AERONAUTICAL DOGFIGHT II
CLASSIC ARCADE GAMES
ELBUG INTRODUCTORY CASSETTE/DISK
ELECTRON MUSIC DISK
EUG #0 & #1 ON DISK
I SPY RED
JUPITER III (SHIPWRECKED II)
PRES GAMES DISK 1
PRES GAMES DISK 2
PRES GAMES DISK 3
PRES GAMES DISK 4
PRES GAMES DISK 5
PRES GAMES DISK 6
WEETABIX VERSUS THE TITCHIES
IF you've been with Electron User Group since the very beginning, you'll
know that the first eight issues of it were produced in a handy little
A5 magazine spaced out with clipart pictures, screen dumps and headings
in different fonts - all produced by Will Watts on a trusty Electron.
A paper-based magazine has the obvious problem of any utilities or
programs submitted needing to be typed in by each one of its subscribers
instead of being instantly available through a menu - so it's unlikely
we'll ever see the days of a paper-based Electron User Group again.
Having said that, there is a glimmer of hope in a new magazine called
"6502 z80" which is entirely paper-based and billed as "a new 8 bit pub-
lication for the new Millenium" [Millennium of course has two 'n's but
that's just being picky - Ed]. It claims to support the whole spectrum
of 8 bit machines from the Oric to the SAM Coupe - and is available from
the address at the top of this article for three quid an issue.
To see what you get for your cash, I'll quickly run through the con-
tents of Issue #0 (April 1999) which are The Ed's comments, a review of
some '16-Bit Shelving Which Can Also House A Spectrum', a list of Am-
strad CPC books, an article on disks and drives, reviews of classic C64
software, letters from readers, a review of a RAM Music Machine, a PD
library for the Spectrum, Small Ads (free) and a 'Stop Press' section of
new happenings for 8 bit computers. The rest of the magazine is adverts
selling things or offering services and like the old E.U.G, it's an A5
black and white number.
You may note immediately that although we have the microprocessor of
the title, "6502"'s contents don't seem to include us. Indeed, not even
our big brother the Beeb! Well, it may pretty much be the case but it
isn't entirely; if you don't know how your disk drive works, the article
on page 15 makes interesting reading (although Electron User covered it
in much more detail) and page 28 is dedicated to revealing how you can
incorporate joystick control into your programs via the First Byte Joy-
stick Interface on the "ELECTRON/ACORN". [Acorn ELECTRON! Isn't it a
simple enough title to get right? - Ed]
These aside, there's nothing else for Elk owners if they aren't also
into other 8-bit computers. And to digress, I should actually point out
VIC-20, Jupiter Ace, MSX and Oric computers aren't actually mentioned at
all besides on the front cover! I can't help but think subscribers with
these machines would feel ripped off.
It's still early days for this magazine but in comparison to the old
E.U.G, it does fair badly. It claims to be produced using a professional
DTP package on a 24-bit machine - it's not a good advert for whatever
machine or package. The text is hard to read in places, especially the
white on 'bitty black' sections, the photographs are blurry and some
pages look extremely cluttered. The C64 games' reviews are the most
poorly designed with text, surrounded by bad scanned images of the
logos, so big that very little is said about the four games even though
it fills two pages! When text IS columnised it isn't justified, the
contents page refers you to page 38 (which doesn't exist) and there are
gaping holes where summary information is definitely required. The RAM
Music Machine doesn't mention any computer it's compatible with beside
The magazine's best strength therefore comes through the COLLATION it
offers on the 8-bit scene. There are a lot of advertisers offering a
good few products - so if you're looking for something in particular,
you immediately have the leads you need on where to find it. However,
if the advertisers I contacted represent the whole, don't expect to get
it very cheaply!
It's a 'clean' magazine - if it were a film, it would be a "U" cer-
tificate - and, as I mentioned, it's only in its infancy. But to say
it's aimed at all 8-bit computer woners regardless of their machine is
not doing justice to the large bias it shows towards Spectrum and Am-
strad owners over the rest. This isn't a bad thing - just seven years
ago, the Sinclair Spectrum was the most popular computer in England so
it may be inevitable that this is the case. The main problem of "6502"
therefore is really with the front page claim to support ALL 8 bit
computers when it simply doesn't; in fact, page 7 makes a plea for
those neglected owners to contribute articles! If they do, of course,
this problem will be solved. If not, it won't.
Another problem looming for this multi-format mag though is that it
is very difficult to get a game or utility which only requires minimum
changes for it to work on different formats. Any listings like this are
basic, in BASIC and generally boring in execution. Just look at the
Osbourne series of books if you require further proof! So will it ever
be worth its cover price?
8 Bit owners need a magazine such as this and it's a valiant attempt
to provide entertainment. It simply needs to be formatted a little more
professionally, the scanned images removed/tidied up and a spellchecker
optimised to pep up its target audience. To Elk owners it's just not as
inspiring as the old E.U.G.'s and its articles are just cribs of infor-
mation available elsewhere.
The next issue is due in September so I may then have a better idea
of its capabilities. In the meantime, I would have on balance to advise
Elk owners against buying a copy of it. It is not another E.U.G. and
doesn't claim to be, yet it's interesting if you love the 8-bit scene,
it is informative and provides a wealth of contacts. I wouldn't throw
my copy away now I have read it, yet three pounds is pretty steep for
what is just eight sheets of double sided A4 paper. I'm in two minds
and if you buy a copy, you probably will be too.
THIS is one of the fullest and most recent public domain releases on the
BBC/Electron market. It is a two-player game only which requires both
players to crowd around the keyboard in order to get to their respective
keys. (That said, it is completely unprotected, so adept programmers
could easily add a joystick routine or use one of the interrupt driven
utilities published in Electron User.)
The objective of this aircraft simulation is to blast your friend out
of the sky. There's a bit more depth to it though - in fact, quite in-
credible depth for a PD game - and you are allowed to decide in which
airplane to combat and what missiles to equip it with. You can scroll
through colourful Mode 1 pictures of each of the six planes and their
statistics but, while good, this makes choosing the plane is a bit
fiddly as you need to remember the statistics until you get back to the
screen allowing purchase.
It's also just as fiddly to equip the plane; you frequently overload
it and, instead of allowing you to make an alternative choice for the
final weapon, you are forced to choose all the missiles all over again!
It only really causes a problem for a few moments though as you soon
decide on the best plane and can select it and ammunition in just a few
Then off into the skies...
AERONAUTICAL DOGFIGHT II is a 3D simulation written by a master of
PD BBC software Adam Sandman. His first venture on the Electron, this is
not an arcade jaunt but a 3D simulation along the lines of the Hewson
simulators. The whole screen is constantly changing and there are two
line horizons, one for each player, within windows, suitably distin-
guished from one another. As each player rolls their plane from left to
right, the horizon tilts quite realistically.
Player one has the top half of a Mode 4 screen, player two takes the
bottom. Each have instrument panels and bearing references of each plane
in relation to the other. Immediate account of the actions is taken and
players are reminded of the keys before the duel commences.
But listing the code reveals at once the thousands of calculations
that go on between each screen cycle and explains why the program is so
painfully slow. Even if both players immediately turn to face one
another, it takes over two minutes to get a good sight! Additionally,
enabling the Master RAM Board does speed up the action noticeably, but
has the unfortunate side-effect of crashing some instrument readings.
You can do a lot of things with it but for gameplay, it cannot stand
on a standard Electron and seems to have been converted just from the
BBC Micro version [Also slow! - Ed] with more suitable keys substituted.
Yet the loading screen, plane statistics and graphics cannot be faulted.
In particular, watch out for an amazing introductory sequence with in-
ventive Mode 2 colour switching deceiving the eye into seeing six flying
stars weave into a circle!
With the elimination of the instrument panel crash bug on the MRB,
this would be a nice simulation - despite the limited numbers of people
who would have the equipment to make it a viable purchase.
EVERY now and then I discover a game which had a really rough time and
this is a prime example. By rough I don't mean treated roughly in an
Electron User review, although their boob with the EXILE review defied
belief, but more that the game got a rough deal by never even BEING re-
viewed...hence no-one knew of its existence.
BALLOON BUSTER by Blue Ribbon is a commercial release that has a very
'neat' feel to it; the packaging is just as bright and attractive as the
game itself, it uses a colourful Mode 2 screen, it is written in pure
machine code, it incorporates a whole new idea and it's very enjoyable
You control a happy little clown armed with one juggling ball. Up
above are a number of different coloured balloons. The idea is to burst
them in a pre-set order by hurling the ball according to the rules:
don't hit more than one balloon with the same throw, don't hit a balloon
of the wrong colour and don't stand around too long thinking - but don't
leave yourself in the position where the next sequential coloured bal-
loon is left 'blocked' by one of the others!
And, um, that's it. Because the game is of a 'puzzly' nature, there's
no real call for a prologue or explanation why you need to do what you
need to do. Yet the 'puzzle' has been uniquely crossbred with an arcade
forum; the action takes place upon a theatre stage, you retain and are
awarded (on completion of certain screens) a number of 'lives', you must
accurately judge the power with which you throw the ball and you pro-
gress up through harder and harder levels.
The time limits on the levels are strict and you can frequently run
out of time by bouncing your clown in the wrong direction even only a
couple of steps. Frequently when I realised this, I paniced and lobbed
the ball much harder than normal! Games which have this type of effect
take acquired skill to master...and it's fun to try!
A nice touch is that, when you run out of lives, you are returned to
either the level you were playing or the one preceding it without having
to play all the screens again from the start. This is done by the use of
a 'Continue' and ticking down counter - a feature present on many Spec-
trum and Amstrad games but one which I think is unique to the Electron
and is yet another 'arcady' feature!
