Classic Arcade Games

Author: Dave E
Publisher: Database
Machine: Acorn Electron

Published in EUG #51

When games describe themselves as "classic", it's best to tread with caution. Database Publications' collection of four machine code arcade games is a case in point; on either tape or disk you get Snapman, Alien Intruders, Panzer Assault and Mayday and you'll probably agree that the majority do not sound too familiar. True classics are very recognisable: most computers have their clones of Tetris, Hopper and Pacman that can be thus described. What can make all the difference is the modesty of the packaging. It's when others describe them as classics, after an amount of time has passed, that they can rightly claim the title.

It might be a bit harsh to begin a review this way as Database Publications do not claim these four games are brand spanking new classics of the time. Rather, they seek to collate some of those clones referred to; possibly that even possess such an elitist accolade.

Snapman, not altogether unsurprisingly, is the new version of Pacman with four different coloured ghosts and a yellow munching circle you must navigate around a maze. Subtle differences to the Acornsoft Snapper are in there - instead of dots, you follow a green line trail, the ghosts are more closely related to the original Pacman arcade game and a collision with one of them and your character sinks smoothly into oblivion - but it's not as professionally presented vis-a-vis loading and title screens. There's no joystick option yet the arcade screen layout does seem neater, the sprites 'cuter' and the execution speed perfect. It's a nice reworking although the original Snapper is so popular, and appears on so many compilations, that it was never destined to take its crown.

Next on the menu are those rows of Space Invaders that move slowly (in fact, not so slowly in this version) from side to side and down the screen towards your laser at the bottom. Protecting you are three big yellow blobs under which you can take shelter or blast away from underneath in order to hit the Alien Intruders who are pounding away at them from the top. The 'official', if that's the right word, release of this game is Micro Power's Electron Invaders. Actually, Intruders is just a little bit better in terms of sprites, speed and addictiveness. Making a fantastic use of colour and seamlessly doing about a million different things at once, it's a real achievement on the little Electron and incredibly fast on a Turbo one or BBC.

Even the 'reporter' that scrolls across the top of the screen is incorporated. But it falls down, like the first, on its boring high-score table and introductory screen plus lack of joystick option. There's no doubting that these first two games are the best. The coding and screen layouts are faultless and the sprites very colourful.

It's with the move to Panzer Assault that things get stranger. This is a maze game where you control a tank, and although this is mostly a m/code game it's just a CHR$ definition you control, set in a maze with enemy tanks appearing out of nowhere. You must simply blast a set number of tanks each level until you are blasted away by one of them. This may be an arcade game but it could never be in the same league as the earlier ones! It does what it's supposed to, includes a joystick option and also has a nice layout on screen. Supposedly, it's another classic? Afraid not. It's original yet it's unimaginative and boring. Placed here, it serves only as a kind of ironic reinforcement that cloning sell-out 'tried and tested' arcade games can result in holding one's attention span longer than a brand new one!

The title Mayday also sounds rather unfamiliar but one might suspect this was to be a version of the Bomber arcade game. It's not. Extraordinarily, this game is actually a text adventure!! Now this has to be the most predictable shot in the foot for reviewing purposes. Media that describes itself as a compendium of arcade games (classic or not!) needs to adhere to that categorisation. It's as annoying as when, as a child in Boots, you picked up the latest 8 bit game, saw the graphics on the back cover and after buying it realised they were from the Amiga or ST version!

Of course, there are no graphics in Mayday. You are faced with a Mode 6 screen with the location description and choice of GO NORTH, etc. The adventure in itself is best suited to beginners and takes place on a troubled space freighter in the future. In point of fact, if you like text adventures, it's not all that bad at all. But it's not a classic and it's not an arcade. And most importantly, it shouldn't appear on a compilation that states that it is!

Europress, the new name for Database, have released this disk into the Public Domain so you can pick it up in most libraries for just one pound. If you are new to the Electron then you'll probably enjoy those two 'true' classics and spend a little time playing around with Panzer and Mayday. Remember also that, from a sales point of view, the title Classic Arcade Games sounds much better than "Four Games" and, without its original title, it might never have made it to review.

A final point to make is there are only a very rare number of discs [Apart from the EUG ones - Ed] that work with Electron ADFS's PAGE set to &1D00. This is one of them! Consider it...

Dave E

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