By Lloyd Mangram
comes but once a year . . . and so do friendly aliens,
this time not bearing gifts but taking them back to
a planet underprivileged enough not to have Spectrums,
joysticks and Cub monitors. Perhaps that spacecraft
glowing ET-like in the background is more used to descending
aggressively in the face of fearsome Earth defence fire.
This picture could easily have been mawkish if it weren't
for Oliver's knack of adding the uneasy element; the
visual gag is the Space Invaders cassette, but
it is the alien's dubious expression that makes it tautly
Once again it was a giant special edition, and brought with
it the now-familiar problems of a drastically shortened schedule
because the issue would be on sale earlier in the month than
usual. And the pressure wasn't helped by the flurry of late-for-Christmas
games to review.
Smashes was a fair crop. Odin's Robin Of The Wood with
presentation reminiscent of Sabre Wulf scored because
of the character interaction. Mastertronic's sequel to Finders
Keepers, Spellbound, found favour, as did the finished
version of Durell's Saboteur, which hadn't looked quite
as promising when seen at The PCW Show.
A new name, Insight, hit the mark with a shoot-'em-up called
Vectron, whose ultrafast 3-D graphics impressed everyone.
Derek pronounced Swords And Sorcery to be a Smash,
justifying the 18 months that had gone into it. And Elite
received two Smashes, one for an unusually playable platform
game, Roller Coaster, and the other for the long-awaited
Capcom Commando conversion.
Commando, already released on the 64, had been disappointing,
but its Spectrum counterpart was much better. In reverse,
however, System 3's International Karate, a big 64
hit, missed the mark on the Spectrum and only got 68%.
In the year since the last Christmas Special, Newsfield's
offices in King Street had altered dramatically. What a year
earlier had been spacious and under-occupied was now cramped
a situation that was to get worse still, and one we've had
to live with since. The editorial floor, which had been home
to Roger Kean, Matthew Uffindell, myself on a few days and
two part-timers after school hours, now had to support eight
full-time staff, five part-timers and the increasingly complex
The middle floor was worse still, with nine staff whose tasks
included mail order, subscriptions, advertisement administration,
reception, accounts and mail order/subscription storage and
With subscriptions running at several thousand per magazine,
it was becoming obvious that King Street could no longer hold
all the subscription copies, even for the few days it took
to send them out. A solution would not be found till 1986,
but in the meantime the entire company, including the five
art-department staff, formed chain gangs once a week to transport
magazine bundles from the street up the stairs to a room on
the middle floor. The lorries delivering our subscription
copies were frequently the juggernauts Pete Cooke had so vividly
described in his CRL game, definitely not suited to Ludlow's
quaintly narrow streets. Newsfield unloading sessions became
a fraught business, a battle against time and the inevitable
intervention of the traffic warden.
Eventually a real fight did ensue with Ludlow's solitary
traffic warden, a moment of sublime looniness when the large
ex-policeman warden, driven mad by our constant blockages,
pinned Oliver Frey to Victoria Wine's wall and threatened
assault before several bemused Newsfield witnesses. Ludlow
now has two traffic wardens - is this progress or retaliation?
As soon as the Christmas issues had gone to press, February's
had to be considered, for ZZAP! at least had to be at the
printer before the Christmas break. It was a weary team that
gathered at the Bull Hotel for the Newsfield Christmas Dinner
a few days before the holiday, but no-one could fail to be
pleased. CRASH’s circulation figures were among the highest
ever achieved for a computer title in Britain, ZZAP! was doing
splendidly and hopes for AMTIX! were running high. It seemed
a good way to go into the New Year.