Reviews From Dave Edwards
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Bar Billiards Blue Ribbon
Battlezone Cansas City
Brain Teasers from EUG
Classic Arcade Games
Countdown to Doom
Elbug Introductory disc/cassette
NEW EUG #0 & #1  ON DISK
Flint Strikes Back
FOUR GREAT GAMES VOLUME 1
FOUR GREAT GAMES VOLUME 2
MYSTERY OF THE JAVA STAR
PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT
Product: BUBBLE BOBBLE:PRE-RELEASE (BBC Only)
Supplier: 8 Bit Software
Available on 3.5"/5.25" DFS Disk
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 53
SIMILARLY to X*L*C*R, reviewed last month, the colourful bubble-blowing
monsters of a piece of software bearing Firebird's logo was created as a
professional title but never released as such. It's odd because BUBBLE
BOBBLE, as any arcade fan worth his salt will know, is a very old game
which, at one time, seemed to be on every format (from Speccy to Amiga!)
EXCEPT the BBC series! PD supplier 8 Bit Software hasn't got an answer
either; the most likely theory tends to assume Firebird lost confidence
in the 8-bit market before releasing it.
Luckily though, this 99.99% complete PRE-RELEASE version found its
way into BBC Land via Public Domain and the cutesy platform adventures
of Bub and Bob can now be enjoyed, as indicated, if you have a BBC or a
Master 128. This review marks a significant departure from previous ones
in that BUBBLE BOBBLE does not run on the Electron at all!
!BOOTing up the disk (TBI-119 in the 8 Bit Software catalogue) first
brings up some very sparse instructions and control key lists. Quite
noticeably, these were not destined to be part of the original disk and
their writer signs off with "The rest is for you to find out!". What you
don't know quickly becomes obvious when the action starts though.
Entering the game format as it can be assumed it would have appeared
presents the first of a over a hundred cute screens - the loader. The
Mode 2 title and the two stars of it wait for <SPACE> before being
replaced with a clever Mode 1 screen implementing each of the seven real
colours. From here, it's possible to choose whether one or two players
are to clean up in this classic game.
In case you've missed all appearances of BUBBLE BOBBLE (and its
sequels RAINBOW ISLANDS and PARASOL STARS on some 8 and 16 bit stuff),
Bub and Bob are two sickeningly "we're in another predicament where we
have to kill lots of monsters and collect lots of bonuses but we're
having lots of fun" chappies. Their predicament in BUBBLE BOBBLE, if I
remember from the original I once had correctly, is that they've been
turned into cute dragons (In the sequels, they're cute little boys!) and
are under attack from screens of everything from mutant parrots to
If you choose the one player game, you are Bub the green dragon and
begin bottom left of the first screen. There is no scrolling except when
you complete it when the screen scrolls down displaying the next screen
with your greeny bean on the same spot. What you have to do is run left
and right then jump to get reasonably close to the three mutant tin cans
on screen one. (The baddies change from screen to screen).
Blowing a bubble with <TAB> will always quickly jet a green sphere in
the direction your dragon is facing and if this sphere collides at speed
with the baddy then he gets encased in it. It's then the deceptively
simple matter of getting close enough to headbutt the bubble (with the
spike on Bub/Bob's head!) and, after buzzing supersonically around the
screen in a harmless way, baddy becomes bonus to be collected.
The game is set in Mode 2 and is well laid out, fast and very colour-
ful. The music, the keys of which to turn it on and off are listed in
the new loader, is absolutely superb and one of those delightfully
irritating tunes that stick in your head with lots of rude lyrics added
when your plan of dealing with the seven rabid flying monsters goes
wrong. In fact, there is no real difference between the BBC and Amiga
version of BUBBLE BOBBLE except that the BBC one is much tougher.
This stems mainly from time. If you don't 'butt the bubbles contain-
ing your foes within a few seconds on the BBC then they escape and run
amok at double speed. On the Amiga, they stay cased up considerably
longer. However, the arcade machine itself ran similarly to the BBC so
from a conversion point, it's spot on!
Another timing feature is the deadly spirit head that appears if the
computer thinks you are taking too long to deal with the present
screen. After the message "Hurry Up!", all monsters speed up and this
sinister spectre appears somewhere on screen and skirts smoothly in a
'paced' direction toward you. He is invulnerable to bubbles and to be
avoided at all costs.
BUBBLE BOBBLE has many bonus features which appear from time to time
on random platforms. Sacrifice almost anything to grab an umbrella as
these whip through at least four screens without you needing to play
them. Flowers, rainbows and the red shoes also improve your playing
chances by clearing screens, giving huge life bonuses and speeding up
your dragons footpower respectively and are well worth having but note
you lose any advantages when you next lose a life.
As you may have gathered by now, the game itself is not particularly
difficult and even the last screen will be conquered quickly by pure
arcade fanatics. This is especially the case if two players work
together as Bub and Bob. As the baddies don't increase in a two player
game, selecting this almost guarantees many screens of progress over
that of the lone player [where both are inexperienced - Ed].
Perhaps due to this disk version being a pre-release, when the last
dragon loses his last life, the screen blanks but the game hangs. This
appears to have been put in by Firebird on purpose for some reason but
doesn't distract from the games enjoyment, as tapping <SHIFT><BREAK>
brings it back again.
Definitely too good to miss - and have been missed by the purchasing
public of the late Eighties! - "cutesy-bashing is never as good if
you're not playing Bub or Bob!"
Dave Edwards, EUG #53
Product: CLASSIC ARCADE GAMES
Supplier: DATABASE PUBLICATIONS
Available on Tape, 3.5"/5.25" Disk (ADFS, DFS, CDFS)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG #51
WHEN games describe themselves as "classic", it's best to tread with
caution. Database Publications' collection of four machine code arcade
games is a case in point; on either tape or disk you get SNAPMAN, ALIEN
INTRUDERS, PANZER ASSAULT and MAYDAY and you'll probably agree that the
majority do not sound too familiar. True classics are very recognisable:
most computers have their clones of TETRIS, HOPPER and PAC-MAN that can
be thus described. What can make all the difference is the modesty of
the packaging. It's when OTHERS describe them as classics, AFTER an
amount of time has passed, that they can rightly claim the title.
It might be a bit harsh to begin a review this way as Database Pub-
lications do not claim these four games are brand spanking new classics
of the time. Rather, they seek to collate some of those clones referred
to; possibly that even possess such an elitist accolade.
SNAPMAN, not altogether unsurprisingly, is the new version of PAC-MAN
with four different coloured ghosts and a yellow munching circle you
must navigate around a maze. Subtle differences to the Acornsoft SNAPPER
are in there - instead of dots, you follow a green line trail, the
ghosts are more closely related to the original PAC-MAN arcade game and
a collision with one of them and your character sinks smoothly into ob-
livion - but it's not as professionally presented vis-a-vis loading and
title screens. There's no joystick option yet the arcade screen layout
does seem neater, the sprites 'cuter' and the execution speed perfect.
It's a nice reworking although the original SNAPPER is so popular, and
appears on so many compilations, that it was never destined to take its
Next on the menu are those rows of Space Invaders that move slowly
(in fact, not so slowly in this version) from side to side and down the
screen towards your laser at the bottom. Protecting you are three big
yellow blobs under which you can take shelter or blast away from under-
neath in order to hit the ALIEN INTRUDERS who are pounding away at them
from the top. The 'official', if that's the right word, release of this
game is Micro Power's ELECTRON INVADERS. Actually, INTRUDERS is just a
little bit better in terms of sprites, speed and addictiveness. Making a
fantastic use of colour and seamlessly doing about a million different
things at once, it's a real achievement on the little Electron and in-
credibly fast on a Turbo one or BBC.
Even the 'reporter' that scrolls across the top of the screen is in-
corporated. But it falls down, like the first, on its boring high-score
table and introductory screen plus lack of joystick option.
There's no doubting that these first two games are the best. The
coding and screen layouts are faultless and the sprites very colourful.
It's with the move to PANZER ASSAULT that things get stranger. This is a
maze game where you control a tank, and although this is mostly a m/code
game it's just a CHR$ definition you control, set in a maze with enemy
tanks appearing out of nowhere. You must simply blast a set number of
tanks each level until you are blasted away by one of them. This may be
an arcade game but it could never be in the same league as the earlier
ones! It does what it's supposed to, includes a joystick option and also
has a nice layout on screen. Supposedly, it's another classic? Afraid
not. It's original yet it's unimaginative and boring. Placed here, it
serves only as a kind of ironic reinforcement that cloning sell-out
'tried and tested' arcade games can result in holding ones attention
span longer than a brand new one!
The title MAYDAY also sounds rather unfamiliar but one might suspect
this was to be a version of the BOMBER arcade game. It's not. Extra-
ordinarily, this game is actually a TEXT adventure!! Now this has to be
the most predictable shot in the foot for reviewing purposes. Media that
describes itself as a compendium of ARCADE games (classic or not!) needs
to adhere to that categorisation. It's as annoying as when, as a child
in BOOTS, you picked up the latest 8 bit game, saw the graphics on the
back cover and after buying it realised they were from the AMIGA or ST
Of course, there are no graphics in MAYDAY. You are faced with a Mode
6 screen with the location description and choice of GO NORTH, etc. The
adventure in itself is best suited to beginners and takes place on a
troubled space freighter in the future. In point of fact, if you like
text adventures, it's not all that bad at all. But it's not a classic
and it's not an arcade. And most importantly, it shouldn't appear on
a compilation that states that it is!
Europress, the new name for Database, have released this disk into
the Public Domain so you can pick it up in most libraries for just one
pound. If you are new to the Electron then you'll probably enjoy those
two 'true' classics and spend a little time playing around with PANZER
and MAYDAY. Remember also that, from a sales point of view, the title
CLASSIC ARCADE GAMES sounds much better than FOUR GAMES and, without its
original title, it might never have made it TO review.
A final point to make is there are only a very rare number of disks
[Apart from the EUG ones - Ed] that work with Electron ADFSs PAGE set
to &1D00. This is one of them! Consider it...
