by David Aubrey-Jones, David Crane, Michael C. Gross
Activision Inc
Crash Issue 13, Feb 1985   page(s) 110,111

Producer: Activision
Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £9.99
Language: Machine code
Author: David Crane

It's doubtful that anyone can have missed the film Ghostbusters over Christmas, so the background to this game from Activision needs little explanation. The Spectrum release of Ghostbusters has been completely overshadowed by the CBM 64 release which was timed to be on sale before the film even opened in December. And most of the fuss over the game has been occasioned by the CBM 64 version with its super soundtrack. The Spectrum version also uses the Ghostbusters theme, but somewhat less successfully of course.

Ghostbusters is more of a strategy game than an arcade game, based on the idea of running a Ghostbusters Franchise to clean up the city of paranormal manifestations. To begin your franchise you need to enter your name and account number if you have one (being carried over from a previous game). If you haven't got an account number the computer will allocate you a starting sum of $10,000. Next you must select one of four vehicles which have various capacities for carrying ghostbusting equipment and speeds, and of course they each cost more than the last. Having purchased a vehicle, the next step is to equip it. Monitoring equipment includes the PK Energy Detector, Image Intensifier and Marshmallow Sensor. Capture Equipment includes Ghost Bait, Ghost Traps and the Ghost Vacuum. Storage Equipment includes the Portable Laser Confinement System. All these items have their own prices and the starting sum will not allow you buy lots of everything, so game experience is valuable in making these decisions, and the equipment has important functions. The PK energy detector warns of approaching Slimers; image intensifiers make slimers easier to see when trying to catch them; the marshmallow sensor warns of the dread Marshmallow Man; ghost vacuums suck up roamers; ghost trap traps catch and store slimers once the bait has attracted them; and the portable laser confinement system holds up to ten slimers in the vehicle, thus saving you trips back to GHQ.

The game proper begins with a map of central New York with Zuul's Temple marked in the centre and GHQ at the bottom. Red flashing buildings indicate the presence of ghosts. The object is to cleanse the buildings and suck up roamers which are trying to make their way to the Temple of Zuul. From the map, a route may be selected and then the screen cuts to an overhead view of your vehicle on the road. Roamers can be sucked up by pressing the vacuum button at the right moment. On arriving at the building, the screen cuts again to a side view of the building, and you can see your Ghostbusters at its base. Traps must be laid and then the two busters turn on their negative ioniser packs and aim the beams to trap the ghost between, without letting the beams cross over - very important that.

The more ghosts you capture the higher your credit rating goes. The game ends when the Gatekeeper and Keymaster join forces at the Temple of Zuul in which case you will not have earned more money that you started with, or you do have sufficient credit but fail to sneak two Ghostbusters into the entrance of Zuul, or the same thing but you do succeed in getting them in.


Control keys: Q/A up/down, O/P left/right and Z to fire
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair 2, Protek, AGF
Keyboard play: fairly responsive
Use of colour: well used on the map screen especially
Graphics: above average to good
Sound: good tune, though a little flat, otherwise not much during play
Skill levels: 1
Lives: N/A

This game was released to coincide with the feature film. Seeing the earlier CBM 64 version before it an easy comparison can be made. Obviously the CBM has got better looking graphics and sound than the Spectrum. I take the pleasure to say that the graphics are no different on the Spectrum version whatsoever, although the sound track on the Commodore version really did give it a nice playable rhythm as continued throughout the game. The Spectrum version does have sound and the Ghostbusters theme at the beginning of the game, but this is all really. Oddly enough because there is no sound or, should I say, no synthesised continuous tune the game definitely seems to lack something. This does go to show that the game itself lacks distinctly in content. More often than not there seems to be little to do. While trying to catch a slimer with a trap I found that a slimer was too lively to be able to be caught and also it tended to wander too much to one side of the screen and not to use the entire playing area. Several people that I know were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Ghostbusters Spectrum version. I have the sad news to inform them that this game is not up to scratch and won't have any real lasting appeal, and at the price is a total rip-off.

After hearing a lot about the Ghostbusters film l couldn't wait to get my hands on a Spectrum version. After seeing the £10 price tag I was expecting something as good as the film, unfortunately this was not the case. On the whole the game tended to lack atmosphere, this was possibly due to the distinct lack of sound. The game was generally unexciting and the tasks rather uninspiring. After managing to bust a slimer I was unable to return to the street scene map, my efforts still proved fruitless after several attempts. On the whole I felt that the game was bad value for money and lacked addictive qualities. The graphics were acceptable but I've seen much better for much less. Basically it just left me cold.

