two recent CRASH Smashes, for Quazatron and Pyracurse,
already under its collective belt, the folks at HEWSON are
limbering up to deliver another three body blows to the software
charts before Christmas. Hannah Smith and Bill Scolding have
been looking at Firelord, Uridium and City
Slicker, and they spoke to the brains behind the games...
SETTING THE TOWN ON FIRE
Steve Crow, author of the hugely successful
Starquake and Wizard's Lair, is the latest top
programmer to join the creative and prolific team at HEWSON.
His first game for them is the soon-to-be-released Firelord.
Firelord is set in the deceptively
quaint medieval land of Torot. Ramshackle half-timbered dwellings
line the cobbled streets, and fairy tale woods fringe the
town. It's all a bit like Ludlow, really, without the traffic
wardens and yellow binbags!
based a lot of the buildings on houses in his home county
of Kent, and points out that some of the dwellings have peculiar
funnels protruding from the roof slates. 'Those are Kent cast
houses, for the local hops. Which is why there are so many
pubs in the village...' In fact, the idea behind Firelord
grew out of the graphics. Steve was doodling around on his
screen and came up with a neat little rustic town house. He
did a few more, and the scenery for Firelord was created.
The plot came later.
And what of the plot? Well, all is not well
in Torot. The Wicked Queen has tricked the local fire-breathing
dragon into parting with the secret of his blazing breath,
the Firestone. With this in her possession she begins to terrorise
the inhabitants of Torot in a way that a dragon could only
Into this dangerous situation stumbles Sir
Galaheart. Being a knight, and fearless into the bargain,
he has vowed to search the land for the four elements of the
spell of eternal youth. Sir Galaheart knows a thing or two
about Evil Queens and reckons that she will gladly trade the
Firestone for this youth-giving spell.
when Sir Galaheart enters Torot he makes a macabre discovery.
All the inhabitants have vanished. So frightened are they
of the Queen and her dreaded Firestone - which she uses with
great zest - that they refuse to come outside their houses.
Torot is instead populated with flame ghosts who romp around
the countryside creating all sorts of havoc.
The last thing the ghosts want is for the
Firestone to be returned to its rightful owner. As soon as
Sir Galaheart begins his quest they swarm all around him,
draining his essential energy. These irritating ghosties can
be destroyed, but Sir Knight must first find the enchanted
crystal. Once he has this, he can fire bolts of power at his
assailants and protect his energy levels.
KEEP A FULL TUM!
No knight has ever stayed fearless for very
long on an empty stomach, so regular meals must be sought.
Luckily for Sir Galaheart, the land of Torot is well-stocked
with edibles, and nibblets can be picked up along the way.
Every time Sir G stumbles across the odd foodstuff his energy
goes up to maximum again and his appointment with the Grim
Reaper is postponed once more.
and grub apart, there are other useful objects lying around.
These can be used for trading with the locals in return for
even more useful things. Many houses around Torot have open
doors. If Galaheart enters one of these he is faced with a
choice of objects which he can barter for. If he's desperate,
he can try stealing something when the occupier isn't looking.
However, if he is caught in the process he must stand trial.
An arrow alternates between innocent and guilty and you must
stop it moving when it's pointing to 'innocent'. Otherwise
the punishment is death and our gallant knight loses one of
his four lives.
Not one for making things too easy, Steve
Crow has thrown in a few other hazards for good measure. Fireballs
dropped by the Queen spring up in Galaheart's path and contact
with them results in death, predictably enough.
There's a lot more to Firelord than
all this, and quite a few things which are not explained in
the instructions, as is fairly usual in Steve's games. Steve
is putting the final touches to the game now - 'a few more
locations and the music' - and when it's complete, the game
will have 512 screens of questin', killin', eatin' and barterin'.
Enough to keep you occupied when the winter knights are drawing
in. Look out for Firelord on or around October 29.
It'll cost a paltry £8.95.
THE SPECTRUM GAME THEY SAID "COULDN'T
Hugely successful on the C64, Uridium
is now being converted for the Spectrum by another newcomer
at Hewson, Dominic Robinson.
Originally designed and written by Andrew
Braybrook, the Spectrum version of Uridium retains
the same scenario: you are the pilot of a Manta fighter. Out
in the depths of space, vast alien Dreadnaughts silently move
into orbit around each planet in the sector, preparing to
drain minerals from the planets' cores to feed their interstellar
Piloting the versatile little fighter, your
task is to zoom over the hull of each Dreadnaught wiping out
its ancillary craft and then crippling the mother ship. In
all, there are fifteen of these space leviathans to disable,
and they're not just going to sit there while you take potshots
at them - fighter craft are out in force.
Although you're obviously outnumbered, the
Manta has been equipped with the latest technology. A powerful
laser is quite capable of destroying alien fighters. And boy,
do those little blighters shift, wave upon wave swooping in
at varying horrendous speeds.
if you're successful in breaking through the defensive screens
of enemy craft, flying in over the Dreadnaught hulls will
test your nerves and skill to the limit. The flanges and ducts
of the ship bristle with transmitter masts and require some
tricky sidestepping. Sheer walls and protrusions suddenly
leap into your line of vision and it's sometimes necessary
to veer off at right-angles to pass through tiny gaps.
If you're still airborne and have been actively
attacking the Dreadnaughts for several death-defying minutes,
then the words 'Land Now!' flash up at the top of the screen.
