In the UK the miners' strike continues, with protesting miners clashing with police near Sheffield. In news elsewhere, Moscow announce that the USSR will be boycotting the US Olympics.
In the pop charts there's a top 3 fight still going on:
Though little do they know, there's a pop superstar emerging ready to usurp their lofty position...
Meanwhile in the reviews section, Crash are raving over "Jet Set F****** Willy":
...With Trashman narrowly missing out on a Crash Smash (booo..!).
OK, so on to the tape.
Once again, we begin with a nice ATTR- and FLASH-based loading screen. For authenticity purposes I decided to turn off flash loading in my emulator this month, but it was still quick to load without the screechy-pixels of 16384 to 22527. Apologies to you hex types out there, I'm a decimal (or is that denary?) sort of guy.
Surprised to see no scrolly menu effects or custom typeface on the intro page this month, though it still has descriptions of each program available. I decided to avoid spoilers, and move straight onto the first offering, which, if we've learned anything from history, will be a BASIC arcade game.
By Scott Grant and Arnaud Robin
Hmmmm, I wonder what this could be....
I was slightly surprised when I saw "Bytes: Crazy" but as expected it's a well-programmed, half-decent-but-not-spectacular BASIC offering. Yep, it's a take on the arcade classic, where our hero is trying to rescue... what looks like a tree:
...(he's clearly PINE-ing for her).
Once again, I feel it's my duty to point out the little touches which make this game quite impressive for a BASIC game.
- animated lives counter
- animated Kong
- ability to jump forwards slightly when jumping over the barrels
- different typeface
- the quirky animation of the main UDG
Oh, and you get a nice bit of gore when you get splatted by a barrel...
One slightly 'non-conformist' feature is a decreasing 'food' counter (eh??), I guess to make the game a bit harder; the barrels seem to fall randomly, meaning I was getting a bit twitchy when you get near their entry point, though I later broke into the program to find they're stored in an array, so perhaps they're not all that random.
Once you reach your piney friend (the top platform level is fairly redundant other than a food drain), Kong whisks her off again and you have to repeat the climb again. I didn't notice any changes to the gameplay between levels, so after a few goes, I quit and moved on.
A random thought that occurred to me was that you could make a modern-day Kong-based game, using a combination of augmented reality and Fitbit style technology, with the number of floors, steps etc. essentially being your score. Though I suspect something similar has been done already.
Though if it hasn't, then by this post I'm claiming the idea, and will only sell the IP (internet protocol) for:
- a packet of pickled onion monster munch (or 2x roast beef)
- a penguin biscuit, with the original foil-y wrapping (or two taxis)
- a wagon wheel (original size)
From Alan Pywell, Matlock, Derbyshire.
Eh? Oh, essentially just a letter printed in a 64-character-wide screen. Crikey, it definitely reads at first glance like a Points of View complaint by 'dishevelled in Devon' (or whoever).. This one's a real 'dooooozy':
Cripes, I dread to think what they would have made of late 80s Crash and SU mags... Well you can see where this is going, basically saying 16/48 is actually all right. The letter author continues with:
"May I offer my services as a reviewer? I am 'into' adventures"
...before finishing with:
"Your adventure, though enjoyable, suffers from shortage of memory (and uneconomical writing!), which brings me to my last point... Dare I suggest that you stop the painful constriction of making every item 16k compatible - please include the odd 48k-only item. There are many more 48k machines around - it is my contention that anyone who buys a magazine with 16k (or less) is not serious about computing but is probably an arcade game freak - there are plenty of magazines around for these people already."
To be fair, the author does make the point of wanting to be brutally honest with reviews and provoking 'an interchange of opinions', and the letter was possibly the most entertaining one so far.
...After which statement, pedantic and eagle-eyed Morkin spotted:
Right then - next, we've got:
Ooh, it's another letter... I assume it's from errr... 'Cedric'. This one is a fairly balanced review, saying what they did and didn't like about the magazine.
Though I did emit a small chortle at:
The author also has a 'snazzy' BASIC CLS routine which is free to use, though it's a relatively unexciting BASIC effect TBH. So much so that I'm not even going to be bothered to show you what it does (sorry not sorry).
So actually the letter was from a Mike Barrett. So who is Cedric? Apparently Cedric 'sends his regards'. What's more, he's written a 'light-hearted game' called 'Gimmic', so I'll have a go...
...OK, I'm not going to even try to describe what just happened. I don't think any words can do it justice. Feel free to have a go if you're game...
Let's see what we have next.