Ghostbusters for the Spectrum is bound to be compared with the CBM 64 version which is a bit unfair because the thing that made the Commodore version was the sound, which as we all know cannot be reproduced well on the Spectrum, though what is there isn't bad for a one channel speaker. The graphics are quite good but everything is just a trifle slow for me. Ghostbusters isn't that addictive because it's slow starting up, also I don't know whether our version was bugged but when you caught a slimer, the only thing you could do was start the game over from the beginning again. Overall Ghostbusters has been a disappointment.

Use of Computer: 78%
Graphics: 72%
Playability: 60%
Getting Started: 69%
Addictive Qualities: 48%
Value for Money: 31%
Overall: 60%

Summary: General Rating: Average quality but boring and poor value for money.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 10, Oct 1986   page(s) 76,77


When there's something strange - in your microchips (Tum, tum, tum). Who you gonna call? (All together now...) Your Sinclair!

I feel haunted. Will they never go away? The Activision money-spinner of 18 months ago returns for a re-run and the excuse for its ectoplasmic re-emergence is the expansion of Noo York to 128K.

I never actually played the original (too young for such scary stuff, my parents said) nor even saw the film (not scary enough, said I - gimme Texas Chainsaw Toolbox Killer anyday), so I came to this fresh.

I do remember that it debuted on that haunted house of horrors, the Commodore though, and that it was highly praised for its music. Further dredging back through the files and I see that reactions to the Spectrum version were subdued... as was the soundtrack.

But all that's been put right. As the game opens there's a rousing cry of 'Ghostbusters!' (and I could actually understand this - most impressive) and then the Ray Parker Jnr hit rings out (complete with bouncing ball guide to sing-along lyrics) and continues throughout the action - very jaunty.

I made my initial selection of ghostbustin' goodies and an auto to carry them. With spondulicks severely limited I was strapped for cash, but no worse than during my twice yearly search of the sales, so it was stock up with ghost bait and traps, image intensifies and marshmallow sensors.

Properly equipped, it's out onto the streets, and pretty soon the Floater ghosts are coming into the Big Apple from all corners. Running round paralyses them in mid path to the Temple of Zuul, then it's off to the nearest haunted house, which flashes red, indicating a Slimer's slimey presence.

Before you get stuck in there you need to hoover up the hovering Floaters though. Providing you invested in a Ghost Vacuum, this is a simple task, merely sliding your Ghost-mobile from lane to lane as the ghosts descend. A simple suck em up, really, though you may get a migraine from the graphics which make your car look like it's going through a bacon slicer.

Now to spring a Slimer for real. Arriving outside the infected building, you'll find the evil critter floating around. Drop the trap centre screen, position your Ghostbustin' buddies, one either side, and let go with the ionizer streams to pen it in above the trap. Pow! - you gotcha self a ghost.

The idea is to collect enough of these creepies, for which you are paid handsomely, to raise your bank balance until you can afford a face-to-face confrontation with the Marshmallow Man (yummy) in a terrifying confrontation which has you creeping-into-the-crypt... or the Temple of Zuul, at least.

Ghostbusters is a fun game combining strategy with simple but novel arcade interludes. It does suffer from some graphical shortcomings and may not be all that addictive. Still, it's old enough for many people not to have a copy, so if you were a fan of the film go grab a (128K) ghoulie.

Graphics: 7/10
Playability: 8/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Overall: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 12, Mar 1985   page(s) 36,37


What better way to guarantee a successful software package than to wait until the film, book and T-shirt have all 'gone down a storm', before wading in with your own product while the market's still eager. When Ghostbusters - the movie - began it's successful sweep of this country, Activision launced a version of the eponymous computer game for the CBM 64. Now, after the 'Ghostbusting' thrill has died down a bit, the Spectrum version of the game has appeared - but, as Ross Holman and Dave Nichools are unhappy to report, it just hasn't got the panache of the CMB version. Messrs Holman and Nicholls draw their paranormal conclusions...

You're shown an area of New York on-screen, that seems to be positively teaming with ghosts... and their fate's in your hands. Buildings on the map that flash red denote the presence of a Slimer; at this point, it's your task to steer the Ghostbuster's symbol to the scene of the psychic disturbance. The longer you take to reach your destination, the longer you spend driving the car in the next sequence of the game. If all goes quiet in the buildings, you can opt to do a bit of spring-cleaning and vacuum up a few of the ghosts floating around. However, you must stay alert for the 'Marshmallow Man' warning and quickly drop some Ghost Bait; if you manage to avert the danger, the Mayor will give you that S2,000 reward.

