Spy Hunter

by Denton Designs, F. David Thorpe
U.S. Gold Ltd
Crash Issue 16, May 1985   page(s) 130,132

Producer: US Gold
Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £7.95
Language: Machine code
Author: Sega

This is US Gold's officially licenced Spectrum version of the American Bally Midway hit with you playing the Spy Hunter. Spy Hunter is a kind of road racer-cum-river raider, an all action shoot em up of the old school. There are numerous sections to the game, but basically Spy Hunter takes two forms. It starts on a road as your Weapons Van pulls up at the side of the road to allow your Spy Car to roll down the ramp and onto the road. You're then on your own, guiding the car along the torturous roads, pursued by various enemies, each with their own characteristics. These can be destroyed by ramming them into the side of the road or shooting them.

The second form occurs if you take the correct side road down to the boat house - driving into it automatically converts the Spy Car to an amphibious vehicle, and the chase continues on the water.

While you are on the road there is a chance to 'dock' with the Weapons Van, whereupon the Spy Car's weapons are exchanged or added to. The weapons carried are displayed at the bottom of the playing area, and an element of strategy is involved in ensuring the right weapon is on board for the particular task in hand.

The enemies include the Road Lord (bullet proof - must be rammed off the road); Switch Blade (buzz saw hubcaps - nasty); Barrel Dumper (drops barrels in your path in the water); The Enforcer (fires a shotgun); The Copter (drops bombs on your car/boat); and Doctor Torpedo (fires torps at the Spy Boat).

Guiding your vehicle is tricky, since the roads/waterways twist and turn, branching off into what may well be dead ends. Occasionally a message on the road may warn you that a road is closed and you should take a detour. Control of the Spy Car allows left/right movement as well as accelerating or braking.


Control keys: user definable, four directions and fire required
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair 2, Cursor type
Use of colour: very varied, bright and sharp
Graphics: attractive, good size and reasonably smooth vertical scrolling
Sound: spot effects, average
Skill levels: 2, novice and expert
Lives: 5
Screens: continuous scrolling

It's nice to see that US Gold are continuing with their arcade reproductions of Sega's top hits from the States. I must admit to not seeing Spy Hunter in the arcades - yet. Whatever the arcade version is like, this Spectrum version seems to be an extremely playable game. The scrolling graphics are some of the best I've seen on the Spectrum and work well - they are colourful and very detailed. Progressing through the game I found that the enemy grew increasingly mean, and it required more skill, but this was a gradual progression as you are teased more and more into the game. This is a good feature of Spy Hunter. This game has enormous playability and I was totally captured in a different land of action. It's the sort of game I'd come back to months later.

An interesting point to all these US Gold releases of older American hits, is that they seem, single handedly, to be creating a rebirth of simpler arcade shoot em ups. Spy Hunter is definitely a very simple idea, but the speed, variety and ferocity of the action makes it huge fun to play. The large, well designed graphics move very well, and I particularly liked the way some of the nasties spin off the road. Spy Hunter combines all the elements of a good mad racer game (although there is no 3D perspective, everything being seen from above) and a fast shoot em up. I think it's moderately addictive because the increasing difficulty is well built into the game and the screens are variable enough to add interest, but most of all, it's a good zapping game.

Spy Hunter is a fairly good arcade to Spectrum conversion. The graphics are fairly good though the sound is used poorly for such a great game. Of all the Zap em up games I've ever played Spy Hunter is a firm favourite amongst them. Playability is high because there is such a lot going all the time. I don't think that this game will keep anyone's interest for weeks and weeks because it's a fairly simple game to get into and to play (this is also a point in its favour because it can be played by virtually anyone). I particularly liked the river scenes, they seemed more varied than the ones on the CBM 64 (I know I'm not meant to mention that calculator but I couldn't resist it considering I prefer the Spectrum version of Spy Hunter). If you want a good shoot em up Spy Hunter is well worth the money. Overall a good game that should keep you all amused for a while.

