Super Fighter

By some quirk of fate, Ocean has given this compilation of fight games a sensible name. Tch. Somebody’s head will roll for this, no doubt. I’ll tell you what – you could ring up Ocean and ask to speak to their Head of Creative Titling, and I’ll just bet they’re ‘unavailable’. Ho ho, eh? Yes, quite.

Pit Fighter

The point of this infamous coin-op conversion is dubious in the extreme. Pitfighting is basically illegal boxing for money, and the game strives to be realistic in its portrayal of the violence, (Hence the digitised graphics in the arcade original.) Whenever you hit someone there’s a massive splash of blood, and at the end of a round you get ‘brutality bonuses’ for being particularly violent. Even the excited spectators get in on the act, flailing away at you if you get too close. In a word, ugh. Yet! I don’t mind games like, say, Target; Renegade (where you do even more horrible things like bash people up with snooker cues) because of the obviously cartoony graphics and plot. Psychologically revealing, eh?

It doesn’t help if you concentrate on the actual gameplay. The graphics change size as you move in and out of the screen area, which looks clever but makes distinguishing the players ve-e-ery tricky. As with so many other games, you’re reduced to hitting every key at random because you can’t quite see what’s going on. The dodgy response times don’t help, and neither do the exceptionally aggressive opponents. Basically, you haven’t got a chance. Two-player mode improves things a little – you can double-team the baddies – but not enough to make you want to play the game more than twice. Awful.

WWF Wrestlemania

Well, Steve rather neatly summed this one up just over there, thus cheating me out of about £25. (But only freelancers get paid by the word. Ed) Rats. I forgot. Ah, how I remember those happy freelancing days. Getting up at midday, writing a review in about an hour then going back to bed. (So not much different from now then. Ed) Ha blimmin’ ha. (What’s this about Jonathan working only an hour a day? Colin) (But Colin, that was only a – Ed) (Right, we’ll replace him. Colin) Help! Linda – do something! (So who were you thinking of replacing him with then? Ed) What? Oh no! Who can possibly save me now? (Fear not, trembly mortal! I, Super Bracket Man, will protect you. Be off, impertinent publisher! Take that, uncouth editor! Super Bracket Man) (Aarghh… uggghhh… etc. Colin and Linda) (Another job well done. No thanks necessary, little man – your happy face is enough reward. Farewell! Super Bracket Man) (Long pause.) Well. WWF. As I said, Steve’s summed it up rather well. All I’ve got to add is (a) I was even more irritated by the multiload than Mr Laundry, (b) it was written by Dave Box of Pixy the Microdot fame and (c) for me, the game quickly got repetitive because of ALL THAT WAGGLING. Good fun to start with, but no staying power at all.

Final Fight

Okay, Final Fight’s graphics are big. Very big, in fact. But they move with all the grace and fluidity of Mr Bean. In a daring snap of the fingers at physics, characters leap across the screen at you without seeming to pass through the points in between. And when two or more baddies attack at once, the mess of pixels on screen becomes completely impenetrable. You may as well play hiding under the duvet. In fact, I think I’ll give that a go right now. (Sounds of someone pulling a duvet over their head.) Right, now I’ll hold down fire and hit all the direction keys at random. Come back in a few minutes and see how I got on. (Intermission, with light music.) Oh, hello again. Well, I ploughed through the first three levels without doing anything remotely approaching playing a computer game. Even the end-of-level baddies with their incredibly long energy bars proved no problem. In fact, the only compliment I can pay Final Fight is that when the hero jumps, his leg grows quite a bit. Oh, and there’s a two-player mode, but to be frank I’d rather challenge a friend to a game of Trivial Pursuit. No, that’s a lie.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. When Ocean announced they were pulling out of the Speccy market, at least they went out on a high note with The Addams Family. Returning with this atrocious compilation does nobody any favours. Super Fighter just goes to show what’s wrong with licences – the names may be big, but by golly, the games are preposterously bad. And why 128K only? All three games are multiloads. Only WWF offers any kind of gameplay, and even that’s not as good as the £4 Tag Team Wrestling. If you received a letter tomorrow, put together using words from old newspapers and saying that if you didn’t buy Super Fighter your entire family, including Jacob, your cousin from Compton Dando whom you thought dead but who was in fact living under an assumed name to escape his debtors, would be killed, I’d recommend you buy the compilation. Otherwise, do anything – even detour through the Country Music section – to avoid it. (Hello! I’ve just the strangest dream. I was asking Colin something and all of a sudden some loony in tights started chucking us around. Then he hit me with some sort of memory-dissolving ray, and after that it’s just a blank. Ed) No, really? How odd.