COLLECTIONS OF CLIPART
All Disks Available on 3.5"/5.25" (ADFS, CDFS, DFS)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 56
UNLIKE with the PC, where it has now become so easy to manipulate photo-
graphs, graphics and images that only a bare minimum of skill is needed,
producing a good picture on the BBC or Electron takes lots of time and
lots of patience. It also takes either considerable skill at programming
or a software package allowing you to draw on screen.
The choice, moreso for Elk users than BBC ones, is rather limited in
even acquiring the latter tool. If you're very lucky, you'll pick up a
boxed and complete copy of AMX ART and a nice analogue mouse. But more
likely, you'll find a copied disk in an old box acquired elsewhere, have
no instructions for the program that's on it and find the whole process
too daunting to begin. Either that, or you'll be faced with a package
which only accepts KEYBOARD input such as EUG's own DIAGRAM (EUG #15),
Impact's THE ART STUDIO or - horror of horrors! - the SKETCH program on
the Introductory Cassette!
Even if you persevere, you'll then find the machines simply aren't
powerful enough to provide the features we've come to expect. There cer-
tainly won't be an Undo facility - make a mistake with the Fill command
and you'll have to painstakingly reconstruct your original. And magnify-
ing particular areas of screen? A few pixels at most IF you're lucky!
Conversely, it's this exorbitant amount of hassle which can provoke a
quite intriguing amount of delight if a very impressive picture appears
on your monitor while it's connected to a Beeb. Look no further than
ELECTRON USER and EUG reviews and letters that praise professional load-
ing (or opening) screens for proof. It's the "How did he DO that?!"
factor that the 8 Bit pictures provoke - and that the PC never will -
that ensures they will be popular for quite a few years yet.
There are more pictures out there (sometimes incorrectly labelled as
"Clipart"!) than you might imagine, safely stowed in the 8 BIT SOFTWARE
archives. Recently a batch arrived at EUG HQ and it would not be an
exaggeration to call some of them unbelievably fantastic. Especially
when you put them into the context described above. But they are as in-
teresting from a historical point of view, in the same way that compar-
ing todays computing magazines with those of ten years ago yields much
reminiscing and merriment.
This review gives the lowdown on just nine of the disks available for
download at www.8bs.com. Running through it, unfortunately is a lack of
reliable copyright information. Many pictures crop up on different disks
(snatched from the official ones) and almost all are 'unsigned'; their
origins as big a mystery as their artists.
The biggest offenders 'snatch' from the ACORN USER GALLERY range of
disks. The ACORN USER magazine thought a lot more of the "Clipart Scene"
than its contemporaries; it published at least two full DFS disks of
images in its lifetime, as well as showcasing a new picture each issue.
Virtually all the pictures gracing them are assured to be colourful and
exciting. The 8BS library (and EUG) can supply the GALLERY disks #1 and
#2. There may have been more and it may be the case that images from
subsequent GALLERY disks were 'snatched' onto the disks reviewed below.
In the main, these other disks are a gamble. Some are dire, some mix
crud with crowd-pleasers and gems like the JOSEPH LAVERY COLLECTION
stand head and shoulders above even ACORN USER. But this is the Public
Domain world in general, isn't it?
Anyway, having established that we "Wow!" only if we appreciate the
amount of time the artist must have worked to bring the picture to our
Beeb screen, disks TYB-10, TYB-18, TYB-19 and TYB-21 demonstrate the
opposite effect. Respectively, these disks are archived as piccies of
POPSTARS, THE WORLD, SPACE and THE TOWER OF LONDON. They are digitised
pictures grabbed from a video tape with hardware known as a Digitiser.
This is an area where the PC triumphs over many rival computers. Even
16 bit computers such as the Amiga 500 could never 'grab' pictures from
external sources with the requisite degree of quality. On 8 bit, the re-
sults really are appalling, akin to watching a still picture on your TV
without an aereal connected. Why the BBC Digitiser was once a revolution
is understandable but just one digitised picture incorporated in a
slideshow inevitably shows not only the dated nature of the machine but
also that the 'artist' took no time in presenting something original.
(Even ACORN USER GALLERY disks suffer from this drawback!) To this end,
a slideshow of them is out of the question.
Coming off only fractionally better is TYB-41-1, a slideshow of pic-
tures digitised from the Archimedes. These have been ported down to Mode
0 on the BBC so they are of a reasonably high quality, albeit in black
and white, but again fail to "Wow!" After all, quite apart from the lack
of time it took their author to produce them (apart from connecting up
the two machines), you glean the perception that they would be spectac-
ular ON an Archimedes. So why look at them on a Beeb?
TYB-11 mixes digitised pictures with both freehand and MANDELBROT AND
JULIA designs. MAJ was once a professional software package (It's now
PD!) for designing crazy kaliedoscope-style designs. Output from it,
when you can't manipulate the image, rather defeats the purpose so wait-
ing for five images in turn to load (slowly!) after five digitised pics
(as slowly!) have annoyed you is frustrating. Fortunately, there are six
fair freehand drawings to help quell the despair...
This review is continued in R.+COLLE2. First published EUG #56.
[ COLLECTIONS OF CLIPART REVIEW - CONTINUATION ]
BEFORE continuing, note that the slow loading always comes about because
pictures are usually stored on disk in a compressed format. If they
aren't, they appear almost immediately but take up lots of disk space.
If they are, then the disk contains a lot more pictures but they take
considerably longer to be decompressed: usually writing to the screen a
line at a time. (You tend to be able to estimate the quality of such a
picture from only a few lines. If it looks good, the wait feels short.
If not, you'll be reaching for <ESCAPE>!)
Although TYB-08 gets off to a bad start by presenting AU's "THOMAS"
picture (which you find on hundreds of disks and which has even appeared
in EUG!), it continues with a nice range of compressed FREEHAND images
from 'Guido Designs' including Garfield, Woofer, Judge Dredd, The Iron
Man and Daredevil. The quality of the designs isn't too high, and they
don't make full use of the screen, but most are colourful and perky -
and definitely worth a peek!
Of the final two in the 8BS pile though, there are full-screen images
aplenty. The loader program of TAU-11 required a small alteration but,
once it was waiting for a keypress before flicking onto the next image,
caused much amazement. Designs signed by P. Bailey include a "Lowry"
painting, Japanese art and Spiderman, all rendered exquisitely. Another
ten images of everything from a map of XOR level 7 to a sensational
comic book plane crash are prickled just slightly by the odd MAJ inclus-
ion. But you WILL "Wow!" All the images are crafted with extreme care.
Finally, we come to the King of the PD picture: Mr Joseph Lavery. How
he did it, we'll never know - but his disk THE JOSEPH LAVERY COLLECTION
(aka TYB-09) has to be seen to be believed. Not a digitised or MAJ pic
in sight, Lavery has plotted pixels over fourteen successive Mode 1
screens that defies any budding Picasso. Reality and fantasy blur and
the slideshow throws everything at you from a mystical wizard surrounded
by swirling "Raiders Of The Lost Ark"-type spirits to the forlorn girl
holding a baby cat. AMX ART couldn't get itself a better advert! This is
a must see disk.
Hopefully having stimulated some interest, in closing this review,
note both that this very EUG includes a selection of pictures and, to
couple JOSEPH LAVERY's disk with a quicker-loading menu system, it has
been provisionally recompiled, onto both ADFS and DFS, for any EUG
reader who wants to order a copy. (Also, look out for a number of extra
images NOT present on his original disk, which have been unearthed and
will appear on EUG #57.) All the above disks are available FREE to down-
load from 8BS and four are worth a few moments of everybodys time.
Hate to think of how much work went INTO them though!
Dave Edwards, EUG #56
Product: COUNTDOWN TO DOOM
Supplier : TOPOLOGIKA, PO Box 39, Stilton, PETERBOROUGH PE7 3RL
Available on 3.5" DFS Disk
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 54
NOT the Acornsoft ROM cartridge version, Peter Killworth's COUNTDOWN TO
DOOM re-release by Topologika is a mammoth upgrade to the original with
many more puzzles, locations and characters. In many respects a cult
classic it is both one of the few Electron games solely produced on disk
(and in fact one of only ten games ever which were customised to work
only with PRES' AP4 upgrade) and one that is still available from its
software company to this day.
The first installment in a trilogy of text adventures about the
plague planet Doomawangara (followed by RETURN TO DOOM and THE LAST DAYS
OF DOOM in 1988 and 1990 respectively), it mixes a surprisingly detailed
narrative of exits and locations with unexpected sarcastic comments when
you try particular actions.
The scene is set when your spaceship crashlands and a countdown (of
the title) starts ticking away to ship collapse. The description of what
is left of your ships interior hardly inspires hope that any of it is
fixable but, with Doomawangara best described as a spaceship graveyard,
there is a small chance you can collect enough sundries to get the craft
airborne again. A simple puzzle will see you out onto terra firma (after
blowing up even more of your ship) and present you with a swamp, jungle,
valley, desert, mountain path and narrow path; all exquisitely detailed
as, you will quickly appreciate, is the norm.
What is irksome about continuing from this point is that any false
sense of security you had developed thanks to the simpilicity of your
escape is then repeatedly squished. Almost every move you make now re-
sults in a hideous and sometimes quite unconnected death. For example,
you choose the desert, death by heatstroke; swamp, death by drowning;
narrow path, death by slugs falling out of the sky; etc.
As in all adventures, there are objects to find and use correctly.
Unlike in many, there is no need to EXAMINE anything. Doing so brings up
the message "I've already told you everything you need to know about
that!" which comes direct from the hand of Peter Killworth, NOT the
Doom-stranded adventurer who is refered to in the second person. Once
again though, you are forced to die a number of bloodthirsty deaths to
discover what is safe to pick up or manipulate. Oh, goody, a gun, I'll
fire it. Dead. What's that blob wriggling towards the cliff? I'll TAKE
it. Dead. And these are only in the first six or seven locations! Bear-
ing in mind that professional adventures such as this tend to get harder
and harder the further the adventurer manages to progress, some will
probably be very discouraged by these early setbacks which, if you have
not SAVEd the position, immediately return you to the start of it.