Adding a spectacular loading screen, fast execution speed within the
game and the addictiveness of the idea makes for one of the better Elk
games on the market...yet one I have never seen reviewed before! On
DFS disk, to which it's easily transferred with Headfirst's utilities
(EUG 22), it plays like a dream. On tape, the loading screen takes time
to load and, although very nice, is rather cumbersome after the third
occasion. Of course, it's easy to just take out the line which loads the
screen and spin on the tape!
Overall, the sprites are jolly, the layout is tidy and the idea is
unique. This game has been unfairly underexposed; go and seek out a copy
of it today!
THERE will be many readers who will raise their eyebrows ceiling high on
seeing a review of Acornsoft's BOXER. They will feel that as possibly
THE most abundant title for the Electron, and certainly one of the earl-
iest, Wal Mansell's platformer (which, let's face it, has very little to
do with boxing at all!) has already done so many rounds that it should
be truly exhausted.
But interestingly enough, simply because it WAS so quick on the
scene, BOXER missed out on an appraisal by a Software Surgery and, with
versions across all machines and all media formats, other readers pro-
bably reckon a review is long overdue. Seconds out, then...
The match, as indicated, is a platform game; done nicely in Mode 2
and including several rules swiped from the sport to give it a sense of
individuality: You are a boxer fighting an opponent; three falls and
you're out; survive one "Round", which is how levels are termed, and you
go on to the next one. It's a simple game of ladders, ropes and rafters,
huge hulking boxer and sundry sprites and a high playability factor
thanks to machine code programming.
Yet your scene is not a boxing ring but a gymnasium. Or so the inlay
would like you to believe - When was the last time you went into a gym
with four floors, ropes connecting them and dangerous boxing gloves and
dumbbells hurtling across each? Digression over, the object of the game
is not to compete with your opponent for the World Title but rather for
the Miss World collection of pixels standing on the bottom platform.
However, impressing this particular girl is strange. Evidently of a
camp thinking two men pulverising each other for entertainment is a bit
cruel, she has elected that the two instead try to catch balloons she
releases! So what we have here is a gym where floating balloons become
stuck in rafters above her and it's up to you to both reach and head-
butt [Is that allowed in boxing? - Ed] them before they free themselves.
Sounds simple and, once you've got the hang of it, it is...for a few
"Rounds". In contrast to you though, your opponent doesn't need to 'butt
five balloons to become the hero of the hour; it is simply enough that
YOU let five balloons get away to the top of the screen to ensure HIS
victory! It's also worth nothing that HE is completely unaffected by all
the gym instruments whizzing to and fro. And is carrying a big, infinite
stack of weights (They look more like pies when he drops them!) for the
sole purpose of depositing them on your head if you're on the rafter
Anything that moves in BOXER is no touchy-touchy. Failure to obey the
rule results in your boxer crashing to the ground. This even includes
the balloons themselves which cannot be headbutted until they become
lodged somewhere. As the game toughens up, the length of time they stick
around dwindles and, with increased numbers of gym instruments flying
across at foot, chest and head height, you are less likely to be able to
have time to consider a risk-free strategy for reaching them all.
Control in this game is very simple. Z, X, * and ? are used to walk
left and right and climb up and down ropes whilst <RETURN> punches and
<SHIFT> jumps. None of the fiendish gym equipment is unavoidable with a
combination of each - although look out for the unexpected fast-flying
boxing glove after you've been knocked down once and try to get back up
- and punching any object successfully will make it disappear. If you
wish, you can opt to use a Plus 1 joystick.
Each time you collect five balloons, your boxer falls in love, i.e.
little red hearts appear around his head, and you move to a harder gym.
The situation is reversed should you miss five (and you lose a life).
When a game is over, you are shown the High Score table and, if good
enough, asked to enter your name. Pretty standard stuff but nicely done
in that same way that all Acornsoft arcade games seem to share.
BOXER may be old [Released in 1984! - Ed] but it's worth having. The
Electron version is unfortunately too fast on a BBC (and the BBC version
too slow on an Electron!) but each version is exactly the same and shows
just what comparable speed an Electron can achieve when games are
correctly converted. It's also reasonably addictive and, as it's also on
ADFS (PAGE at &1D00 ok) disk, deserves to bound about a bit longer.
WHEN games describe themselves as "classic", it's best to tread
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 one's 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...
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.
WHEN comparing an Electron with a BBC, what has to be THE biggest dis-
advantage is the sound quality of the former. Whereas BBC owners can jig
around the room to a tub-thumping bass with background scales and
twiddly bits to make Beethoven proud, Electron owners are lucky to find
anything for their machine that doesn't sound like an amateur piano
player idly tapping the right notes!
This public domain disk is a suite of twenty-seven pieces of such
'music' dating, as its theme tunes indicate, from the late Eighties'
days of FLIPPER and THE DUKES OF HAZARD. No external hardware is needed
to play the pieces and, on booting up, you are presented with a fairly
unimpressive Mode 6 menu screen of nine options inviting you to either
select a piece from those displayed or scroll forwards or backwards
through the three menus with the cursor left and right keys.
The majority of songs derive from musicals. Almost all of those from
"The Sound of Music" are present plus a fair few from "Oklahoma!". Other
sundries include a Phil Collins' ballad and one amusing masterpiece en-
Selecting a number causes a brief disk access and a flood of notes
from your beige beauty. None of the recognisable pieces sound 'wrong' -
although THE SOUND OF MUSIC skips two bars - yet once again the screen
display is drab, now only printing the name of the piece at the top of
the screen. When the piece finishes, the cursor appears.
Each piece of music is stored as a separate program and all are fully
LISTable. Doing so to the "!Menu" program yields the surprising result
that the disk was compiled in just 1995! (Perhaps Jon Ripley collated
the pieces from other sources?) But whether Eighties or Nineties, and
whether you LIST them or not, that the sounds result from mere manipula-
tion of the pitch and duration of the BASIC 'SOUND' command shouts at
you as soon as you hear the first of them.
This is not to label this PD disk as bad. It's just that it doesn't
offer anything interesting on which to pass comment. With the Elk's one
channel limitation, expectations are not and will not be high on such
products. But the disk really is the one channel at its MOST basic. The
composer chooses not to experiment with the 'ENVELOPE' command or to
spend any time with a colourful menu system. The best that can be said
is that, as you get a large number of tunes to listen to, the disk de-
livers in a quantitative fashion.
The best tunes for the Electron are not on this disk but scattered
around on some of the classic cassette games. DRAIN MANIA and RUBBLE
TROUBLE (by P. A. Morgan and D. J. Morgan, though oddly released by
different software houses) are cases in point. Empire's PIPEMANIA also
wins high praise, not to mention ONE LAST GAME, which has the novel
feature of using the '*MOTOR' command as a means of having a drum beat
On these, machine code routines are used to push the machine to its
limits, and the results are marvellous!
Sadly, anyone armed with the Acorn Electron User Guide and the
requisite sheet music could produce a similar ELECTRON MUSIC DISK within
a few hours. Still, it provides a base to build upon.
WITH games such as Superior's RICOCHET (and a whole host of Amiga and
Playstation releases) under his belt, Chris Warburton's BBC/Electron
Public Domain arcade game ELIMINATOR seemed as set to make mouths water
as those other remnants of the Eighties, Opal Fruits. Written almost
totally in 6502 Assembly Language, it's a fast and frantic space
invaders zap-'em-up with a backdrop of smooth scrolling pixel stars.
In the time-honoured tradition of these clones, you control a craft
at the bottom of the screen shooting the invaders above and, also not
unfamiliarly, the strange creatures seem to consist of only an evil
looking red face!
The game is in Mode 5 and it works well, running at just the right
speed on a standard Electron and a challenging one if you've upgraded to
64K. You use the Z and X keys to zip from left to right and try to take
out as many of the aliens as possible by firing a stream of bullets up
Frequently you miss them. This is because their formation, although
mainly stationary, consists of alien - gap - alien - gap is a criss-
cross pattern with spaces either side of both alien and gap. You are
prevented from positioning yourself carefully to aim by the one or two
aliens that try to eliminate you by bouncing around the screen. Unlike
their stationary friends, these have no qualms at all about bombing you
into submission and their trip around the screen is not purely pinball-
style. When two of them start on your craft, you really know about it...
and it's hard to survive more than a couple of levels!
Assuming that you can hit an alien though, it will disappear with a
suitable vapourising noise. The object is, of course, to destroy all the
aliens, although the game continues infinitely so this is completely im-
possible [The object of the game is to get the highest score! - Ed]. A
nice touch is when you are collided with or blasted, you do not have to
begin the current level again with a full sheet of aliens; you pick up
where you left off. This makes the game much 'fairer' than some others.
Each hit of <RETURN> shoots a bullet skyward with a whistle and you
are rewarded with a bonus for wiping all aliens on the screen. Usually
the last two are the hardest to pick off and it is often a question of
whose bullet reaches the other FIRST that determines whether you win or
lose - often, you'll see the BONUS message superimposed on a background
testifying your lucky escape from a bullet just inches from the craft!
In a nutshell, that's it. Despite its professional origins, it only
sports the two bouncing and firing aliens feature. The rest seem
perfectly content simply to act as cannon fodder and there is little
more to emphasise. Although very playable, the sprites are nothing
special and each 'level' seems exactly the same as the previous one.
Yet it's well presented, has a bright high score and, if released at
the start of the Electron's life, could have easily taken its place on
the shelves next to ELECTRON INVADERS, POSITRON INVADERS and ARCADIANS.
Just finding its way into the world now though, it doesn't seem to be
sure of what it IS - an example of assembly code, an arcade game, a demo
or a work in progress!
Still, it's not rough around the edges and it is bug-free. Plus, it's
great to know we still have support from programmers who've moved onto
the MegaMachines. The game itself is compatible with each and every 32K
BBC computer produced and this is also something of an achievement.
