Product: Electron User 4.03
Publisher: Electron User
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #73

If you bought Electron User (or indeed The Micro User) in any December in the Eighties, there was little doubt it was Christmas! Many other magazines knew the same, packing their pages with so many advertisements for new games and computers that the reader was positively bewildered by what he should buy. But Electron User was different - you knew it was Christmas not by the excess of adverts but rather by the content. Did you wonder where we got our Christmassy opener for this EUG, Mr. Claus riding a reindeer-powered Electron? Right from the cover of Electron User 4.03 which included two full Christmassy games to celebrate the season.

I'm choosing just to review the demos and games on the companion disc for this issue, not the magazine itself. Santa's Sleigh is the first of these. The premise is that Santa's presents are in a warehouse which is guarded by a rather nasty looking spider and two marauding Christmas crackers. You are in control of Santa's sleigh (hence the title) and need to move throughout the warehouse collecting the presents and avoiding anything that moves.

The game works on the same physics as the classic Thrust, admittedly without any of that game's polish. You have controls for left, right and thrust and you need to work out exactly how much thrust you should apply to glide around the screen without crashing into walls or the nasties. If you fly into a present you will pick it up and, after you've collected the eight presents from the warehouse's eight platforms you can make your escape off the bottom of the screen. You have a limited amount of fuel too, just to keep you from taking it too easy!

For a BASIC game, this is actually not bad. The sleigh, only a 8x8 CHR$ definition, nevertheless responds well to keypresses, and moves one pixel at a time allowing for precision controlling. The presents (again 8x8 CHR$ definitions) could have been fashioned with a bit more work but are passable. The graphics and the crackers (16x8 CHR$ definitions) move speedily enough to present real adversaries to your quest.

It's a rather difficult game but not impossible, and the author even thought to include routines for Plus 1 joystick control. The same game in machine code, with more colourful graphics and a few power-ups to complete would work very well. As it is, this BASIC version feels a bit clumsy but it's reasonably enjoyable for a few moments of fun.

Yule Spell is a hybrid machine-code/BASIC game which somewhat surprised me - after a very flashy introductory sequence with a huge title sequence and very realistic falling snow - by revealing itself as a Hangman-variant. Um, right. The difference is that, instead of a man to hang by his neck until he be dead, you are presented with a nice Christmas tree laden with presents. You guess letters from the word at the bottom of the screen and, each time you guess a letter which is not present in the word, one of the letters is removed. Hence, the longer you take to guess, the less presents you receive.

This is a nice, colourful seasonal variant of the old favourite and is eminently playable, but there isn't really anything more to say about it.

Also on the disc you get two colourful pictures from the 10 LINERS feature which Electron User ran in its middle-age. These comprise a picture of a pyramid and a cocktail glass which is subsequently drained of its contents. So if Christmas isn't really doing it for you this year, you can always imagine you're in Egypt drinking a nice Tequilla-based concoction for a few seconds instead! Both of these demos are done in just ten lines of code; the idea was to encourage users to write similar programs and submit them to Electron User.

Although there is more skill involved in playing Santa's Sleigh than Yule Spell, I would imagine Yule Spell has more lastability and appeals to a wider audience.