Product: Arcadians
Publisher: Acornsoft (German)
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #65

Just how big was the Acorn Electron in Germany? One would hazard the guess it was not as big as it was in the UK and, let's face it, the Elk in the UK wasn't really 'big' for more than a couple of years! Yet there were more than just a few rogue imported Electrons doing the rounds in Deutschland; the men behind Tynesoft have published anecdotes about their German version of Commonwealth Games on www.stairwaytohell.com, there are professional German translations of the Acorn Electron, Plus 1 and Plus 3 User Guides and every now and then a bundle of the official Acornsoft big box software in the German language gets auctioned off on eBay!

The Acornsoft (German Editions) Disk 1 is a compilation of eight of these highly prized finds. The instantly recognisable games Arcadians, Hopper, Monsters, Planetoid, Dame, Reversi, Haushaltbudget (Personal Money Management) and Terminkalender (Desk Diary) were originally available on tape only, in the days before the Euro replaced the Deutschmark. This new disc was not released until now [Two decades later! - Ed] and comes courtesy of the enigmatic Mr Spock.

Monsters - A Clone Of The Ever Popular Dig Dug. I Don't Like It!

Once again the internet has opened up a whole new front in previously unseen software - these games are the result of an eBay purchase of the original cassettes, a transfer of them to disc, the addition both of code to make them ADFS 1D00-compatible and of a menu system and finally an upload to cyberspace of the finished product. Considering original German Electron software goes for extravagant sums on eBay, the disc also gives those not-so-serious collectors who are anxious to see what they are missing the chance to. And they don't have to sell off their vital organs for the privilege - the disc can be downloaded completely free of charge! Non-collectors of course will just be mystified as to why one would even want a German version of an English game already available in abundance.

The eight programs on this disc were released in 1983 and so are some of the very earliest made available for the Acorn Electron. Three of the first four arcade numbers though have really stood the test of time. Arcadians is Orlando's tour de force Space Invaders clone, Hopper is Neil Raine's classic Frogger clone and Planetoid, also by Neil Raine, one of the sideways-scrolling Defender-style games. Over twenty years on and these remain fast, furious, addictive little numbers with fantastic graphics, sound and style. Unfortunately Monsters, a clone of the platformer Dig Dug (where you must dig holes in the platforms for the baddies to wander into then fill the holes in to kill them), I have always found tedious.

The Opening Screen To ARCADIANS On The Original English Release(s)
Compare the English opener (above) to the German one (below). The nature of the differences seems to indicate the German conversion was a bit of a rushed job!
The Opening Screen To ARCADIANS On The German Release
The differences Acornsoft have made for the German versions of these games are limited. As you can see, the titles are identical. Naturally the machine code for the arcade games is completely untouched; the only changes that are made are to translate the text, e.g. introductory screens and headers such as 'Score:' or 'Rank:'. Although I'm not sure what I was expecting, simply seeing these very small cosmetic changes was something of a disappointment. Some of the changes, particularly the opening screen to Arcadians, also seemed to be rushed jobs; where the UK versions were nicely formatted and maximum use was made of the screen, by contrast the German versions had text appearing with odd justification and lots of distracting unnecessary space.

Moving on to the more serious software, Dame 'und' Reversi are not particularly good implementations of draughts and reversi. As most of their program code is written in Basic, with the obvious speed limitations this brings, you spend far too much time twiddling your thumbs. You do have much more use of the German language in these two programs as you are asked a series of questions before beginning play. Unfortunately, the graphical screen displays of that play are dull and uninspiring.

Haushaltbudget is a banking and budgeting program, completely in German and, of course, in Germany's old currency. Terminkalender is a suite of two programs to help you keep a database of your friends and appointments, once again all driven through German commands. These utilities together could probably be used to demonstrate exactly what the word 'obsolete' means. They are worthy of a glance to see how they compare to the English versions, and my verdict is that more care went into their conversion than that of the others - but do I have anything more to say in their favour? It appears not.

Mr Spock's disc presents an attractive front end menu system where pressing the spacebar selects the required program by underlining it in red. Pressing RETURN then loads in the program, and it's all as easy as 1-2-3. One niggle is that the German instructions are not supplied on the disc itself, although they are available on the Haven disc versions. If you do speak German and do want to have a play around with the utilities then you're left to work out exactly what to do and how to do it.

HAUSHALTBUDGET - What On Earth Is It Talking About?
HAUSHALTBUDGET is the German version
of PERSONAL MONEY MANAGEMENT

As someone who doesn't speak German though, the Acornsoft (German Editions) Disk 1 was never going to have me leaping around the room with excitement. All of the games we've all seen umpteen times before and I suspect the English versions of Draughts, Reversi, Personal Money Management and Desk Diary hardly caused the local populace to stampede their way down to Dixons back in the early Eighties. The disc is a curiosity item, currently the only thing of its kind out there in PD World, therefore I recommend it. By all means, download it for curiosity's sake (or even to learn a bit of German!). However, if you expect to find flashier graphics, intros, effects or sound then expect to be both disappointed and to have the following truth confirmed: The English collector who wants German programs for the Acorn Electron really is a hopeless collection completist.