SAM Surgeon – MGT’s Demise

Well, it’s a bit of a tragic story really, so it’d be best to get the Kleenex handy. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
There’s no point it trying to break it to you gently – Miles Gordon Technology (the company behind the SAM) have gone into receivership. What this means basically is that they’ve run out of money – and nobody is willing to give them any more, Hopefully a buyer will be found for the company and the Coupe will continue to be built – if not, it effectively spells the end of the line for the machine (and just as software was starting to appear for it too!).

So what went wrong?
Well, obviously details are fairly sketchy at the moment, but it is believed things started to get really bad around March this year, when MGT realised it had produced far more Coupes than it could possibly hope to sell (at this quiet end of the year at least).
Most probably they had so many machines on their hands (up to 6,000 apparently!) because they’d been aiming to have large stocks to sell in the busy pre-Christmas season. Since they’d failed to get the machine ready on time they found that vast numbers were just sitting there, doing nothing. Obviously this put them in a bit of a spot – they’d spent all that money making these things that they couldn’t sell, they were owed a good deal of money themselves and on top of that had to finance the sending-out of ROM chip upgrades to their 8,000 or so existing users! This is what’s known as a bit of a cash flow crisis – they were spending too much, and not enough was coming in to pay it all back.
In a last-ditch attempt to raise more money MGT got back in contact with Johnson Fry (the company they’d initially brought in to help float the company on the stock market) to try and raise more capital. When that showed no real hope of success they had little choice but to call in the receivers.

So has the writing always been on the wall or what?
Certainly the SAM project has been plagued by problems throughout its history. For a start, manufacturing costs forced the price well above the £100 or so initially intended, meaning that (with disk drive fitted) the manufacturers’ recommended price for each machine was getting dangerously close to bargain basement ST territory.
Of course, the machine going late and missing the Christmas sales period (when the vast majority of computers are sold) didn’t help matters at all – the SAM is said to have captured 5% of the UK home computer market, but of course 5% after Christmas provides nothing like the cash injection that 5% before would have done. Then there were the problems with the disk drive Disk Operating System, the new ROM that was required, the Spectrum compatibility problems and so on. For their part, programmers too were finding some serious problems with the computer, particularly with the ASIC chip, which made it impossible to implement MIDI on the machine!
In short, the company and its product have been plagued by problems from the word go, so it’s especially sad that it’s now (when all the hard work has been done, and the majority of probs sorted) that things should fall apart for them. For a company as small as MGT, the whole SAM project was an incredible risk, and one it seems they only just failed to pull off.

So what does the future hold?
Well, Alan Miles is on record as saying that “We have failed as a company, but we’ve got a good product and we’re making sure that doesn’t fail too. We’re making every effort to find a buyer quickly in order to protect our customers. There are half a dozen companies interested. If a buyer is found soon the whole business will be transparent to existing customers as the customer support will continue.”
Which all sounds well and good, though quite who these companies might be is, at the time of going to press, fairly unclear. Certainly AtariAmstrad and Acorn have denied any involvement. The smart move would seem to be for a new owner to move production out of the UK – the Far East has been suggested – so that each unit could be manufactured more cheaply and the profit margin increased. Should that be the case, someone could be making a nice little profit out of the machine by Christmas, but of course this remains to be seen.