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
FREQUENTLY questions asked of the Electron regard compatible BBC soft-
ware. The answer is usually to stick a Master RAM Board, Mode 7 simu-
lator or DFS disk system on your Elk but a small minority of BBC soft-
ware will work without any of these pricy extensions. Although
EWGEEBEZ's front cover states '32k BBC Micro', it requires no jiggery
pokery at all so is 100% Electron compatible. You don't even need to
disable the Plus 1.
Software Projects' EWGEEBEZ is billed as a space station arcade jaunt
and it is similar in some respects to STAR DRIFTER by Firebird. However,
in that exploration, you contol a spaceman and your surroundings have
the distinct look of a space station. Ewgeebez space station is a maze
of caves and you control a small 'fish'-looking craft.
The action is viewed from above and the idea is to navigate your
craft (using the Z, X, * and / keys) from screen to screen in search of
twelve power crystals. You will also need to make a map and avoid any-
thing that moves in order to complete the game.
Aliens (resembling the Software Projects' logo, a pair of false teeth
and a spider) teleport into many of the Mode 1 screens, appearing in
random places after you have been on screen a random length of time.
Contact with them means instant curtains for one of your three crafts.
Fortunately the aliens don't just 'appear' on top of you and lead to an
unfair death - as they teleport in, they flash for several seconds giv-
ing you time to plan your strategy for avoiding, shooting or ignoring
them. If the alien flashes close to you, you can use these seconds to
pass through it without harm.
Apart from these foes, there are deadly machines firing bullets and
fireballs on selected screens. Once blasted, they disappear but they are
sometimes placed so shooting them is more difficult than simply avoiding
them. The fireballs are fast and indestructible; they bounce off the
walls of the maze and sides of the screen until they hit something! One
way systems also hinder you in your search for power, forcing you to re-
turn via a different route.
From the loading screen through the instructions and the code itself,
EWGEEBEZ is a colourful and visually pleasing game. The loading time is
less than two minutes and the sound, while not wonderful, is very good.
The mazes are of different shades as you journey either up or down so
you can deduce how near or far you are from the first screen - and the
quest before you is reasonably difficult to complete.
The strangest thing about this game though is that your multi-colour-
ed craft moves with a 'flicker' - even though the aliens don't and
they're animated! It also slows down NOT when the maximum three aliens
are present on a screen but instead when the screen is completely EMPTY.
Therefore, if no aliens teleport onto the screen, your craft tediously
takes five seconds to travel from one side to another!
EWGEEBEZ is neat and well-programmed, and I'm surprised no-one has
noted its suitability for the Electron before, but I can't say it's
brilliant. It has enough variety to keep it from being boring yet it
lacks STAR DRIFTER's crucial atmosphere. The quest, compounded by the
lack of action on those screens devoid of aliens, is uninteresting and
retracing your tracks takes a lot of time.
Produced in 1983 though, it was probably not only ahead of the Elec-
tron but its time too.
INSOMNIA is a public domain text adventure which runs on both the BBC
and now the Electron and in which you have only one objective - sleep.
You start naked in the bedroom of a flat and further locations such
as the sewers, the shops, the street and the mental asylum are only
accessible by fathoming the way out - which is not obvious, to say the
least! Once you have done however, you find INSOMNIA is an urban haze
of locations and characters which are so surreal you sometimes find
yourself wondering if the whole thing will turn out to be a dream it-
Without giving away too much about the game, it is standard adven-
ture fare with locations to explore, objects to discover, characters
to help (and who help you in return) and puzzles to solve. Some of the
puzzles are genial and, although the game is far from easy, there is a
fair amount of help given in the text descriptions to show the adven-
turer the way. There are no graphics apart from a loading screen.
I liked this adventure and, although written using THE QUILL (hence
limited to a simple VERB NOUN parser), its user-friendliness. It has a
smattering of humour, a few variable touches to make each game a little
different and about the right balance of hard and easy problems. You
WILL have to sacrifice a game sometimes to find out how to complete a
few of them!
It's professional and complete in itself; perfect but for the odd
grammatical error and an original idea (assuming you don't count JET
SET WILLYs as adventures, of course!). It's not difficult so just be
wary of the bottles, make sure to wear your clothes outside and INSOM-
NIA will be its own guide. One of the best PD adventures available for
the Electron. Did The Ice Man ever write any more?
Recently I asked if The Ice-Man had written any other adventures besides
INSOMNIA? Well I have recently discovered that The Ice-Man is actually a
psudeonym of Mr Ian Hudson and at the same time acquired another fantas-
tic QUILLed adventure called I SPY RED bearing his signature.
I was initially disturbed loading this game by a huge Mode 1 screen
showing a strangely proportioned face and the message "Can You Find This
Man?" It doesn't seem to 'fit' at all with the beautifully detailed lo-
cations and Russian atmosphere of this three-part adventure. I mean, how
can you find a man shown in a picture depiction in an adventure text
This aside, Hudson's I SPY RED is a fantastic adventure, although it
obviously suffers from the same parser limitations as INSOMNIA. This one
comes second in the Hudson line and it's apparent that he actually wrote
both the adventures to be Electron compatible even though they have not
until now been mentioned in Electron-related circles.
It's hard therefore not to compare the two. I SPY RED is bigger and
certainly not as easy to walk through, INSOMNIA is much smaller and more
humorous. I can't yet complete I SPY RED to give a full report into the
number of locations and objects but there are many; all well described
and pertinent. It's a compliment to any adventurer's collection and an
extremely professional Public Domain title. More please!
THE final game to come from Dominic Ford is his sequel to arcade adven-
ture SHIPWRECKED, JUPITER III. This time you're not shipwrecked on an
island but marooned in space on board an ill-fated spacecraft. It's many
years into the future - a lot more than the original even! - yet neither
you nor the beastly alien critters that have stuck their flag into Stan-
ley Kubrick's realisation seem to have changed their appearance at all.
More of the same as SHIPWRECKED, you wonder. For professionality, one
thing's for sure: it can't be faulted. The disk version displays one of
the most impressive Mode 2 graphical demonstrations you've seen for a
long time, with a vortex of swirling pixel-stars nicely framed behind a
huge multi-coloured title. In the space below you find a menu of four
options. Although the first game had a loading screen of a reasonable
quality, this one is purely unbeatable! AND Dominic Ford manages to
squeeze the whole game even into systems with PAGE at 1D00. Note that,
for loading time reasons though, the Mode 2 screen is missing from the
Selecting option 1 loads in the game proper. Like with the first
SHIPWRECKED, you are now treated to a backdrop of a location on board
JUPITER III with the message 'Press <SPACE> To Start'. Yet the width
and breadth of the playing area now fills the whole screen and waiting
for a slideshow of the playing locations is in vain.
This is because, whereas the first jaunt was a CITADEL-compariable
room-to-room release, this whole element has been dispensed with now
that Dominic Ford is really showing off. He is now pitting you in an
EXILEsque scenario - where the screen cleverly scrolls around to keep
your character in the centre of it!
Note hastily at once this isn't another EXILE however. What it is, in
terms of GAMEPLAY, is the more of the same as you'd imagine when compar-
ing it with the prequel. That is, a graphic adventure where you need to
collect and use objects from and in various places and carry certain
coloured passes to get through those coloured doors. There's a brilliant
use of all of the BBC/Electron's colours and the scrolling keeps pace
with the action reasonably well, although it's a bit jerky on an Elk
with MRB and it's best to play without it (even though the speed is
so evidently reduced!).
There are added touches to the craft, such as zero-gravity sections -
and a fatal oil hazard in one area - and these are interesting, even if
only at first. You may soon have reservations about Zero-G. It's a real
nightmare to navigate without finding your man flying around the screen
in the same patterns time after time!
You have been equipped with a marginally more crappy gun than you had
in SHIPWRECKED and shooting the aliens basically has the effect that you
lose lots of power getting close enough to them and as soon as they are
scrolled back onto the screen after a short voyage to another part of
the 'map' they mysteriously reincarnate. All these 'features' quickly
become irritating, due in most part to the game being so frustratingly
difficult. It really is one of the toughest pieces of software you've
The situation isn't helped by instructions which concentrate in large
measure on the irrelevant. These can be accessed by selecting the second
option from the disk version menu. (Printed instructions accompany the
tape version!) The Game Objective section simply states words to the
effect of 'Return Jupiter III to its orbit around Mars'. Great! How?
Completing the game, via the in-built option 3 immortality cheat (The
only way to proceed unless you are a glutton for punishment!) will yield
a four digit code that can be entered by selecting option 4. Doing so
receives congrats and information about Dominic Ford's plans for the
final SHIPWRECKED game - which never made it into production.
All things considered, it's very different to its predecessor, but
not necessarily better. It has many more features but a surprisingly
large number of irksome qualities which weren't quite so irritating in
the first adventure. And although it uses the same game sprites and has
the same general 'thread' of an arcade adventure, it straddles the
genre with a little unease; the Zero-G and scroll-based parts may look
visually impressive (despite an occasional quick flash of sprites in
the bottom left corner during a scroll) but are rather alien to these
puzzle-based types of game where establishing a method pays dividends!
In JUPITER III, there is no simple way. You need a high degree of
arcade skill and key manipulation, the ability to think logically, a
comprehensive map of the craft by your side, a good memory, the cheat
mode on and a dollop of patience smothering it all. Any missing element
guarantees your failure in whatever it is you're supposed to be doing.
Balanced against this are a full screen playing area, 100% machine
code scrolling and displaying, full use of colour, a huge map to ex-
plore and document, impressive screens and a large number of differing
puzzles to solve. Minimal sound is also utilitised when you fire a gun
check your power, jump or die.
As with the first game, much time and effort has gone into this one
and it's apparent. Whether or not you like it, or choose to compare it
with SHIPWRECKED, two things are for sure: The object of the game is
NOT to collect fishes this time. And it's a lot better than those games
our Superior didn't have a hand in!
DOWNTOWN and countryside environs of Electron land are weird and very
deadly places in this brilliant arcade game from D. Woodhouse and T.