Dave: Hit
Ross: Hit
Roger: Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 36, Mar 1985   page(s) 36

Memory: 48K
Price: £9.99
Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston, Cursor

The spirits of Christmas just passed may not have had the pleasure of the spectres from Ghostbusters in December due to a late release. The ghouls have, however, finally arrived and the results of programmer David Crane's hard work are likely to pay off as it is tipped for the bestseller charts.

The game has three phases each of which includes travelling around a city capturing ghosts with the equipment bought by you with a bank loan at the start of the game.

You can also select your mode of transport, which can be anything from a compact or 1963 hearse to a high performance car which costs $15,000.

As you travel around the city map ghosts will float onto the screen and possess buildings which turn red when inhabited. Your aim is get into those buildings to catch the ghosts while running over and immobilising any spectres which you might find on the way.

When you arrive at the distressed building you must drop your trap and coax the itinerant ghoulie into the path of a mechanical arm which takes a grab at it.

At any point a Marshmallow Alert may sound and you will have to press the 'B' key to trap the mallow before it marshes all over the buildings. If he escapes from your trap then the city and your score will suffer.

Scaring, sorry, scoring, is achieved in two ways. You will gain $100 for every ghost that you catch. If you attract a Marshmallowman, however, the mayor of the city will give you $2000 for your trouble.

The game draws to its conclusion when the ultimate baddies arrive at the Temple of Zuul at the centre of the screen. If you have enough dollars you can take part in the final conflict, perhaps win the game, and gain access to a secret pass number which will give you access to any other Ghostbusters game in the universe.

The game is not much to shout about but cannot be damned just because it emulates the plot of a film and contains nothing new. One of the more interesting features of the game is the soundtrack, coupled with a nifty voice synthesiser which insists on shouting 'Ghostbusters' and 'Behind you' in a passable imitation of Ray Parker Junior's strangled wheeze.

Gilbert Factor: 7/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 54, Sep 1986   page(s) 56

Label: Activision
Author: David Crane
Price: £9.95
Memory: 128K
Joystick: Various
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

Ghostbusters again. Impossible but true. The final version (Activision promises) of the hottest title of yesteryear is out about now - for the Spectrum 128.

For me, Ghostbusters was never a game, always a title screen. When the C64 version first turned up nobody could believe the music, it was funky. I watched those opening credits over and over again as the little dot bounced over the words to the song. The game I could always do without. For obvious reasons the Spectrum version was a bit of a let down.

On the Spectrum 128 things are different. Back comes the bouncing blob, the words, and yes, FUNKY MUSIC. The three-channel sound chip squeaks its little heart out and it's good, not brilliant but good. You could even dance to it.

The game is the same as ever - broadly a management style activity with arcade side effects. Equip your ghostbusting mobile, check the map for ghost activity, trap the ghosts and earn money for more car gear. No change in the way objects gleefully change colour, the graphics still look a bit unprofessional and I always though the plot was pretty tedious anyway.

For those who have the 128 this game probably shows off its new improved sound abilities a well as, if not better than, anything else. The game itself is no better than a budget title, so at least two of the stars are for the soundtrack and that bouncing blob.

Overall: 3/5

Summary: Sounds great, looks very average. Best seen as a demo of the 128s sound chip. As such it's expensive.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 42, Apr 1985   page(s) 31

MACHINE: Spectrum/keyboard or joystick
SUPPLIER: Activision
PRICE: £9.99

At last! Those crazy ghost hunters have made it onto the Spectrum and the game is bound to be just as big among Sinclair owners as it has been among those you lucky enough to have a 64.

The game follows the Commodore format faithfully - even down to a brave attempt at speech synthesis.

The game features three screens. The city screen which shows which buildings are haunted, thedriving screen in which you pilot your ghostbusting vehicle to the haunted place - sucking up roaming spirits along the way - a finally the ghost-busting screen where you have to help your team of ghost hunters actually catch a ghost.

Before you get to the action, however, you must pick a mode of transport and load it up with ghostbusting gear using the cash loaned to you by the bank.

If you've seen the film you'll know just what to do anyhow!