What about software support? Will it continue?
Like we said, one of the sad things about the death of MGT is that it’s happened at a time when software support was just starting to come through. While we can’t speak for most software houses, Enigma Variations (whose SAM Coupe version of Defenders Of The Earth features in Future Shocks this month) have announced that they will continue to support the machine. Managing Director Richard Naylor says “We would like to continue writing games for the machine but a lot depends on the reaction from the owners. If you want to see more games available we need to hear from you so that we can judge the interest that is out there.”
If you want to contact Enigma Variations, either to express your support for the Coupe or to buy a copy of the SAM Defenders (£11.99 cassette/£14.99 disk inc p&p;) write to [address and phone number deleted – NickH]

So what should I do as a SAM owner?
Sit tight for the moment would seem to be the best advice. Should the Coupe fail to get placed with another manufacturer, a possible support package has been discussed by MGT and INDUG (the SAM user group), though we don’t know what form it would take. Alan Miles has even suggested the possibility that the upgraded ROM might be filed in the public domain, so every user could get their hands on it if they wanted. Coupe owners can contact Bob Brenchley at INDUG on [phone number deleted – NickH].
For our part, YS will continue to run SAM news and hopefully the first SAM games reviews next issue. We will of course keep you informed as to what the future will be for the machine (if any). And that’s about all we can say for the moment. (Keep your fingers crossed.)

Final Fight

Final Fight

Anvway, on with the extreme violence. Haggar (I got it right this time) has just been declared Mayor of a rather nifty town in America called Metro City (where all the cars are Metros, I presume). Haggar used to be a bit of a street-fighter, but he’s promised that he’ll stop so he can spend more time being Mayor. Unfortunately, Metro City is still filled with violent dudes, and the worst of all are the Mad Gear Gang (so called became they’re completely mad and they’ve got lots of, er, gears). They’ve gone and kidnapped Haggar’s daughter, Jessica – for no apparent reason! Naturally, Haggar’s none too pleased with this state of affairs, so with his mate Cody, he decides to go and deal with the gang personally.

The thing with the Capcom coin-op version of Final Fight was that it had absolutely mega-huge sprites. And guess what? The Speccy version’s got them just as big! They’re about half the screen high and rather spiffily detailed.
Of course there’s a price to pay for these whoppers, and it’s smoothness. As you might expect, the game is a bit jerky and uneven. The fighters move around nicely but when they carry out their special moves it occasionally gets rather confusing. You have the usual kick, thump, jump and duck moves plus others depending on whether you’re playing Haggar, Guy or Cody. Cody does Ninja-style kicks and flips, Guy does massive punches and Haggar does wrestling body slams and strangleholds (and rather lethal they are too).

Totally smashing!

There are six levels of all this horizontally scrolling mayhem, which means you’ve got six backdrops to do your fighting in front of. Level One is the street (hence ‘street-fighting’), Level Two the subway, Level Three is a restaurant, Level Four is a factory, Five is by a rather pleasant seaside bay and Six is a hotel (where you’ll find Jessica, by the way). The baddies are pretty much the same throughout, but there are different weapons to be found in each level (such as knives and forks in the restaurant, sharp shells by the bay and so on).
Although the sprites can’t be as slick as the usual mincing little jobbies you see, they really are works of art. You sense the power in the punches, gasp as your opponents reel back, blood spurting from their… (Calm yourself, James. Ed) But I suppose, at the end of the day, it depends what you’re after in a beat-’em-up. Final Fight’s got lots of moves and weapons (such as knives, iron bars and lots of yummy things like that) to use on your enemies, and plenty of non-stop face-punching fun. It isn’t as slick and playable as some, but it’s novel and the speed is impressive for the size of the graphics.


Street Fighter

Street Fighter

If you like smacking people in the gob, or kicking people unexpectedly behind the ear from a standing start, then this must be the game for you. Not, as I fully expected, a yawnsome repeat of every other martial arts romp in the book, but a refreshing twist on the tired old beat ’em up scenario.