Racine. The three sentence instructions on the back cover don't do it
justice at all!
Its most impressive feature, although there are many, is its use of
colour and graphics. Most of the action happens on just a small level;
the width of the screen but only around 32 pixels in height. But above
this, and covering the majority of your screen, are intrinsically de-
tailed backdrops of buildings, shops, a zoo, forests and trees. Nicely
presented red and white score-, screen- and lives- bars also give a very
smart appearance to the whole display making the small playing area
The gameplay is deceptively simple. You must guide a little boy from
left to right over ten hazardous screens and there are always a number
of obstables, stationary and moving, to negotiate (in a pixel-perfect
fashion) en route. On reaching the right hand edge, the background neat-
ly scrolls onto the next screen.
Contact with anything and your man disintegrates with a suitable fizz
and crackle and each time you jump you are treated to a bounce noise
while a quick scale of notes denotes a successful passage from screen x
to y. The opening screen plays a short rendition of 'Clemantine' and
also introduces you to the little boy's other half who is patiently
waiting for a smooch at the end of the tenth screen!
The characters on screen relate to the background in a very clever
way. In town (the first few screens), brick walls, post boxes and trash
cans (with raising and lowering lids) call for some deft finger or joy-
stick action. As you progress into the forests, the baddies become more
territorial bugs, worms and toadstools. There's a "Wonderland" feel to
the game too in some respects; the 'Americanised' town has a shop sell-
ing two-bit micros, high rise traffic lights and arms borne by your
cute hero but the countryside screens feel very 'English'. As if this
wasn't enough, and necessitating the gun, you come under attack from
overhead planes, an Australian kangaroo and a flying mutant crab!
There are just four keys: Z, X, SHIFT to jump and RETURN to fire and
a First Byte Joystick Interface option can be enabled before loading.
The playability is good and the interest level remains even when you
manage to complete the screens only to be rewarded with having a chance
to do it all over again...
This lastability factor, however, is probably related to a high level
of randomness that operates in the game. As mentioned, from the third
screen you are under threat from a bouncing kangaroo which comes from
either the left or the right of the screen. He bounds over the territory
and, surrounded by obstables (as you invariably are), he can sometimes
be impossible to avoid. He and the crab occasionally appear from the
right JUST as you touch the right yourself meaning you carefully execute
your plan to pass the screen, make it...and the hero disintegrates as
you expect to hear the zip of a successful passage! Very frustrating.
This aside though, and it's a feature, not a bug [Where have we heard
that one before? - Ed], KISSIN' KOUSINS is one of those games that does
the Electron proud. Although loading is lengthy from tape, the speed of
the game itself is superb and is improved still further with a Master
RAM Board. An undocumented feature, or bug, is that the user can slow
the speed down by holding down SPACE and playing as normal. SPACE is de-
signated as both pause on and off and holding it bizarrely allows you to
move your character pixel by pixel, making jumping those prickly bushes
just a little bit easier!
KISSIN' KOUSINS is tricky, fast, frustrating, colourful, amusing, en-
tertaining, wonderfully presented and difficult to master - although not
impossible. It's everything you could want from an arcade game and is
probably still worth every penny of its cover price.
NITEMARK PARK by John Henson is an ABYSS clone; a kind of map-based quiz
with lots of random elements creating a frustrating series of tasks with
the player given one and only one chance to get the answer right each
Games of this type originated with the Commodore PET and, frankly,
no matter how well they are done, there is no getting away from the
very dated and pitiful things these were capable of. This isn't just my
opinion; when Merlin reviewed ABYSS in Electron User, he thought much
At a snip, it's worth a look and it's more based on a bad idea than
it is a game done badly. However, only real fans of computer nostalgia
should bother. Anyone younger than twenty is simply liable to laugh out
loud before depositing the cassette in the trash.
AS you may have guessed, this piece of software is aimed at very young
children. The concept of using familiar characters to educate is not a
unique one; for example, an entire series of MR MEN titles exist. Here,
it is Jack and Jill; Hickory Dickory Dock's mouse; the cat, fiddle and
cow from Hey Diddle Diddle; Humpty Dumpty and characters from See Saw
Marjory Daw teaching children basic recognition, reaction and spelling
Noteably, NURSERY RHYMES is one of the ONLY educational programs both
available on disk and tape. The originals come in small plastic bags
with a card insert showing the afore mentioned characters but no
instructions as such. This omission would not be important to anyone who
had spent time with the Electron previously though, as I will shortly
Of course, being on disk - and especially a disk which can run with
PAGE at 1D00 - is very advantageous regarding loading time and 'detail'
capabilities. Author Tim Davies has really used this advantage to the
full and the first screen really sets the high standard to measure each
of the sub-programs against.
Not only does it display all the characters from each program on a
'squashed clockface', a flashing pointing blob character 'ticks' around,
displaying the name of the appropriate nursery rhyme underneath each of
them in double size text. Also, each of the characters are animated! The
cow is constantly leaping smoothly left to right, a seesaw rocks gently,
the mouse runs up and down the clock and hitting <SPACE> moves on the
blob. As <RETURN> can select the program he's pointing to, this makes
for an engrossing and fetching Mode 5 menu system; a beloved equivalent
of a PC package and visually no less modern.
So what of the programs themselves? Well, they're brilliant. JACK AND
JILL displays a countryside scene with an obligatory big hill and well -
before writing at the bottom of the screen "Jack and Jill went up the
hill" in the familiar double sized text. With a note keeping time, the
colour of each word is changed until a word (chosen at random by the
computer) is reached. There is a short pause and the text clears to the
message "Type the word now". The word just reached must be typed to the
keyboard. The caps lock functions have been disabled and the number of
letters is limited to those of the original. If the input is wrong, the
child is encouraged to say the letters out loud before continuing. If
he/she is right, Jack and Jill move one step further up the hill. In
each case the text now continues with "To fetch a pail of water".
HICKORY DICKORY DOCK is the same idea but with time. A grandfather
clock is displayed left; the time on its face changing and a multiple
choice answer with four options presented to the right. The child
chooses the wordy "Twenty five minutes to six" from the visual clock,
being rewarded with the mouse trundling a little further up its side
when he/she answers correctly.
HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE is the weirdest offering and is an arcade game
featuring a permanently flying cow and a long row of empty milk bottles
lining the bottom of the screen. You must fire the bottles at such a
time as they hit the sailing milk machine and return ready for your
milkman's rounds! You have three screens in which to fill as many of
them as possible and if you manage to fill all of them on any screen,
you are presented to the dish running away with the spoon!
HUMPTY DUMPTY is a very simple shuffle game. You can view a picture
of Humpty on his bed of pain and on beginning the program proper, it is
split into nine pieces at the bottom of the screen. A grid of the
finished picture (which is happily and surprisingly big) is presented
and the child must choose each piece correctly in turn beginning with
top left and ending with bottom right. Selecting a piece is with the Z
and X keys and, indeed, many programs require the familiar Z, X, * and
? keys for operation hence my earlier comment that it is easy to fathom
what to do so long as you've used your Electron as a games machine
The one program that seems a little different is SEESAW. The blurb
indicates that it is based on the nursery rhyme See Saw Marjory Daw; not
as instantly recognisable as the others although it does sound familiar.
In this, the child is shown a Mode 2 seesaw with a cartoon character
expectantly sitting on one end. At the bottom of the screen are a number
of icons sitting on one end. At the bottom of the screen are a number of
icons representing characters who could be placed on the other to
balance it. The correct child will choose the character identical to
that displayed but facing in the opposite direction. Very simple.
A nice touch apart from the colourful sprites and animation in each
program is the program's use of sound. Whenever any of the first four
programs (as listed above) are completed, the full nursery rhyme is
smoothly scrolled from left to right while the Electron merrily blasts
out the accompanying music it is traditionally set to. Jack and Jill
also go sprawling down the green expanse, Humpty plummets earthwards
and the mouse races down to the ground!
At any time, hitting <ESCAPE> brings up the message 'Quit (Y/N)' and
<Y> returns you to the main menu. As all the keys are well away from
<BREAK>, this means children can be left alone without fearing that a
slip of the fingers could reset the computer.
This tool really is untopable. It's professional, enjoyable, happy
and bright while very easy to get to grips with. If there were more to
grade it against on disk, it would be fairly certain to be the best.
Certainly, it's head and shoulders above Database's Under 5 FUN SCHOOL
suite of programs.
As gaming Electron owners will be aware, no conversions of the official
LEISURE GENIUS series of computer-board games available for the BBC were
ever produced for the Electron. SCRABBLE can be played on an Elk fitted
with a Mode 7 adaptor but unfortunately MONOPOLY, CLUEDO and KENSINGTON
require too much memory to allow any compatability. Therefore, Elk own-
ers are restricted to second rate rip-offs of these popular games.
But if you've ever longed to bankrupt a friend via your trusty Elk
then you may like to know that there IS an extremely professional "con-
version" (and by putting this is quotes I really mean one of those
afore-mentioned rip-offs!) of the old favourite Monopoly called OMNIPOLY
Originally published in 1983 by Personal Computer World, it appears
at the very end of the book "Software For The Electron" and was also av-
ailable on cassette with the rest of the programs by mail order at the
time. Plainly, the authors had 'saved the best for last' as it is not
only the longest and most compilcated program but, by their own admiss-
ion, a piece of software which "rivalled" commercial versions.
Using Mode 5 and complete in one file, OMNIPOLY displays a colourful
screenful of the playing board identical to the original and marked with
all the usual stations, utilities, properties and pitfalls you're used
to; all with the same names. Indeed, so accurate is the conversion that
even the CHANCE and COMMUNITY CHEST cards are reproduced in full and in
the same quantity. The text is cleverly formatted so each letter is just
three pixels wide and text is properly centred and easily understood.