The game also features the nasty Marshmallow Man who appears from time to time and stomps on buildings - unless you can drop some bait to trap him and earn a big bonus from the city mayor!

If you manage to earn enough cash, you'll get a crack at closing the spirit gates at the evil Temple of Zuul - the source of all the ghosts. You also get a Ghostbusters account number - which means you can play the game on any Spectrum anywhere in the world. If you want to that is!

Graphics are good and the sound isn't bad either - and most importantly you'll have fun playing the game. Ghostbusters is simply great value! It is already available for the Commodore 64 (C&VG, January) and should soon be available for the Amstrad.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 9/10
Playability: 9/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair Programs Issue 29, Mar 1985   page(s) 17

PRICE: £9.99

Surely no program can have achieved as much popularity before its launch as has Ghostbusters. Three weeks before its launch it was already in the top ten of one computer magazine. Even Sinclair Programs readers were naming it as their favourite game before it went on sale.

Sadly, this enthusiasm is misplaced. Much of the appeal of the film on which the game was based lay in its humour and its use of sound. The game follows the plot of the film faithfully without ever catching its mood.

The first stage of the game involves collecting your ghost busting equipment. This could be done quickly and simply, but instead you have to manoeuvre a fork lift truck to collect items. A slow way of covering one of the less interesting parts of the game.

Despite a rousing, if rather tinny, version of the Ghostbusters theme before the game begins, the game continues in stony silence. An exception to this is the occasional use of speech, created without any hardware add-ons. A clever effect, but a more lively use of sound throughout the game would have been better.

The game involves catching some ghosts, and preventing others from reaching the Temple of Zuul. Success will lead to fat profits for your ghost busting business which are essential to your success in the game. Eventually you must make your way to the Temple of Zuul, sneak in, and make your way to the entrance at the top of the temple.

Ghostbusters is a straightforward game with little to recommend it. It is produced by Activision, 15 Harley House, Marylebone Road, Regents Park, London NW1.

Rating: 40%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 19, Jun 1985   page(s) 32


Having heard the record and seen the film, you can now play the game, courtesy of Activision. This is the game everybody has been shouting about on the Commodore (not that word again) and the same scenario is present on the Spectrum version.

The game starts with you being granted a franchise to rid the city of ghouls, and to set you on your way the bank is lending the hefty sum of $10,000. Instead of retiring there and then, you have to purchase various items to help you achieve fame, fortune and rid the city of all these evil spirits.

There are three screens where you select all your equipment, from transport to the intricate ghostbusting traps. Having loaded up your vehicle, a map of the city appears and all the places that are having trouble with the fiendish ghouls flash red, and once at these haunted venues, GHOSTBUSTING can begin.

Whilst traveling around the map, if you should pass over a Roamer (a wandering ghost), he is frozen and can be vacuumed up just before you arrive at the haunted venue. After directing the Slimer (technical term for ghost) into the trap and capturing him, it's onto the next one folks, before the energy from all the ghosts gets too large or the centre spot of the city, the Temple of Zuul is reached by the Gatekeeper and Keymaster.

A marshmallow alert can happen at any time, where all the Roamers will quickly join forces to form the Marshmallow Man. A dollop of bait must be immediately dropped to prevent him crushing any buildings. The game will end if you can sneak two Ghostbusters into the Temple of Zuul, but be prepared as this can take time while the forces of the spirit world join up to turn the city into mayhem.

Although this game does not create the same atmosphere as the film, it is quite fun to play, but I can see it at the bottom of my tape rack after a few months. Putting all this aside the speech synthesis and theme music of GHOSTBUSTERS at the beginning of the game should even put Ray Parker Junior to shame.

Instructions: 95%
Presentation: 80%
Addictability: 75%
Value For Money: 70%
ZXC Factor: 6/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue 30, Oct 1986   page(s) 36

Spectrum 128K

Who you goin' to call? - GHOSTBUSTERS! Not exactly a haunting tune but rather one more likely to give you nightmares as you find that you can't get it out of your brain. Now, the game of the film has been released in an enhanced version for the Spectrum 128. The added features include better music and graphics but the game remains the same.

For anyone who has been away for the last couple of years and doesn't know the storyline, New York is suffering from an invasion of ghosties, ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. You are setting up a franchise to make as much money as you can by catching ghosts and stopping them reaching the Temple of Zuul where the climax of the game takes place. First, you must buy and equip your car. There are four basic models to choose from with speed and amount of equipment that can be carried increasing with price. The bits and pieces that you can buy include ghost vacuums and traps, image intensifies and marshmallow sensors.

