Budget Bureau
By Mastertronic
Spectrum 48K/128K/+2

Published in Crash #61

For £1.99

*> Codemasters' latest simulator attempts to bring the teeth-smashing sport of rugby to the Spectrum, International Rugby Simulator (68%) features a league of eight teams (any of them computer-controlled) competing for the championship. Matches are portrayed in Match Day-style 3D. The player controls one player at a time: running, passing and kicking. Scrummages and line-outs are also featured for added realism.

Graphics are simple stickmen, but David Whittaker's title tune is good. Rugby is a difficult sport to simulate in a computer game, but this is a brave attempt which offers a fair amount of playability for rugger fans.

After some deft promotion by Aussie superstars INXS and other style-merchants skateboarding seems 'in' again. Codemasters' Pro Skateboard Simulator (72%) has levels which alternate between attractive isometric 3D skateparks and overhead-view cross-country courses. A number of flags must either be collected (skatepark), or passed through (cross-country) while avoiding obstacles. Once the odd control system is mastered, the game proves very playable, although very difficult on later stages.

Pro Skateboard Simulator

Also 'in' are 1950s style, as Silverbird acknowledge with Video Classics (5% - oh dear). Simple bat and ball versions of tennis, football, and squash are featured alongside the more original Bat Blip and Asterbliperoids! All these games (loaded together) take up about 11K of memory - but it seems less! The minimalistic graphics are identical to early video game consoles, with the exception of some garish, chequered backgrounds. A serious contender for The World's Worst Games Collection.

Keeping to the theme of complete unoriginality, we also have another run-along-and-jump arcade adventure from Mastertronic. Called Hundra (33%) it's got a Viking heroine trying to rescue her father by finding three jewels. Although graphically fair, Hundra is a simplistic platform-style arcade adventure with no frills, and certainly no thrills.

Dullness seems a positive virtue by comparison with Mastertronic's Motorbike Madness (20%), however. This has good isometric graphics, ten multi-loaded courses and prize-money for quick finishes. Unfortunately control is extraordinarily fiddly and every time you die, you have to reload the course - even if it's only the first one! No wonder it's called Motorbike Madness!

Pro Skateboard Simulator

By contrast, Lightning Simulator (21%) plays like the opposite of its title, with wire-frame graphics moving more like treacle than lightning. Options allow flying skills to be practised before attempting a mission, and you can even take photos. The cassette inlay provides the minimum of instructions making for a confusing and disappointing game.

Far more enjoyable is the latest Mastertronic shoot-'em-up, Star Farce (58%). This is a colourful, vertically-scrolling alien-blaster in the style of Lightforce. There's very little originality, but playability makes up for it. Worth a look, although the superior Lightforce is on budget too.

Showing a more original approach is Silverbird's Hopper Copper (40%). Here a policeman rides around on a space hopper, catching villains by bouncing on them! A radar screen helps you find clumsily-drawn villains in a drab, monochromatic town. While novelty makes it fun for a while, the basic gameplay is very repetitive.

Pro Skateboard Simulator

Only marginally better is Tomcat (24%) from Players. A vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up, Tomcat has good, monochromatic graphics - with the singular exception of bullets which are simply small circles. Spotting them is exceptionally difficult which, together with the unoriginal gameplay, makes for an extremely difficult game.

For £2.99

An even older bunch of games than Video Classics form the basis of Zeppelin's Las Vegas Casino (26%). You start off with £250 and must try to turn it into £50,000 via four gambling games (all in one load again). The games are blackjack (just like Pontoon 21 here), baccarat (you choose whether to bet on player or dealer), roulette and craps (a dice game).

The only game requiring real skill is blackjack, which is still pretty simple. In fact, without even matchsticks to play for, and human opponents to bluff, all these games soon become incredibly tedious. Highly recommended, in fact, as an antidote to the perils of gambling.

Wot, no simulators? Codemasters have just released two games at the new higher price of £2.99. Ninja Massacre (45%) is a no-nonsense Gauntlet clone. One or two players explore up to fifty levels of a monster-filled dungeon, searching for treasure and magic potions. Gameplay is okay and there's a nice in-game tune, but if you want a Gauntlet game, you'd be better off getting the re-released original, available from Kixx at £2.99.

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