A better solution, which is contained in some other Topologika
releases, is to ask "Do you want to pretend you hadn't done that?" and
wait for the inevitable Y keypress. This saves a large measure of frus-
As you may have guessed, I have not personally made much headway in
this hellhole but apart from the spotless spelling and atmosphere, the
game has one more feature to recommend it and this is the on line help
With the original disk comes a sheet of most-likely-to-be-asked
questions. However, instead of having to decrypt a coded answer or look
it up on another sheet, you obtain the answer from the game itself by
typing HELP and then the NUMBER following the appropriate question. You
get one hint and, if this is too cryptic, can ask for further ones until
you are given a solution. In this way, the games appeal is advanced as
you can make progress without needing Britain's Biggest Brain.
Presented in a stylish clear plastic folder with an illustrated low-
down on the planet and a playing guide, COUNTDOWN TO DOOM suggests at
every level that it is a very serious adventure which will tax the old
grey matter to bursting point. This is exactly what the software itself
does and it's no bad thing at all. It incorporates many new items over
the original version and, although it includes some tried (or should
that be tired?) and tested puzzles from other adventures, manages to
cram in a few new ideas too. If you can live with being knocked off
every few minutes, and don't mind responses like "Gee, I hope you enjoy-
ed that!" if you do something Killworth considers unnecessary, then give
this adventure a go. But be warned though, it's not easy!
Dave Edwards, EUG #54
Product: ELBUG INTRODUCTORY CASSETTE/DISK
Available on Tape, 3.5"/5.25" Disk (ADFS, DFS, CDFS)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG #51
THE number of compilations that actually exist for the Electron is quite
surprising, isn't it? PRES, Superior, Database, Headfirst, Blue Ribbon
and a few others may be the tip of the iceberg with very creative coding
and strong reputations. But a little further down, you brush off a few
Acornsoft ones, PCW, Cascade, Argus Publishing and twenty-two ELBUG com-
pilations, not to mention the ELBUG INTRODUCTORY one!
ELBUG mag, available by mail order, is a real rarity eighteen years
on but was actually the VERY first standalone one for the Electron. It
appeared November 1983 - a small, A5, dull-looking 36-page monochrome
booklet costing `1.00 - two months before ELECTRON USER hit the shelves
at the same price and (possibly) numbered its days.
Published by BEEBUGSOFT, a name no stranger to most respecting BBC
owners, ELBUG was similar to ELECTRON USER in that, for an additional
sum, all listed programs were available on cassette. The ELBUG INTRO-
DUCTORY [media] is a compilation of programs from the first few issues,
originally available on tape but transferred to disk without problem
when the first disk drive expansions were brought out.
Enough history. For your money here, you get four games and four
utilities; everything written in BASIC, fully listable and unprotected.
There's a chance the title ELBUG INTRODUCTORY CASSETTE is meant to make
it appeal as an alternative to the ELECTRON INTRODUCTORY one [ELBUG and
ELECTRON sound pretty similar - Ed] but there's no sign this was BEE-
BUGSOFT's intention so it's unfair to compare the two. On !BOOTing, or
CHAINing the first file, you are presented with the obligatory contents
menu on a blue screen to make selecting a program easier. Of course, if
you're using tape you can forward it as applicable to save time - or
even not use the menu at all as all programs can be CHAINed directly.
Chronologically you will first need to 'defend SPACE CITY' and this
choice of vocabulary will have probably given away that this is a shoot-
'em-up involving a good few hostile aliens and you as the city's only
hope. Despite being written in BASIC, so all the CHR$ defintions move
jerkily and slowly, the screen is livened up by a starry blue backdrop
with a V-shaped mothership in the top-centre and a collection of sky-
scrapers bottom-centre as well as 'you' and 'them'.
You are equipped with infinite exclamation marks to lob at the little
darlings and 'home-in' by firing then steering left and right. Unfortu-
nately, the aliens frequently side-step at the last moment leaving you
to cruise aimlessly to the top of the screen (wasting valuable seconds)
while their friends go in for the kill. It's hard enough to even get the
pixel-perfect targetting required without this frustration. If an alien
touches the city, it's all over and they do rain down quite mercilessly,
and are much more cunning than you'd expect, so in the end playability
is reasonably high. Actually surviving a level is quite an achievement
and surviving two, when the aliens start even lower, is a minor miracle!
The next game is MAZE. Oh, brother. This is about as bad as a 'game'
can get; typical two colour, wireframe screens with no clues, no variety
and no reward at all for getting out. The best that can be said for it
is that it's a very difficult game to do on an Electron. Perhaps HEWSON,
with its fantastic 3D SOUTHERN BELLE/EVENING STAR train journeys, could
have managed to do it well. As it is, even the Acornsoft version is (at
The games part of the compilation luckily is saved by title number
three 3D OXO. This is Noughts and Crosses with a difference; there are
FOUR surfaces to puzzle over and you can choose to place your marks (or
even colours) either on the same surface or across all four. It's a bit
confusing at first but after the Elk whoops your ass a few times you do
get the hang of it. The rules are simple and it's probably the best game
in the compilation (even with its intellectual bias).
RACER is that idea of you moving one car on a narrow, scrolling road,
birds'-eye view, with lots of stationary cars to overtake, and taking
care not to plough into them or the roadside. Admittedly AFTER this
(firmly average) version, this type of game has been done time and time
again with the same dire consequences. Whether road, ski-slope, motor-
bike or boat race, it simply isn't interesting to play. (The one time
it's well utilised is in SPY HUNTER by U.S.Gold - and for BBC only.)
Games not overly impressive, the four utilities also start off badly.
PATCHWORK is a Mode 2 pattern generator that doesn't live up to its pro-
mise of amazing displays: in fact, all its displays look identical, they
simply get scaled larger or smaller. One big multicoloured cube isn't
really going to get looked at very often, is it?
Now the next utility is one of the brightest ideas imaginable. Simply
called MEMORY DISPLAY and complete in a function key defintion that
programs f8, this tool will also anyone needing to view the contents of
a number of memory locations to hit f8, type in the location to start
and type in the location to finish. It will then display each location
in turn. No more FOR NEXT loops during assembly code programming!
CHARACTER DEFINER comes next. There have been a hundred and one
versions of this and this only lets you define ONE 8x8 character defini-
tion at a time. It might help brand new programmers to understand this
function of the BBC series' computers though...
Have they saved the best for last? No. The last program is little
more than a space filler. Called KEYSET, this simply assigns commands to
the function keys. Phphphphp... One of them simply changes to Mode 6 and
LISTs with the scroll inhibiter on!
Overall then, the compilation is simply very, very dated. In its
time, it may not have been bad but only three of its contents have stood
the test of time. There's an 'irksome'ness over the whole of it as the
commands switching off the flashing cursor are Electron-specific - so
loading the games on another machine means you need to add VDU23;8202;0;
0;0; at particular places - and the CHARACTER DEFINER even refers you to
instructions for it in the first ELBUG issue. This simply shouldn't
happen in a standalone compilation!
Unless you're a complete beginner, or desperate for any Electron
programs you can get your hands on, you really shouldn't bother with it.
Product: NEW EUG #0 & #1 ON DISK
Supplier: EUG, 42 Canterbury Road, REDCAR TS10 3QF
Available on 3.5"/5.25" Disk (ADFS, DFS, CDFS)
Reviewed by John Crane in EUG #51
A Bit Of Background
I JOINED the Electron User Group at around EUG #7, towards the end of
the paper copies. When Will Watts [Editor No. 1 - Ed] did a feature in
MICRO'S COMPUTER MART, I wrote to him and received EUG #7 as an intro-
duction. I liked what I saw and so paid for EUG #8.
Will then announced that EUG was to be disk-based from #9 on, so I
took out my first of several subscriptions. At some point he also
announced that back issues of the early paper copies were available and
I then bought EUGs #0 to #6.
I had toyed with the idea of compiling all these paper editions of
EUG, TO disk, myself. But it wasn't really my forte and now I've been
saved the bother by what's come along!
EUG #0 And #1 On Disk
MY FIRST impressions were good. I'm always struggling for space in my
'office' (My computers are built into part of the wardrobe in our bed-
room) and so the opportunity to have the early EUGs on disk, thereby
getting rid of some paper, really appeals.
Obviously by studying them and categorising the contents, these
original mags have been compiled onto disks in an entirely logical way,
making each thing easy to find. In a paper mag, the order and type of
article is not quite so important; sometimes an article may be used to
fill an available space. Whereas on disk, a more structured approach is
needed. Hence these new disks have familiar menus like Mailbag, Adverts,
A by-product of the conversion to disk is that a program listing in
the original mag becomes a working program. The 'typing in' stage is
saved and anyone who wishes to experiment with these programs can do so
more easily. The original "EUG NEEDS YOU" back cover is also converted
into a "live" demo. (See EUG #50)
The only fault I found on the review copy was EUG #1 did not appear
to be complete with articles called TEXT FILE SAVER, INFECT YOUR ELK
and SAVING MEMORY DIRECT not on the menus. These need to be included to
keep the magazine original and for the sake of completeness before the
disk could be classed as a replacement.
I also feel that the front cover of the paper magazine (in particular
that of the Electron machine on EUG #0) could probably have been utilis-
ed as an opening screen, and that an attempt should be made to convert
the illustrations in the magazines so they too can be viewed. [John has
submitted some digitised images to this effect and EUG #0 and #1 now
incorporate them - Ed]
Overall then, I think in these two disks, we have the best of both
worlds. The convenience of the disk and its structure coupled with the
articles and features that made the early editions what they were. When
issues #2 to #8 appear, I will definitely be in the queue to buy them.
AS indicated, the EUG disks reviewed here were PREVIEW editions and the
omissions from the menus have now been rectified. In addition, John has
submitted digitised images of many of the EUG covers and clipart which
are similarly now incorporated. So, besides being only the second person
to contribute to EUG's Reviews section, he has played a part in perfect-
ing these new disks!
Well done and thanks John! New copies of the two disks are on their
way! To everyone else, remember to order your copies of EUG #0 and EUG
#1 at `1.30 each, or make contributions to cover their cost!
