Product: Pres Games Disc 4
Publisher: ACP/Pres
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #48

By the demand of all those Electron owners who bought a disc interface only to find the market sadly lacking in disc games, Pres acquired the rights to more top games and released compilation four. This was released in 1989, over a year after the Micro Power bundles of discs 1 to 3, and that software company was well and truly exhausted.

One assumes that a reshuffling of copyrights was going on at the time - Superior Software, to whom Pres are indebted for all Pres Games 4's contents, had bought the rights to Budgie's Video's Revenge, Alligata's Bug Blaster and many of Acornsoft's introductory titles including Arcadians, Meteors, Snooker, Magic Mushrooms and Monsters. As every good Elk-boy knows, Superior were also developing their own games for many years after 1989 and one of their new games Qwak also made it onto this disc.

The format of the new disc is unchanged, apart from the very slow menu system being exchanged for a much quicker menu (At last!). But as you'd expect from Pres, you get these eight games instantly selectable - but in no way copy- or alter-able!

Video's Revenge, from the earlier tape version, is a colourful spaceship scroller with a mass of animation, parallax stars and 100% machine code throughout. Pres' version makes it obvious too that somewhere in this code is the equivalent of ON ERROR RUN. And in their version an error occurs. In fact, it occurs as soon as hit any alien! If you were only wanting this one on disc, cross through the compilation immediately. In the worst bug ever on a Pres disc [And there have been several others! - Ed], the 'game' is rendered completely useless! Each time you hit an alien, it restarts (with the ironic opening screen 'TESTS SHOW SYSTEM OK') and each time you hit an alien, it restarts and...

Bug Blaster. This is one of the famous Elk Centipede-clones, with a long Centipede winding its way down through a field of mushrooms to your pod at the bottom. You must manoeuvre left and right and eliminate all the sections of the beastie before it gets you. Each time you hit a section, it disappears and the long centipede breaks into two smaller ones. Suddenly there are bug sections scooting all over the place and you also need to whizz up and down to avoid contact.

There are several other versions of this game available (Superior even made its own!) but the sprites in this one are 'neatest', although the flashing spider looks a bit trippy. The action never drags, there is adequate variety through a colour-switching palette and a wonderful sequence of notes to indicate you have just gained an extra life.

The best of the bunch is Arcadians; one of those rare games that will never age. The smoothest, clearest, most electrifying game of space invaders produced for the Electron. The aliens glide in on you pixel-perfectly and it's as addictive today as when it was first released.

The other Acornsoft games haven't aged so well. Meteors is a bird's eye view of your craft in space and you're surrounded by transparent cartoony clouds; the meteors of the title, no less. You must avoid them and shoot them whenever possible. A bullet splits them in half, so you need to plan your shots to avoid the screen being full of meteors after a few seconds. The smallest meteors (halves of the halves of the halves) disappear when shot, so pick them off first. It's a neat idea and done quite well but its monochrome screens look old fashioned and there's a lack of variety even though the action is quite smooth.

Playing Snooker on a computer is always a weird experience and on the Electron you have the choice of two bad simulations of Snooker. This is seen as the better of the two available but it does rely on different skills than the real thing hence doesn't score very highly. However, it too is smooth - and very nicely coloured, animated and presented.

Monsters is truly awful. Beyond tedious, this game is set on four levels where you, as the hero, must dig holes for the monsters to fall through. Unfortunately, despite being so blind that they stagger through holes willy-nilly, the monsters are curiously nimble and always grip the side of the hole they fall into. This necessitates you rushing back and sadistically bashing them with the spade until pain and gravity send 'em down to doom. Some monsters need to fall through more than one level but basically, that's all there is to this game. And it's plain boring.

Evidently tiring of this, the red monsters invade Magic Mushrooms; a unique game that consists of twelve screens where you need to collect all the mushrooms on flat surfaces. You run and bounce around, accompanied by manic scurrying sounds, bounding across every conceivable type of terra firma (of which some isn't firm at all) and must figure out the best route across each screen. It's a fantastic Mode 2 piece that includes a screen editor and load and save facilities. But you need the instruction manual to use it properly - and PRES don't supply it!

Qwak is the most modern of the games and comes second best. Based on the "Bubble Bobble" idea, all its graphics are cute but deadly. It's not hard but it's fun and after each screen you get a password to stop you needing to play screens you've completed over and over again!

The verdict on this one is harsher than the previous ones as, in its day, Acornsoft titles were compatible with joysticks plugged into a Plus 1. Arcadians, Arcadians, Monsters and Meteors are pure arcade games that benefited enormously from joystick control. Joysticks do not work with this disc.

Sloppily though, the routines for joystick control have not been removed and neither have screen prompts for the fire button. So follow the prompt, press it and your machine will have a mental breakdown!

It is inevitable that a disc system taking a huge chunk of memory for its operation won't interfere with machine code games (that expect that memory to be free) but the sacrificing of the joystick options should be explicit in Pres' advertising and on the disc itself. Not doing so makes it look very disreputable and, although four of those other games are great, this compendium is the worst so far.