It's time to negotiate your way to the other end of the Dreadnaught
and set the Manta down on the master landing strip. Then the
vast bulk of the Dreadnaught can be destroyed and its shattered
particles sent spiralling into the cosmos.
There's scarcely time for a breather before
the Manta has to be sent screaming into the next wave of alien
craft and Dreadnaught number two. Dominic Robinson is currently
toying with the idea of putting in a bonus level between Dreadnaughts,
awarding extra points for the waves of fighters which have
been blasted, the destruction of the Dreadnaught itself, and
number of Mantas you still have in reserve. Also, the finished
version should boast a two player option, with each player
having three lives. Points are awarded for knocking alien
fighters out of the air, blasting apart surface features on
the hull and destroying ships parked on the Dreadnaught. An
extra Manta is given every ten thousand points.
Dominic reckons the biggest headache in
converting Uridium has been getting the graphics systems
to work at all, and then making it sufficiently fast: 'It's
taken about ten different versions to get something which
approaches a proper emulation of the Commodore game, and even
then memory restrictions have meant we've had to sacrifice
some of the Dreadnaught graphics which appeared in the original.
Though each Dreadnaught will have a different design and layout,
some of the chains and twisted links, which connected parts
of the ship in the C64 game, have had to go.'
When we spoke to Dominic, the game was about
a month away from completion, with only the first few Dreadnaught
mother ships in place. Hopefully, by the release date - October
28 - Uridium will contain 15 Super-Dreadnaughts, as
in the Commodore version. Each ship will be more difficult
to get through than the one before.... £8.95 should
pay for a lot of fast and furious action!
While Messrs Crow and Robinson have been
dreaming up past and future worlds, Steve Marsden and David
Cooke have been feverishly beavering away on a game based
around everyday life in London town. You know the kind of
thing: Arab terrorists, football hooligans, bombs in the Houses
The game's called City Slicker, and
the Marsden/Cooke partnership has so far taken the game through
three versions, with the programming getting steadily slicker
and slicker. We're on version Mk II(a) right now.
The game originally featured a number of
London landmarks - yer Nelson's column, yer Post Office tower,
yer actual Buck house - connected by grubby tube trains. Slick,
the 'off beat tec', had to shuttle from one location to another,
hot on the trail of the Arab terrorist, Abru Caddabra.
Much of this has gone now. Instead of the
finely detailed screens which we had a sneak look at when
we visited Marsden and Cooke in mid-August - the exterior
of the Houses of Parliament was spread across three screens,
every window and crenellation present - City Slicker
is now played out on platforms and levels inside four locations
only: the Tower of London, the British Museum, the Houses
of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace.
'The outdoor scenery didn't play very well,'
explains Steve. 'It's very much a room game, like Technician
Ted, with the difference that instead of abrupt screen
changes, the program flips half of one room and half of the
next, so there's a sort of inbetween screen as you exit one
room and enter another.'
Lost also are the animated characters of
important personages - Mrs Thatcher himself, and those loony
but lovable Royals. 'It was just too wasteful of memory, having
specific sprites only required for certain locations. Animated
characters which could roam from room to room had to go too;
they're now tied to specific rooms.' All except Slick and
Abru, that is.
But enough of what might have been. City
Slicker Mk II is still stuffed with action and delightful
details. Take the opening screens, for instance. As your Spectrum
does a passable imitation of the clickerty-clack of a moving
tube train, we see the profiles of Slick and Abru through
the carriage window. Abru quickly sprays some graffiti on
the glass, and slides out of sight, while Slick vows to get
GUN POWDER, TREASON AND...
The plot is straightforward. The Arab terrorist
has planted a bomb in the visitors' gallery of the House of
Commons, set to detonate at midnight, and Slick must assemble
the eight components of the defusing device and get it to
the bomb in time. Even then you're not finished - Cooke and
Marsden have added one more trial of skill which we won't
bits and pieces of the disposal unit are, predictably, scattered
all over the shop, often in places that can only be reached
by shunting objects around from one room to another. Slick
can leap acrobatically about, but his range depends on the
energy level at the bottom of the screen. Colliding with unfriendly
characters reduces energy; discovering foodstuffs increases
it by the nutritional value of the food consumed. Pep pills
replenish energy by 100 per cent, end you have three of these
held in reserve. Use them wisely.
Objects can be picked up, stood on and dropped,
and that includes some mobile thingies. If you can't operate
a toggle switch to open a door, sometimes another character
can be persuaded to do it for you. In one of the early locations,
in the Tower of London, a disposal component is located beneath
a closed trapdoor. Finding a ton weight, several rooms away,
and taking it back to trapdoor allows you to smash your way
through. Steve says 'there's a million and one strategies
like that in the game'.
If the going gets tough, the tough start
looking for a cheat mode. There is one in City Slicker,
and it works like this: pause the game, and type in the code
word. The screen will display a series of room numbers, and
toggling to left and right will allow you to select the location
you want. Easy, ain't it? Except you've got to discover the
If you run out of energy and pep pills,
or if the clock strikes midnight, or if you run into Abru
himself, then the game ends. You are then treated to a spectacular
grand finale, as the bomb shatters the Seats of Government.
It takes about 30 seconds, and the screen is full of exploding
pixels. Almost worth dying for.
City Slicker will be out on
November 25, just missing Guy Fawkes' Day by a week or three.
It'll be priced at £8.95.