8-Bit Software

The BBC and Master Computer Public Domain Library

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Available on 3.5 Disk, Tape
Reviewed by Adam Young in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
ALIEN Dropout is a pleasant variation on the space invaders theme. A
variation with moths!
The idea is to blast the aliens as they descend from the top of the
screen, the laser base moving in the familiar way, firing the familiar
What's different is the way the moth-like aliens move.
The master moth, who hovers in the centre, is indestructible until
you've blasted some 200 of his minions.
This is easier said than done as events tend to catch up with you
making life (for you) and death (for the moths) more difficult.
On either side of the master moth are five boxes which act as staging
posts for the minion moths. Here they collect on their downward journey,
not pressing home for an attack on your laser base until there are five
in a box.
Your aim is to zap the moths before they fill the boxes.
It's not easy, especially as the boss moth is laying down a column of
fire that makes moving from one side of the screen to the other a trifle
difficult, to say the least.
Eventually the moths make a breakthroug and you become more involved
in protecting the laser base than in hitting the moths.
With six levels of play, good clear instructions and easy to use con-
trols, it's a nice variant on an old theme that should appeal to young
and old.
Adam Young

Supplier : DIALSOFT
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Peter Lundstrom in Electron User Vol. 1 No. 12
THIS is not, as one migght think, a test of knowledge of adventures but
an educational program in an adventure setting. Its purpose is to test
children's knowledge of mathematics.
The program comes in two parts, the quiz itself and a drawing program
which is automatically CHAINed if the questions set in the quiz are an-
swered correctly.
The quiz makes little use of the graphics capabilities of the Elec-
tron and all too much of the sound. I eventually used *FX 210,1 to turn
the sound off, though the kids loved it.
The program is well error-trapped and listable on loading. Being
written in Basic, it is easy to adapt.
Since you are not given the correct result when a wrong answer is
given, this would probably be the first thing you would change.
The questions cover multiplication up to the 12 times table,
division, addition and mixtures of these. Only whole numbers are used.
The drawing game offered as a reward for successfully answering the
quiz is a simple etch-a-sketch type program. It isn't as well error-
trapped as the quiz but since this is also in the Basic that, too, can
be easily changed.
The quiz won't teach children mathematics but is is novel enough to
hold their attention and I found there was fierce competition to see
who could get to the end first.
The reward stands up well against commercial packages, though a sep-
arate instruction sheet would have been helpful.
A useful package that could be slightly improved, but is nevertheless
good value for money.
Peter Lundstrom

Supplier: BUG BYTE
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Steve Yarwood in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
AS sole defender of a group of cities you have to fight off deadly miss-
iles using the almost inevitable laser base.
You have four cities to defend and three bases from which you can
fire. Sadly there are only ten rockets available in each base. When your
supply is exhausted, the enemy continues to attack ruthlessly until your
planet lies in ruin.
After you've seen off each wave of enemy missiles your supply of
rockets is replenished. Provided you have managed to save at least one
city from the preceding screen, away you go again.
Extra cities are awarded for every 1,500 points, and other features
include a two player option - very welcome when your friends play for
hours - and a hi-score facility.
All in all I was impressed with City Defence. The instructions were
concise yet clear and appear on screen as well as on the inlay car.
The sound was good and did not become annoying as often happens. In-
deed the sound produced by an attacking wave of missiles was really
quite tuneful, although it could not be turned off if it did become ted-
The use of graphics was fair, if not exactly startling.
Perhaps a hardened arcade fanatic might be a little disappointed at
the absence of one or two features present on the original - for example
there are no spaceships appearing from time to time.
Having said that, to most people this game will provide a good deal
of entertainment and is great fun to play.
Steve Yarwood

Supplier : DYNABYTE
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Adam Young in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
CORPORATE Climber takes you into the cut and thrust world of business.
Here you start as a lowly tea boy and propel yourself along various
levels gaining promotion at the end of each unit until you earn the ul-
timate accolade - the key to the executive washroom!
Your screen displays a cross section of an office block. You start at
the bottom (of course) and work your way across each level, avoiding the
taxmen on the way.
The executive washroom is on the roof and it's here where you must
end up.
As in real business, there are pitfalls - this time in the shape of
taxmen whizzing up and down in the lifts.
An encounter with one of these fellows sets you back to the beginning
of the level you happen to be on at the time.
As all this is going on your bonus, displayed at the top of the
screen, is quickly ticking away and when it reaches zero, up goes your
blood pressure until you have a heart attack and snuff it. All good
clean fun, plenty of colour and good sharp graphics.
There are three levels of skill - easy, suicidal and impossible. And
they mean what they say! You also have a choice of sound on or off to
preserve yur sanity!
Adam Young

