The Zoids cover almost failed to materialise. Martech suffered delays in development of the program, and would have preferred to put it off for a month. But the December cover was already promised to another. After much hesitation it was decided to go with the Zoids game preview at the very last moment; so here is another painting executed by Oliver with only a couple of hours to spare. As large figures on a monstrous scale, explosions and blasting beams of light have always been among his specialities, it was not a serious problem to produce something excellent in a short time.
Excitement! Sinclair had produced a 128K Spectrum! Well, not quite. He'd signed a deal with Investronica of Spain and the Spanish had a 128K machine. It was something of an insult, but to be fair, as the editorial stated, the City had given Sir Clive a hard time, no wonder he turned abroad for comfort. Would the new machine be made available in Britain? Not likely, not with the financial position of Sinclair, sitting on stocks of abortive QLs and yet-to-be-sold Spectrum + machines in the high streets. CRASH did eventually get its hands on a Spanish 128 and discovered that it would have been of little relevance to the British market. We were still left waiting.
CRASH's editorial masthead had expanded yet again, to credit Gary Penn, Julian Rignall and Gary Liddon as contributing writers. This was at a time when there was an all-hands-to-the-deck feeling about the small staff putting together three magazines. Penn and Rignall, however, only contributed a little to CRASH reviews, working mostly on ZZAP!.
Gary Liddon had originally applied in the previous year. He wasn't taken on then, but had gone on to do reviews for Big K, and when that magazine closed he went to work for Domark. It was there that Jeremy Spencer met him during a preview for A View To A Kill and was impressed enough to suggest Newsfield hire him as a Staff Writer. At first Gary's function was to rove between all three magazines, but eventually he settled down as a ZZAP! writer, remaining with the magazine till Newsfield appointed him to Thalamus, its software house.
Astro Clone and Marsport were two of the Smashes for the issue, hardly surprises. Neither was Elite a surprise. The Spectrum version lacked some of the Commodore's qualities, but made up for them that in speed; it was undoubtedly a Smash. The Edge also earned its spurs with Bo Jangeborg's Fairlight. It was superficially like recent Ultimate 3-D games, but CRASH reviewers saw it as knocking 'Filmation' into a cocked hat and providing a depth of game to go with the graphics. Bubble Bus scored again with Steve Crow and Starquake, a beautifully-designed game which led one reviewer to comment that it was the route Ultimate should have taken.
Melbourne House's follow-up to The Way Of the Exploding Fist, another joystick-manipulating fight game called Fighting Warrior, struck a chord of discontent. It just didn't work well enough. But Sean Masterson found himself satisfied interviewing a programmer working for CRL on a game called Tau Ceti. The programmer in question was Pete Cooke, veteran of Richard Shepherd adventure days (Urban Upstart for instance) and responsible for CRL's modest Juggernaut. Sean was impressed by Pete's good taste in science-fiction novels, but there seemed no doubt that Tau Ceti would be a success for CRL, a long-lived software house in search of a hit game.
After some 20 months of single-handedly photographing all game screens for the magazines, David Western got some help in the form of a young local photographer called Cameron Pound. It was to be some months before Cameron ceased to be a trainee and got his name on the masthead, but today Cameron and his assistant Michael Parkinson take and process hundreds of colour and monochrome pictures every month.
As we went to press, deals were being finalised for December's cover for Domark. The idea seemed sound enough, but in several ways it was to be a severe problem...