Having equipped your vehicle, you must then drive round the streets catching "roamers" and stopping in front of buildings where a slimer is present. By careful positioning of your men, you must manoeuvre the slimer using your negative Ioniser backpacks above the trap you have laid and then bingo! Your credit rating starts to increase. Failure to accomplish the task results in the immortal phrase "He slimed me" (some dodgy voice synthesis here) as your man gets covered in a dose of ectoplasm.

Despite the vast amount of hype that preceded this game on its initial release and despite the fact that it is one of the best selling computer titles ever, Ghostbusters is not a particularly good game and is certainly beginning to show its age now. Even with the added extra bits on the 128, it is still not very good value for just under ten pounds.

Overall: Grim

Award: ZX Computing Glob Minor

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue Annual 1986   page(s) 47,48,49,50,51


Clare Edgeley blasts her way through a wealth of challenging software.

Get fit quick just about sums up the last 12 months. 1985 has seen enough sports games to put you off doing anything more strenuous than lifting a pint glass, at least for the next year.

Since the 1984 Olympics, we have competed in every imaginable sport: played footie with Bobby Charlton, run rings round Daley Thompson and been KO'd by big Frank... There is hardly an action sport left which has not been turned into a money spinner, with a Sportsman's name attached. What is wrong with Tessa Sanderson's Javelin anyway?

Daley Thompson's Decathlon was first to the tape back in November '84 and notched up a gold for Ocean when it jumped to number one in the charts for a few weeks. You have to compete in all ten events of the decathlon, taking part in the high jump, long jump and pole vault as well as track events. The 400m is the most gruelling and to keep up speed you must pump the joystick back and forth, which may result in a touch of cramp. The graphics are colourful and the game does give a taste of the real thing.

Melbourne House also attempted a compilation of events with Sports Hero, although it was nowhere near as successful as Daley Thompson. Sports Hero has you competing in four events - 100m sprint, long jump, 110m hurdles and the pole vault, over three difficulty levels. To gain speed you must pummel the run button and press the jump button before takeoff. Aching fingers seem to be the norm in that type of game and in many cases you will end up with a sick keyboard as well. There is no sound and the graphics are not fantastic, although the scrolling background is interesting. A few more events should have been possible.

More recently, Brian Jacks' Superstar Challenge from Martech reached the top ten, although it came a poor second to Imagine's Hypersports. Both contain a weird hotch-potch of events - some interesting, others boring. Brian Jacks gives you a pretty raw deal. For £7.95 you can immerse yourself in such exciting events as squat thrusts and arm dips. Those may be thrilling to watch on TV but on computer they are about as much fun as a wet blanket.

Hypersports is a different ball game altogether. Licensed from the arcade game of the same name, the computer version is very like the original, although some events lack imagination. When swimming - or floundering, if you forget to breathe - instead of tearing down to the end of the pool, the end moves towards you. Clay pigeon shooting is certainly one of the better events, in which you must shoot the skeets through automatically moving sights. The vault is tricky and rather than vaulting as far as possible from the horse, you are likely to end up on your head beside it. The graphics are generally thought to be more professional than Daley Thompson's Decathlon, though whether the game is better is a moot point.

Jonah Barrington's Squash from New Generation is an interesting concept which seems to have fallen flat. Knock a miniscule black ball round the 3D court and try to beat Jonah at his own game. Jonah is one of Britain's leading squash players. Much was made of the fact that a taped recording of Jonah's voice calls out the scores. Unfortunately, all you get is an unintelligible gabble and it is easier to read them on the score board anyway.

We awarded imagine's World Series Baseball three stars in the June issue, which just goes to show that our forecasts are not always spot on. In June, July and August it remained at number three in the charts, only dropping to eleventh place in September.

The game opens with a traditional rendering of the tAmerican National Anthem. Then play starts, with one team pitching and the other batting. You can play with a friend or against the computer, adjusting the speed and direction of the ball when pitching and the strength and lift of your swing when batting. Loving attention has been paid to detail with a large scoreboard displaying genuine adverts between innings.

Last, but not least, boxing - the sport for ugly mugs. Cauliflower ears and battered brains are only half the fun - just think what you can do to your opponent. A few months ago three games were released simultaneously on the back of Punch Out!!, a highly successful arcade game.