Product: NEW EUG #0 ON DISK
Supplier: EUG, 42 Canterbury Road, REDCAR TS10 3QF
Available on 3.5"/5.25" Disk (ADFS, DFS, CDFS)
Reviewed by Will Watts in EUG #52
IN my 'Editor's Reunion' contribution to EUG #50, I mentioned that our
Editor was planning to transfer the early paper-based EUGs to disk and
make them available as back issues. True to his word, Dave has got stuck
into the project and kindly sent me the first two conversions to review.
Some may say that it's a mistake to allow the original editor of any-
thing to review their own work in retrospect but I think enough time has
elapsed since these mags first appeared for objectivity to triumph over
(my) ego and I believe I can offer an unbiased appraisal.
Both of the disks I received are fully menu-driven with the familiar
new right-of-screen logos. Here I share my thoughts on EUG #0, which
originally consisted of 8 double-sided sheets of photocopied A4 paper
stapled together. It was sent free of charge to those first pioneers who
expressed an interest in joining/forming EUG.
I have a soft spot for 'The Taster' (as this issue was spectacularly
subtitled). I produced the whole thing myself (with a little help from
the Guv'nor, Alison - hence the use of the word "we" a lot!) and had
great fun doing so! I felt sure that when other people saw my modest
efforts, they'd all rush to show how much better they could do. Didn't
quite work out that way...
As I mentioned earlier, the disks are menu-driven but rather than go
into headings and sub-menus, I'll just list what you can load up.
This is/was a welcoming message...from me. [New versions of this disk
also have a snippet of this review as well - Ed]
THE BIT AT THE FRONT
In later issues, this became abbreviated to T.B.A.T.F. It was meant to
be a chatty, informal introduction to ease people into things and let
them see what a 'colourful character' I was - "Me?!! I'm MAD, me! I
don't care what I do, me! I'm completely bonkers! I'm also rather irri-
In both the original and this disk edition, there's a lot of nonsense
about horoscopes and other computer users. Dave has made a good job of
turning a rather scrappy hand-drawn diagram I made of bogus starsigns
into a neat graphics screen. A bit of an artist is our Dave!
Incidentally, anyone interested in recent social history and 'Yoof'
culture in particular can have fun spotting the references to Teenage
Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles and the original Star Wars films in EUG #0.
EUG NEEDS YOU DEMO
This disk takes the original screen dump of my Mode 4 drawing of Lord
Kitchener (or sort of) with his finger up his nose [So that's who the
dude was meant to be! - Ed] and added 'pop-up' text. I'd be interested
to learn how Dave managed to make such a faithful copy from a paper
print-out and put it back on screen where it started! I know the
original drawing wasn't very sophisticated but still...
MUSIC PROGRAM 1
You enter a text string to represent a series of musical notes and the
program plays your masterpiece when you press <RETURN>. There should be
a keyboard/note diagram which was not present on my review copy so I am
going to supply Dave with one - don't know if he'll use it though! [It's
been added - Ed]
MUSIC PROGRAM 2
Highlights from the William Tell overture constructed with, and played
on, an adaptation of the first Music Program. The original documentation
for each is included as a VIEW text file.
USER DEFINED CHR$ UTILITY
Hard as it may be to believe, this is a User-defined Character Generat-
ing Utility. Docs are as with the Music Programs.
A TO Z OF ELK SOFTWARE
This is an ill-conceived and fairly pointless list of software (of which
EUG #0 contains A to B) that you can read over and over again in the
comfort of your own home! Why not invite friends and family round and
make a night of it? You could take turns at reading the list and whoever
recites it in the silliest voice wins a Mars bar...or something (serving
EIGHT THINGS TO DO....
All I can say is that IF you miss ETTD then the item known as ETTD, by
you, will, in no uncertain terms, have been missed. By you. And it will
have been YOU that has done this thing, the thing that involves YOU,
ETTD and missing things. Don't think I missed anything there.
This is an advert to tell people that they can place adverts. It's
almost as exciting as ETTD above. I suspect that if you took a quick
look at ETTD then immediately went on to sample ELECTRON EXCHANGE, you
might not find it that gripping BUT you'd have the makings of ALMOST
half a grip or maybe just a pinch on a bad day. Anyway, slight pressure
to the left earlobe at the very least. That's my final offer.
PUBLIC DOMAIN ARTICLE
A short piece about Public Domain Software libraries. This information
is sadly out of date now.
A simple 'Space Invaders' program plus text challenging all-comers to
One bogus letter to encourage future correspondence.
THE BIT AT THE BACK
Later known as T.B.A.T.B. Here I am saying goodbye for the first time.
To be pedantic, the word "goodbye" doesn't actually appear in the piece
but others like "maggot", "haemorrhoids" and "TippEx" do, so lots to
enjoy here then!
In conclusion, considering the raw materials Dave worked with, EUG #0 on
disk is a success. The opening loading screen on my review copy is taken
from later disk-based EUGs but, as I have recently found the ORIGINAL
graphic on a dusty old disk, its rustic charms can now be included. So
too can the original "Yoda" from the Star Wars films (drewded by myself)
which was missing.
I would be a great big stinky liar if I were to claim that EUG #0 is
anything other than a bit of a curiosity. There's nothing in it that
will change your life. The programs are pretty mundane and the articles
more whimsical than informative. However, if you're the obsessive type
who likes to have complete sets of everything, send for your copy now!
Will Watts, EUG #52
Product: NEW EUG #2 ON DISK
Supplier: EUG, 42 Canterbury Road, REDCAR TS10 3QF
Available on 3.5"/5.25" Disk (ADFS, CDFS, DFS)
Reviewed by John Crane in EUG 55
HOT on the heels of the disk versions of EUG #0 and #1 (Well, quite warm
anyway!) comes EUG #2 and, being as how I've managed to get myself a
copy, I thought I'd give it a bit of a going over.
At the risk of sounding too enthusiastic, I thought it was brilliant
and, daft though it may sound, I actually think it's better than the
original. The reason being quite simply the diagrams which accompany the
ELECTRON WORKSHOP article. In the original paper mag, these were more or
less thumbnail sketches included amongst the text. By putting these in a
separate file, each image is a full screen picture with diagrams very
The same goes for the cover. I think quite a lot of thought has gone
into these conversions and our Ed has struck the right balance between
keeping the content of the original and, at the same time, making minor
improvements. For example, arranging the disk into menus and arranging
menu contents alphabetically. This isn't especially important on paper,
but a disk-based product does need some sort of structure.
The only minor fault was that the PLAY IT AGAIN SAM 16 review [Which
was a brand new product when this issue originally went to press - Ed]
was not on any menu, even though the file was on the disk. I added it
myself quite easily into the DEMOS/UTILS menu by substituting one of
the <Empty> statements in line 1290 for "SAM 16 REVIEW" and "R.+2PIA16".
I got to find out what the mystery listing was, having never bothered
to type it in in the past. I won't spoil the fun, but that it seemed
quite appropriate for the run up to the Christmas issue is all I'll say.
EUG #3 will be on its way soon I'm told and I'm looking forward to
that. Keep up the good work!
* * * Second Opinion * * *
HAVING been sent a review copy of this new issue, I must first note that
I was surprised to see how well it has been done. I have the original
paper copy and on comparing the two versions, everything is there - in-
cluding all the drawings and front cover!
Amongst some other items, this issue includes some useful tips in
using VIEW in an article by Tom Boustead - USING VIEW WITH TAPE; some
suggestions for preventing the accidental use of the <BREAK> key in Marc
Harris' ELECTRON WORKSHOP; a review of Superior's PLAY IT AGAIN SAM 16
including VERTIGO, PERPLEXITY, HOSTAGES and PIPEMANIA; some tips on
trouble-shooting by John Brown; a crossword; the solution to the cross-
word in EUG #1 and a mystery program!
I found the crossword appeared slightly differently, possibly as the
clue numbering had to be revised.
Another point was that the mystery program was solved at the touch of
a key and the fun of typing it in to see what it did was lost!
These are small points though and do not spoil an interesting issue
which contains some useful ideas and some amusing articles.
Richard Dimond, EUG #55
Product: FLINT STRIKES BACK
Supplier: POTTER PROGRAMS
Available on Tape, 3.5"/5.25" Disk (ADFS, CDFS, DFS)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 56
IN this no-graphic text adventure from Potter, you return for the third
time as the "SUPER AGENT" of its clever title. You have been captured by
minions of your old adversary, T.E.R.D. Rather than kill you outright
though, they strand you on their space station, aim it at a ball of fire
and lock it on course. It will burn up in thirty minutes of real time
and only by gaining access to the computer and aborting the program will
you be able to turn it around and avoid a fiery end.
Although Potter could probably just have about escaped with such a
silly plot on the stereotypical "bad guys always engineer a spectacular
death for the James Bond-type" line, the scenario rather boggles belief
when Flint has been neither tied up nor incapacitated in any way. The
first location of the adventure is a corridor and a cursory inspection
of its environs reveals a very handy identity 'kard' and a space suit.
It appears T.E.R.D. are not only so stupid as to have left you enough
time to escape 'inevitable doom' (sacrificing their own space station
into the bargain!), they have also allowed you free run of the station
itself and given you infinite inventory space to carry these incredibly
The next surprise you find is that there are several guards onboard
the Titanician vessel with you! But are they running around, comprehend-
ing their imminent destruction, desperately jabbing at computer consoles
and screaming "Betrayed by those T.E.R.D.s who were supposed to be our
friends!"? No, not a bit of it. They are standing to attention at cer-
tain locations demanding passwords - which are just as conveniently
scrawled uncoded across walls in other locations!
The plot becomes rather laughable now. Of course this is true in
numerous adventures but even filling in such holes with assumptions like
"Perhaps the guards really ARE unaware of the situation!" is rendered
ridiculous by the fact that, without the fake id card, they immediately
blast you to death (Why didn't they just do this beforehand?!) but, with
the same appearance and simply carrying it, you are assumed to be a
legitimate fellow T.E.R.D!
Progress is frighteningly easy and the only real obstacle you're
likely to encounter during your expedition is time running out. There
are no cryptic clues, mazes or illogical problems and, in fact, the few
objects you discover only have one purpose - to open doors to allow
further access to the station. So, for example, the torch is not to see
in a dark location, but to operate a light-sensitive door!
