Memory Required: 48K
Retail Price: £9.95
Language: Machine code
Author: Tag and the Kid
At long last the Speccy version of this much loved CBM game has mysteriously materialised on my desk. Spy vs Spy is a game based around the antics of that crazy duo from the esteemed pages of MAD magazine. The two spies, one black and one white, constantly battle for supremacy in the cut-throat world of espionage and general skulduggery. The game introduces two new concepts: Simulplay , which is a facility that allows two players to play the game together, each of them controlling one of the two spies; and Simulvision which is a little more novel. If the two spies are in separate rooms then the two rooms are shown on the screen, one above the other. However, if the spies are both in the same room, then only one room is displayed. Without this facility you would never know what the opposition was up to, and that could be very unhealthy!
The basic theme of the game is very simple. If you play against the computer, you play the white spy. You and the guy in the black mac are located in a building near an airfield, and the object of the game is to get out of the building and reach the plane waiting on the runway. You won't be able to leave the building until you find the correct door and you can't go through the door unless you are carrying four objects - if you try the security guards will get very nasty. Since you can only carry one object at a time you need to find a briefcase, which is also hidden.
Searching a room simply involves looking behind each of the fixtures and fittings; if an object is behind something then it will be added to your inventory when you lookthere. Finding the articles is one thing, keeping them is something very different. Your enemy also wants to escape and is equally desperate to acquire the means to do so, and the hunt is complicated by the fact that the spies can set traps for one another.
If the two spies are in the same room then you are unable to search or use traps, in which case you can either indulge in hand to hand combat with your opponent or leave. The advantage of the former course of action is that if you win you will be able to recover the other guy's inventory, but of course you might lose.... This is where the game has a fairly strong strategic element. If, for example, you had failed to find any of the objects you could wait while the other chap does all of the graft and then ambush him - it could pay off.
To master the game you will have to learn how best to deal with your enemy. A little device called the 'Trapulator' is displayed on the side of each screen, which bears six little pictures, the first five of which are booby traps. Via the trapulator, you can use a bomb, a large spring, a bucket of water, a gun and string or a plain old time bomb with a 15 second fuse. The sixth 'icon' is a map which helps you find the objects you are searching for and must find in order to escape.
The traps must be set according to their type. The gun and string, for example, can only be tied to a door, while the spring or bomb can be left under any piece of furniture. All of the traps, except the time bomb, have remedies. A fire bucket will douse the fuse of a bomb while a pair of scissors will get you past the gun and string. The remedies are located about the building but they can also be moved around by picking them up and and dropping them in a different location. A good trap layer will make sure the appropriate remedy is not to hand when a trap is set. One important point to remember as you dash about setting traps: remember where you put them!
If you are playing against the computer, you can reset its 'intelligence' at the start of each game. A rating of five for the computer means the black spy is going to be pretty smart and probably set a lot of traps - on IQ one you are dealing with a dumb thug. And the environment in which the game is played can also be changed at the start of each game. The size of the building can be pre-set, with the smallest having only six rooms while the largest has thirty six rooms and a lot of hidden passageways to boot. Points are scored for giving the other spy a hard time, e.g. killing him. How many points rather depends on how you did it. Points are deducted for using the map as well as for being a victim. If you do get killed, though, you are going to lose a great deal more than a few points. First, unless the other spy is a real gorilla, you will lose the articles you have gathered and secondly you will lose time - that's very precious because the plane only waits for so long. You can still lose the game, even as you make for the exit, if the plane leaves without you.
Control keys: player 1 - definable; player 2 - N/M left/right, Q/S up/down, 1 to fire
Joystick: not Kempston
Keyboard play: responsive, a little complicated with two players
Use of colour: colour would have meant less detail in the main displays
Graphics: very good, very close to the original
Sound: aiding bleeps and bashing noise for hand to hand combat
Skill levels: 5 IQ levels, times eight buildings gives forty levels of play
Screens: depends on level
I can't remember when I've had so much fun playing a game. I think the immediate appeal of Spy vs Spy is that it is pretty easy to understand. Once you have leamt how to move, search and lay traps and you are off. There are so many degrees of difficulty that the novice is in with a very good chance of winning, but without a hope unless he is well practised. The scope for weird and nasty tactics is immense. Let there be no doubt that bloke in the dark mac brings out the worst in me... it's as much as I can manage to keep life in perspective when playing against another person. I love it.