Elite's Frank Bruno's Boxing knocks Rocco and Knockout for six, and is easily the most playable and realistic, offering more possible moves and a greater number of competitors than either of the other games. It is also the only boxing game featuring a sporting personality - Bruno helped in an advisory capacity during production which explains the close attention to detail.

Gremlin Graphic's Rocco squares up well in the ring, though you will find it is not as easy to dodge your opponent as it is in Frank Bruno, and there are only three competitors. The scoring system is simple and the graphics are the clearest of the three games. It is worth playing and annihilates Alligata's Knockout in the ring.

Knockout is appalling and lacks any addictive qualities. It is the only game which uses colour - the others being mono - although that could have been sacrificed for extra playability. Other than left and right punches to the body and head, there is no facility for ducking and dodging, but at least you can amble away if the going gets too rough. You tend to spend a great deal of time seeing stars after being KO'd. At least it lives up to its name.

The legendary success of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy lives on. Platform and ladders games are still the rage and dozens of versions have landed in the Sinclair User offices over the last 12 months. Two years ago Manic Miner was a sure recipe for success, and because it was ahead of its time a lot of money was made. Programming techniques are now more sophisticated and with games like Alien 8 and Spy vs Spy around, who needs a Manic Miner spin-off?

However, they are here to stay and some at least are worth the money you pay for them. One of the more successful games is Strangeloop, released late in '84, which has gone a long way to repairing the damage done to Virgin by Sheepwalk - one of its earliest and most awful games.

A half-crazy computer is the source of all your troubles in Strangeloop and, playing the part of a metagalactic repairman, you must shut it down. There are over 240 rooms filled with lethal swarf which attacks and damages your space suit. A jetbike waits somewhere and will make your task easier but you have to locate and refuel it first. Objects picked up will help with various tasks and friendly robots will patch your torn suit. The graphics are colourful and simple. and there is even a facility for saving your position on tape, to be resumed later when you have recharged your batteries.

Jet Set Willy II is the biggest rip-off of them all as Software Projects has done little other than add about 70 extra screens to the original. Essentially it is the same as Jet Set Willy which was launched back in 1984. The plot is similar; clear up the house before going to bed and avoid the hundreds of lethal thingummies found in each room. Despite being little more than a re-release, Jet Set Willy II is currently doing very well in the charts.

Despite the lack of original thought, if you are still hooked on the challenge of platform and ladders, try The Edge's Brian Bloodaxe. A loopy game if ever there was one. Brian, a viking soldier has been trapped in a block of ice for centuries, and as it thaws, he leaps out shivering, but ready to conquer the British. Flapping 100 seats, deadly ducks and mad Scotsmen are a few of the dangers that lurk on each level. Objects to collect and chasms to be leapt add to his daunting task. Brian Bloodaxe is at least as good as Jet Set Willy, with much visual humour and bright, clear graphics.

Hewson, which has made a name for itself in recent months with arcade adventures such as Dragontorc and simulations like Heathrow ATC, must have had a brain storm late last year with Technician Ted, which is totally unlike the semi-serious games released since. Guide Ted around a silicon chip factory while looking for a plate of the real things. Pick up knives, forks and other necessary implements and avoid several nasty traps. Easy to play and reasonably addictive, Technician Ted is not one of Hewson's best games but has done quite well in the platform and ladders stakes.

Artic's Mutant Monty is more sophisticated than Technician Ted and includes some extremely tricky screens requiring split second timing - if you are slightly out, a lemon or some other incongruous object will squash you flat, and then where will the beautiful maiden be? it is a constant source of amusement that so much work goes into preparing intricate story lines bearing absolutely no resemblance to the game you are playing.

On the whole rip-offs are uniformly mediocre in standard and not the sort of game you would buy for lasting playability. Real fanatics will find Activision's Toy Bizarre and Micromega's Jasper a doddle, and probably have more fun playing blindfold with their hands tied behind their backs. Both games are average and employ run-of-the-mill graphics. In Toy Bizarre, the player leaps round the levels of a toy factory popping balloons while being chased by a gang of irate toys.

Meanwhile, in Jasper much the same thing is going on, only this time you are a furry rat collecting money bags and treasure chests while avoiding furry cats, rabbits and other hairy animals. Platform games are usually fast moving and it is generally easier to keep up with the pace using a joystick. Unless you have very strong fingers, Jasper is doomed as your only option is to use the Spectrum's sticky keyboard.

Arcade adventures have come into their own in recent months, some remaining for weeks at a time in the top ten. With the advent of games like Gyron, fewer people are willing to put up with games like Jet Pac - classics two years ago but now gathering dust in cupboards across the country.