The standard directional commands NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST are
understood (with their abbreviations) but little else and FSB may be the
most limited professional adventure to grace the BBC/Electron series. To
use an object, the word USE is required. Sounds obvious, but generally
adventurers will try UNLOCK DOOR or OPEN DOOR and not USE BRONZE KEY as
the game demands. INVENTORY, GET and DROP work as expected and, in
appropriate locations, if the word PASS is contained in your input, you
will be asked to enter the password in an unnecessary inverse video
prompt (which makes the screen look messy) but ALL other input brings up
the unfeeling message "I don't understand."
Were this not the case, Potter could at least have produced a
"beginners'" adventure. But coupled with the crazy plot, their decision
not to note the PASS and USE commands in instructions would simply
infuriate the amateur. Which brings us to the LOAD and SAVE commands...
There are bugs in the procedures dealing with both in the original
code with the result that the saved position file is left open when re-
trieved. Attempting to re-load it after being killed, or re-saving at a
later position results in an error which locks up the game! The commands
CLOSE #2 need to be replaced with CLOSE #0 (to close all files)!
The Mode 6 screen is laid out not unlike several other Potter adven-
tures. The location description is laid out at the top of the screen
while commands are entered in a smaller window (surrounded by *s) at the
bottom. Once again though, there are errors with text formatting. Whilst
words are not cut over lines in the location descriptions, they are sub-
ject to strange and varying degrees of justification. In the input box,
typing INVENTORY gives a list with no formatting whatsoever! On one
occasion, text meant for the input box appeared in the location descrip-
The rest of the errors - yes, there are more! - are unfortunate Eng-
lish grammatical fluffs: "You were not wearing a space suit and was
instantly sucked out of the ship" is but one example. Many location des-
criptions are pathetic: "A room with red lights" is south of one "with
orange lights" and east of "green lights". Those of the spaceship have
an unintentional depressing atmosphere...
Slating over, finally we move onto the 'quest'. The good news is that
the quite large number of locations does encourage its adventurer to
make a map and locating the two keys and three crystals required to hack
into the mainframe is very much assisted by doing so. By using this
method I was able to progress to the very last location in only an hour
or so. Unfortunately, much hair-pulling is involved in figuring out how
to insert them into it! Neither USE CRYSTAL nor USE KEY will work and
HELP just brings up the cold "You're on your own."
This is a thoroughly awful adventure. Devoid of atmosphere, humour,
plausible script, friendly parser, unique puzzles and entertainment, it
must qualify as the worst professional release on the market.
ELECTRON USER's "Adventures" column once wrote that the second of the
Flint trilogy (RETURN OF FLINT) was so bad that it should never have
been released and presumably would've thought the same of these further
meanderings! [The real 'super' agent trilogy is that of Robico's RICK
HANSON where all this review's negatives become positives - Ed] The ver-
dict on FSB has to be a resounding raspberry fit only to be relegated to
the back of your games' collection in record time.
Dave Edwards, EUG #56
Product: FOUR GREAT GAMES VOLUME 1
Available on Tape Only
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG #52
TOWARDS the end of the Eighties, Tynesoft, like many 'big' software
houses, repackaged and rereleased many of its earlier full priced games
as compilations. Volume 1 of its FOUR GREAT GAMES series is from a set
of three entitled MICROVALUE; each volume packaged in a twin cassette
box and costing `3.99.
All the programs contained on each compilation are natty arcade
machine code affairs. Considering some of them retailed at up to `7.95
each before, Tynesoft rightly emphasise that you now get WET ZONE,
ALPHATRON, RIG ATTACK and VINDALOO for less than a pound each!
Getting stuck in then, WET ZONE really is a spaceship extravaganza
like no other invaders-type jaunt. You fall from the top of the screen
and before you've even made it to the bottom, are attacked by 'images
of childhood in Graemsay'. Whoaboy, is this game hard!
The 'images' are things like submarines, umbrellas and snow flakes
that whirlpool down upon you from left to right, firing bullets into the
bargain, at the 20 degrees diagonal. This makes them both very hard to
blast and to avoid - as by the time bullets reach where the lifeforms
were when fired, they've already moved further down!
On hitting them, your bullets take time out to 'ripple' and, as only
two bullets/ripples are permitted on screen at once, prepare for frus-
trating deaths while waiting to be able to fire again. Also, as the
'images' reach the right, they appear again on the left so it's not un-
common to be surrounded by bullets AND avenging aliens.
WET ZONE is pure hardened arcade addicts' action with great sound and
swift gameplay. The sprites, done in Mode 4, aren't all that brilliant
but there is a funky tune between games to make up for them.
In ALPHATRON, you pilot a Scout Ship assigned to protect a Refinery
from missile attacks. The action is viewed from the side and you begin
on a launch pad, blasting off when a missile appears screen-left.
Cruising off the right in pursuit of the missile, note that there are
another four separate screens in which to take care of it, with the re-
finery on the far right of the last. A nice backdrop of cyan sky and red
hills doesn't distract from this 'action', such as it is, and a radar of
the five screens in the bottom left displays both hills, your position
and that of any missile. With the title at the top of the Mode 5 screen
and a fuel gauge, high score, your score and lives all displayed lower,
ALPHATRON is graphically impressive.
Although the instructions note your ship is equipped with a laser,
firing is more bullet-like and takes a time to reach the missile. To
destroy one, you need to blast off, follow it onto the next screen, aim
and fire. You miss more often than you imagine as IF the missile reaches
the right of the screen, it disappears onto the next one - but your
bullet doesn't follow it any further. Also, your aim needs to be spot on
otherwise the bullet causes no damage whatsoever!
The playability of this game is dull and it ploughs on and on until
the refinery is destroyed or you blow up enough missiles to move on to
the next level, where things speed up a little. Not the best of the
bunch as the sound is also pretty poor.
On then to RIG ATTACK, a brilliantly designed helicopter jaunt
across BP-owned rigs. This is a simple game where you pilot a multi-
coloured helicopter sprite equipped with short range bombs to deal with
the "enemy submarines", which are also superbly designed. The playing
area fills the whole of a Mode 1 screen and you begin on an intricate
oil rig with three submarines to seek out and bomb. As they're
underwater, you need to fly down low over it - without hitting it as
this is fatal! - while avoiding their LONG range bombs and timing your
As you reach the left or right of the screen, the whole thing scrolls
visibly in the appropriate direction presenting you with new and just as
intricately designed oil rig territories. You must also remember which
have helicopter pads on as you will need to take some time from hunting
to refuel. There are nice noises and explosions to accompany the action
and often a frantic slide towards water if you forget!
The only real niggle with this game is that once you've worked out
the best strategy for playing, it becomes too easy, never increasing in
difficulty as the submarines always only attack one at a time (even when
you must destroy more to complete the level).
Finally, you become an Indian Takeaway owner on a quest to find your
toilet after a little over-VINDALOO-indulgence. This scenario doesn't
suggest it but there is more than a little familiarity about this title.
Encased in a stylish border with a nicely styled title between two
curry houses, all overlooking the majority of the screen's playing area,
Raj (your character) must traverse twenty two rooms of bouncing balls,
bugs, wriggling and disappearing platforms, elevators and other nasties
using only the Z and X keys.
He begins "Under The Takeaway" in the top left and must be guided to
the bottom of the screen by walking along earth and platforms, dropping
slowly down through any spaces to the one below. That is, unless he
collides with anything moving and disintegrates.
Many elements of the game such as the score increasing in time to
sound blips marking the characters descent, the layout of the scores,
bonus and room name (and even the font this is typed in!) - not to men-
tion the screens themselves and the standardised five lives - smack of
Icon's BUGEYES. Indeed, Jason Sobell was the author of each! [BUGEYES
in 1985, VINDALOO in 1986 - Ed]
With just TEN screens in BUGEYES, it's unfair to say VINDALOO is the
same game with an altered scenario and different sprites! However, the
more you compare the two, the bigger are the number of similarities
that become apparent. One screen (number six on each: "Squidged Flat"
on BUGEYES and "Skull Level Four" on VINDALOO) is almost identical!
Overall, although VINDALOO has some nice touches seen when pausing
the game or viewing the ridiculous room names ("Life Is An Orange"?),
the palette, sprites and layout choice distinguish BUGEYES as a
classier act. Playability of both is high, especially with a MRB.
With the possible of exception of ALPHATRON, the games on this com-
pilation are of a very high standard. Despite only being available on
the tape format, they take very little time to load and are completely
bug-free and well thought out. Recommended.
Dave Edwards, EUG #52
Product: FOUR GREAT GAMES VOLUME 2
Available on 3.5"/5.25" DFS Disk, Tape
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 53
ANOTHER double-cassette [Single disk - Ed] pack from Tynesoft, the
second "Micro Value" boasting that `3.99 bought you four 'great' games
contains the instantly recognisable GUNSMOKE bundled with THE GREAT
WALL, MOUSE TRAP and MEGA FORCE. Only the last two games were originally
released by Tynesoft but, as with the first compilation, these last
three retailed (at least at one time) at almost double the price of the
whole package! The exception, GUNSMOKE - ironically as it's the best of
the bunch - was given away by Dixons with their Electron starter packs.
Originally a Software Invasion release, you control the large sprite
of a gentleman cowboy in the foreground bottom of a Mode 5 screen. The
aim of the game is to take out as many cowboys in the higher-up backdrop
as possible. This backdrop is a small colourful desert town comprising a
store, saloon-cum-hotel, barn and sheriffs office. The idea is to shoot
any other cowboy lurking in or around these locations.
It's a simple concept given a unique feel by the gun control method.
Your gun can be aimed at either a rough 45 degree or 80 degree angle, so
you may take out a bad guy on the far right by shooting from either the
far left or just right of centre respectively. As the guy is likely to
be shooting back though, it's wise to think in advance and above all do
a lot of running around to avoid shots from his friend(s).