Unfortunately you can't play the computer (Would this be asking too
much?) so you have the immediate problem of each person in essence tak-
ing their turn at the keyboard. In addition, you can only play against
one other person whereas the board game offers a total of six players in
competition. And there are no characters to play with (the good old
boot, ocean liner, car, top hat, etc); instead the first two letters of
each player's name represent them on the board.
Also OMNIPOLY is fairly slow to play and it becomes laborious with
usually only the <RETURN> and "Roll Dice" key being pressed for minutes
on end. Even a Turbo Board doesn't erradicate the problem and where
landing on GO TO JAIL on the original board allows you to simply pick up
the piece and place it on the jail square, this computer version moves
it square by square which is time-consuming and unnecessary.
Using the four-colour-only Mode 5, you may be wondering how the seven
colours of the properties can be supported and an interesting method is
employed to get around this problem. The board itself is in just green
and black with initials to abbreviate property names. The OMNIPOLY menu,
of which key <1> rolls the dice, ALSO has the option of "View Proper-
ties" and by selecting this, the title deeds to each property the player
has bought are scrolled through one by one. So with a green and black
background and a white title deed, the remaining colour is then changed
to the colour of that particular property and displayed in exactly the
same way as a Monopoly title deed card! Inspired.
Also on the positive side, the computer is the bank and will not
listen to any grasping bankrupt's requests to defer payment - so you
really do play the game strictly by the rules. This also thwarts any
unscrupulous player from 'borrowing' money when the other isn't looking!
It also remembers that whenever doubles are thrown (two dice with the
same number), that player is entitled to another go - something I fre-
quently forget when playing the board game.
The Auctions are NOT supported, although I personally don't use them
when playing the original. The student rule of money collected from
fines and taxes being placed in the centre of the board and then won by
anyone lucky enough to land on the FREE PARKING space is also missing.
However, the code is well put together with menus, title deed and
card representations sharing the centre of the board. Each player's
money is shown in digits whenever rent must be paid or they are using a
menu, and the keyboard buffer is emptied regularly to prevent two key-
presses from accidentally skipping a turn.
So although it might be a tad slow, on the whole I would conclude it
is definitely worth a few moments of any Monopoly-fan's time. It may not
be able to compete with the family-basis of the original but it is a
superb rip-off which an official conversion would probably fail to bet-
ter. And it does bridge the gap of the missing Monopoly conversion
when board games such as BLOCKBUSTERS, BULLSEYE and COUNTDOWN are
WHAT the PLAY IT AGAIN SAMs did for tape compilations, PRES hoped to do
for disk with the GAMES collection. The natural advantage being you
don't have to wait around for a few minutes while each game loads in
with a disk.
Each disk in the GAMES collection, of which this is the first, con-
tains eight different computer games, instantly selectable from a PRES
MENU which has been quite blantantly gleaned from the loading screen to
the Micro Power series of games.
Indeed, PRES GAMES DISK 1 contains eight computer games which were
ALL released under the Micro Power label on cassette in 1983 and 1984 -
the old favourites BANDITS AT 3 o'CLOCK, BUMBLE BEE, CROAKER, FELIX IN
THE FACTORY, ELECTRON INVADERS, JET POWER JACK, KILLER GORILLA and STOCK
CAR. All of them are machine code games with multi-coloured sprites and
nice colourful screens. They were popular for years after their original
BANDITS AT 3 o'CLOCK is a dogfight for two players and is probably
one of the weaker games on the disk. CROAKER was publically acknowledged
to be "not as good as HOPPER" [by Acornsoft] and is nothing special. IN-
VADERS and STOCK CAR are similarly uninspiring tried-and-tested formulae
that will lose your attention quickly.
Luckily the other four make up for their failings. BUMBLE BEE is a
whole new idea where you control a very smooth scrolling bee whizzing
around a maze, eating honey and luring the chasing spiders into the ob-
stacles set for them. The walls of the maze are mounted on hinges so you
can walk through walls (in a sense) to perfect your escape.
FELIX IN THE FACTORY is the first of three FELIX games, which are all
pretty good. It's a platform game with Felix's only objective being to
keep the generator at the bottom of the screen topped up with oil. The
bottom level of the screen is pretty safe but the levels above are teem-
ing with all kinds of cutesy little nasties which you need to slither
past to get the oil can. You also have to contend with a sweet little
mouse that scurries across levels at random with a "scrurrying" scale of
notes accompanying it - when you hear it, get on a ladder! You can grab
a sandbag and trap the mouse for bonus points, or a pitchfork to stab
the other nasties for loadsa points, but this must be done with an ever-
watchful eye on the oil level of the generator. You simply don't have
the time to do everything!
KILLER GORILLA is another ladders-and-levels game in which you are
pitted (not altogether unsurprisingly) against a gorilla. Not that the
gorilla seems to do much in itself; the hero is likely to be more con-
cerned about the barrels and flames which come cascading down from the
top of the screen where the gorilla is holding his girlfriend captive.
It's a tad slow and has some annoying problems such as the hero not
being able to climb ladders while holding the hammer. It's entertaining
in the extreme though.
JET POWER JACK is one of those games which looks easy but just isn't.
The idea is for Jack to work his way from the top to the bottom of the
screen by 'boosting' over the gaps on each level. Unfortunately, the
jetpack is very difficult to operate correctly and Jack frequently finds
The disk is protected up to the eyeballs and won't play on any of the
other BBC-series computers beside the Electron. Attempts to load any in-
dividual files also result in a tirade of abuse from the Operating
System. Understandable precautions against the pirate, of course, but
having the side effect of preventing a user from either loading in a
cheat routine before the game or an upgrade such as KILLA (which solves
the ladder 'bug').
Also because of this, you cannot speed up the menu system which is
ridiculously slow, taking about a minute to display the screen and not
allowing any input until it has. This rather defeats the object of disks
taking a shorter time than tapes and is completely unnecessary.
Instead of getting the instructions on an inlay card, PRES have put
them on the disk along with the games. Thus, if you forget the objective
or the keys, you have to turn off and reboot it. The disks actually re-
tailed at 9.95 each originally so not to get a box or instructions seems
a bit lame. A remedy could have been to allow the user to print out the
respective instructions but there is no such option and once again, the
protection keeps you from putting in your own.
However, although none of the games were unique to PRES, they do all
work with all Elk systems (including the ones setting PAGE to 1D00) and,
as none of them are available on disk elsewhere, they are certainly
THE second of PRES' eight game compilations is another outing of games
originally released under the Micro Power label; retaining the slow menu
system and complete disk protection of the first one.
Blasting in first is CYBERTRON (aka CYBERTRON MISSION) which is one
of those games that, although impressive when first released, has not
aged gracefully. The idea is to work your way across the screen from
left to right without touching the aliens or the side of the maze you
are trapped in. It's not easy and the 'aliens' are pathetic, although it
is written in Mode 2 and has a nice display of colours.
FELIX AND THE FRUIT MONSTERS is the second of the FELIX games and has
more or less the same sprites as the FACTORY jaunt. It's a variation on
the SNAPPER/PAC MAN theme with an almost identical maze-screen yet there
are no dots or pills to eat. Instead, floating around the maze are three
fruits which you must prevent the monsters from eating. You can do this
by dropping an 'ether' in their path - this will root them to the spot
if they pass over it. Or you can try to pick up the item of fruit which
has floated dangerously close to a monster and move it as far away as
possible. Needless to say, contact with the monsters results in death;
what your objective is is to keep the monsters and fruit apart for the
length of time denoted at the top of the screen. It's not easy.
FRENZY is a great arcade action game where you simply draw lines from
one side of the screen to the other trying to trap a row of dots in the
smallest part you define. Unfortunately, the game crashed when I reached
about level twelve and gave a 'Bad program' error. I had got much fur-
ther on the tape version so there is a software error involved in PRES'
conversion to disk.
THE MINE is one of those games that is so simple yet timeless that it
is available even now for the mainstream computers. You are 'boxed in'
by a wall of sludge which fills the whole screen. As you walk in one of
the four directions, this sludge disappears and you create a makeshift
maze. More or less in the corners of the maze are monsters which have
just enough breathing space to pace backwards and forwards and plot how
to reach and kill you. If you walk into their domain, destroying the
sludge between them and you, you can shoot them or run away. Shooting is
best on the red monsters which can't similarly retaliate. The green
dragons breathe fire which reaches further than your laser beam, so run-
ning away from these is advisable. You can create a path underneath a
rock and providing the dragon's hot on your heels, he will soon find
himself crushed under the yellow cloud. Beware though: monsters left
boxed in too long will simply float over the sludge to a point where
getting you is easier!
ESCAPE FROM MOONBASE ALPHA is sometimes billed as an adventure, but
is not the NORTH, SOUTH, EAST affair. You are lost in a maze of rooms
searching for a doctor and collecting bags of gold. There are a large
variety of monsters (generally one to a room), mystical characters and
objects about. You will need to fight any monsters before you can pick
up gold in that room - and you will probably be turned into a frog by a
mad television set at some point. (I kid you not!) Fortunately, you can
tell whether or not you will win the fight by comparing your strength
with that of the monster. If it looks doubtful, run away or eat a hulk
pill to multiply your strength by five for just enough time to beat up
the foe. A side effect of this is when you return to normal, you will be
a seven stone weakling! If you think this sounds like a bit of fun, it
is...for a while. It's a very different game but a little too slow and
if you succeed, it depends on pure luck.
The game MOONRAIDER is present on so many compilations it beggars be-
lief but smooth-scrolling shoot-'em-up games don't come any smoother! It
nicely demonstrates some of the appeal of 8-bit computer systems while
being very addictive and beautifully presented.