The original arcade game was a bit of an innovation, having as it did some massive pads on the front of it, instead of the usual joystick and buttons. You actually punched the pads, which in turn made the character on the screen punch his opponent – the first arcade game to exercise the rest of your body, as well as the usual brain and thumb, methinks. And now the joys of Street Fighter can be yours, as Go! bring the epic Capcom machine to your Speccy, Minus the pads unfortunately, so you’re going to get flabby playing this version, but everything else is in there.
In case you’ve not seen Street Fighter; it follows the usual beat’em up format, two guys standing on screen who, at a given signal, start to beat each other insensible. With each direct hit, a little hit meter at the top of the screen goes down a notch. If you can beat the opponents meter down faster than he beats down yours, then you win. But if he beats yours down (which is what usually happens), then he wins, and you get an enlarged picture of your opponent plus a sneery message. A nice touch here is the fact that hits are coloured black for the baddie and white for you, so in a flurry of punches and kicks you can tell who hit who, and there are a lot of flurries… in my case ploughing into the guy with fists flying is a sort of strategy, as I can never remember which joystick move makes which kick/duck/punch/block combination.
The interesting thing about the look of this game is the sheer SIZE of the sprites you’re controlling. They’re at least 6-7 characters tall, but this is in keeping with the original game, where the sprites almost filled the screen. The usual joystick/button combinations are linked logically to a range of similar moves on screen, and even if I can’t recall them, they’re fairly easy to pick up as you go along. If in doubt just thrash the stick in his general direction and blip the button as fast as you can. The usual rules of looking at the instructions as a last resort apply. One point about movement is that, unlike almost every other martial arts game that has ever been designed, you don’t have to keep turning to face your opponent. You know how it is, you throw a punch at your foe, and he sidesteps it, jumps right over your head and before you can turn and hit him, he’s punched your kidney to pate. None of this can happen to you in Street Fighter. Yes indeed, ladies and gentlemen, you face up to your opponent automagically.
As martial arts beat’em ups go, this is not at all bad, with the graphics a notch above the ordinary and the action nice and fast. Not a great deal of sound in the game, but I guess I’d rather have a good fast game than a couple of strained sound effects. If you’re a fan of the Capcom machine then you won’t be disappointed. The game has been converted by Tiertex, the team behind 720 degrees so you can expect the quality of the conversion to be spiffing

ZX Spectrum

ZX Spectrum +2

Sneaking up on the “Sinclair” stand at this year’s PCW show/madhouse, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. True enough, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2 was there. Just like everyone’s been saying since Amstrad bought out Sinclair all those moons ago.

I prised a +2 from where it had been nailed to the table. It wasn’t underneath it. It wasn’t bolted to the end or sticking out the back. It wasn’t even inside.

It might well be an Amstrad. But it hasn’t got a stigma attached to it.
The big A’s done a pretty good job of tarting up the late and great Speccy 128. £150 gets you a 128 in a nice grey case and somewhat less change than you’ll need for the bus home.
It’s got an Amstrad-style built-in cassette deck to reduce the chances of accidentally strangling the cat with all those leads. In theory, it’s more reliable too and you don’t even have to faff with a volume control. But be warned – there’s no tape counter, which is less of a good idea.
The keyboard’s much improved. Amstrad’s made the big decision to wipe off all the old Basic keywords so not only does it feel better, it looks better. Bit of a problem when you come to program in 48K Basic mode though. You can’t see what you’re doing.
There are two built-in joystick ports too though Amstrad has done the dirty and made sure you can’t use them with anybody else’s joysticks.
The only other new thingy is a sound socket on the back to let you get the sound out when there’s a monitor plugged in.
Software wise not a lot’s changed either. The copyright messages now mention this funny new company and the 128’s Tape Tester has been suppressed. Otherwise – all the same.
The +2 runs everything the 128 does. So it will work with many 48K tapes (in 48K mode) and the slowly growing pile of 128K mode taps. Amstrad is plonking a ‘Sinclair Quality Control’ sticker on all the games it has tested and warns you to beware of anything that hasn’t got one. However, if it says it will go on a 128, it’ll go on the +2.
But it works the other way round. All those tapes and hardware bits – like ZX Printers, disk drives, RGB adapters and so on – that don’t go on the 128, won’t go on the +2 either.
All-in-all, it’s got to be a goer. The +2 should give thousands of new people the ideal opportunity to get into Speccy computing – be prepared for an invasion. Best of all, it’s gonna give the software houses the final excuse they need to get on with producing decent 128 software.

The Manual
Now we’re talking real manuals here! This one’s got all the techie stuff as well as great quantities of the original Spectrum’s Vickers/Bradbeer masterpiece. All the new stuff is pretty well written too and there’s a decent index.

A Sticky Problem
At long last, a Speccy with a built-in joystick port – two in fact! They’re compatible with the Sinclair/Interface II protocol which most games can handle (although Kempston is still the more popular).
What they’re not compatible with is any joystick except the thing pictured here – the new Sinclair/Amstrad SJS1.
Fortunately, this little bit of sabotage won’t stop all the Speccy’s add-on makers. Already, new joysticks are arriving with twin plugs for both old Speccys and the +2. Cheetah also has an adapter to let you use your normal joystick.