To be honest Spy vs Spy was one of my favourite games on the CBM (well, no one's perfect) and I wondered what the conversion would be like knowing the Speccy's attribute problems. But then again it was being converted by Tag and the Kid. The main display has been produced in black and white, thus avoiding any problems but this does not detract from the overall feel of the game. The unique split screen system means that the game is instantly playable and addictive because there is terrific scope for games either against the computer or a friend. Spy vs Spy is an excellent game which offers a pleasant change from all of those arcade adventures and shoot 'em ups.
At first I found myself utterly confused by what appeared to be two separate events taking place on the one screen. It's very important to keep an eye on the other spy but it's also very difficult. The idea of setting an IQ level for the enemy is great since this allows you to play against a pretty thick opponent and work your way up to something a bit smarter than your average KGB goon. At first I thought the best tactic was simply to dash around the building setting traps and then picking up the pieces but as the building gets larger I tended to run into my own traps so I had to rethink my policy a little. A very absorbing and highly addictive game.
JOKE & DAGGER DEPT.
The world of espionage is a grey area. Shady men in shady streets. Except for two spies that is - the famous black 'n' white ones from Beyond's latest game, Spy vs Spy. Phil South has vays of making zem talk!
A PERPETUAL MADcap struggle has left the pages of America's top cartoon magazine to continue its conflict on the computer screen.
The comic capers of the two secret agents from MAD magazine reappear in Beyond's Spy vs Spy. A unique split-screen approach allows two to play simultaneously.
Ransacking a foreign embassy, the idiotic duo - one white, one black - blunder into each other's traps as they both search for secret documents and a diplomatic bag.
Hidden in the embassy are five objects which must be found before escape can be made in a super-slow and cranky bi-plane. The rooms all look alike so it is not surprising that you are constantly running into your own traps.
Buckets of water placed over doors, springs which send you hurtling across the room, are all part of the fun in trying to outwit your opponent. Those can be accessed through an icon-driven Trapulator and are easy to set once you've got the knack.
The two sleuths constantly cross each other's tracks and battle commences. Clubs magically appear as the two take wild swipes at each other. If you are lucky enough to score seven blows, your opponent ascends to heaven on angel's wings. After a short breathing space - in which the seconds still tick by - he is back for more.
Each time a confrontation occurs, any objects held are lost - either hidden in that room or throughout the building. It is the winner's privilege to search the room and either claim or reclaim articles.
You can play in a six room embassy in which the game is quickly over - ideal for practising on - or up to a 36 room layout where the going is slower and an element of cunning strategy is required. A two player game is more fun than playing against the computer - mainly because the computer nearly always wins.
Surprisingly, the game is not compatible with a Kempston single-port interface and will only take joystick interfaces which emulate the keyboard. A dual port interface is needed for two players and though the keyboard can be used, space is cramped.
The instruction book is lengthy, though well presented, and it takes a while to get the hang of the game. Instant play is not possible, but it's worth persevering.
Spy vs Spy will probably be as successful as Shadowfire. Playing against the computer, however, is unexciting and frustrating. A two player game is another matter - it's challenging and there is more fun to be had outwitting a friend than a mere circuit board.
Joystick: Sinclair, Cursor
First released a few years ago as the official game of the MAD comic strip, Spy vs Spy returns on a new budget label Hi TEC who have simultaneously released the sequel, The Island Caper.
The game features the Black Spy and White Spy who insist on giving each other a sound duffing every time they meet. The fun begins when both agents are assigned to get some secret papers out of a foreign embassy. Along the way you must also get a passport, some travellers cheques and a briefcase in which to lug them all to the aeroplace stations outside.
The action takes place in 3D on a split screen arrangement, you on top (oo-er) as White, with the Black spy (a friend or the computer) below. At the right is the trapulator, a handy gadget which lets you set one of a range of traps with which to nobble your adversary. From a bucket of water on the door to a fully blown bomb yet all can be neutralised with umbrellas or buckets of water etc.
The graphics are decidedly wonky. They seem to have been made of 4 pixel blocks and the control can be unresponsive and it is frustrating to eventually set a trap correctly only to see Black come through the other bloomin' door. There is also a complete absence of sound, although it says that key U toggles sound on/off! But with a little perseverance, there's a fairly good game lurking beneath the shoddy graphics.
Label: Hi TEC
Author: Mike Riedel
MACHINE: Spectrum/CBM 64
MADness rules in this battle of wits between two highly trained special agents who attempt to outwit each other as they bid to steal some top secret plans!
Spy Vs Spy is based on the characters created by artist Antonio Prohias in MAD magazine. In the cartoon strip, the Black Spy and the White Spy are constantly at each other's throats - often literally! With bombs and complicated booby traps they attempt to do each other a mischief.
The game puts you right in the centre of their dangerous world.
You can play the computer or another opponent in this original and amusing arcade/strategy game.
