Product: Elbug 1.02
Publisher: Elbug
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #73

Elbug 1.02 was originally released in the Christmas of 1983. For those of you unfamiliar with Elbug, the magazine and companion tape were produced by a User Group of the same name. The games were usually written in BASIC and, because Beebug had been going since 1982, Elbug had a ready supply of its previous BBC programs with which to populate the magazine.

This is a review of the companion disc to Elbug 1.02. It contains a broad mix of demos, utilities and games. The main inclusion is AAStad, a Computer Aided Design program which helps you draw shapes and position text with pixel-perfect accurary, on a Mode 0 (two colour) screen.

Next comes a demo of how the command GCOL can be used to give 3D text, and then another graphical demo displaying seven candles and a sprig of holly and wishing everyone a merry christmas with some tuneful carols.

Continuing the Christmassy theme we've also got a game, of sorts, called Santa's Parcel Game. This is less than 3K in length which gives you an idea of what (not) to expect - you are Santa in his sleigh, which seems to have traded being pulled by reindeer to being propelled by rocket-fuel. Below you are three differently coloured wire-frame houses. Your sleigh speeds right-to-left over their chimneys and then 'wraps-around' ad infinitum. Pressing SPACE (which is the single control key in the game) drops a present, which will either be red, green or yellow, corresponding to the houses below.

What really sucks is that you have absolutely no idea what colour the parcel you are about to drop is, until you are watching it plummet down the screen. If you succeed in delivering a red parcel into the red house, or a yellow parcel into the yellow house, then you get a big boost in your score. If you miss all three houses, you are penalised by five points. The most likely situation however, the one that has a 66.6% chance of occurring, is that when you release your booty, it is the wrong colour for the house you are above! At least on Tetris you can guide a piece as it falls down the screen - not so here. All you can really do is feel that sinking feeling of having gotten it wrong, over and over again.

After a set number of attempts the game ends, usually in my case displaying the message 'Game Over. Your Score: 0'. You don't even get the opportunity to play again without re-RUNning the program!

The other games redress the balance somewhat, but not much. Football Krazy is a simulation of the table-football machines that remain quite popular in some pubs; the ones where you and a friend control levers to swing footballers and forth, hoping to whack the ball into your opponent's goal. In Football Krazy you get an overhead view and you only have two footballers to control but, because you are playing against the computer (which is extremely good at the game!), it makes for quite a good reaction test. Despite being a BASIC game, the speed is actually pretty impressive and the game itself is quite enjoyable.

Robot Attack is a clone of the classic game Zombies. Done in Mode 5, you are one man alone on an island of mad robots all homing in on you to shake your hand. You need to leg it around the playing area and try and lead all those mindless metal maulers into the mines (graves). There's also another robot in a cage at the very top of the screen who occasionally leaps out at you when you're not expecting it. This game is nothing special at all, and you'll probably tire of it after one go, but it's passable nonetheless.

Return Of The Diamond is an adventure game which has little going for it unless you really like these sort of things.

Finally, the disc includes an example of using different CHR$ definitions to animate a walking character - however the example Elbug has chosen is hardly inspiring stuff! - and there's a demo called Square Dance in which two-dimensional squares change colour and move around the screen. If you've managed to corrupt a tape-based program (and get the 'Bad Program' error message!), the utility Bad Program Rescue might also be useful.

There are some good inclusions on this disc and some stinkers but there's nothing that's really great. Due to the limited expansion possibilities of the Electron compared to the Beeb, Elbug, unlike Beebug, didn't actually last very long.