RUBBLE TROUBLE is the pick of the bunch, written by P. A. Morgan (who
also wrote the fantastic DRAIN MANIA) and involves running around a maze
hurling the maze's rocks at the mutant Krackats. There are a few other
games of this type available (PERCY PENGUIN and MANGO) but this is the
best because a) the Krackats take a good few seconds to 'hatch', hence
your caveman hero has enough time to work out a strategy for dealing
with them before they attack; b) if you push the rocks and miss, they
come hurtling back towards you, so you've got to remember to get out of
their way, c) there are some special effect options: Hayfield where the
screen is covered with rocks and Invisible where the maze flashes on and
off at regular intervals and d) the instructions are accompanied by some
of the best music ever heard on the Electron. A very professional game.
SWAG is a game about dodging policeman and robbing banks and is not
up to the standard of the rest. It's a two player game ONLY so you can't
play alone and the rules are very weird, as is the action. It seems to
meander on forever and soon loses your interest.
In conclusion, GAMES 2 has stronger games than the first. Although it
still has the flaws of the slow menu system, the lack of an option to
print out the instructions for each game and the added glitch of the
FRENZY bug, it was actually released on the same date (with GAMES 3) so
this is understandable. Even if you forget CYBERTRON and SWAG too, this
compilation is value for money.
WHAT'S your favourite Micro Power game? FELIX IN THE FACTORY? You need
PRES' first disk, mate. MOONRAIDER? Disk number two. CYBERTRON MISSION?
Get a life. But if you're personal fave hasn't yet been covered by those
PRES compilations, the chances are you'll find it on GAMES disk three -
shipping you on eight more stops around the Micro Power office!
Actually, this compilation is the strongest of the three reviewed so
far [There are six in total! - Ed] and has a greater "variety" factor -
instead of eight arcade games, you get an ADVENTURE, a CHESS simulator
and the tricky DANGER UXB puzzle plus some of the faster and more chal-
lenging arcade jaunts; namely GHOULS, POSITRON, SWOOP, FELIX AND THE
EVIL WEEVILS and GALACTIC COMMANDER (in order of their playability).
GHOULS is a Mode 5 platform game with four screens to complete. It is
easily the best title Micro Power ever produced even though it is not
very big. [The Electron version of IMOGEN was produced by Superior - Ed]
You control a creature which bears more than a passing resemblance to
Pac Man with legs and you must get from the bottom to the top of the
screen by climbing/jumping from platform to platform. A simple idea but
one done with a lot of style.
While you are grounded by gravity, floating around above you is the
Ghoul (One of those from the title - his friends join him when you start
getting too good!). He tries to 'home in' on whenever you're standing so
you frequently need to lure him somewhere unnecessary then make a run
for the jewels, eating any Pac Man style edibles on the way! Your prog-
ress is also hindered by huge bouncing spiders, retracting floorboards
and moving platforms. An interesting effect regarding gravity is that if
the ground underneath you IS moving, YOU must also move WITH it - that
is, if you want to avoid plummeting to certain doom! It's a trick that's
easily learned but then becomes difficult to pull off sometimes.
There's also a power pill which makes the ghoul(s) disappear for a
bit. Sometimes you need to think strategically when eating it though as
the Ghoul will continue to move. He just can't pop you off until he re-
appears (after a short period of time). Sometimes it pays to keep an eye
on his position and avoid the pill.
POSITRON (INVADERS) is an early Gary Partis game which is a manic
space-invaders affair. You swing from left to right and zap merrily un-
til you either die or you get to level eight and you are presented with
the message "No FOR at line 34213, Bad Program". This bug is present on
the tape version too and is connected with the Plus 1 interface. On the
tape version, you can disable it and then the game works fine. But it's
tragically easy to reach the bug here and it appears PRES were operating
a conspiracy when this made it onto a format where the Plus 1 HAS to be
SWOOP is another space-invaders game. This one is a variation on the
ARCADIANS theme and doesn't compare too favourably with the best of its
type on the Elk. You are at the bottom, they are at the top...yeah, zzz.
But watch out for "their" missiles. Instead of disappearing when they
miss you, they remain active for a while and pose a constant hazard -
maliciously sitting there waiting for you to crash into them.
FELIX has gone through a shrinking machine! AND THE EVIL WEEVILS, it
seems, are cyan-coloured worms! Now, you're stuck in another factory,
trying to spray them to death with Weevil-killer while treading on a
maze of conveyor belts. Weird beyond belief but, that stated, quite
good. Its "evil" weevils, named Sluggies and Zippies, are a departure
from its two prequels and don't look evil at all!
The weakest arcade game is GALACTIC COMMANDER, where you must guide
your ship through nine phases of simulated space. Luckily, what it lacks
in colour is compensated for by DANGER UXB, a Mode 1 arcade game set on
a puzzle grid. You must defuse (move over) a number of bombs before your
time runs out. Each time you cross a square, it disappears and a note is
played. You cannot move over the hole it leaves so you to get back you
can either run around it OR use the 'slide left' and 'slide right' keys
to rotate the ROW on which you stand left or right.
It's not particularly hard for the first few screens on the low skill
level though harder skill levels introduce some boots set on squishing
you which usually succeed. The notes played encourage quick movement (so
you can hear your Electron playing The Sting!) and another nice feature
is a dropping man bonus game.
The more mentally taxing games are not the best of their type. CHESS
is a very slow adaptation of that Game of Kings where moves can take
upwards of an hour [Get COLOSSUS CHESS 4! - Ed] and the computer always
wins. Frustrating in the extreme.
ADVENTURE is, not unsurprisingly, reliant on NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and
WEST commands. Yet it has an added feature in that you can play as a
"Wizard" (and, amazingly, a French one!) once you've completed it once!
It is an early adventure and not as well presented as it could be; the
screen displaying white text on a blue background in Mode 6. But it's
not bad as beginners' adventures go.
And so another of PRES' superb compilations brings us a lot of retro
games we thought were only available on tape. However, the same flaws as
the first two disks are present again - a very slow display of the menu
system, a virtual force-field around the disk disallowing cheats or up-
grades to the programs and the odd bug in the games themselves. But it's
the only way to get GHOULS on disk and, for this alone, I can highly re-
BY the demand of all those Electron owners who bought a disk interface
only to find the market sadly lacking in disk games, PRES acquired the
rights to more top games and released compilartion four. This was re-
leased in 1989, over a year after the Micro Power bundles of disks 1 to
3, and that software company was well and truly exhausted.
One assumes that a reshuffling of copyrights was going on at the time
- Superior Software, to whom PRES are indebited for all PRES GAMES 4's
contents, had bought the rights to Budgie's VIDEO'S REVENGE, Alligata's
BUG BLASTER and many of Acornsoft's introductory titles including ARCAD-
IANS, METEORS, SNOOKER, MAGIC MUSHROOMS and MONSTERS. As every good Elk-
boy knows, Superior were also developing their own games for many years
after 1989 and one of their new games QWAK also made it onto this disk.
The format of the new disk is unchanged, apart from the very slow
menu system being exchanged for a much quicker menu (At last!). But as
you'd expect from PRES, you get these eight games instantly selectable -
but in no way copy- or alter-able!
VIDEO'S REVENGE, from the earlier tape version, is a colourful space-
ship scroller with a mass of animation, parallax stars and 100% machine
code throughout. PRES' version makes it obvious too that somewhere in
this code is the equivalent of ON ERROR RUN. And in their version an
error occurs. In fact, it occurs as soon as hit ANY alien! If you were
only wanting this one on disk, cross through the compilation immediate-
ly. In the worst bug ever on a PRES disk [And there have been several
others! - Ed], the 'game' is rendered completely useless! Each time you
hit an alien, it restarts (with the ironic opening screen 'TESTS SHOW
SYSTEM OK') and each time you hit an alien, it restarts and...
BUG BLASTER. This is one of the famous Elk Centipede-clones, with a
long Centipede winding its way down through a field of mushrooms to your
pod at the bottom. You must manoever left and right and eliminate all
the sections of the beastie before it gets you. Each time you hit a sec-
tion, it disappears and the long centipede breaks into two smaller ones.
Suddenly there are bug sections scooting all over the place and you also
need to whizz up and down to avoid contact.
There are several other versions of this game available (Superior
even made its own!) but the sprites in this one are 'neatest', although
the flashing spider looks a bit trippy. The action never drags, there is
adequate variety through a colour-switching palette and a wonderful
sequence of notes to indicate you have just gained an extra life.
The best of the bunch is ARCADIANS; one of those rare games that will
never age. The smoothest, clearest, most electrifying game of space in-
vaders produced for the Electron. The aliens glide in on you pixel-per-
fectly and it's as addictive today as when it was first released.
The other Acornsoft games haven't aged so well. METEORS is a bird's
eye view of your craft in space and you're surrounded by transparent
cartoony clouds; the meteors of the title, no less. You must avoid them
and shoot them whenever possible. A bullet splits them in half, so you
need to plan your shots to avoid the screen being full of meteors after
a few seconds. The smallest meteors (halves of the halves of the halves)
disappear when shot, so pick them off first. It's a neat idea and done
quite well but its monochrome screens look old fashioned and there's a
lack of variety even though the action is quite smooth.
Playing SNOOKER on a computer is always a weird experience and on
the Electron you have the choice of two bad simulations of Snooker. This
is seen as the better of the two available but it does rely on different
skills than the real thing hence doesn't score very highly. However, it
too is smooth - and very nicely coloured, animated and presented.
MONSTERS is truly awful. Beyond tedious, this game is set on four
levels where you, as the hero, must dig holes for the monsters to fall
through. Unfortunately, despite being so blind that they stagger through
holes willy-nilly, the monsters are curiously nimble and always grip the
side of the hole they fall into. This necessitates you rushing back and
sadistically bashing them with the spade until pain and gravity send 'em
down to doom. Some monsters need to fall through more than one level but
basically, that's all there is to this game. And it's plain boring.