Superior graphics is the name of the game and the Spectrum is being stretched to its limits in a constant effort to improve software. Some games combine excellent graphics with originality, though equally large numbers have been launched on the back of the successful few. Ultimate's Knight Lore, Underwurlde and Alien 8 are three successful examples and Nightshade is expected to do as well.

Underwurlde is rather like a vertical Atic Atac featuring the Sabre-man who must escape a series of chambers while avoiding hosts of nasties. The pace is fast, the screens colourful - a devious game.

Knight Lore and Alien 8 could, at first glance, be mistaken for the same game. Featuring superb 3D grahpics, Knight Lore's hero must search a maze of rooms and find the ingredients of a spell to lift a curse placed upon him. Each room presents a challenge and one wrong move spells instant death. The scenario in Alien 8 is different from its predecessor and the quality of graphics is even higher.

Wizard's Lair from Bubble Bus is an Atic Atac lookalike with shades of Sabre Wulf and is an excellent game, even if you have seen the same sort of thing before. Bubble Bus has made some attempt to change the scenario which covers three levels, accessed via a magic wardrobe lift.

The programmers of Firebird's Cylu were influenced by Alien 8. Cylu is in the Silver range and at £2.50 represents very good value - it is almost as frustrating as the original but the graphics are a little patchy. Ultimate should be proud that so many companies want to copy their games, though it's a crying shame that those same software houses cannot put their combined programming expertise to good use, and produce something original of their own.

Games featuring film scenarios and famous names are often the subject of massive advertising campaigns, and Domark's A View to a Kill was no exception. Played in three parts you must guide the intrepid 007 through the streets of Paris, San Francisco and into Silicon Valley to stop the evil Max Zorin from tipping chip valley into the drink. The game received mixed reviews but, at the time of writing, it had just made it into the top ten - probably due to the James Bond name. It is an exciting game but lacks much visual detail.

The Rocky Horror Show from CRL is already sliding down the charts and does not live up to its namesakes, the film and play. Rescue Janet or Brad from the Medusa machine by finding 15 component parts of the de-Medusa machine. It sounds riveting. Your task seems enormous as you can carry only one part of the machine at a time and if you expect to meet normal sane characters in the castle, forget it. More could have been made of the graphics and the action is slow in places, but it is worth playing if only to meet Magenta who will strip you of your clothes. Wow!

Beyond's Spy vs Spy is unique and features simultaneous play between two players on a split screen. Take part in the zany humour of MAD magazine's two famous characters, the black spy and the white spy, each trying to stop the other finding secret documents in a foreign embassy. Set whacky traps as you ransack each room before escaping to the airport. It is fun, highly addictive and very amusing. Buying the licence to films, books and names is an expensive business, and at last one company has made the most of it with an excellent game.

It is interesting to note that when one unusual game is launched others of a similar nature swiftly follow. Perhaps all programmers follow the same thought waves. Last summer we had an unusual trio of games, reviewed in May, June and August issues. Two are based on the human body - not the most obvious subject for a game.

Quicksilva's Fantastic Voyage is a thrilling game based on the sixties film of the same name, in which Raquel Welch is injected into the body of a brain damaged scientist. Unfortunately, your mini-sub breaks up and you have only one hour to locate all the missing parts. Searching is a novel experience as you rush from atrium to stomach to lung and heart in a never ending circle. Finding your way to the brain is difficult as it is not signposted and the turning is easy to miss. Dine on red blood cells to keep up your energy and clear any infections which frequently break out - normally in the most inaccessible parts of the scientist's anatomy. A great way to learn about your bits, and where they are situated.

Icon's Frankenstien 2000 bears little resemblance to Fantastic Voyage, though it is played in a monster's body. Whoever heard of monsters smoking fags? This one obviously did and that is probably why it's dead. On reaching the lungs, battle with cigarette packets, avoid hopping frogs in the trachea, and fire at any oxygen molecules it is your misfortune to encounter. The graphics are uninspired and the game is simple.

Genesis' Bodyworks was reviewed in June and it is difficult to know what to make of it. It is hardly an arcade game - more of an illustrated, educational tour of the workings of a human body, describing the nervous, circulatory and respiratory systems.

Space Invaders was one of the first great games on the Spectrum and software houses have never tired of the theme. Space games crop up in all categories; simulations, adventures and arcade adventures. Activision has even brought out Ballblazer, a sports game played in space. Way out!