Speccy Games

The Best Speccy Games Ever!

Football Director (1986)

Starting out life as a mail-order only game, Football Director soon became the management sim of choice for footy fans who found Kevin Tom’s classic Football Manager was starting to show its limitations. Served up in a lo-fi no frills package, the game was heavy on stats, low on everything else, making it the ideal choice for trainspotters everywhere. Among its many features, Football Director boasted “crowd violence” and “TV cameras”. Magic.

Dan Dare (1986)

Pip pip! What ho, chaps! Seems that Mekon fellow has been causing a spot of a sticky wicket, so Dan Dare and Digby are going to pop over there, give him a taste of British spunk and be back in time for scones. Of course, we’ll need one of those new-fangled “Spectrums” that the queer johnnies at the lab have come up with, but it should be a wizard wheeze all the same. Beezer idea, what?

Daley Thompson’s Decathlon (1984)

The stench of burning rubber hung heavy over the bedrooms of Britain in 1984, and not just because of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and their sick, sick pop filth. No, it was from thousands of young boys straining their wrists and hammering the sproingy Speccy keyboard to appease an eerily ghost-like Daley Thompson in this simple-yet-varied sportathon. Mention it even today, and most grown men will get spasms in their fingers.

Bubble Bobble (1987)

Dinosaurs vomiting bubbles onto ghosts, and then bursting them to transform said beasts into nutritious fruit, is such an obvious idea for a game that it’s pretty surprising it took them so long to get round to it. Another arcade conversion, this is one where the Speccy graphics really look shonky compared to the original, but the great gameplay shines through. Bet you can still whistle the music as well. True fact: the characters of Bub and Bob were based on Scottish crooners The Proclaimers.
YS Rated it: 9/10 (YS69)

Batman (1986)

Jon “Match Day” Ritman fancied trying his hand at one of those isometric 3D puzzle-platformers that Ultimate were so darn good at. He managed to get DC Comics to let him use Batman as his guinea pig. The result was spankingly good – all the polish of an Ultimate game, but with smarter level design. Interestingly, Ritman originally wanted to let players switch between Batman and Robin, but couldn’t work out the coding in time. He cracked the problem for his follow-up though, a game which is currently awaiting you at Number 13…

Back to Skool (1986)

The sequel to Skool Daze (flick forward for that truant treat) is, in many ways, the better game. There’s a lot more to do, more locations including a girl’s school across the yard, and your tasks are more varied than the simple shield-shooting and detention-dodging of the original. And the jump over the school gates is still an action highlight of the 8-bit era.

Auf Wiedersehen Monty (1987)

Auf Wiedersehen is, of course, German for “please take Jimmy Nail back – we don’t want him”. It can also mean “Goodbye”, a fact which led many Monty fans to choke back a sob at the thought of this being the final game to star the brave little mole. It wasn’t the last we’d see of him – he’d be back in Moley Christmas on the YS cover tape the same year – but it was his last commercial outing. And it’s a predictably solid platformer from the Gremlin team, with an amusing international theme. Sleep tight, Monty.

3D Ant Attack (1985)

Sandy White’s minimalist classic of game design can certainly lay claim to being one of the first to truly make the most of the isometric viewpoint, creating an eerie city populated by giant ants from which you had to rescue your boyfriend/girlfriend. Yep, the game even let you choose your sex-parts, a feature which would later inspire Coronation Street to introduce the character of Hayley Cropper.


