Product: Pres Games Disc 1
Publisher: ACP/Pres
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #46

What the Play It Again Sams did for tape compilations, ACP/Pres hoped to do for disc with the Games collection. The natural advantage being you don't have to wait around for a few minutes while each game loads in with a disc.

Each disc in the Games collection, of which this is the first, contains eight different computer games, instantly selectable from a menu which has been quite blantantly gleaned from the loading screen to the Micro Power series of games.

Indeed, Pres Games Disc 1 contains eight computer games which were all released under the Micro Power label on cassette in 1983 and 1984 - the old favourites Bandits At 3 o'Clock, Bumble Bee, Croaker, Felix In The Factory, Electron Invaders, Jet Power Jack, Killer Gorilla and Stock Car. All of them are machine code games with multi-coloured sprites and nice colourful screens. They were popular for years after their original release.

Bandits At 3 o'Clock is a dogfight for two players and is probably one of the weaker games on the disc. Croaker was publically acknowledged to be "not as good as Acornsoft's Hopper" and is nothing special. Invaders and Stock Car are similarly uninspiring tried-and-tested formulae that will lose your attention quickly.

Luckily the other four make up for their failings. Bumble Bee is a whole new idea where you control a very smooth scrolling bee whizzing around a maze, eating honey and luring the chasing spiders into the obstacles set for them. The walls of the maze are mounted on hinges so you can walk through walls (in a sense) to perfect your escape.

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Felix In The Factory is the first of three Felix games, which are all pretty good. It's a platform game with Felix's only objective being to keep the generator at the bottom of the screen topped up with oil. The bottom level of the screen is pretty safe but the levels above are teeming with all kinds of cutesy little nasties which you need to slither past to get the oil can. You also have to contend with a sweet little mouse that scurries across levels at random with a "scrurrying" scale of notes accompanying it - when you hear it, get on a ladder! You can grab a sandbag and trap the mouse for bonus points, or a pitchfork to stab the other nasties for loadsa points, but this must be done with an ever-watchful eye on the oil level of the generator. You simply don't have the time to do everything!

Killer Gorilla is another ladders-and-levels game in which you are pitted (not altogether unsurprisingly) against a gorilla. Not that the gorilla seems to do much in itself; the hero is likely to be more concerned about the barrels and flames which come cascading down from the top of the screen where the gorilla is holding his girlfriend captive. It's a tad slow and has some annoying problems such as the hero not being able to climb ladders while holding the hammer. It's entertaining in the extreme though.

Jet Power Jack is one of those games which looks easy but just isn't. The idea is for Jack to work his way from the top to the bottom of the screen by 'boosting' over the gaps on each level. Unfortunately, the jetpack is very difficult to operate correctly and Jack frequently finds himself dead.

The disc is protected up to the eyeballs and won't play on any of the other BBC-series computers beside the Electron. Attempts to load any individual files also result in a tirade of abuse from the Operating System. Understandable precautions against the pirate, of course, but having the side effect of preventing a user from either loading in a cheat routine before the game or an upgrade such as Killa (which solves the ladder 'bug').

Also because of this, you cannot speed up the menu system which is ridiculously slow, taking about a minute to display the screen and not allowing any input until it has. This rather defeats the object of discs taking a shorter time than tapes and is completely unnecessary.

Instead of getting the instructions on an inlay card, Pres have put them on the disc along with the games. Thus, if you forget the objective or the keys, you have to turn off and reboot it. The discs actually retailed at £9.95 each originally so not to get a box or instructions seems a bit lame. A remedy could have been to allow the user to print out the respective instructions but there is no such option and once again, the protection keeps you from putting in your own.

However, although none of the games were unique to Pres, they do all work with all Elk systems (including the ones setting PAGE to &1D00) and, as none of them are available on disc elsewhere, they are certainly worth having.