Evidently tiring of this, the red monsters invade MAGIC MUSHROOMS; a
unique game that consists of twelve screens where you need to collect
all the mushrooms on flat surfaces. You run and bounce around, accompan-
ied by manic scurrying sounds, bounding across every conceivable type of
terra firma (of which some isn't firm at all) and must figure out the
best route across each screen. It's a fantastic Mode 2 piece that in-
cludes a screen editor and load and save facilities. But you need the
instruction manual to use it properly - and PRES don't supply it!
QWAK is the most modern of the games and comes second best. Based on
the "Bubble Bobble" idea, all its graphics are cute but deadly. It's not
hard but it's fun and after each screen you get a password to stop you
needing to play screens you've completed over and over again!
The verdict on this one is harsher than the previous ones as, in its
day, Acornsoft titles were compatible with joysticks plugged into a Plus
1. ARCADIANS, MONSTERS and METEORS are pure arcade games that benefitted
enormously from joystick control. Joysticks do NOT work with this disk.
Sloppily though, the routines FOR joystick control have NOT been re-
moved and neither have screen prompts for the fire button. So follow the
prompt, press it and your machine will have a mental breakdown!
It is inevitable that a disk system taking a huge chunk of memory for
its operation won't interfere with machine code games (that expect that
memory to be free) but the sacrificing of the joystick options should be
explicit in PRES' advertising and on the disk itself. Not doing so makes
it look very disreputable and, although four of those other games are
great, this compendium is the worst so far.
PRES' fifth compilation is another disk of numerous games from differing
software houses. STARSHIP COMMAND, MAZE and PLANETOID were old Acornsoft
favourites; COSMIC CAMOUFLAGE, CONSTELLATION, KILLER GORILLA 2 and FRAK
were fairly newish (for the disk's original 1991 release) releases from
Superior Software and GUARDIAN a so-claimed Alligata Hit from the mists
of time. So there's a fair arcade feel to this compilation with its fam-
Actually, it may be incorrect to state KILLER GORILLA 2 as new. The
same game went by a 1983 title of ZANY KONG JUNIOR and had languished in
Superior's office for seven years after DONKEY KONG's copyright holders
forced its withdrawal. No real changes were made to it apart from the
addition of a colourful loading screen and so this 'new' Mode 1 arcade
jaunt as a baby gorilla is really a title from 1983!
For this reason, despite its name, KILLER GORILLA 2 is nothing like
its Micro Power predecessor. Your gorilla, controlled with the keyboard,
does no killing whatsoever. Quite the reverse. HE is often the one kill-
ed - by falling off vines or being bitten by patrolling teeth. The con-
trols are fiddly as well although the knack comes with a little time.
There's adequate sound and nice sprites but only four screens.
COSMIC CAMOUFLAGE is Superior's sequel to Acornsoft's METEORS (see
PRES GAMES DISK 4) and is far better than the original. It retains a
monochromatic Mode 4 screen but the foreground colour varies as you
attain different sectors, which is appreciated. Of course the essential
components of the METEORS game are still there: It's still a game about
shooting rocks that divide into smaller and smaller pieces; these pieces
then weaving about the screen until you disintegrate the smallest one or
they smash into your ship.
Your ship has a number of improvements though. A welcome one is that
your ship does not continue to thrust after you release the key - it
comes to an almost immediate halt. This allows you to frantically weave
in and out of the meteors with more ease. And you'll need to as there
are variants of the meteors present on screen too. These variants behave
differently, while cleverly not distracting from the theme of the game.
Some home in on you and some ricochet around the screen (whereas a met-
eor floats off one side and onto the other). When they hit you, your
ship is quite spectaculary annihilated! There's also a loading screen.
FRAK [This f-word title was a new way of swearing when your caveman
was killed but, as it didn't catch on, you can download an Internet BBC
version with the recognisable one - Ed] is the story of a yo-yo-ing
caveman who must get from one side of the screen to the other, collect-
ing all the keys he finds. It's a platform game with a difference.
The sprites are VERY large and the caveman you control is hindered in
his progress by the Scrubblies. They don't do very much except block the
way and a swift yo-yo is enough to knock them off their perches. How-
ever, you need to find a platform close enough to them and use the yo-yo
strategically. Daggers fly randomly from top-right to bottom-left of the
screen too so you need to bear these in mind.
You start on the left and when you reach the right, the screen, in a
rather 'lumpy' fashion, scrolls so you are at the left of the next one.
You must navigate several screens to reach the far-right and win the
CONSTELLATION is a program about heavenly bodies and allows you to
view points in space as they would have looked at a particular point in
time. It's hard to judge how accurate it is unless you're an astronomer
and it's not as well presented as Century's STARFINDER.
MAZE is very dire and comes as standard with PLUS THREE GAMES and
ACORNSOFT HITS 1 already. It's slow, it's boring and every room looks
the same - making it very difficult to navigate your way around yet it
has a bit of colour and is one of only two commercial maze programs.
With this is mind, it's hard to believe STARSHIP COMMAND came from
the same people! This too was one of the first Acornsoft games but the
difference between it and MAZE are staggering. Here, the graphics are
crisp (even if monochromatic), the game is very smooth, it incorporates
a staggering amount of options and performs the perfect arcade/strategy
balancing act. But, it too is not only included on ACORNSOFT HITS 1 but
also available on ROM Cartridge!
GUARDIAN and PLANETOID are parodies of one another and to include
them both on the same disk is a bad move. They are both Electron ver-
sions of the 'Defender' game - the scrolling line hills with floating
life forms (stalacmites) and aliens intent on carrying a life form to
the top of the screen and mutating. If they manage to do so, they become
virtually unstoppable so the object is to either shoot them on sight or
shoot them in the act of abducting the life form then catch IT as it
plummets earthwards and set it down gently.
In both, and all, you are an aeroplane-type craft and the action is
viewed from the side. It's not possible to choose the better of these
two versions (But again PLANETOID has been duplicated in the PLUS THREE
GAMES compilation!) - the best is Micro Power's THE GAUNTLET; the only
one missing from the first PRES GAMES disks!
Once again, those games that claim to be joystick-compatible on
screen aren't and cause the system to crash if you try it. Once again,
you can't print out the instructions - and the entire screen editor in
FRAK's original documentation is completely dispensed with!
The disk also fails in that, this time, every game except KILLER GO-
RILLA 2 is available unprotected elsewhere.
You're left with this, FRAK, COSMIC CAMOUFLAGE and CONSTELLATION.
They justify this disk's existence only by a very narrow margin.
WE'VE come quickly to the last of PRES' disk compilations for the Acorn
Electron feeling deflated after the fifth effort. But the magic words
"Superior Software" [The most well respected company for the Elk - Ed]
could offer hope to ADFS gamers with a disk chock full of their earliest
releases...and one brand new release thrown in too!
First on PRES' by now standard menu system is STRYKER'S RUN. You are
John Stryker and, as the name suggests, you run. From left to right in
fact. And across a war ravaged landscape patrolled by guards, planes and
spacecrafts and your own forces.
Straight running across the screen doesn't take very long and you
have a supply of bullets and hand grenades to help you deal with the
various threats you encounter. Hand grenades are most useful when your
way is barred by a landmine as the grenade will destroy it and aid your
safe passage. As you near the right hand side of the screen, there is a
short pause and you begin on the left hand side of the next screen. The
background is a long screen and the landscape cleverly 'continues'.
This, and the colourful screen (Mode 2!), 'cartoony' characters and
animation, make the game one of Superior's most famous. But although
it's certainly visually pleasing, the means of implementing a playabil-
ity factor doesn't really work as well as it should. One example is that
your character will often find an abandoned helicopter/spaceship and you
can choose to board it and fly across as many screens as its fuel will
allow. But propulsion of both John on terra firma and the airborne hero
are slow - and the planes flicker dreadfully!
Another, as if to lay home the point, is your bullets and those fired
by your enemies, move at the same frame rate as the "run"ning man! As
the bullet disappears a short distance from where it is fired, you can
outrun it! This makes the game feel surreal. Not necessarily that this
makes it easy though. It's not.
Next on the list is ZALAGA, originally released by Aardvark; a brill-
iant Space Invaders clone with loads of sprites, intricate and very var-
ied attacking patterns and levels of ever-increasing difficulty. It and
STRYKER'S RUN were both the most recent, and the pick, of all the games
on this disk; released first in 1987 and compiled by professional
machine code programmers.
The rest of them date from the 1983 days when Superior's software was
on small blue inlayed cassettes. There's another two Space Invaders
clones - ALIEN DROPOUT and the aptly-titled INVADERS, a FRUIT MACHINE
simulator, maze with a birds eye view PERCY PENGUIN and CENTIBUG, the
traditional caterpillar blaster. The eighth title is a quiz called WORLD
GEOGRAPHY, noteable today not for its map of the world but all its out
of date information. Hazard a guess at the population of WEST Germany?
Whilst evident that not nearly as much time went into their prepar-
ation, all are fair and some of them are quite good. First, ALIEN DROP-
OUT is an interesting space variant requiring phenomenonal speed on the
keys: Non-firing bugs fall from the top of the screen into boxes one
by one, and each of the ten boxes can hold five bugs. You must shoot as
many peacefully-boxed bugs as you can as the sixth bug into a box will
push out the first one and it comes out MEAN! Of course, while it dis-
tracts you (or kills you!) the 'box'ing goes on and you must try and
blast away a set number of bugs (increasing in proportion to level) be-
fore there are so many free bugs that there's nowhere to hide! If you
reach this target, you must destroy the bug's mothership, which rains
down a constant stream of bullets throughout each game to keep you on
PERCY PENGUIN is also a fast and nicely presented number - and this
is the only place to get it on disk - where you control a pretty pen-
guin in an expanse of ice-cubes. You must hurl said cubes at the Sno-
bees before your time runs out and collect all the cherries on each
screen. It's a game like PENGWYN and RUBBLE TROUBLE but it's a little
different and all three are addictive and challenging!