Dragon Ninja

George Bush has been kidnapped by a gang of belligerent ninjas!!! And you, unfortunately, are the one who’s picked to go and rescue him. So arm yourself to the teeth with nunchakus and prepare to face up to the seven levels of ninjas ahead of you.
Set in the streets of some American city, Dragon Ninja has you battling through streets, sewers and forests balancing on top of swaying trucks and trains, all in order to reach the Pres. The screen is split into two levels, and you can change between the two quite easily. Very handy for ninja-dodging.
At the end of each level you will meet a mega baddy who takes a little longer to duff up, but if you keep hitting him and running away, you can escape virtually unharmed. The nasty ninjas include a Karnov lookalike with curry on his breath, a manic robot who keeps jumping up and down before you get the chance to hit him, and a ninja who has an irritating habit of suddenly multiplying into an army, and who proceeds to hit you so fast and furious you hardly get a chance to hit it back. There is also a somersaulting giant who keeps clapping with your head between his hands, and a stick wielding Lobin Hood. Last, but by no means least, there is an axeman intent on lopping your head off… and leaving you wandering around like a dead chicken.
On your travels around picturesque New York you will find the odd object dropped by your enemies when you kill them. These include a boxy thing for energy, a little clock for time and a funny looking fork which gives you a better reach and the ability to kill a few ninjas in one blow (a very useful object indeed).
As you go through the game it gets progressively harder, with the addition of the odd rabid clog from level four onwards.
A game with such potential unfortunately falls short of being addictive. The first three levels are ridiculously easy and I’m afraid the rest of the game doesn’t get much harder. It looks great but a well qualified ninja gamester will probably finish this game the day before they buy it.
Dragon Ninja is an interesting game and the graphics (except the loading screen) are well thought out, but I would only recommend this game to anyone sick enough to want to rescue George Bush.



You have to wonder, don’t you? I mean, all lemmings do is wander around the countryside, eating grass, chatting to the neighbours and excreting every so often. Then they decide that Iife’s not worth it and promptly chuck themselves off the nearest deadly precipice. Not exactly a cast-iron philosophy on which to build a community is it?
I mean, imagine if early cavemen had gone and topped themselves every time a dinosaur trampled on their broccoli, or taken a nibble of a deadly mushroom because Zog next door was playing his bonging rock all night when you had an awful headache from too much woad. We wouldn’t be here today if early man had been that depressed. All of which begs one teensy-weensy question: how the flip did lemmings make it this far down the evolutionary scale?
Psygnosis would have us believe that they made it this far so that they could be immortalised in a revolutionary platform game. In fact they’re so sure of this hitherto unknown fact that they’ve given you, gentle Spec-chum, the role of chief protector of lemmings, a kind of zoo-keeper on a Hippocratic oath. You see, the whole point of lemmings is to guide wodges of the hairy cuddlesome chaps to the end of a level, by directing them in all sorts of groovy but ever so important functions.

Take a trip down lemming lane.

If you don’t tell the lemmings what to do, then they’ll easily find some way of killing themselves This is because, as we’ve already ascertained, they think that it’s both smart and clever. Right, so the lemmings drop down from the sky and you’ve got to keep them safe.

At the bottom of the screen are 12 icons Eight of these enable you to direct a single lemming in a task For example, if there’s a huge wall in the way you can click on one of them and he’ll burrow through it. Similarly, if there’s a gap that needs crossing, you can kit one out with a Masters degree in bridge building and set him off to the other side. YTS was never like this.

The other four icons at the bottom of the screen control the speed of the arrival of the lemmings from a hole in the ceiling, a pause key and an Armageddon button which annihilates all the lemmings if you’ve really mucked up a level.

Sounds a bit too easy to me!

Of course, nothing’s ever as easy as all that. No siree, in this game, the 60 levels vary from piddlingly easy to aggravatingly hard. All sorts of obstacles get plonked in your way, such as drops that are just too high to leap off, spinning scythes and volcanic pits. Fail to work out what you’re meant to do with your lemmings and the little chaps will just stroll off to their deaths. On some levels you’ll have to account for each and every lemming dropped from the sky; while on others, you’ll only have to get a couple home safely.

Graphically, each level is monochrome. This isn’t a problem, because you can still see the lemmings perfectly adequately, complete with flowing locks of hair and pained expressions when you decide to blow them up. The bottom icon display is in a different colour, which means you can quickly pick out a task for each rodent. The cursor which itemises our heroes is about the same size as a lemming and can be locked onto a particular lem by hitting N.

This makes life a whole lot easier.

Nope, there’s little doubt about it. Lemmings is a corker and no mistake. The levels have been perfectly weighted to help progression through the game and believe me, you will want to progress. Once these pixelated fur-balls are let loose on your Speccy, they won’t let go until you’ve saved them from each and every one of the 60 levels. So be prepared, there’s no sleep until lemming bedtime.