The game gets progressively tougher with the number of baddies
unloading their five shooters (?!) in your general direction AT THE SAME
TIME matched by the level number. Every time you've taken out sixteen
altogether, both are incremented. It's apparently possible to have all
sixteen locations filled with bad 'uns on the last level!
As this is all easy to grasp, the instructions given with the pack
are pretty unfathomable wittering on, as they do, about the "Cartwright-
controlled town of Tombstone" instead of noting the game keys as one
would expect! The game itself though is spotless with a nice layout,
signature tune and addictive gameplay. There's even a First Byte joy-
stick option! Though the gunslingers are all in monochrome.
Evidently employing some of Tynesoft's vocabulary a few years before,
Artic Computing attempt to sucker potential customers into a HUNCHBACK
clone by similarly describing their (familiar) wall as "great"! It
ain't. You are a "runner" with the stomach-churning mission of crossing
512 (Yes, 512!) screens of fireballs, bouncing balls and cannon balls
plus the obligatory small holes to leap and larger ones to cross on
floating rafts. It's all very familiar and, far from the huge number of
screens ATTRACTING the audience (which it's meant to), considering you
frequently get deaded on the second or third one, it's actually very
disheartening. Couple this with each screen after three mirroring one of
the ones before and you're not even close to how dull this game is.
Playability is very poor. Everything in the game, including your
'running' man, moves slowly but with oddly fast cannon balls shooting
over the screen so quickly you die before you mark them! If you clear a
hole but land on the edge of the wall, you still meet your maker and, as
fireballs travel from right to left, you can be frustratingly picked off
by one at head/waist height just as you reach the end of the screen.
Each sprite is very small (8 x 8), dull and unalluring. Each section
of wall takes a few seconds to appear. The text characters have been re-
defined awkwardly and are less readable. Each time you play you must
choose whether to have sound, whether to have music and then what piece
of music! If you have a Plus 1 attached, the game then hangs up unless
you answered N three times! And loading the game takes an eternity with
instructions and loading screens!
It's also interesting that another Artic release, WOKS, contains
almost exactly the same flaws, not to mention the same sprites!
The sprites are very much improved in the next piece, MOUSE TRAP; the
first 100% machine code game written by Chris Robson. This is a very
colourful Mode 5 romp around 22 screens of mousedom. The animation and
detail of sprites smacks of quality from the word go, with a bouncing
and shimmering title, high score table and slideshow of screens.
Sadly, though this game may look good, its playability (while not in
the same division as THE GREAT WALL) also lets it down. Marvin the mouse
jumps from platform - and over many deadly household appliances - to
platform, and collects Christmas puddings. Unfortunately, the jump left/
right key combinations refuse to work unless you are already holding
down the appropriate movement key before tapping the jump one. As this
is a game where near pixel-perfect negotiation of baddies is required,
this flaws effect renders the whole game near to useless! That said, a
lot of perseverance may reward Marvin with the golden cheese he desires!
The last game, MEGA FORCE, describes itself as "the ultimate shoot-
'em-up for the Electron". As usual, this interprets as your craft is at
the bottom shooting up at baddies at the top. Luckily, while it doesn't
really introduce anything new, this is the genre done very well.
Sprites for both your and enemy craft are big, chunky and blow up,
when hit, quite fantastically! Your ship has a double-barrelled gun
emplacement so it's possible to blast two vertically rows of invaders,
the action set on top of very fast parallax stars, simultaneously. Nice
touches such as different zones (with different aliens to blast) plus
spherical pods that improve your firepower when shot add to the game's
Here the graphics and gameplay are tiptop but there are two other
(less serious) glitches. First, the loading screen takes a age to appear
on the display, as it is not loaded directly but 'floods' on via machine
code. Second, author Ian Collinson, for his own reasons, has not turned
off the _ cursor. Thankfully, it doesn't flash around the screen but it
can be very distracting, beating away relentlessly in the bottom right.
Should you like good displays and nice sprites, most of these games
deliver in such respects. With playability, GUNSMOKE comes first, then
MEGA FORCE, then MOUSETRAP and at the bottom THE GREAT WALL. Still, you
will probably be left with the impression that, considering all were on
their second release, ironing out the creases before they left the Tyne-
soft unit again could have been most worthwhile.
Dave Edwards, EUG #53
Product: HOUSE - IT'S QUITE GOOD REALLY!
Supplier: Bazzasoft/Europress Ltd
Available on 3.5"/5.25" ADFS/DFS Disk
(ADFS Elk version requires 64K/PAGE at E00)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG #53
BESIDES needing the appropriate kit on an ADFS Electron, this review will
also be required if you already have a copy of the adventure game HOUSE -
IQGR for the BBC. It is intended not just to give the standardised opin-
ion but so too to document the game plus its conversion from the BBC. AND
to show how to patch up the bug hiding in it making it unplayable past a
The company "Bazzasoft" produced a good few BBC/Electron Public Domain
titles in the late Eighties and early Nineties [It was behind the "Bazza-
soft Filing System 2.34" demo in EUG #45 - Ed] with one of its more noted
releases being the Bazzasoft Adventure Programming System (B.A.P.S.). The
adventure HOUSE - IQGR was created on this system and runs in Mode 6 with
over 45 locations, lots of messages and numerous puzzles.
The scene is London where you seem to have acquired a luxury detached
house just a road from Downing Street (occupied by Margaret Thatcher!).
However, one day your pride and joy, your BBC Micro, disappears from your
bedroom. With a few elements of PD game INSOMNIA, what is to follow as
you navigate the house and its environs is a humorous if not a little
trippy jaunt featuring screaming wildly, leaping from high locations,
visiting the funny farm and exchanging one item for another.
Oh, yes, and don't forget an excess of murder. Each death you sustain
by a wrong move brims with sarcasm - yet beating your brother's guinea-
pig to a pulp, blowing up a whole location of people and observing a very
messy game of politics where Neil Kinnock seems to be doing his 'Hannibal
Lecter' are all excesses not for the weak-stomached!
You immediately wonder about several of what could be called the
politically incorrect aspects of HOUSE - IQGR. Several of its characters,
quite apart from Thatcher and Kinnock, are defamed to an extent by the
ensuing events. For example, footballer Terry Fennick is a drink-driver
and John Kirenan (IRA member), on request, whips up a DIY bomb. That
said, their notorious activities at the time of the games writing [1992
- Ed] are certainly not celebrated and the black humour associated with
their appearance still works today! Some might say that, before the
internet took hold, PD was the true place for games that were a little
'risque'. What most will find really incredible though is that this game,
less than two years later, was carried by the mainstream Acorn disk of
THE MICRO USER Volume 12 Number 6!
There are eight characters in total and, in a more fantastical sense,
Dot Cotton, Saddam Hussein and a vampire are all quickly discovered
roaming weird locations; almost all of which are readily accessible
right from the start. The text describing them, and the locations, is
well-written, free from spelling errors, nicely formatted and of a very
high standard. Take for example:
"You hand the purple harmless iridescent butterfly to the insect-
collectologist, who puts it in a matchbox in an armoured suitcase in a
titanium safe which he welds closed and wraps up in clingfilm before
Definitely a big improvement on Scott Adams' "OK"! However, it's as
well to note that the parser on HOUSE - IQGR is not developed up to the
same grade. I was initially very frustrated to get endless "Sorry, you
can't do that..." messages when I tried to GET, TAKE, KILL, EAT, HIT a
GUINEA-PIG in one of the early locations. Because the message never
changes, the parser seems very limited; in actual fact, GET and GIVE are
the only commands (apart from compass directions) you're likely to need
so if neither works, it's not a bug; it's just that you haven't found
the solution involving that particular object.
There is a bug in this game though, fortunately discovered and
'patched' during the conversion to the Electron. Without wanting to give
anything else away (at least not until EUG publishes the solution!), it
occurs when you must use the DIY bomb. "That was probably a bad move,"
says the text as it explodes and you are arrested...
However, instead of transporting you to a locked police cell, the BBC
version then prints "<undefined location>" and leaves you no alternative
but to QUIT. As it's now impossible to finish the game, it becomes
evident that THE MICRO USER probably didn't test this adventure much, if
at all! Luckily though, your EUG reviewers fix has been included on the
EUG #53 disk version. On THE MICRO USER's original effort (and possibly
other PD versions), add the lines below to "HOUSEGM":
120DEFPROClook:IF (1+R% MODMX)=2 AND (1+R% DIVMX)=7 THEN R%=R%-1
121IF (1+R% MODMX)=1 AND (1+R% DIVMX)=7 THEN R%=R%-7
122PROCform(2,DES$(1+R% MODMX,1+R% DIVMX)):M%=0:FOR S=1 TO OBJ:IF
?(obc-1+S)=R% AND OBD$(S)<>"<undefined>" M%=M%+1
The BBC/Electron version on EUG #53, with this surgery, retains every-
thing (on both machines!) of the original apart from the bug. It also
includes a lovely converted Mode 7 to Mode 1 loading screen specifically
coded to appear even with the 64K Elk's extra memory enabled.
With the game itself, there are just two more little features that
require documentation. The first, a relatively minor point, is that when
giving an item, you must type GIVE <x> TO <y> <RETURN> as GIVE <x> alone
results in "Sorry, you can't do that...". The second is that there are
longish pauses between location and location while memory is accessed.
They aren't so long as to ruin the adventure though.
With the bug fixed, this documentation by your side and the requisite
Acorn kit, you'll soon discover HOUSE - IQGR to be the very creme de la
creme of PD adventures. Despite the limited parser, the witty text and
simplicity of action will guide you through quite easily. It's of
moderate difficulty - its title being an accurate description - and
fluidly written. An almost perfect little adventure.
Dave Edwards, EUG #53
Product: MYSTERY OF THE JAVA STAR
Supplier: SHARDS SOFTWARE
Available on Tape, 3.5"/5.25" Disk (ADFS, DFS, CDFS)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG #52
WITH its title, accompanied by a box illustration of a model ship in
water, one would assume the Java Star to be the vessel of the name. Not
so. In fact, the adventure reveals that Java Star is a precious ruby the
"size of a pheasant egg" that was lost en route from Cayenne, South
America to Kingston on 16th September 1767. Its new home is a sunken
wreck, the Sea Witch, beneath the Atlantic Sea. Intriguingly, you are
invited to investigate all the elements of this last voyage then finance
a one man mission to get your greasy hands on its secrets.
