Computer Gamer

Amstrad Games Book
By Melbourne House
Amstrad CPC464/664

Published in Computer Gamer #8

Amstrad Games Book

Yes, it's another book of Amstrad games! You Amstrad freaks are really getting spoilt, but this book has a lot to recommend it, so I felt it would be a shame to overlook it.

The outstanding thing about this games book is the great lengths to which the publishers seem to have gone in order to make typing in the listings as easy as possible. Listings books are often very unsatisfactory for the poor soul who shells out for them: the listings can be never-ending and difficult to read the descriptions (if any are provided) can be so brief that they are next to useless, and it is easy to end up totally lost in a sea of GOTOs and GOSUBs knowing you have gone wrong somehere but with no idea where. This book sets many of these problems to reset and should be cheered for it.

Firstly, there is a useful introduction providing hints on the pitfalls of typing in programs. There is a list given of the characters that cause the most confusion, such as 1 and I, 0 and O and so on. It might be very simple, but anyone who is regularly confusing the two when keying in doesn't stand a chance and they actually do often look very similar in dot matrix printout. (Quick plea here for most listings typeset properly from disk: the technology is here, why isn't it being used?)

Secondly, there is a very helpful "Chexsum" program provided. You key it in and save it to cassette or dsk, then use t to chec that each line of your game has been keyed in correctly. Any errors will be picked up and the exact line identified, which will be a great boon to the fingersore keyboarder.

There are 30 games in the book, which is quite good value for money at £6.95. Each one comes with a screenshot so you can see what sort of effect you are aiming at, and a classification so you can easily choose, say, a graphics program, an educational one, or whatever you like. There is the usual description of what lines do, and, which is more unusual, a list of the variables used. Then the program is listed, helpfully broken up into small chunks with a descriptive heading for each section. It has to be a lot more difficult to make mistakes if you are only keying in 10 or 12 lines at a time and checking them as you go. It also makes the logic of the program far easier to follow than if it were just presented in a solid, undigestible lump of several pages of printout.

Of course, no book is perfect and I do have a few criticisms. The main one is that the listings are a bit faint and could really do with being a lot darker and clearer. Also, the editing seems to have been a bit rushed: there are a few typos in the text and even the spelling "programme" used from time to time. Small things, but they always make me feel slightly uneasy about overall accuracy if they have got by.

The programs represent a good selection of different types - ranging from arcade games, educational and strategy games. They are all of a good length for keying in (a few pages each) but this probably also means that they are quite simple and not particularly ambitious. Suggestions are often provided to help you make the game easier or harder if you want.

I like the book. It's well laid out, easy to follow and very helpful - absolutely ideal for Amstrad beginners. Put it on your Christmas present list.

Jane Naylor