This cover first demonstrated Oliver Frey's ability to combine several disparate elements into one picture. It related to an article on Melbourne House and Australian Philip Mitchell, who programmed The Hobbit and was working on the very delayed Sherlock Holmes. Melbourne's H.U.R.G. (High Level User-Friendly Real Time Games Designer) had nothing to do with Philip, but was reviewed in the issue, so Oliver melded the two ideas by having Sherlock peer through his magnifying glass in which is reflected (backwards) a clue to H.U.R.G.
With monthly pressures getting tough, we all welcomed the arrival in Ludlow of David Western, a one-time colleague of Roger Kean. David lent a valued hand to the artwork layout, allowing Roger to concentrate more on the writing and planning. The stress is plainly seen in the cover, which had no issue number, and on the contents page, where Roger happily but, erroneously stated it was Issue Four! David, now Newsfield's Production Controller, was, (and still is) an excellent photographer, and the marked improvement in our screen shots was noted.
Taking pictures from a monitor is no simple matter, and all CRASH had at the time was a rented 14-inch telly! I can remember getting in the engineer to look at it because all the colour was being pulled into one corner leaving the rest black-and-white. The bemused man took it away and brought another, shaking his head, saying only a strong magnet could produce such an effect. I refrained from telling him that David had been waving his very powerful light meter over the screen - it contained a massive magnetic field!
Further improvements in picture quality had to wait until the wonderful Microvitec Cub monitor arrived for review, but with David's ministrations, people everywhere began praising our colour screen shots, at least (they appear so fuzzy now).
CRASH was, unwittingly, about to unleash a media war. We regarded ourselves a specialist enthusiasts, and so news of any program in progress excited us, and we wanted to convey that feeling to the readers. We were also very chatty with software houses, so it came as no surprise that we were easily able to get very advanced screen shots of Matthew Smith's unfinished Jet Set Willy, possibly the most eagerly awaited game of all time. As a result, CRASH was the first to print pictures, despite plenty of interest in the project from other magazines.
On top of that, through close and friendly relations with Micromega, we were also the first to spot the potential of Code Name Mat by Derek Brewster. When it was first shown to us, it had no name, and the joke became current that Mat referred to Matthew Uffindell, the CRASH reviewer who was the first player in the country to get his hands on it - and who knows, it may be true
All this frenzied previewing activity put CRASH markedly ahead of the other magazines at the time, but they soon started fighting back and the scrabble for advance information was on in earnest. The trick, however, was not only to be first with words and pictures, but also to spot the real winners. We weren't always right...
Issue Three showed another improvement - the paper. The printer was changed and CRASH went fully glossy. Games Of The Month were given a logo on the review page instead of being bunched up at the start, the first of these being Blue Thunder (Richard Wilcox, soon to be absorbed by his family into Elite Systems), Cavern Fighter from Bug-Byte, and Night Gunner by Digital Integration. Although Matthew, Roger and I liked Blue Thunder, there was an adverse reaction from some readers, but everyone seemed agreed that the graphically uninspiring Cavern Fighter was a damned good 'Scramble' game.
Hardware novelty object was Stack's Light Rifle, which caused battles between Matthew and Chris Passey to use it. It was fun but hardly earthshatteringly good, and it's amusing now to see the games consoles bringing the idea back - with somewhat more accurate results.
Oh, and we did the first ever CRASHtionnaire to find out how well readers thought the magazine was doing.