As in Shards' PETTIGREW'S DIARY, you are presented with a self-des-
cribed epic adventure written in BASIC which loads in a number of parts;
in JAVA STAR, this is four. "Epic" connotates in both that locations in
separate countries must be traversed to complete them and the Elk ver-
sions are all fully compatible with the rest of the 32K BBC series.
If you were around schools in the mid-Eighties, you'll remember a
variety of BBC only Mode 7 'adventure' games constructed in such a way
as to be educational (eg. LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, MAGIC GARDEN, WAGONS
WEST) which loaded from 5.25" disk(s) - which only one teacher knew how
to <SHIFT><BREAK> up! All such games usually had factors in common: The
<BREAK> and <ESCAPE> keys were well protected so hands unaccustomed to
the keyboard didn't ruin a session tapping them, games were simple and
had all instructions on screen, lots of use was made of colour and sound
and it was not possible to 'die' but only to fail by not noting or re-
membering info from ONE part of the game in a subsequent part.
Generally, this meant these games were intended for a young audience
equipped with official photocopied log-books, or at the least a paper
and pen. The relevance of all this history is that JAVA STAR is somewhat
of a game of this age but set in Modes 1 and 5 instead of 7. You must
equip yourself with a notebook and biro and be prepared to complete a
series of puzzles before progressing on the search.
Earlier, the word adventure was used to describe this but it has NONE
of the traditional elements (Unlike PETTIGREW where section two needed
commands like NORTH, EAST, etc). You progress from location to location
via reassembling graphical maps, answering questions correctly, buying
an aeroplane ticket and choosing to cruise around the maps island. It
all takes time; typically on tape over two hours. Half this with disk.
Although this all sounds complicated, it isn't because in all of the
first three parts of JAVA STAR, the player is prevented from making any
henious mistakes by the program itself. In Bristol, which is where you
discover the map indicating where the Sea Witch floundered - although
what it's doing there is anybodys guess - you must simply piece it to-
gether to move onto London (and you can see the solution by pressing H).
In London, the nicest part of the game, you can visit many places of
historial interest and, as well as discovering a lot about the weather
and course of the ill-fated craft to transscribe, visit places such as
the Old Bailey, the Stock Exchange and Buckingham Palace. After a set
number of excursions, you need to gain a high grade on a quiz and buy a
ticket to Jamaica to proceed.
A map of South America begins part three, presenting one relevant and
many irrelevant locations where you can begin to search. The correct co-
ordinates are obvious if you've studied the earlier parts and "that
seems like a good place" confirms them when entered. Unfortunately, try-
ing elsewhere isn't accepted and the map remains until said grid coords
are entered so, although the map detail is accurate and nicely drawn, it
is otherwise a pointless scene.
Fortunately, the bulk of the scene involves selecting an island to
investigate. The screen shows four at a time, tilted through 90 degrees
to make comparison with the map more difficult. The instructions for
this part are meagre and it is not nearly as hard as it at first seems.
First, you need an isle with both a town and lake so discount any with-
out. Then survey any island looking vaguely like the map by pressing F.
I spent ages surveying different islands and discrediting any that
even had one discrepancy such as "The bays are not opposite" fearing
landing there would waste funds. Eventually I decided enough was enough
and replied Y to the "Land?" prompt only to find that as there were less
than SEVEN faults, I had probably chosen the correct one, and, when the
island loaded, it was suddenly IDENTICAL to the map!
However, just when you're thinking JAVA STAR must be ridiculously
easy, you come to the search of the island which is simultaneously very
difficult and mindnumbingly snoozeworthy. The movement routine from
PETTIGREW (that everyone hoped never to see again) is back! The area
around the island is huge and moving the boat through it takes far, far
too long pixel by pixel. Now with a confusing map and yrds scale to com-
plicate the search further, selecting a location is pure guesswork and
after a few unsuccessful dives, which again take too long, all your dosh
will disappear. The tape version is bugged here too and locks up without
displaying your score due to a combination of a CHAIN" " command and ON
ERROR RUN statement.
Make the wreck and the added factor of a time limit and stupid con-
trols worsen the affair still! Only with a lot of patience, and repeated
dives is it possible to get the ruby and gold out. More players will
tire of the slow movement long before they even find them.
JAVA STAR is a very early game, released in 1984, and is one on its
own with an idea that is quite sound. Indeed, elementary mistakes like
not clearing the keyboard buffer properly can be forgiven compared with
its inventive and experimental content. It's also clever that a player's
finances are limited, and shopping around in London can both deplete and
increase them. But counter-balancing this are some irritating touches
like the map which changes depending on the screen Mode - and senseless
repetition of the "We Are Sailing" music in each part.
Were part four not so out of sync, slow, bugged and boring, this
would be a viable educational title with which children (as it does
protect the <BREAK> key) and adults could while away an hour or two. Its
score breakdown on the disk version also makes for an interesting read.
But, ruined by part four, it still falls into the same league as PETTI-
GREW. Hence, it is not recommended and will probably very rarely be
Dave Edwards, EUG #52
Product: PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT
Supplier: Britannia Software
Available on 3.5"/5.25" ADFS/CDFS/DFS Disk
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 53
AS the software house suggests, this is an ultra-rare BBC/Electron game.
As the software title suggests, it is (or at least was at one time) the
official home computer conversion of the popular Bruce Forsyth game show
in the days when points "made prizes" (not "rich people"). Of course,
most of the shows continuing success to this day lies in the fact that
a) Bruce Forsyth presents it and b) it is a very simple game based in
large part on luck.
Brucie grins cheekily at you from the cassette and disk covers above
the old kaliedoscope jack logo of PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT but, as you
might suspect, he makes no actual appearance in the game itself (via a
graphic representation, that is). Therefore, after the instantly recog-
nisable jam of PYCR music has been emitted from your micro, you fall
back onto the simple higher/lower five card walk across the screen - the
winner winning two of three games! - and the final gamble for big points
if the cards go in your favour.
Initially it sounds like a fairly simple program to write but if you
think hard about the game show format, you quickly realise that there
are many rules to consider. Happily, the author appears not to have
neglected any and, after inputing whether you are playing against the
machine or a 'friend', you are presented with a screen asking you "We
asked 100 men/women/married couples in their 20s/30s/40s" followed
by a series of imaginative survey questions. By the millenium, the
shows questions had become much sillier than when this program was
written and the game doesn't present any strange surveys involving
Bruce's sexual magnetism or entertainment value (or lack of them as is
usually implied). Disappointing news for most.
As is the norm, player one can guess any number from 1 to 99 people
who answered in a certain way and player two can guess either <H>igher
or <L>ower. The input of numbers is shown in a way similar to the TVs
desk counter with big digital numbers and (flashing) arrows pointing up
and down. Unlike the TV show, the winning number is not displayed but
the reasoning why not is sound as, with a limited supply of questions,
this lengthens the number of times the same questions can be attempted.
An exception is when the guess is "bang on"! For the next question, it
is player two who guesses first, with player one bidding all the
numbers higher or lower.
The card board is as you would expect with two lines of cards, the
first turned over, and the options <H>igher, <L>ower, <F>reeze and
<C>hange card (if the rules permit). Whoever has won the question - and
it is almost invariably the player with the questions <H>/<L> option -
can try and advance to the last card "by predicting whether each of the
cards is higher or lower than the preceding one. Whoever turns over the
final card wins the game."
The strategy couples usually employ on television is to think in
terms of the number of the cards in the pack higher or lower than the
one they are currently staring at. Hence, on a three, four or five (of
whatever suit), they never go lower and likewise with the cards towards
the top of the pack (the Ace counts as high!), they never go higher. As
we all know though, this does NOT work with computer random numbers and,
when employing the same strategy as game player, the cards become real
b******s - all too often seeming to give out unrealistic shuffles.
Despite this, progress can be made by following the tried and tested
method (it just takes longer!) and it's hard not to hear Bruce reading
out the questions in your head as you read them. There do seem to be a
number of times when the gameplay just doesn't suit the rules though
and, considering Britannia just assume we've all watched the TV show
and just drone on about the games copyright on all the inlay covers,
it's impossible to check whether the rules were different on the older
TV shows than they are now.
For instance, guessing wrongly usually gives the opposing player a
"free go" on TV. In the game, this is also the case but, for some odd
reason, if it is the very last card that is incorrectly guessed the
freebie is forfeited. There seems to be no logical reason why.
While the rules on changing cards are correct (in that you can only
change the card if you "freeze" the game then answer another question
correctly to get control again OR have won a question and are beginning
at card one for the very first time), when the computer "freezes" then
regains control, its attempt to change the card fails due to a bug in
the program code. This means the real player has a very unfair
advantage and to get around this, it's best to choose a two player game,
choose which player you want to be and then best guess for both players.
Doing this also means you always get to try for big points too!
Probably the best part of the game is this straightforward big points
gamble, which dispenses with questions but simply gives you 200 points
to gamble over seven cards. In the television show the object is to gain
a certain number of points by a certain card but this is not implemented
here, although you can always choose to play it that way if you wish.
You choose to bet anything from 50 points to whatever you're holding
on whether the next card will be higher or lower. Although you're not
gambling with money, it's surprisingly tense - especially when you build
up a fortune in points and decide to risk it all! Your points then
becomes the high score if appropriate.
Although PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT does well, certain improvements to the
change card (and possibly free go forfeit) bugs and a more realistic
routine for getting cards would help its playability. Plus, of course,
it's annoying that there are a limited number of questions. Other titles
in the same league (e.g. BLOCKBUSTERS, BULLSEYE and TREASURE HUNT) all
come with sets of QUESTION FILES which increase lastability by a good
measure. As the game was officially available on disk, these would have
been an even better idea than with most - as loading time would be far
shorter! Another irk is the message "You're score =" which is totally
unacceptable, full stop.
Finally, the only join-in audience shout incorporated is the "Nothing
for a pair - not in this game!" one and, as the many more are all part
of the game's atmosphere, these should probably have been included too.