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
THIS rather smart video-type case includes a useful teacher's or par-
ent's booklet and two cassettes containing a total of four related prog-
These are designed to help early readers with their vocabulary. The
four topics have been well selected, and include transport and clothes,
as well as sections on In My House and Building A House, all of which
can lead to much useful activity at home or school to complement these
attractively designed programs.
Each of the four sides loads identically, with two small loaders
leading to the main file. There is then in each case an identical
choice of activities to select from.
Learn Word does precisely that, and offers a menu of words which are
involved in a particular topic. The arrow keys move an asterisk until it
is opposite the required word, when pressing Space will show a simple
but effective drawing of the object with the word written below.
This may not be the most stimulating part of the tape, but the init-
ial messages ave to be well received first.
More to most children's tastes will be Word Games, in which a series
of six well-drawn pictures is drawn on screen in a grid.
A word appears below, and the cursor keys again control the movement
until the child selects Space to indicate a choice. A correct answer
brings a tick, another figure is added to replace the one just guessed,
and on goes the child looking for six correct answers.
Actually, wrong answers are impossible for the program will only re-
act to a correct input. This is fairly sound in the early stages, as it
gives the child greater confidence to try.
I was a little concerned at first to see the cursor keys used, but
even the five-year-olds I tried this on showed on problems whatsoever.
Big/Little shows a big object, and the same object much smaller, and
the child is then asked to say which shapes are big and which are
The last choice, slightly odd, shows lots of the same object all over
the screen. It left me wondering why it was included. However, this
minor criticism aside, it is a very useful and attractive program for
young readers.
Phil Tayler

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Talyer in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
YET another title produced by the prolific Dave Mendes for Quicksilva,
this is a graphics package aimed at those wishing to implement the fine
graphics capabilities of the Electron, but not being proficient enough
to try it themselves in Basic.
I must say straight away that it is not the best of its type, com-
paring rather badly on several points with the Salamander Graphics Sys-
tem, reviewed in the May issue of Electron User.
This tape can produce extremely detailed results as are shown on the
accompanying sample pictures. Actually, I spent several frustrating
minutes looking for these, before finding them at the start of the flip-
When found, these files are well worth loading in to show the superb
results possible with skill, care and patience.
One major handicap is that Electron-Act only operates in Mode 2,
whereas the Salamander package allows the user to select Mode 0, 1 or 2.
I also found the controls less easy to remember than the mnemonic-
type initials employed by Salamander. For instance, to colour-fill an
area uses Key 1 on the Quicksilva tape, but F (for Fill) on the Salaman-
There are a couple of plusses for Dave Mendes with some predefined
triangles at the touch of a number key, as long as you can remember
which is triangle one or two or three or four, that is.
Both have the facility to save and load pictures using the cassette
system, but Quicksailva score another plus with a built-in joystick
facility - obviously an advantage.
Where Quicksilva lose totally though, is the complete absence of
either a grid overlay for intricate designs or indeed any system of
showing current coordinates for future manipulation.
No, in an application where user-friendliness has to be a prime con-
sideration, I cannot really recommend this very highly. If I hadn't al-
ready seen the other system perhaps I could, but this does not emerge
well in comparison.
Phil Tayler

Supplier: SOFTEK
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Merlin in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
THIS review is in response to a request for help from Elizabeth Young of
Stondon Massey in Essex. She says the game is fascinating and I agree.
Your ruler, the king, has had the five magic objects that enable him
to maintain peace and prosperity in the land stolen by an evil wizard.
As the influence of this wizard descends upon the land, you are sum-
moned and told by the king that he has chosen you to recover the magic
objects and take them to the Temple of Zolton.
Here their beneficial influence will help the king defeat the wizard.
You begin your quest on a hilltop with the first task to equip your-
self for the trials to come. You quickly discover a hut, two canyons, a
lake, an island, a deadly forest and a mysterious castle.
The island is the last place you want to visit so you search every-
where thoroughly before tackling the castle.
There is a way into the castle and you will be surprised at the help
you can get here, always assuming you can recognise it! Once you have
figured it out, you will be in the castle and the main body of the
There are some really devious puzzles to solve, yet no real red
I will give you one tip. Though the program description says you have
to return the five magic objects to the temple, they are not the only
things that have to go there.
The program is written in Basic and thus easily listable. This might
not help you if you get stuck however, since many of the room descript-
ions and word parts have been tokenised.
For those who haven't met this term before, I'll try to explain. To
save memory space the programmer has substituted the more commonly used
words and word parts for symbols.
The tokeniser converts these symbols into English when they are to
be displayed on screen. It also converts your input into symbols the
program can understand and respond to.
The Electron itself tokenises Basic keywords, though very little in-
formation is given in the User Guide.
Overall, an ingenious series of puzzles. Despite being written in
Basic it's a very nice game to play and is about average difficulty. I
am impressed and have no hesitation in recommending it for all types of

