SPECTRUM MEMORIES PART 3
Crash Magazine December and Christmas Special Issues, Winter 1986I read all three of the three main Sinclair Spectrum magazines, devouring each page of reviews, letters, previews and other assorted nonsense. Crash was my favourite though, and th...
Posted by jdanddiet on Dec 30, 2010 23:40 (Dec 30, 2010 23:40)
Crash Magazine December and Christmas Special Issues, Winter 1986
I read all three of the three main Sinclair Spectrum magazines, devouring each page of reviews, letters, previews and other assorted nonsense. Crash was my favourite though, and the only one I ever subscribed to. The trick the writers used was to give the magazine a homely, friendly vibe, making each reader feel they were part of a fun, Spectrum-themed club.
There were many fave issues of course, but the ones I recall most fondly was this brace from Winter 1986. The actual Christmas Special issue came out in mid-December although of course the December coverdated issue was from a month before and this issue was the usual highlight of any Spectrum gamers calender. All the major software companies released big, tent-pole games at this time of year with plenty of time before Christmas arrived. With the Spectrum at its apparent zenith and the Festive season almost upon us, this was the special one. The Smashes evince the biggest thrills that came in November 1986 and all were games that topped my Santa wish list: Ocean's The Great Escape and Cobra; Firebird's superior Gauntlet clone Druid; Hewson's Firelord, and of course the same company's brilliant shooter, Uridium. There was a clutch of other games I wanted as well including some rare quality budget releases. Darts simulator 180 (Mastertronic Added Dimension) and Terra Cognita (Codemasters) I bought with my pocket money to tide me over until Christmas. There were terribly reviewed games as well to keep readers entertained with CRL's risible "comedy" platformer Dr.What notching 17% ("A nasty steaming dollop of What") and Ocean's Miami Vice finally making it's unwelcome entrance to no excitement whatsoever.
The next issue was a bumper 196 pages of gaming goodness for every Speccy fan to gorge upon over the festive holidays. Of course, by now, all the major games had already been released, so the reviews themselves were a tad on the disappointing side.
As I mentioned earlier, the Spectrum was arguably at it's peak. Graeme Kidd's editorial echoed this sentiment, but with a cautious note for the coming year: "We've seen the opinion of one or two people on the Forum who reckon the Spectrum has just about reached the limits of its usefulness," he said. And although the dearly departed Kidd's editorial ended on an attempted high note - "The level of programming competence currently attained on the Spectrum isn't suddenly going to be transferred to other machines," - a two-fingers up to Ultimate, now Rare, who had recently pledged their future to cartridges - this mattered not to a 13 year old with a year-old machine and no prospects of persuading his parents to fork out for a console and a handful of its very expensive cartridge games.
So what did this issue offer games-wise? Well, highlights (and impending acquisitions for me) were Pete Cooke's extraordinarily deep follow-up to Tau Ceti, Academy; Elite's long awaited conversion of the famous Space Harrier; Piranha's Rogue Trooper (I was a massive 2000ad fan); Gremlin's adaptation of the Fighting Fantasy clone Avenger and Ariolasoft's intriguing bank-robbing simulation They Stole a Million. Still some quality titles.
The best, however, was Rainbird's classy shooter, Starglider. Offering beautifully elegant wire-frame graphics, the game beguiled the Crash reviewers and me alike. It scored an impressive 95% on the 48k and an even better 97% on the 128. Making it just out for Christmas, Starglider came in a lovely blue box, complete with a compelling novella.
As well as the regulars (a double dose of Lunar Jetman, Adventure Trail, The Forum, Tips, etc) the mag was cram full of features. A useful index gave all the scores from all the reviews of 1986 as well as a list of the mapped games; Genesis Birth of a game came to a conclusion with a final feature and a luke-warm review of its result, Kat Trap. Lloyd Mangram himself looked back over the year as only he could, sagely noting already a trend towards budget games; there was a story on the split of famed developers Denton Designs and an inter-magazine gaming challenge, unfortunately not between Crash, Your Sinclair and Sinclair User, but between the three Newsfield mags with Zzap! and Amtix reviewers going head to head with the Crash boys. Spectrum star Ben Stone came out top with Commodore maestro Julian Rignall second and the Amstrad fellows bringing up the rear. Bit like the machines themselves then...
There were also competitions galore: It almost seemed every other page was offering prizes in exchange for answering some obscure riddle, and with the school holidays imminent, I made sure I devoured every page over the Festive period. Yes, even the Play-by-Mail section, which I always found an odd inclusion for a Videogaming magazine.
Crash magazine will always hold special memories for me - the first magazine I regularly bought and subscribed to. Despite its easy, readable style, it was professionally produced (thanks in no small part to Oli Frey's superb artwork) and an invaluable guide on what games to buy - and those to avoid.