Moon Cresta from Incentive is a traditional game in which you shoot everything in sight, and then dock with another space ship before taking off to do exactly the same on the next level. With complex games like Starion around one would think that games of this calibre would flop. But no, there must be some people around whose brains are in their trigger fingers. Surprisingly, Moon Cresta is creeping up the charts. Long live the aliens.

Melbourne House's Starion takes space travel seriously and combines a number of features, including the traditional shoot 'em up, word puzzles and anagrams. Kill off enemy space ships and collect the letters they drop, then unscramble those to form a word. Fly down to earth and answer a puzzle to change the course of Earth's history. There are 243 events to rewrite - and that amounts to a lot of flying time. Starion is well up in the top ten.

System 3 has come up with the goods against all opposition with the dreadful Death Star Interceptor, which has proved surprisingly popular. If you are really into boring games, this is right up your alley. Played in three sections, first take off into outer space, next avoid assorted aliens and then, as in Star Wars, plant a bomb in the exhaust port of an enemy death star. It is all thrilling stuff.

Quicksilva's Glass is amazing to look at. Psychedelic colours make you want to blink in this repetitive but addictive game. There are hundreds of screens to blast through, and whole sections are spent dodging columns as you hurtle through a 3D spacescape. The rest of the time is spent shooting radar antennae off unsuspecting space ships. The graphics make up for any limitations in the game and demonstrates that a traditional shoot 'em up need not be boring.

This final section consists of a number of games which cannot be categorised. A strange mixture falls into this area - many are shoot 'em ups in some form or another, others require an element of cunning and strategy.

Gyron from Firebird, a Sinclair User classic, is a unique game in which you must travel through a complex maze, dodging massive rolling balls and keeping a watchful eye on the guardian towers to be round at each junction. Those shoot at you, but approaching from another angle may change the direction of their fire. As there are two mazes to get through, it should take months. Gyron is likely to deter arcade nuts, but for those with staying power, it is an attractive proposition. It did make a brief appearance in the top ten at the time of writing, but has since fallen away.

US Gold's Spy Hunter, based on the arcade game of the same name, is a faithful replica of the original. It all takes place on the road as you drive your souped-up sports car through a variety of traps laid down by the baddies. Equip your motor with a variety of weapons, obtainable from a weapons van which you drive into Italian Job style. Rockets, smoke screens and oil slicks are all strongly reminiscent of 007.

Elite's Airwolf is a game that we found so hard as to be almost impossible, and which everyone else seemed to find a cinch - and told us so in no uncertain terms! Try if you can, to fly your chopper down a long, narrow tunnel to rescue five scientists stuck at the end. Blast your way through walls, which rematerialise as fast as you can destroy them - a well nigh impossible task for those whose trigger fingers and joysticks have suffered from the likes of Daley Thomson's Decathlon. Airwolf has done better than we predicted. You can't win them all.

Ghostbusters, the mega box office hit last Christmas was a prime candidate for a computer game and Activision was first to the ghost. Featuring all the best parts of the film, it was an instant success and Activision did well to launch it simultaneously with the movie. Drive around the city coaxing ghouls into your ghost trap but listen out for a Marshmallow Alert. That giant sticky marshmallow man is quite capable of flattening whole streets unless halted. Greenbacks play an important part in the game as you have to buy your equipment to get started, and earn enough prize money for the number of ghosts caught, in order to take part in a final showdown with Zuul.

Finally Tapper from US Gold - another Sinclair User classic. Tapper is a simple but refreshing game centered round an all-American soda bar. You play a harassed barman, who must serve his customers with drinks. Easy at first as you slide them down the bar but wait until they have gulped down the fizzy stuff. Running backwards and forwards between four bars, make sure the customers have got a drink, and catch the empties as they come skidding back. There are three difficulty levels, each one faster and more hectic than the last. Tapper is moving up the charts and we are sure that it will go far towards refreshing the parts other games cannot reach.

The fierce competition over the last 12 months has chased many companies into liquidation. There have, however, been successes, particularly with a number of small software houses bringing new blood into the market. That can only be seen as a healthy sign.

The lack of QL games software is the only disappointment. Where is it? Other than a few basic programs such as Reversi, which cut its eye teeth on the ZX-81 years ago, there has been a dearth of games for this flagging micro. If games of the quality of Knight Lore can be produced for the Spectrum, why not for the QL?

Overall: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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