Product : FORTH
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Roland Waddilove in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
FORTH was invented in 1969 by Charles H. Moore who worked on an IBM 1130
- a third generation computer.
He believed his language to be the next step forward and considered
it to be a fourth generation computer language. However, the language he
was developing for the IBM 1130 only permitted five character identi-
fiers so instead of being called Fourth it became Forth.
It has become the second most popular language on home micros after
Basic. So if you have mastered the art of programming the Electron in
Basic and are looking for something new then take a look at Acornsoft's
There are two main versions of this language - Forth-79 set out by
the Forth Standards Team, and fig-Forth put forward by the Forth Inter-
est Group in America.
Acornsoft's version follows the Forth-79 standard. All the words in
the standard word set are present plus a few others added by Acornsoft
such as >VDU to send a byte to the VDU drivers.
Forth is neither an interpreted language like Basic nor a true com-
piled language like Pascal. It's a sort of intermediate language, com-
piling the definitions to a code close to machine language which is then
interpreted when the program is run.
Forth is known as an interpretive threaded language - the instruct-
ions which make up the application are compiled to give a list of add-
resses which point to previously defined machine code routines.
The result of this is that it runs quite fast as much of the inter-
pretation has already been carried out.
The Electron takes more than 22 seconds to count from 0 to 30,000 in
Basic using an ordinary variable and about 7.5 seconds using one of the
resident integer variables as the loop counter.
The same loop in Forth takes about four seconds, making it nearly
twice as fast as Basic.
Forth programs are usually, but not always, faster than their Basic
equivalents. So if you are interested in fast arcade games and find
Basic too slow or machine code incomprehensible, try Forth as an alter-
native. It might just have that extra bit of speed you are looking for.
The cassette has four programs. These include a Forth dictionary and
compiler, an editor, a Forth assembler and a high resolution graphics
The dictionary and compiler take about 4.5 minutes to load and con-
sist of several files which relocate when finished. A copyright message
appears and the heading:
Acornsoft FORTH
is printed. The OK is not a sort of "Jimmy rules OK" message but is one
of the features of Forth - it simply means that the task set has been
Modes 4, 5 and 6 are available and there is more than 6k of memory
free for your application. Graphic displays are also possible in Modes 4
and 5.
The manual, which is available separately, shows how to draw trian-
gles, rectangles and how to animate simple characters.
Acornsoft Forth does not support floating point arithmetic but this
is not the great handicap it might at first seem.
Floating point numbers are not needed all that often but when they
are, Forth is such a flexible language that you can define your own
words to handle them.
Since Forth applications - programs - are compiled as they are enter-
ed, the original form of the defintions are lost and only the compiled
form remains.
Acornsoft uses the standard Forth method of storing a copy of the
source code in a number of screens.
There are initially two screens on loading but this number can be in-
creased - with a corresponding decrease in the memory left for the dic-
Each screen is divided into 16 lines of 64 characters and is identi-
fied by a number. A Forth application can use as many screens as it
needs and interpretation continues with the next.
Screens can be loaded, saved and edited with the editor supplied.
The editor seems a bit complicated and a bit bewildering at first but
is quit powerful and becomes easier to use with practice.
There are commands for putting text on to a line, deleting a line,
inserting text, spreading lines, deleting text and many more.
The manual with the cassette is actually Forth On The BBC Microcom-
puter but there is no difference between the two versions. The manual is
an absolute necessity and pushes the total price of the package to more
than `20.
The manual is excellent, covering topics such as arithmetic (single
and double precision), defining new words and vocabularies, loops, input
and output, creating arrays, assembly language, graphics and sound.
At the back is a glossary which lists all the Forth words in the dic-
tionary and gives a brief description of their function.
To sum up them, Acornsoft's Forth is an excellent implementation of
the language. It is very powerful, encourages structured programming
techniques and is faster than Basic for many applications.
If you are interested in programming and want something different and
are prepared to put a bit of effort in then Forth would be a good inves-
tment and would open up a whole new world that you never knew existed.
If, however, you are just interested in fast machine code games and
zapping various nasties of assorted sizes and shapes, then I would not
recommend it. But you would be missing out on something far more inter-
esting and rewarding.
Roland Waddilove