But the remaining four aren't anything to get excited about: FRUIT
MACHINE is a very slow one armed bandit simulation which is about as
exciting as cow dung - but the Master RAM Board helps a bit; CENTIBUG is
admitted to be vastly INferior to Alligata's BUG BLASTER [PRES GAMES
DISK FOUR, Reviewed in EUG #48 - Ed] and WORLD GEOGRAPHY is bleak even
if you are interested in world population and country identification.
INVADERS, different to ELECTRON INVADERS on PRES GAMES DISK ONE, is
quite playable although nothing you won't have seen before.
Many of these games ask 'Do you want sound?' before they begin and
this gives a clue as to the level of programming involved. The majority
of professional software allows you to alter sound DURING game play. Our
Superior Software's beginnings were indeed humble.
It's not an overly impressive disk but there are no errors and the
first two games and PERCY PENGUIN really make the difference. The rest
become drole after a short time especially when you know better versions
are out there. Still, loading is very quick and Michael Hutchinson's
ZALAGA loading screen is quite impressive.
Of course, that PRES' non-cataloguable disk "feature" is there and
you have to REMEMBER the instructions as they aren't supplied or print-
able from screen! Still, overall, the conclusion of the PRES series is
adequate and salvages them from a "Their last releases were very poor,"
IN an exceedingly unlikely plot, a scientist escaping from a country
overrun with aliens is shipwrecked on a similarly populated island and
forced to collect six fish keys. Mankind's only hope is your exploratory
and arcade skills in a huge PALACE OF MAGIC style adventure from Dominic
The first thing that strikes you about SHIPWRECKED is that it has all
the elements of a professional release. A nice loading screen, full in-
structions (although the writer strangely mixes up the past and present
tenses), a huge number of locations to explore, a variety of puzzles and
an assortment of meanies that don't take kindly to your presence! In
addition, you'll also find an immunity cheat can be activated before the
game is loaded if you wish.
When the game proper has loaded, you are treated to a slideshow of
all the different locations you can visit in it. Over these are printed
SHIPWRECKED, its author and the sound options in a customised blue and
white font. Each location is a vibrant and appropriate colour, from top-
level English red bricked walls to bottom-level eerie green dungeon
stones, and each houses a suitable composition of objects, aliens, cas-
kets and water. Look out for the fishes too so you can get a rough idea
as to where they're located!
As you might have guessed, a PALACE OF MAGIC comparison is all-invad-
ing. You get a side view of all the rooms with many named differently so
as to aid rough identification of your position. You are advised to make
a map, control is via the traditional Electron keys and your scientist's
energy is constantly negatived by brushing against baddies. Gravity will
pull you down through any gaps in the terrain and you also need to watch
out for water - which is the fastest whittler down of your energy!
If in severe peril, you are immediately transported back to the open-
ing by which you entered the room and can run/fall left or right as well
as scrambling up and down ladders. Jumping produces the familiar
'bounce' sound and there are conveniently placed power boosters after
those occasions when you may suffer substantial injury.
A nicely framed Mode 2 playing area with multi-coloured sprites also
adds to the feel of the game and the mission set to find the fishes is
no easy task! In fact, the author recommends at least two hours to com-
plete the jaunt even when you know where you're going. If you sense a
'but' though, here it comes...
SHIPWRECKED is hard - and one cannot help feeling that this could be
the main reason that the immunity cheat is included. Unlike in other
arcade adventures, you have only one life and once your energy has been
depleted to zero, you bite the dust. Also, your exploration of the game
is constantly hindered by doors. To get through each colour-coded door,
you need the pass of that colour and you can only ever get through the
door by having that pass and holding down key <P>. This can become ex-
tremely tiring as you can only carry two items at a time. So if there
are a succession of doors between you, the fish and the control room
(where each of the six fishes need to be depositied) you must go through
a bizarre picking up and dropping off procedure, frequently resulting in
you forgetting where you have left particular passes!
There are two types of aliens: patrolling and flying. The general
rule is to shoot them both on sight but the flying ones have a habit of
occasionally passing through your bullets [Also, look out for a strange
bug that sometimes leaves your fired bullet on screen when it strikes
one. Try touching it! - Ed]. These latter, although they cannot fire at
you, are pretty merciless. Once they attach themselves to you, firing
has no effect and you must run screaming to the next room before they
vanish! An annoying waste of energy if your bullet should've taken them
While general control of the character is good, jumping takes much
more familiarisation. One leap practically clears the whole screen so
just hopping from ledge to ledge becomes an art! This is mainly apparent
if playing with a Master RAM Board operational though. Without one,
although the action is somewhat slower, jumping is a bit less fraught!
These quibbles do indicate two different features within the game.
That you are equipped with a gun, albeit rather dodgy at times, is one
and that the doors do not disappear when you enter them with the
requisite 'key' is another. There are also a number of other puzzles in
the game, along the PALACE OF MAGIC lines of certain objects dispensing
with certain obstacles. These are left, by both the instructions and
this review, for the player to discover!
Only written in 1996 and spawning the aptly-titled sequel SHIPWRECKED
II in 1997, SHIPWRECKED is one of only a few BBC/Electron PD releases
that attempted to build on that market Superior Software created with
CITADEL. Yet these non-scrolling arcade-adventures retain a sense of
timelessness even when they are indeed this recent. Perhaps you won't be
glued to this for your whole life but it's worth a lingering look!
THOSE who were behind HEADFIRST PD were a bit of an enigma to me. They
were two friends called James Treadwell and Gareth Boden who were adept
at throwing together superb-looking utilities and demos - it now seems
that in 1992, Gareth Boden produced this professional little simulation
of Waddingtons' board game UNO.
I say the two were an enigma as when their PD library was given the
thumbs up by Electron User Group way back in issue seven, I immediately
despatched a stamped addressed envelope to them but didn't get any re-
sponse. I then went through the same procedure again with the same re-
sult. Hence I concluded that their attempt to set up a Public Domain
library had failed within a few months - which is a shame as everything
I've seen which has been produced by them on the Elk has been amazing.
UNO is a simple card game where you play against the computer. You
are given a selection of cards of four different colours and must try to
get rid of all of them before the computer. Most cards have a number be-
tween zero and 9 and, after the first card is laid, the players can only
lay a card of the same colour or the same number. There are also special
cards which force the opposing player to draw another two or four cards
from the pack (Wild cards) or change the colour of cards to be laid.
The game uses a very colourful Mode 2 screen and comes complete with
a professionally designed loading screen and full instructions in VIEW
text file format. It's a PD package at its best where the disk contains
slighty different versions for the Electron, BBC B and Master series -
each carefully optimised for the particular machine - but where the
correct version is automatically chosen by the loader program. Elk own-
ers whose disk-systems set PAGE to either 1900 are catered for and so
too are persons with a Master RAM Board operating. Although the program
is exactly the same across all formats, certain sections of code differ
so that there are no problems with memory or graphic clashes across the
Were it not unofficial [And produced about seven years too late! -
Ed], this would've been one of the most professional conversions of a
card game available. Selling it unlicensed for profit however wouldn't
please Waddingtons who own the copyright but as a PD demonstration of
Gareth Boden's programming talents, as mentioned, it's yet another
superb piece of software. Recommended.
[Also released by HEADFIRST PD - The INVADERS Demo, The HYPERBALL Screen
Designer And Sample Screens, FEED THE FROG Arcade Game, MODE 7 EMULATION
Disk, The SHADOW RAM Database, SQUARES, REPTON INFINITY DATAFILES Disk
and Headfirst COPY UTILITIES. - Ed]
SO is this a 'neet' game? [Groan! - Ed] Bet your brekkies it is, "OK!"
Thanks to Romik software, one of the characters from the cereal Weetabix
is invading your Electron to protect us from 'The Titchies', an inferior
brand of morning wheat-diet. Naturally enough, these are embodied as a
pack of wiggly green space invaders up above your character Dunk who
moves back and forth over the bottom of the screen picking up and firing
rockets at them.
Probably the most ironic thing about this title is that it is the
best thing Romik ever produced and the only one that the public got free
(by collecting cereal box tokens)! That said, it's a pleasant variation
on the Invaders theme; the Titchies are unfriendly and drop lightning
bolts, Dunk must avoid and ultimately destroy them.
The game is more forgiving that many and rather than killing if hit
by a bolt, Dunk will be 'shielded' from it by a kind of incomplete halo
automatically appearing over his head. Energy ('Neet Weet Energy'!) is
deducted if this has to be done by the computer and the observant player
can operate the shield himself to avoid such a penalty.
The action takes place on a Mode 2 screen so everything is colourful
and bright; Dunk is of various colours, the rockets are white, the score
is purple and there's no rubbish on screen. As more and more Titchies
are despatched, the game speeds up - arguably to increase difficulty
but, as many a programmer knows, because less memory is needed to move
the fewer characters.
The missiles to fight with are passed through the yellow floor at a
distance easily reachable by Dunk. He must first collect one and then
try and judge the best moment to throw it up. The titchies, not endowed
with any intelligence, have a lucky habit of sidestepping them, parti-
cularly when flying high up the screen - the rocket takes longer to
reach them there and they have more time to move! A new rocket appears
when the other one strikes home or disappears above screen.
As the game progresses, the energy ticks down with each few seconds
and each hit Dunk takes from overhead. Unfortunately, the player doesn't
require a lot of skill to operate the shield, generally keeping the
energy at a level causing no concern and this tragically makes the game
unchallenging. Another small niggle is players are expected to know they
must press <M> to begin a new game without any intelligent message to
The code is short and the game itself loads in just over a minute
from cassette. It is a simple and fun machine-code game that was deve-
loped to appeal to children and adults of a different time - being the
only game I know offered free by a cereal manufacturer! Although not
masquerading as a masterpiece, WEETABIX VERSUS THE TITCHIES is a
straightforward retro game which, through this uniqueness, achieves the
status of 'classic'.