Still, despite these criticisms, it's good for a few hours' fun.
Dave Edwards, EUG #53
Available on Tape, 3.5"/5.25" Disk (CDFS, DFS)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 55
THE BBC/Electron owner is spoilt for choice when it comes to the CATER-
PILLAR-style game, and they appear in so many compilations that it's
pretty much inconceivable that one of them isn't somewhere in your games
collection. SPECTIPEDE is the bug blasting variant from the budget com-
pany MASTERTRONIC; a fast-executing but clumsy conversion - and one that
kills you off far more often than those of a similar vein!
The blaster at the bottom of the screen, the sparse mushroom field
becoming more and more overcrowded as the game goes on and the long
insectipede winding through them and splitting in two when hit by your
bullets is one of the symbols of the true retro age. It's available in
almost this standard form on all machines up from the humble GAMEBOY to
the most powerful PC, and now you're unlikely to be asked to pay out
anything like the `8.95 ALLIGATA thought BUG BLASTER justified, or even
the `2.99 budget price this title went for. [At least, not just for it
alone. - Ed] So the question is what this particular title has to
recommend it from the rest?
Regretably, as indicated by the above intro, the answer is not very
much. You CHAIN it from the prompt and, after a few seconds' loading,
the micro makes an odd twittering sound as the MASTERTRONIC 'logo',
which is actually just the word, wriggles over your screen in an
S-shape typical of budget 'loaders' and introduces you to "SPECTAPEDE"!
Immediately being presented with spelling mistakes like this, a fault of
which a few budget companies are guilty, is at best irritating and at
worst merely symptomatic of what is to come.
After loading the next part, the screen blanks to Mode 6 and you are
asked which button you wish to use to fire. This causes two problems.
First, absolutely no effort has gone in to making the said screen
look attractive and even the cursor is still amateurishly blinking away.
Secondly, the message gives the impression that you only need one key
to press in order to play the game. So, for instance, you might quite
likely press <RETURN>. You must then tap whatever button you have chosen
to continue (unnecessary!) and THEN you are informed of the existence of
the OTHER buttons: Z - Left, X - Right, + - Up and . - Down. With the
<RETURN> key as fire, you're then left with a huge gap between your
fingers (stretching over one button on the Electron and two on the BBC)
unless you reload the game and choose * or <SPACE> as fire - the only
two realistic choices, anyway! And what of the possibility of a player
using one of the reserved keys as a fire button? Well, try this and
your game will be a chaotic mess where the fire button not only fires
but also sends your blaster in the specified direction at the same time!
For goodness' sake, MASTERTRONIC! Either have an option to redefine ALL
the keys or choose sensible ones and be done with it!
More loading and a similarly sighworthy screen asks "KeyBoard or
Joystick (K/J)?", "High/Low Resolution" and "Fast, Medium or Slow Game"
in turn. Now there's no doubting the usefulness of these features. Far
too few games have the joystick facility and the resolution factor means
simply that you can play in either Mode 1 (High) or Mode 5 (Low) which
is both easy on the eyes of respective players, helps vary the action of
a style of game which can seem to go on (and on!) and also makes the
game a little easier as the "pede" occasionally has a longer breadth of
screen to cross in Mode 1. You can even look upon this option as giving
you TWO conversions of the game; the only differences between some of
those put out by other companies was the Mode. Speed of game, of course,
also helps those whose arcade prowess is not up to that of the hardened
But unfortunately the author has blown it again! In practice, the
game speed has little effect on how tough it actually is to play and the
options must be chosen before ANY game is commenced. So the screen is
forever flashing up and demanding input. Even this would be bearable
were it not that, after inputing F, M or S, you were not forced to sit
through a truly awful string of blips for fifteen seconds before the
game started. The same is also true on death, except the tune lasts
twice as long!
The game itself although it runs well on the Electron, goes far too
fast on the BBC, even on the S(low) setting and, also as mentioned in
the intro, death is a frequent occurence. Often you 'die' not as a re-
sult of a collision with any of the insects in the field (actually a
garden in this clone) but simply AFTER blasting the last portion of the
pede. This is extremely frustrating and means you can probably not
survive beyond level three...and it's not the only bug. On death, your
previous blaster stays on screen and becomes an obstacle to be avoided,
but can also be used to shelter behind from a pede on the bottom level
of screen coming at you from the side. If it's a feature, then it's one
not seen on other conversions, not one you'll like and LOOKS like a
After a while you'll be dead and invited to enter your name (by a
left-justified message that simply appears obliterating the background)
at a "?" prompt. As the keyboard buffer isn't cleared, you'll be staring
at a row of Zs and Xs so, to make your mark, you must first delete them!
Having rather emphatically berated this product by now, it does find
some saving grace in its graphics, which do all the right things and are
animated quite smoothly. A wriggling worm, bouncing spider and mushroom-
laying spider (!) invade the screen quite regularly and keep the player
on his toes.
There's no getting away from the fact that this is a flop though,
even though it was published at a time when budget titles were not ex-
pected to be of a very high standard. It was originally published quite
early into the life of its respective machines (1984), and, as ALLIGATA
and SUPERIOR's versions were doing the rounds at almost a tenner, with a
little thought could have provided serious competition at its reduced
price. But it doesn't, it wasn't, it isn't...and it never will be. For
any bug blasting, stick with the aptly-titled BUG BLASTER!
Dave Edwards, EUG #55
Available on Tape, 3.5"/5.25" Disk (CDFS, DFS)
Reviewed by (the) Dave in EUG 55
ALMOST two decades before the likes of dot-comedy's internet gaming in-
vited us to push pies into Posh Spice and see how many homosexuals we
could pick up on Clapham Common, SHARDS came along with its politically
incorrect baby arcade game WHOOPSY! As our shock thresholds have stiff-
ened in the meantime, it's nigh on impossible to believe that this title
was originally considered 'too rude' to be on sale in the high street
stores, delicate as its subject matter may be.
For those who didn't read about how 'controversial' it was at the
time [in the pages of ELECTRON USER - Ed] of its 1985 release, think
euphemistically about the title for a while. Still don't understand?
Well, it's one of the polite ways of saying Poo (as in Mr Hanky The and
not Winnie The!) and this is a game where shit really does happen in the
literal sense: you, as the baby, deposit your graphically-represented
dumps about an arena to distract your mummy from "homing-in" on you.
Although ELECTRON USER milked the WHOOPSY! controversy, it never re-
viewed it in full and, as it was only available via mail order, the sus-
picion is that most Elk owners knew only what is stated above. This
ignorance was certainly shared by this reviewer, who prejudged it almost
infinitely more than most games. The idea, while original, seemed puer-
ile and unamusing - the opposite of what its author intended, in fact -
and the uninspiring cover of a hand-drawn title and big-headed baby
coupled with instructions blantantly added with a Stone Age typewriter,
all photocopied and cut out with scissors, did little to fuel any
Pleasantly surprising it is, then, when after a minutes' loading, you
are presented with an opening screen displaying huge baby, mummy and
whoopsy sprites (the latter cunningly labelled as "Shhh"); all Mode 2
multi-coloured numbers - that are very nicely animated when the actual
game begins. The game is almost pure machine code, reacting quickly to
your keypresses and running at a brisk pace on a BBC and Turbo Electron.
Sadly, while it still runs on a standard Elk, the 'lacking in processing
power machine' can't match such speed and your crawling baby tends to
plod around in slow motion.
As all the greats agree, the best game ideas are simple. This is the
case here. You select which level to begin on, and appear bottom right
of a blank screen with three whoopsies (displayed top right) stored up
in your bowels, ready to soil your mum's carpet. She, doubled up in a
perfect 'scrubbing the scullery steps' pose waits patiently top left.
Randomly dotted about the screen are a number of toys. The object is to
play with each toy - you do this by touching them; they then vanish! -
without Mummy Dear touching you. On pressing <SPACE> to begin the game,
the first whoopsy falls and your mum comes charging towards it.
While any whoopsy is on screen, mummy is not deadly to touch and you
can run through, around and (most likely) away from her. Unfortunately,
you also cannot pick up any toys until the whoopsy has been cleaned up.
The idea therefore is to go, to go to the toy farthest away, to get it
and as many of them as you can in the time between the clean up job and
mummy's refreshed charge toward you and then drop another thought for
the day and repeat the exercise until you've collected all the toys.
With the brisk flow of action, you need at least average reflexes to be
able to attempt this and even then it's not easy. Especially not when
the patrolling potties enter the arena; contact with these results in a
'contained' crap which is bad news indeed if it's your last and there's
still a screenful of toys to snatch!
On-screen presentation of this game is good and the code seems to be
spotless, although the inlay refers to a bug in the code which may crash
some Electrons IF you lose your three lives on level one AND have the
music turned on. Oddly you choose either sound effects (default) or the
hushed tones of "Rock-a-bye-baby" music but cannot play the game devoid
of sound. The music grates after a while.
Effects are adequate with jingles and suitable dull notes to mark the
pressing of the whoopsy key. (That DIXONS found them to be repugnant
toilet noises beggars belief!) The animation is also of a high standard;
mummy lumbers about and scrubs up while baby waddles around on all fours
and the potties seamlessly glide back and forth in not-altogether-fixed
patterns. All cleverly flip vertically too.
All characters and objects (such as the toys) are viewed in profile
which works well even though the only way gravity and layout would be
realistic would be if the action was viewed from a Birds' Eye position.
Scores and bonuses are regularly awarded and it's not hard (at first!)
to get yourself honoured in "The Naughty Nine" high score table, even
though you will first be sharing it bizarrely with the cast of Last Of
The Summer Wine. A little nark here is that, if you make a mistake with
your name, <DELETE> doesn't function.
All in all, WHOOPSY! is not a shocking game and it is neither offen-
sive nor really comical. What it is is simply one of those addictive
arcade numbers you keep coming back to time and again because it just
"has something other games don't". Take away yesteryear's pathetic
paper presentation (and that it was released before the Turbo Elk came
into existence!) and you're left with an underexposed gem that's suit-
able for all ages.
Dave Edwards, EUG #55