Product: GAMEMAKER 2
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
ONE mark of the success of a home micro is the improvement in both the
quantity and quality of the software produced for it.
This program confirms the Electron's place as a micro at the top of
its class - a plaudit which can equally be extended to this marvellous
program from Holly Computers.
A couple of months ago, I reviewed a fairly similar tape which pro-
duced sprites for use in one's own programs. Gamemaker2 sets out to be a
far more comprehensive aid to the serious games programmer and it suc-
ceeds to a most remarkable degree.
The animation which can now be achieved is almost truly professional
in smoothness and speed, while the whole system of writing the game
program itself is made into a (comparatively) easy affair.
Do not feel, however, that this tape is a magic carpet to success.
the 40 page booklet requires a good deal of thought and much practice
will be needed before the process suddenly clicks.
However this approach is not only beneficial to programming develop-
ment, but is also great fun!
A large number of images may be designed and drawn on screen using a
technique that soon becomes straight-forward, and it is then possible to
assign one or more images to a sprite.
Sprites are the miracles of a computer game, allowing figures to be
overlapped and to pass each other without one overwriting and therefore
obscuring the other.
The point of assigning two images is that they can differ in the
minor details which lead to smooth animation on screen. Obviously a
whole series of these could be designed around one main character for
the really smooth effects seen in commercial games.
These sprites could then be saved as a file to tape and *RUN when the
actual game has been written and put onto tape.
A part of the Gamemaker2 program, USER2, remains active at Break, as
it is hidden below the new PAGE and this allows a wide range of new com-
mands to be used during the game.
These additional commands rely on simple mnemonics, so that *GMd 1
would move sprite number 1 down.
The program also allows for one main character to be driven from the
keyboard while others may move in paths already described in the program
- although there is even scope for random movement here for the advent-
urous programmer.
All the integer variables needed for updating, movement, collision
detection or reply are clearly detailed and many examples are given of
their use.
Holly is allowing games developed using this program to be sold com-
mercially provided that a simple acknowledgement clause is included.
Yes, for the Electron owner wishing to push the machine to near its
limits, save up - or even mortgage the cat. This is a superb program
which I thoroughly recommend.
Phil Tayler

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 1 No. 12
THIS is another in the Happy Series by Bourne, and it maintains the pro-
mise of the first title in the series, Happy Letters.
It is aimed at a very young audience, this time between three and
six, probably with an adult to help where necessary. Again the sound can
be turned off, and I tended to do that rather often.
A large number is drawn filling most of the screen. The child then
enters an input by pressing the appropriate number key the correct num-
ber of times.
As each key press is made, a flower is added to the right hand side.
If the correct input is made, the face smiles, and a flower is added to
the score.
Should the answer be incorrect however, the flowers change colour and
only a stalk is added to the score. A useful extra feature is that on an
incorrect input, the same large scale number is drawn so that the child
might compare the two.
There is the usual monitor screen, which allows the adult to assess
the progress of up to five children. Should particular problems appear,
the sequence of numbers given to a child may be set in advance by the
adult to strengthen weaknesses.
It is good to see that the Break key is at least partly protected,
returning the user to the main menu. It is also encouraging that such
good quality programs are being made made available for the Electron,
emphasising the fact that it is an ideal machine for education both at
school and at home.
This program is good value and will prove useful for any young fam-
Phil Tayler

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Richard Tacagni in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
WOULD you do anything for a fast action game but never look an adventure
in the face? If so, then this is the game for you.
Your ship is loaded with an infinite supply of fire-power with which
to blast the aliens out of existence, but you only have a limited time
before they land.
For extra points you must destroy any spaceship that wanders through
your territory. Watch out, though. They often drop bombs that penetrate
all defences.
The keys Z and X (for left and right) and DELETE (to fire) respond
promptly, giving smooth action.
It may not be the most original game ever written, but the graphics
and sound facilities have been used well to give an enjoyable and add-
ictive game which is good value for money.
Richard Tacagni

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Peter Gray in Electron User Vol. 1 No. 12
THIS is a sort of educational Battleships for eight to 13-year-olds.
When you run the game a 10 by 15 grid is displayed and then disappears.
Somewhere in the 150 squares on the screen an invisible man is hiding
and the aim is to expose him to view by guessing which squares he is
hiding under.
The kids enter this into the Electron using a simple co-ordinate sys-
tem. If they miss with their shot the micro responds with a hint, using
the points of the compass.
This makes it much of a game of chance than Battleships and allows
the children to use and expand their knowledge of simple co-ordinates
and compass directions.
The idea is to find the man in fewer tries than your rivals.
The whole thing is well explained, simple to use and extremely idiot-
proof. It's also a pleasant game in its own right.
The only quibble is that it might have been better if the lines of
the grid were left on the screen rather than disappearing when the man
hides. This, I am sure, would enhance an already useful program.
Peter Gray