Official Games

The YS Official Games

It grieves me that some of you haven’t heard of this. The first real Speccy platform game, Manic Miner’s character, sense of humour, brilliant design and mammoth addictiveness (in fact, it’s even more addictive than a mammoth) made it one of the first true computer gaming legends. It’s still a great game, almost nine years later, and I doubt if we’ll be able to say the same of any of today’s games in the year 2000. Come to that, in the year 2000 I’ll probably still be playing Manic Miner.

Starstrike II (Realtime)

Realtime made a name for themselves in the Speccy world with Starstrike, their excellent clone of the arcade game Star Wars. This sequel was so good that it improved on even the coin-op. Honest. The fast moving solid 3D graphics are, with the possible exception of the Freescape games, still the most impressive the machine’s ever boasted, and the game itself took Star Wars a step further and added a non-intrusive strategy element to the space blasting. Stunningly impressive, stunningly atmospheric, just stunning really.

The Great Escape (Ocean)

And while we’re on the subject of atmosphere, we’d better say a word or two about The Great Escape. Much-feted programming team Denton Designs had their finest moment with this mostly black and white colditz-style arcade adventure. It captured the POW camp feel perfectly with the aid of an innovative design. The automatic ability to wander around the camp simply obeying the rules and touching the controls only when you wanted to do something naughty was a stroke of genius. Even your score was calculated in medals! If your dad thinks computer games are a waste of time, show him this.

Double Dragon

Double Dragon III

They’re feisty, they’re furious, they’ve got trend-setting haircuts. The Dragon Brothers are back, and this time they’re looking for pebbles.

Billy’s girlfriend Marion. Evidently a little groggy after being raised from the dead in Part Two has wandered off and been kidnapped (again). Being somewhat discerning sophisticates, her captors have demanded the priceless and altogether spooky Rosetta Stones as ransom. The story of these stones is a strange and disturbing one, starting in the wild China of myth and lumbering on until, ooh, the end of this column at least. If you squat down beside me on this hand-woven mat, I’ll tell you their tale.

Way back in the mists of time, the gods threw the five Rosetta Stones out of heaven after mistaking them for loaded dice. Legend spoke of their mystic energy, and that if they were ever brought together, they would confer mickle powers on their owner. Sadly, no-one got a chance to test this theory as the stones were scattered across the world by a series of excessively noisy natural disasters. They lay in secret places for countless centuries, undiscovered despite the intense efforts of the wisest scholars and the most Scandinavian of tourists. Then, by chance, the First Emperor Ming stumbled over one while pottering in the garden. Unfortunately, as he consequently fell into an ornamental pond and drowned, they remained undiscovered for several more centuries. And then a couple more after that. At last, in 1963 one turned up in the house of famed historian and academic Professor Duncan Pog. He had been using it as a doorstop. Hiruko the soothsayer, Duncan’s close and wizened friend, speedily deduced where the others were but refused to tell as he feared they may fall into the wrong hands. Since then, many have gone in search of the stones but none have returned, mainly because they got lost.

Well my pretties, that’s the story. Marion’s captors want the stones, and you can bet your last peseta it isn’t because Arthur Negus is coming to tea. Still. What’s the fate of the world when compared with that of your gal? Ah, true lurve! Without a second thought you pack an overnight bag, look up Hiruko in the Yellow Pages and persuade him to help with a heartfelt plea and a lumpy club.

Mine’s a double

Double Dragon 3 is something of a rarity – it isn’t a licenced conversion. Storm evidently relish the freedom of an original game, as they’ve gone overboard on the features. For starters, the action takes place over fourteen stages, spanning five countries and three continents – quite a step up from the dingy back-alleys of the first two games. Starting on the streets of New York, our intrepid pair are confronted by a gang of villains that make most baddies look like gingerbread men. These guys take an awful lot of fancy fistwork to overpower. And there are always more ready to take their place. Before long you’ll be getting fed up with your basic jumpy-punchy skills and will be on the look-out for extra weapons. However, in a daring break with tradition Storm have dispensed with the weapons-left-in-the street approach. Instead, you’ll find bijou armouries dotted about the levels, cos in this game you pay your way. Not only that, and this is the really devious bit, you also pay with your credits. So the temptation to get those matching spiked batons or that instruction pamphlet on deadly nose-poking has to be weighed against continuing the game when you pop your pixie boots. You can almost hear the programmers cackling as you ponder.