Publisher: Personal Computer Games
Compatibility: BBC B, B+, Master 128 & Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #71

Surely not another companion disc? Blimey, how many more of these can we dredge up out of the swamps of obscurity?! [If that's not a rhetorical question, I can suggest PCW, Games Computing, Your Computer and New Computer Express that haven't yet been discified! - Ed] It's the turn now of programs published in the short-running magazine Personal Computer Games to come to life with nine programs for the BBC from VNU Publications.

The old familiar names from the magazine and PD circuit are behind a few of them (Noteably, Brian Lewis and Shingo Sugiura!) with a couple of new authors contributing too. You get all the programs on one disc, all certified 100% bugfree by me (and I know because I was the one who typed them all in today) with a menu system informing you of the program title and the issue it originally appeared in.

As far as BASIC games go, these are of a relatively high standard. They are without exception multi-coloured and addictive. The dud of the pack is Insect Invasion which is best described as a shoot-'em-up with a single, very easily killed, invader. And Magic Square is a mathematical quiz in Mode 7 which is hardly aesthetically pleasing. Apart from those, there's a good mix however.

City Smasher is a bomber clone in Mode 5. It's fast-executing and has an interesting twist by equipping the bomber with not just a bomb but also a laser facility. You can wipe out the city stumps with a laser if you don't manage to raze the building by bomb alone and, if you're an Al-Qiada cell-member, you can also choose not to drop bombs or fire the plane's laser and just wait for the plane to crash into the first building on the left! [You feeling alright today? - Ed]

Fighter Pilot is a quick and dirty Mode 7 gunsight game, where a plane shaped collection of = and 0s flies (almost unnervingly realistically) away from you. You try to centre the gunsight on it and shoot it down. This is very very difficult.

Next we have Galaxians, a mediocre little shoot-'em-up with the limitations of BASIC and what seems to be a few bug to boot. You wipe out the aliens but they just keep coming!!

The version of Hunchback included has been doing the rounds in PD World for the past two decades with both joystick routines and an increase in speed included but this disc features the original listing from the magazine. It runs in Mode 2 at a fairly playable speed. The only real problem with this conversion is that the movement is extremely jerky and it tends to make the inevitable 'struck by a flying arrow just as you were about to complete the level' death even more frustrating than usual!

Light Cycles is a gem - the simple idea of two players steering lines towards each other; each trying to force the other to hit their own 'trail' or the sides of the screen. This version is one player and the computer has a high level of artificial intelligence, meaning you can actually have quite a decent joust with it, and certainly not always be assured of winning. I believe this may be the only one player version of this for the BBC. OK, it's limited and it's dated - but it's as addictive as ever.

Monstermania is the prize of the compilation - a sort of hybrid mix of Ghouls, Joey and Crazy Er*bert. Done in Mode 2, you must jump around a platform area avoiding the floating monster (who is randomly chosen each game - nice touch!), colouring in the platforms as you do so. Unfortunately, you are going to have to play this on a real Beeb and not via emulation because otherwise the timer counts down too quickly and makes each level impossible to complete.

All the character designs are 8 x 8 but they are multicoloured which gives the game a lift. The energy bar and remaining lives are also nicely presented and there are tunes and sound effects throughout.

Engine Failure is a text adventure which I have left until last due to the quirks I encountered in typing it in. It is meant to be a small text adventure set on-board a doomed space shuttle whose engines have failed (hence the title). However, although the listing as presented in the magazine looked as if it had been printed directly from a BBC, it contained a number of conspicuous errors which meant it simply did not work properly.

I can only guess at what happened in relation to this listing, which was from the very first issue of the magazine. What I suspect is that it was contributed by someone as a printout and then re-typed up by a member of VNU's editorial team and the bugs were introduced at this stage. Then they printed their version, with the bugs in it, and published it in the magazine!

This is because the errors in the original listing include for example, a missing minus sign in the location map. This means you cannot get to some necessary locations, and can easily get to some which you should not be able to! There are also very strange statements which seem to reference the wrong variables.

The version on the disc is therefore re-written (The unworking original is included in a separate directory for comparison). It is a small adventure set against the clock and reminded me a little of Secret Mission from Adventure International.

The games are all BBC only although some may run on an Electron with a little coaxing.