Product : KILLA
Available on Tape
Reviewed by F. J. Lancaster in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
HAVING gone ape over Killer Gorilla, it was with keen anticipation that
I received a copy of Killa, the upgrade produced by Bit Twiddlers.
The immediate impact of the upgrade is the ability to do varied jump-
ing, with or without the hammer. The jumps features are double, extended
and double extended jumps.
However old habits die hard and it took me some time to familiarise
myself with these before I stopped throwing myself off the platforms.
Once I had gained some experience of them I found them invaluable in
avoiding multiple fire balls.
Jumping with the hammer only really comes into play where there are
gaps in the platforms.
Climbing with the hammer is also useful and increases the point scor-
ing potential, although I found myself in a dilemma on a few occasions
when holding a hammer on a platform where another hammer was availabe.
Should I run with the first or wait and take the second? Initially, hes-
itation was my only downfall.
While retaining the four stages within each level, the upgrade
increases the number of levels of seven, these being basically increases
in speed.
At level 7, the speed defeated my attempts to complete all the stages
and provides a challenge which in the long term will probably prove
The extra lives at each of the first three stages, while useful, can
also prolong the game beyond the endurance of players wanting to take
their turn. My children were delighted while playing but frustrated
while waiting.
There is also a practice mode, providing double the number of lives,
which allows the selection of any stage within any of the levels. How-
ever, on successful completion of a stage, the game moves on to the next
A shortcoming is that the practice mode must be selected before the
loading of Killer Gorilla without any facility to switch between the
practice and game modes other than by reloading the programs.
Apart from doubting the value of this practice mode, I also felt as
if I were cheating by going directly to a stage without first completing
previous stages.
Without doubt, the most useful facility of the upgrade is the pause.
Which of us, on the way to a good score, hasn't been interrupted by a
telephone call or a knock on the door?
Altogether, a welcome addition for the Killer Gorilla addicts among
us with the pause facility being well worth the money.
F. J. Lancaster

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Trevor Roberts in Electron User Vol. 1 No. 12
A GAME for those with fast reactions and a burning desire to save people
from drowning, LEMMING SYNDROME is one of those compulsive games that
always has you wanting one more go.
The idea is simple. Mad Marco, the world famous arsonist, has set
light to a city between the flames and a deep, dangerous river. As is
the way in computer games, none of the people can swim (remember the
drowning frog in CROAKER?)
Having said that, they would rather chance their arm in the water
than in the flames, so, singly or in groups, they hurl themselves over
the edge. This is where you come in, you and your little rubber raft.
If you place your raft beneath the plummeting population they bounce.
The trouble is that they only bounce as far as the centre of the river.
The result is that you have to catch them again and bounce them twice
more before they reach dry land at the other side of the river. And
you've got to watch out because while you're waiting for the third
bounce you notice another group hurling themselves off the edge. Can you
get back in time?
To make matters worse, Mad Marco keeps throwing sticks of dynamite
(which you avoid) and there's a hungry shark (which you try to avoid).
The game ends when you've been blasted, bitten or lost fifty people.
You get points for each person you save, the various classes having
different scores. For some obscure reason, politicians score more than
The graphics are excellent, the colours well thought out and the con-
trols simple to use. You have a choice of sound on or off, various
levels of skill and different ways of moving your rubber raft.
Calling for quick reactions and a sense of humour it's a game that
will have you laughing as you press for another go. Great fun.
Trevor Roberts

Product : MAP RALLY
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
BOURNE have made many friend amongst primary school teachers (and child-
ren!) for their lovely Happy Letters and Happy Numbers programs for
young learners.
This tape is aimed at a higher age group and combines practice in co-
ordinates and compass directions.
There are actually two similar programs on the cassette, the first of
which requires little experience of compass bearings, for the necessary
prompts are made on screen.
The child takes the part of a rally driver, with the Electron acting
as navigator around a course through a grid. This varies from 6 x 6 to
18 x 18, which increases the level of difficulty.
The most popular choice was that of two players competing against
each other, one with a red car, the other with blue. The courses set for
each car are similar in terms of distance but they are not the same, so
nobody can benefit from someone else's successes!
The second program is very similar but the child has to calculate new
co-ordinates in order to make their move. This refinement adds a totally
different skill from that already acquired in the first game.
Again the graphics are fair and the sound is quite reasonable but the
great value of this tape us the superbly child-orientated feel it has.
Children love the idea of car rallies and they themselves love to
compete. The fact that a considerable amount of information is learnt
about compass points and co-ordinates is almost incidental to the child.
Yet parents and teachers can feel quite reassured that the education-
al purpose is fully achieved in this splendid cassette.
Phil Tayler