First of all we're told "several people wrote in to point out errata in "elements" from issue 3", namely:
- Argon should be Ar, not A
- Thallium and Beryllium were spelled incorrectly
- Radon was missing (although the magazine claims that this was deliberate)
The editorial then fastidiously lists the required corrections needed for the original program (I wonder how many of the correspondents bothered with these). We're also told that the promised educational software review and space game are on their way in future issues, and the editor hopes they haven't "disappointed too many readers".
I confess that I was a little bit disappointed... But only at the prospect of having to wade through a review of educational software in a future issue.
Talking of which, we're given prior warning of this issue's forthcoming educational program. Impressively it's from an 11 year old, Simon Rigden, and y'know what..? It's not bad (and it's coming up shortly).
Finally there's a call for educational programs in one of two categories: Humanities (& languages) or Science (& maths). Having seen quite a few of the latter over the previous issues, it would be nice (to an extent) to see something of the former.
Just nothing on either crop rotation or the industrial revolution please, 16/48. Thank you!
I was fairly glad of the earlier warning, otherwise I might have thought (despite knowledge of previous issues) that this was going to be an arcade game.
So basically this is "Math(s) against the clock". tl;dr - you have to build a bridge by doing sums very quickly.
Without pandering to the author's youthful age, I can honestly say that this was probably one of the best of the educational offerings so far - a simple game but relatively fun. The keys are responsive and the difficulty increases as your 'chaser' gradually speeds up. It reminds me of that 'Crusher' game on the Cassette 50 tape.
I did wonder what happened to Simon? Did he reach career heights after being one of that 'generation who could code'... Or maybe his dad wrote the program and passed it off as his son's work to try to get £50 ("Don't be so cynical" - Ed).
Next on the tape:
THE QUILL - REVIEW
I assume I don't have to say much about this. The Quill was a fantastic utility which enabled non-programmers to create adventure games, all they needed to do was harness the power of their imagination.
As mentioned in the review, you could even publish your adventure commercially, with Gilsoft allowing this and asking for "only a credit within the game, which is a very reasonable request indeed".
The review explains how the software works, and provides a few tips for planning the structure of the adventure (map, verbs, puzzles etc.).
At the end of the (naturally glowing) review, we have this:
*I think that should be 'Gilberts' by the way
And here it is.... No "Long Way Home" this month.
We're given instructions on the loading screen and like a lot of Quill offerings it's a proper sword & sorcery affair:
Basically I've got 160 moves (gah! time limit) to recover the ORB and SCROLL.
I vaguely recall the existence of this adventure but don't remember completing it or it being on this tape, so was fairly intrigued. One slight disappointment that with the Illustrator in the pipeline, this week's adventure would obviously be devoid of some clean but pretty graphics, so the screenshots in this one are a bit crap. At least text parsing would be a bit quicker.
I guess there were some limits with the 16k memory, but the location descriptions aren't particularly... errr... descriptive with this one:
One of the things I remembered about Quill adventure that as well as a score you can type TURN to see how many turns you've taken. Harshly, typing TURN actually takes a turn, so given the turn limit you're probably better off just keeping your own count..
After a while, I was hit with a double-whammy of classic adventure bugbears...
<sigh>. Well, I'm going to have to give this one a fair try, as I wanted to keep up my 100% 16/48 adventure completion record. Just for proof of my commitment to the cause, I made a semi-proper map:
It turns out that this adventure contains yet another of my pet hates as well, the dreaded MAZE, though after a couple of miserable attempts at mapping, I realised that the HELP command was fairly useful at hinting at where you should go.
After a small amount of pain and a couple of snapshots, I managed it. Woohoo..!
Barring turns limit and thirst issues, I thought the game was fairly solveable (soluble?), if a bit uninspiring, and I managed it without a walkthrough.
Finding the ORB had me stuck briefly because the actions required seemed a bit bizarre/random, but there were no occasions of 'guess the ridiculous synonym' this time. There are also a couple of intriguing objects that are actually red herrings in the game, which had me foxed for a bit.
Onto Side 2..!
OF DUNGEONS AND GREEN MEN
Baz is here (apparently standing in for 'Yaz' this month), once again to hopefully save you from "death, destruction, and an overheated Spectrum"...
This month we've got tips for... The Long Way Home...! Must be a slow news day... One good thing is that it means I can check if I've missed anything from the previous episode.
It also apparently includes help for this month's adventure as well, but when we click on it we get:
Thanks Baz. No, really.
OK, think it's safe to move on now...
Written by S.Bartelski (in 1983 apparently)
Again, I have faint memories of playing this and thinking it wasn't too bad for a puzzle game. So let's have a go.
