changing the attitude of your swing wings, and take-off and landing is a matter of pressing the appropriate button at the proper time, although obtaining a good approach to the runway for landing is more difficult.
Fuel is limited and there is usually only sufficient time to destroy two targets at most before being forced to land and refuel.
It all adds up to an exciting game, requiring fast reflexes and cool nerve, and if you think you are made of the right stuff, try flying under the telephone lines without panicking. TLL is no picnic.
|TLL||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: Sinclair||Gilbert Factor: 8|
STRATEGY GAMES are rarely programmed to the same standard as arcade games but the new Quicksilva release, Gatecrasher, combines an elegant concept with slick graphics. In the game you must drop barrels - they look more like marbles on the screen - down a maze and attempt to fill nine boxes at the bottom of the screen. The maze contains a number of flip-flop baffles which deflect the barrels along different paths. Each time a barrel hits a flip-flop the flip-flop reverses, so that the next barrel will be sent in a different direction.
At later levels you must not only fill all the boxes but also arrange them in the correct order. Each one is numbered and dropping a barrel in a box will swop its number with the one to the right. Since you have only 20 barrels you must plan carefully to complete the task.
Gatecrasher is extremely challenging and a welcome break from alien-bashing.
|GATECRASHER||Memory: 48K||Price: £6.95||Joystick: Kempston||Gilbert Factor: 7|
MICROMANIA has raided the zoo again for ideas for its new game Kosmic Kanga. In it you control a Kangaroo, that moves along a scrolling landscape. By controlling the height of its bounces you can pick up objects and points, and try to avoid low-flying planes and ducks. To help you in that you can throw the traditional kangaroo boxing gloves at them.
The action is smooth and all the sprites large and colourful. Controlling the kangaroo is rather haphazard and consequently zapping anything becomes a matter of luck as well as skill. When the sprites meet the colours clash very badly. Of 11 screens eight are the same with different sprites for variety.
All in all the game holds your attention for an hour or so but after that the interest wanes. There are many arcade games for the Spectrum, some good and some bad. At best this one is average. Nice graphics, shame about the game.
|KOSMIC KANGA||Memory: 48K||Price: £5.95||Joystick: AGF, Protek, Kempston, Sinclair||Gilbert Factor: 5|