Product : MATHS LEVEL 1 (AGE 4-6)
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
THIS is one of a series being produced for the pre-school or young
child. It would be equally suitable for schools or the home Electron and
colour television.
Like the others in the series, the package contains two cassettes
which together contain 16 exercises.
These obviously begin at a very basic level with number recognition
and matching, sorting of shapes and adding complements of five, through
to matching pairs of objects which would eventually lead to some exper-
ience of set theory.
The intention is that the child would soon learn to use the program
unaided, and I am sure this would be possible.
The key inputs are, after all, remarkably clear and easy to learn.
However I would also see a great advantage for a parent in working
through these exercises with the child so that the mathematical vocab-
ulary necessary later may be founded at an early stage.
There are also a variety of further activities which would present
themselves during the operation of these programs, and a wise parent
would do well to follow them up while the interest is shown by the
Full use is made of colour and sound so that the machine is well
used. The graphics are not elaborate, but in a program of this kind they
hardly need to be.
In a school situation, the child's name is input and full records are
maintained of that child's performance.
One slight snag which I found at school was the time taken to load
the cassettes - they contain a wealth of programs which need to be
accessed quite often during a morning's work.
Schools may be interested to know that the programs will also run on
a BBC Micro, and with a bit of effort can be stored on disc.
Since schools are well advised to make a backup copy and to keep the
original well away from dirty fingers, I wouldn't imagine that AmpalSoft
would mind the backup being on disc. It makes the running of a classroom
Phil Tayler

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Talyer in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
IS gazing at heavenly bodies your scene? Do you know an Ursa Major from
a Corona Borealis?
If your answers are yes, then this program is right up your street
(or your Milky Way!). It will allow you to place yourself anywhere in
the world, within certain generous limitations of longitude and lati-
tude, and look at any constellation, or the sky in general.
There are more than 80 constellations listed, and they are identified
by their three-letter abbreviations as used by the IAU.
Care must be taken to enter this with the correct sequence of upper
and lower case letters. Of course, we Electron users know it's easier to
enter lower case letters on the Electron than on the BBC Micro.
The constellations contain over 1,000 stars, although not all will be
available to view from our chosen location, even though a northerly or
southerly aspect may be selected.
Various options are available, one being the facility to enter ANY as
the answer to the name of the constellation.
The micro will then select one and display it, having made sure it is
visible. You can then use this as a test, guessing the answer before it
is revealed.
If your interest in astronomy is perhaps dormant, this is a super
program to awaken it!
Phil Tayler

Product : PENGWYN
Supplier: POSTERN
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 1 No. 12
WHEN I first tried Pengwyn I wondered why the game was so ponderous.
Then I spotted that the cassette is printed in identical fashion on both
sides, but each side is dedicated to a different to a different
While one side is indeed for the Electron I had mistakenly loaded the
BBC version. Still, the slower speed enabled me to develop some tactics
so that when I loaded the correct side I had managed to stay alive for
a while.
Many of the best games are simple in concept, and one of my all time
favourites has been Jet Pac, which I enjoyed when I had my S*e*t*u*.
In Pengwyn, the storyline is equally simple. The feathered friend
stands surrounded by blocks of ice and three vibrantly shining eggs.
By melting and/or sliding the blocks, the Pengwyn has to get the
three eggs in a straight line anywhere on the screen.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? The trouble is that a couple of yellow
monsters melt out of the blocks and pursue the little bird, although
their movements are predictable.
It's a lovely feeling when your Pengwyn slides a block which then
crushes a monster flat - although another monster is always waiting to
melt out.
What makes the program good value? I can't say it's the sound, which
is barely adequate. But the animation is superb, with some delightful
touches - like the bird's feet dancing around on the cold ice.
When the poor creature is trapped, its look of total bewilderment and
dejection is a masterpiece of comic pathos. With a high score table to
keep tabs on your progress, it's the kind of program you will go back to
again and again...and again.
Phil Tayler

Product : PLAYBOX
Supplier: COMSOFT
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
THIS superb tape, containing three separate programs, will be a valuable
and popular addition in many schools and homes.
I would certainly have spent my money on it even with only two of the
three games - the third is the icing on the cake!
Hangman must have been played in every home and school as it's a su-
perb way of stimulating young children to think about their spelling
vocabularies without it ever appearing to be work.
The trouble with some implementations I've seen for micros is that
the graphics tend to either be very poor or to emphasise the gory ending
of the game.
Here the graphics are bold, colourful and friendly - not even the
youngest child would be frightened by them.
There are a variety of vocabularies built into the program, sorted
either by age or by subject category.
There is also a most useful option, in which the teacher could input
words for the child (perhaps related to a reading scheme or current top-
ic), or two or more children could try to outwit each other.
Although many educationalists frown on competition, children revel in
it and the competitive angle is a strong stimulus for some.
The second game is called Memory and is a version of the old but en-
joyable game of pairs, played with playing cards.
Here two children play against each other, turning over two cards to
reveal pictures and shapes.
When a pair is matched, that child scores a point, the cards are left
revealed and the game continues.
The method of entering the chosen cards is simple and fairly young
children will soon grasp the idea. Although the graphics are less im-
pressive than in Hangman, they are quite presentable and clear.
Phil Tayler