Use of Computer: 90%
Graphics: 82%
Playability: 89%
Getting Started: 88%
Addictive Qualities: 80%
Value For Money: 81%
Overall: 89%

Summary: General Rating: It may not have massive lasting appeal (although it is a good hi-score game), and it certainly isn't a thinking game, but loads of fun to play.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 64, May 1989   page(s) 31


Ahhh, it's nice to see this classic game back again on a budget label. Reviewed back in the mists of time (issue 16 to be precise) this CRASH Smashed game was raved over by the resident looneys of the time. Set in a James Bond-style cloak and dagger scenario, you take control of a sophisticated mean machine in which you have to burn rubber along a road filled with terrorists, or transform to a boat (at a suitable point) and cause even more mayhem on the open waters. To destroy the enemy vehicles you can either bump them off of the road, or destroy them with a range of devastating weapons. You start with a machine gun, but at regular intervals supply lorries appear and after a swift bump up the ramp an extra weapon is added.

Although Spy Hunter is looking a little dated in the graphical department, the pulse-racing playability has remained. Many happy hours will be spent blowing up or ramming the myriad of enemy cars and speed boats, but watch out for the civilians out for a Sunday drive. Decimate any of these and you will lose points as quickly as you make them, now excuse me while I practise my Timothy Dalton voice... My name is Bond, James Bond.

Then: 89% Now: 84%

Overall: 84%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 42, Jun 1989   page(s) 42,43


They're certainly cheap, but are they cheerful? Marcus Berkmann rootles around in the YS Lucky Dip...

Reviewer: Marcus Berkmann

Another oldster dug up by US Gold's cheapie offshoot Kixx, Spy Hunter actually features the copyright date 1983 on its cassette inlay - a brave move in today's novelty-obsessed market. But even though Spy Hunter is older than Bob Monkhouse and has been on even more compilations than Wizard's Lair, it's still thoroughly playable in a gnarled sort of way. It's interesting, too, to see that road racing games with guns didn't start with Road Wars.

Spy Hunter, if rather more modest in intention than the later blasters, doubles as a mildly diverting shoot 'em up as well as a racer. Seen from helicopter level, the game charts your attempts to shoot - or at least overtake - everything in sight, while remaining resolutely alive yourself. If this sounds a bit like an episode of Highwayman without the hairstyles, that's not too far away. Occasionally you switch from Spy Car to Spy Boat, and it's off for a merry fizz on the river - if you can avoid the barrels, torpedoes and so forth. It's good unpretentious fun, with one unforgiveable gub, once the game is over, you have to load up from scratch. Tut, tut, Kixx - get your act together.

Overall: 6/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 15, Jun 1985   page(s) 51

Roger: As the wrapper sez, this is hardly a game, and with the throwaway line like that, US Gold aren't telling any lies. It's actually another driving number crossed with a liberal dose of shootiebangs. The action occurs on a scrolling map illustrating the road or waterways available for pursuit and destruction of a nasty collection including Road Lords, Switch Blades, Barrel Dumpers, Enforcers, Copters and yer actual Doctor Torpedo. (Any relation to Dr. Findlay? Ed.)

Apart from steering the 'vehicle' either on land or the blue-representing-wet stuff without crashing, the player is required to insert it back into a 'weapons van' at periodic intervals, for replenishment of ammunition, bacon sarnies or whatever. The unpleasantries which share the passing scenery have to be dealt with in various terminal manners, or avoided altogether. Really, controlling this optimistically called 'turbo-charged race car/hydro speed boat* could be a satsifying business if one was only born yesterday. For those of us who've been around it stands out as an exercise not a little long in the tooth. As the man said, been there, done that before... 2/5 MISS

Ross: The name's Bond, James Bond - and all I've got to say about this car classic is no, Doctor No! 1/5 MISS

Dave: This one's fast and it's tricky and if you're not careful it'll drive you up the wall. If only it actually got somewhere. 2/5 HIT

Dave: 2/5
Ross: 1/5
Roger: 2/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 39, Jun 1985   page(s) 30

Publisher: US Gold
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Protek

One of the more successful arcade games of last year looks set to have potential double agents roaring up to their local shops in hot pursuit for a copy of the game.

Sega has recently licensed Spy Hunter to US Gold and continues the trend of arcade games crossing the Atlantic as computer software.

Shades of the movie The Italian Job creep into the game which places you in the key role of a spy trying to escape the country with a posse of double agents on your tail.