In this game you can play as the hunter or the monkey. Depending on your choice you have to trap, by cutting down trees, or avoid being trapped in a treeless wasteland.
One nice feature is that there is a demo mode, I got a bit bored watching it after a while but not a bad effort to get some decent AI in a BASIC game.
My first reaction was 'surely it's impossible to win as the monkey??', before realising that there's a turn limit for the hunter, who feels guilty after chopping down a certain number of trees and stops, despite the fact that the aim is to chop trees down to catch a monkey. So I managed to survive.
I suppose without the turn limit the game could have been an environmental statement about our failure to respect and preserve our planet's natural resources, reflecting a depressing message about the futility of life for our poor primates.
Having said that, there was an ape chucking barrels at me earlier in the tape so I felt obliged to have a go as the hunter...
After a single (successful) go controlling each kind of primate, I decided to move on, at which point the program politely declared "It was nice playing with you", which was a nice touch considering the violent carnage of the game's subject matter.
Review by James Dann
This is a review of British Micro's Grafpad, apparently a powerful new contender for (last month's) Melbourne Draw.
Grafpad is one of those stylus pads which I always thought looked cool in the adverts, letting you get 'hands-on' with your graphic design. At an eye-watering £125 + VAT it was probably a bit of a pipe dream for most young Speccy users back then. A familiar-sounding name pops up as a credit for the software behind it:
We're given some details about the physical tablet such as its dimensions and weight (jeez...), and the review author shares a few of its main graphic features - window, fill, magnification, storage etc.
As interesting as all these features may have been to 1980s Morkin, I found myself paging through the slightly dull text. After all, "the proof is in the pudding", right? Let's see some pics then.
Here's the first, from Jon Ritman himself. Took 30 minutes apparently, "but then he did write the software":
And the second, by the review author:
To sum up, the device "is, and probably always will be, the ultimate tool for graphic design on the Spectrum".
<cynic mode>I'll expect a couple to be appearing as prizes over the next month or two.</cynic mode>
Next, we have:
"REM statements revealed!"
Another programming article, on how the REM statements in the 16/48 programs hold code for various small routines (scrolling, sounds, character sets).
The program explains how to use each of these diferent effects in your own BASIC programs, using REM lines and the appropriate RANDOMIZE USR to call it.
Whilst 80s Morkin might have been interested in incorporating these routines into his 80s BASIC games, part of me was half-expecting to see an introduction to the assembly/machine code in the routines themselves. It got me wondering whether the program authors weren't proficient enough in assembly to do so, or perhaps it was considered too difficult/advanced to attempt to cover in a tape magazine like this. Perhaps we'll never know.
Prefaced by a letter from the author, Bob Evans, New Milton, Hampshire, writing to introduce his game.
It's a car racing game for two players. Once again, I'm forced to play with myself ('fnar' etc.), but it's not a simultaneous thing.
Basically you've got a vertically scrolling track to drive down:
Despite having shades of "Cassette 50" about it, in 16/48's tradition there's a nice addition, namely that each player gets to create their own track for both players to race. I guess this could have been further enhanced by a variety of track width but hey, no biggie.
I had a couple of goes - the game's scrolling makes the UDGs a bit jerky and I found the collision detection a bit ropey at times, but overall not a bad little game. Probably would have been quite a nice 'parent/young child' activity perhaps. Who knows. All I know is that it didn't leave me in as much as a gibbering mess as that flippin' Rally Driver competition...
Anyway I couldn't actually complete my own tracks because they were too hard/I was too crap, so I made a straight one, just to see what happened at the end
That's that then. On to the final program on the tape...
Oh, flippin' 'eck...
At first I thought I was going to have to create a bunch of entries ("nothing says 'fun' like data entry, kids!") but it turns out there's a load already stored in the program.
So initially I was amused at the concept, but then again, who would have had these sort of lists to hand 35 years ago? Perhaps it would have saved someone a bit of time or a trip to their local library, as the program data includes a half-decent number of Speccy-related books.
...Ah, good old nostalgia, eh? You can't beat it. I was pleased to see a few books that I either owned 'back in the day' or bought off eBay in recent years to learn assembly.
Well, that's it for this month. It felt a bit less 'educational-y' this month, which was nice, and I obviously liked the ape theme that ran through the entire tape. OK, so I may have made that up. Maybe it was a pine theme. With the Long Way Home hiatus, it felt like there wasn't a stand-out game this month - the adventure was OK but being in the early days of the Quill and with the 16k limitation, fairly bog standard.
...Anyway... I could be wrong but I think this may have been the last of the tapes that I actually loaded up back in the 80s. So next month may be new territory. We'll just have to wait and see...