Supplier : STARCADE
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Bev Friend in Electron User Vol. 1 No. 12
ARE you an ecology buff? Does your soul resonate with Mother Nature in
all her glories? If so then Starcade is the game for you. Even if you're
not a nature freak you'll probably still go for it.
By virtue of the ?, *, Z and X keys you become a tiny tadpole, swimm-
ing round in a pond, eating amoebae to keep up your energy. An idyllic
sounding life, isn't it?
The trouble is that it's not just you eating amoebae. It's other
things eating you. The hydra that lurks on the bottom of the pond is
just one example.
You can get temporary immunity to the hydra by gobbling down some of
the little blue worms that are slowly falling through the water.
Every five of these that you gobble adds to your score and takes you
one step nearer being a frog.
The aim of the game is to build up a colony of these frogs. It seems
at times that everything else has the opposite intention.
Don't pay too much attention to the impressive-looking dragonfly
buzzing overhead, it won't do you any harm. Having said that, you have
to watch out for her eggs which if they get to the bottom, develop into
a nasty monster with an enormous appetite.
And if that's not enough, as the game progresses there's also radio-
active dumping, mutant bumble bees, cowardly water spiders, water fleas
and a whole host of other dangers to your colony.
It's not easy being a tadpole in the savage pond but it is fun. The
game is original, amusing and addictive. In fact it's a winner.
Bev Friend

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Phil Tayler in Electron User Vol. 1 No. 12
THIS is quite a good implementation of the classic game for micros. I
would imagine there are still quite a few people who have not yet com-
manded the Starship Enterprise on its voyages through the edges of space
where it encounters the dreaded Klingons/Vaiders.
The program offers a variety of commands via which the on-board com-
puters produce information on screen. The commands are printed on handy
reference cards included in the cassette case.
The program is written to run on both the Electron and BBC Micro, so
the speed tends to suffer when run on the Electron.
With the program priced competitively and the listing freely avail-
able, Dimax have bravely taken a positive stand in the controversy over
I have played Trek on the Electron before, and this is a much better
version than the one I bought previously. Even with all the on-board
computers, it's still very tough going.
There are moments requiring split-second decisions, but generally
tactics can be formulated carefully.
The speed with which I moved from Condition Green to being disabled
was rather disconcerting, but I think that was more a reflection on the
captain than the ship.
Phil Tayler

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Andrew Oldham in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
WHATEVER you enjoy doing on your Electron, writing games or education
programs or just playing around, this program is without doubt a real
It lets you produce beautifully fluid-smooth animation in minutes
with a minimum of difficulty.
A sprite, for the unintiated, is a block of graphics which can be
moved around the screen pixel by pixel giving smooth movement. The micro
takes care of deleting and moving the image, leaving the background
underneath undamaged.
The package consists of three definer programs, some ready made
sprites - although it's more fun to make your own - and about twenty
machine code routines, each incorporating different features and using
varying amounts of memory.
Writing, changing and using the sprites is simplicity itself, with
the use of the resident integer variables and calls to machine code rou-
tines from your Basic program.
All this is explained in the comprehensive manual.
Also suppied are two demonstration games complete with listings. How-
ever these do not do the sprites justice, being simple and uninspiring.
What puts this program way ahead of other packages available is its
many features. These include a collision detector, preset flight paths,
extra-large super sprites, an amazing enlargement facility, and up to
48 sprites at once, each of which can have two alternatving images in-
stant animation as the sprite moves.
Simonsoft Sprites has to be one of the best things for programmers
wanting to write good programs since the Electron itself.
Andrew Oldham

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Andrew Oldham in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
ARE you the sort of person who takes pleasure in emptying your pockets
of hard-earned cash to feed the slot machines on holiday?
If so, you'll love this program from Simonsoft which will soon have
you believing you're back on the pier at Eastbourne - except that the
money can stay in your pocket.
The game has all the features expected of a real fruit machine in-
cluding nudges, holds and reel swapping. It also has some highly impres-
sive, if a little slow, graphics such as spinning reels which bounce
when they stop, and a coin pile that shows at a glance the state of your
The program makes good use of sound and colour throughout, and in-
cludes a very comprehensive instruction program.
I was highly impressed by the quality of this program, which is by
far and away the best adaptation I have seen on the fruit machine theme.
Congratulations to Simonsoft for an addictive program providing lots
of fun, which at just under `6 has to be one of the best value games
around for Electron owners.
Andrew Oldham