Luckily your turbo-charged car could have been built for James Bond and will become amphibious, taking to the water like a drought-stricken duck.

The chase is fast and furious, skidding down stretches of icy road and hair-pin bends. You can shoot at the agents, try to bump them off the road, but blasting innocent civilian drivers will be to the detriment of your score.

You have a bird's eye view of the road which scrolls vertically downwards - the zig-zags are hair raising and do not leave much room for overtaking.

One innovative touch to the game is the weapons van. Just as in The Italian Job, the van drives past with ramps lowered. Should you be quick enough to drive in, the car will be re-armed with oil slicks, smoke screens and rockets - handy when shooting at the bomb-dropping helicopter. However, all weapons but the machine gun are lost if you crash.

The game is obviously not as fast as the arcade version, but in all other cases it is an almost exact replica - except that there is no gear stick or accelerator. Those features are, however, notoriously difficult to fit onto the Spectrum.

Overall: 4/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 86, May 1989   page(s) 56

Label: Kixx
Author: US Gold
Price: £2.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Hard to remember that the coin-op original of this game came out in 1983. Some of us weren't even born then... er, quite. Anyway, this one's long overdue for a budget re-release, because although it's appeared on some compilations, it's still streets ahead of many flashier coin-op convs on sheer playability.

The format is dead simple; steer your heavily-armed spy car up the scrolling screen, barging and blasting the equally be-weaponed opposition and avoiding steering straight into the roadside or into the water. Exciting enough, but halfway through you get a boat instead, and all the excitement becomes waterborne.

Dead simple, looks and sounds pretty grotty, but in fact as good a blast-up as you could wish for.

Overall: 89%

Summary: Classic car-racing shoot-'em-up which still plays well despite primitive look.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 45, Jul 1985   page(s) 25

MACHINE: CBM 64/Spectrum/Atari
PRICE: £CBM 64 (disc) £12.95 (cass.) £9.95, Spectrum £7.95

A classic arcade game becomes a classic computer game with this all-action scrolling shoot-out from US Gold.

Drive your spy-car along a treacherous roadway packed with enemies attempting to wipe you out. Take a dip in the river as your car converts to a superhydro boat and blast the villains who set out to sink you.

How far can you go? How high will your score be? Will it get into the C&VG Hall of Fame like this great game has? The graphics on all versions are good and the game is totally addictive. Get it.

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

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair Programs Issue 32, Jun 1985   page(s) 21

PRICE: £7.95

Spy Hunter sets you, as a world class spy, on the road in your ultra-equipped, turbo-charged spy mobile. The road is crawling with enemy agents bent on your destruction and the law of the road is kill or be killed.

What the grandiose game description and flashy cassette cover refer to is a straightforward variation on a theme which you have seen many times before. You drive your car up the screen, along a winding road, shoot some obstacles, avoid others and try to push others off the road.

There are several nice touches. To pick up weapons you must allow the weapons van to overtake you and then drive on board while it is still moving. The road takes you on several diversions, round unsatisfactory bridges and through water.

When all the variations are taken into account, this is still not a game which could be described as being state-of-the-art or even the best of its kind. It is fast moving, it does give scope for great improvements in performance but if you like arcade games you could do much, much better.

Spy Hunter is produced of the 48K Spectrum by US Gold Ltd, Unit 10, Parkway Ind. Centre, Birmingham B7.

Rating: 36%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue 6, Jun 1985   page(s) 35

Spectrum 48K
US Gold

If you've seen this one in the arcades, you'll need no encouragement from me. A fast and furious race game, with the narrow road ahead teeming with enemy agents bent on your destruction. Only your agility, driving and good shooting will save you, your country and probably civilisation.

On the roads there are three types of enemy car which must be dealt with in different ways: shooting up innocent bystanders is frowned upon, but good fun. On the water, there are no day-trippers, but the rocks, torpedoes and barrels will keep you busy. There is even a helicopter to contend with. Tricky if you haven't got your missile loaded up yet. You start off with just a machine gun, but missiles, smoke cannisters and oil pods can be acquired by entering the weapons truck.

The controls are easy to use, with steering, accelerator and brake. Weapons are fired by a combination of stick and fire button to control which weapon is fired.

Overall: 4/5

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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