By Lloyd Mangram
(Christmas Special 1984/85)
what do you do for a Christmassy cover illustration?
It isn't a time for taut statements on the nature of
violent life and sudden death. The painting was intended
as a strong contrast to the first cover, which set the
tone for CRASH, and Oliver opted for a gentle picture
depicting Santa handing out Spectrums to the deprived
natives of a distant planet. He employed a technique
which he uses occasionally, that of spraying the background
colours over lightly drawn figures, then picking them
out gently in colours which blend with the background.
The Christmas Special was going to be a nightmare, everyone
knew it. Only two-and-a-half weeks to write and produce it
due to the schedule being compressed, and it was intended
to have 196 pages, bigger than anything we had tackled before.
On top of that, the first floor of King Street had become
vacant with the educational software company moving on, and
it was felt sensible to move editorial down there, giving
art more room upstairs. The evidence is there to see in the
issue, because Roger put together a feature about how CRASH
happens, and there's a photograph of himself sitting at an
L-shaped desk with Matthew, ostensibly reviewing a game. How
empty and tidy the place looks compared to now! This move
further delayed the writing however.
what were we looking at? The original plan had been to do
an issue full of competitions, special features and few reviews,
on the grounds that everyone would already have released everything
for Christmas. It didn't work out that way of course, for
so many software houses were late, and there were still over
30 games in. Among them was the double bill from Ultimate,
Underwurlde and Knight Lore, which continued
the Sabreman saga started in Sabre Wulf and at the same time
undid everyone's hopes that the Midland company would return
to a sensible price level from the earlier game's, then-outrageous
£9.95. Still, there was no doubting their quality, and
they were Smashes. The better of the two, Knight Lore,
was to initiate an entire genre, the isometric perspective
3-D exploring game.
Derek's Smash was for The Runes Of Zendos from Dorcas
(formerly Doric). It was their second game, but despite its
Smash, here again was an adventure game that failed to find
the market it deserved. A different tune entirely for Boulder
Dash and its hero Rockford, who would soon be adopted
as a mascot by Newsfield's second title, ZZAP! 64. If its
graphics weren't outstanding, that hardly mattered. This was
a maddeningly addictive mind-game and its strength lay in
the idea more than in its appearance.
After all the interest, Fantasy's Backpackers Guide To
The Universe was a little disappointing, though a genuinely
unusual game. Somehow the market generally thought so too,
because after good starting sales, it slumped, eventually
taking Fantasy with it.
Ghostbusters was still under wraps, so it fell to
Elite to come up with a major TV tie-in, The Fall Guy.
However the game was hardly major although I recall it having
some good points. Perhaps more effort went into setting up
the licence deal than into the design and programming, a feeling
which would persist for a long time when it came to big licences.
Elite were going for TV tie-ins in a big way, and the issue
also carried a preview of their next intended game, Airwolf,
and mentioned its follow up, Dukes Of Hazzard. Airwolf
was unwittingly to do CRASH a big favour, but more of that
in the appropriate month.
I still retained my Playing Tips, but only by a hair's breadth
as Robin Candy waded in with three pages of POKEs specially
compiled for Christmas. It was to be my last month on the
Tips for many a moon, Robin would take over in the New Year.
As my first job for Issue One had been to write the Look
Back, it seemed only fitting that it was also my last task
for Issue 12 - to complete the first Year of CRASH.