The ultimate aim of the game is to escape from an embassy with the briefcase containing top secret plans. But there are other things you need to find before you can make good your escape.
The game features "Simul-vision" - which refers to the split screen display. The top half of the screen shows the White Spy and the bottom the Black Spy.
Should they move into the same room, both players are shown in one half of the screen. And a punch-up often occurs!
In the right the main display you'll see the Trapulators. Both spies have one of these interesting devices which enables them to leave booby traps around for the unsuspecting enemy - traps like time bombs, giant springs, trick guns and other equally deadly things.
Each spy has to search around the rooms of the Embassy - looking in cupboards, filing cabinets or behind pictures in their desperate search for the plans and the other necessary items.
The spies can leave traps where they think the other spy is bound to look. And - despite the split screen display - you have to be really quick to spot where your enemy has put a trap because you're concentrating on laying one for him and looking for the briefcase which contains the documents!
Once you've got everything you need, you must find the door to the airport and make your getaway.
Spy Vs Spy has been out for some time on the C64 - but it's just as much fun on the Spectrum. And the black and while spy graphics bring the game closer to the cartoon strip.
It's a fast moving game - everything has to be completed before the time runs out and quick thinking is required to defeat your opponent. Especially if you play the computer!
You can alter game options - such as the "intelligence" of the computer and difficulty levels - to make the game even more challenging.
Spy Vs Spy is a unique, entertaining game. If you like your arcade action with added brain work then Spy is for you. Recommended!
Spectrum, C64, Amstrad £2.99
The first release on this new budget label sees MAD Magazine's Black and White spies battling it out against one another in the hunt for a set of secret documents in an abandoned office building. Each spy has a selection of booby trap devices such as bombs, ropes and springs with which to stop the opposing agent from collecting all of the required items (plans, passport, travellers' cheques and the ignition key for the waiting plane) before you do. All this against a strict time limit which decreases each time you're nabbed by the enemy.
What we have in Spy Vs Spy is a simple idea but a very addictive game. Split screen arcade adventures usually can't fail, and this it no exception - especially in two-player mode. Things get very hectic after a while and when the two spies are in the same room, the screens merge to become a slapstick beat 'em up with clubs - great fun.
Cloak and dagger stuff from Beyond with their new release, Spy versus Spy.
The game is based on the spies in Mad magazine and follows their madcap adventures. The aim of the game is to track down the top secret briefcase and leave the country with it. To do this you will also need your passport, money, secret plans and key.
Spy versus Spy features Simulvision. In common parlance this means that two players can play simultaneously. You can play the computer or a friend. Both of you rush round the same playing area, with different sections of screen showing each of you what is going on.
With both of you searching for the same objects in the same rooms there is bound to be some rivalry. This dealt with by the means of clubs. Whenever you get close enough to the other player you can hit them (the character, not your friend) over the head with a large club.
Failure in a fight means that you float off upwards and are out of the running for a while. Meanwhile, your rival laughs hysterically, takes all the objects you have collected, and gets on with the game.
If beating your rival up is not to your taste, or you prove to be useless at it, there is always the possibility of boobytrapping him. You have a veritable arsenal of booby traps which you can scatter around the place. The important thing is to remember where you left the traps, for either spy can set them off, and it is humiliating to blow yourself up.
Graphically, the game is excellent, with rooms represented in three dimensions, and items of furniture shifting as you lift them up in search of the items you need. The game itself is good fun, with enough problems, action and speed to keep just about any games player happy.
Where the game falls down is in its instruction booklet. This was written for the Commodore version of the game and is not accurate in some areas concerning the Spectrum. Despite the note to this effect at the end of the booklet it is confusing and makes the game less easy to understand than it could be. Also, the booklet refers throughout to joystick controls, although it is not compatible with the Kempston joystick. Small points to be sure, but problems nevertheless.
Spy versus Spy is produced for the 48K Spectrum by Beyond Software, Durrant House, 8 Herbal Hill, London EC1.
Clare Edgeley blasts her way through a wealth of challenging software.
Spy vs Spy
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 Consultants, 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 Atie 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?
Firmly based on the graphic style and peculiar humour of the long-running MAD magazine cartoon, this is one of the very few spinoffs which has remained faithful to the source material.
The game is unique in employing a split-screen which allows two to play simultaneously. While ransacking a foreign embassy you attempt to foil your opponent by laying booby traps, using an icon-driven trapulator at the side of the screen. Then you escape with the documents and diplomatic bag.
A frustrating but addictive game it is one of the more successful conversions from the Commodore 64, and a sequel is to follow shortly.
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