Available on Tape
Reviewed by Trevor Roberts in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
DO you know who won the battle of Trafalgar? The British? Wrong, it was
the French.
Or at least it was when I chose to play against the computer in
Squirrel Software's smashing little game Trafalgar.
It opens with an overhead view of the British and French fleets fac-
ing each other, ready for battle.
You can either play an opponent (which allows you to choose your
side) or the Electron (when you are the British).
Then, as a pointer runs up and down the side of the screen, you pick
out which pair of ships are to come alongside each other and let loose a
storm of broadsides.
As soon as a pair of warships has been selected, the scene changes.
You see the two ships locked in mortal combat while a text window at the
bottom of the screen gives the name of the combatants.
You control the elevation and firing of the guns (keep an eye on the
wind speed) and the aim is to hit the enemy ships before they hit you.
Lose all your gun decks and you have to strike your flag and endure
the ignominy of being boarded. Lose all your ships and you've lost the
It's an interesting and amusing little game. The controls are easy to
use and well explained and the graphics more than adequate.
I particularly liked the way the ships show the damage incurred. I
also liked the boarding parties - or, rather, my boarding parties.
Combining a war game and an action game - you have to be quick on the
trigger - it makes a pleasant change from arcade games which strain your
fingers and adventure games that strain your brain.
So if you're looking for something different which will appeal to all
the family, Trafalgar fits the bill.
And what other game gives you the chance to rewrite history?
Trevor Roberts

Supplier: M + P SOFTWARE
Available on Tape
Reviewed by Merlin in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 2
THIS is the sequel to Firienwood, M + P's first adventure, which took
its name from the forest in which much of the action took place.
M + P claim that no prior knowledge of Firienwood is required and
since I haven't as yet seen it and I've managed to finish this advent-
ure, I have to agree.
In rescuing the golden bird of paradise in the previous game you in-
advertently released an evil genie. Now, a few years later, you set out
to kill the genie and restore peace to the land. Hopefully, you'll get
it right this time!
You start your quest close to the castle, scene of your previous tri-
umph, and after a couple of TURNS (hint!), you manage to reach the cas-
tle and obtain some of the equipment.
This includes a password which will see you through to the main part
of the adventure.
After a few more moves the PRESSURE begins to tell (yet another
hint!), and you find yourself in Firienwood itself.
From this point on the tension mounts and you are presented with num-
erous puzzles to solve and red herrings to ignore. Also, for any Dun-
geons and Dragons fans who might be playing, you are frequently given
the opportunity to fight goblins and thereby increase your score.
Since I managed to complete the adventure without killing a single
goblin I can only assume that this option is merely to pad out the ad-
venture a bit.
Perhaps the idea is that having completed the game, you can go
through it again to try to achieve a high score. First time I ever heard
of an adventure having a top ten!
Anyway, after a lot more red herrings, a trip underground and a visit
to the diamond mines, you manage to complete the adventure.
At this point I felt it was all a bit of an anti-climax. In retro-
spect I can say that it is perfectly possible to solve this adventure
without even meaning to.
Only about 20 per cent of the puzzles and locations have any bearing
on what happens.
It's a large program, completely written in machine code, very fast
and has an excellent save-game routine. The layout on-screen - using
different colours for text, messages and so on - is very impressive.
The thing lacking is a feeling of cohesion between the puzzles and
the purpose of the adventure. In view of this I feel that the experien-
ced adventurer would be disappointed if he bought this program.
For the novice, however, I think it is ideal. Many of the puzzles
that have a direct bearing on the adventure are fairly easy to solve and
there are plenty of locations to explore once the initial problems are
All in all, a competent piece of programming but for the complete no-
vice only.

Available on 3.5 Disk, Tape
Reviewed by Richard Tacagni in Electron User Vol. 2 No. 1
GEOGRAPHY - not the most exciting subject, is it?
That's what I thought before I began reviewing one of Superior Soft-
ware's latest releases.
You are first presented with an acuurate hi-resolution map of the
world, filling the top two thirds of the screen. This is followed by the
test at the bottom.
You begin by deciding what you want to be tested on - capitals, pop-
ulations, or both. You then choose one of the eight levels, which, when
put together, cover a massive 166 countries.
On the hardest level you get asked about small countries such as Dji-
bouti, which I had certainly never heard of.
You will probably have wondered how the test on population works -
how accurate answers need to be? Well this program overcomes many prob-
lems by saying that any answer within a reasonable percentage is cor-
rect. So it will be accurate for many years to come.
While progressing through your test, the country in question is high-
lighted on the map with a small flashing circle, enabling you to identi-
fy its position.
After being pelted with questions on about 20 countries, your ordeal
ends and your percentage of correct answers is given.
It was here that I unearthed a definite bug in my copy of the prog-
ram. Once you have been given your results, you are asked: "Do you want
to try this again?". If your answer is Yes, the program just ends. This
means you have to type RUN to carry on.
But overall, I believe this is a well written program. I found it
both interesting and absorbing and think it has potential use in both
school and home.
Richard Tacagni

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