As this is a personal view, I'll be honest and say that though this isn't the worst CRASH cover it's certainly Oliver's poorest. There's no doubting the visual impact created by the hand seen in close-up, bearing its blood-drenched dagger, but there's also little doubt that this was a subject in which Oliver had little interest - or rather, he felt less out of sorts with the subject than with the way the Editor wanted it portrayed. To fans of the gore-a-minute film series, there was no need for a cover line to say 'Jason's back' in Friday The 13th.
Some readers, newsagents and several readers' parents were appalled by the cover, and extended their opprobrium to the Friday The 13th preview which showed Domark's Mark Strachan and Dominic Wheatley posed in a particularly gruesome and bloody manner. One parent, so upset by what she saw, sent the whole caboodle to the Press Council. Nothing came of it, but clearly the affair was an unhappy one. I defended the cover in the Forum, but it was seen as unfortunate in the sense that the preview was a thin editorial excuse for forcing the cover idea on Oliver - especially thin when you consider that the game itself would not be reviewed till June 1986 and then would only receive 32%!
Roger Kean had expressed doubts about the subject, feeling that it would be better to do a humorous picture, more in the cartoon style of Mad, but he was away from Ludlow when the final decision was taken and the cover painted.
Two other previews struck a somewhat happier note. Robin Candy had been aware for some time that Gargoyle Games had in mind a 'fun package' for Christmas, so he was pleased that they revealed the new comic hero, Sweevo, to him first. The other game previewed had been gestating far longer, for over 18 months in fact. It was PSS's Swords And Sorcery, programmed by Mike Simpson, who also devised the MIDAS adventure-writing system which Swords And Sorcery used. MIDAS was vaunted as a revolutionary piece of adventure/role-playing game graphics and control software from which would spring many games in the same vein as Swords And Sorcery. However, to date not much has been made of it.
An unusual event occurred: Mosaic's The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole was reviewed twice, once in the ordinary game reviews, where it got 86%, and again in Derek's Adventure Trail, where he gave it a Smash. That was no bad thing for the reader - but a damned nuisance for the index and historical database!
There were seven Smashes in all, reflecting the closeness of Christmas boom time. With only a few games to its credit - but very polished ones - Microsphere reprised Skool Daze with the improved Back To Skool. Melbourne House scored two with its Marble Madness-like Gyroscope, and the spoof adventure of foreign seaside silliness, Terrormolinos. Durell gave us Critical Mass, a game I never liked much, and the flight-simulation freaks at Digital Integration slammed in with Tomahawk - that military helicopter that positively reeks of danger.
The last Smash was for a new software house, Electric Dreams. Launched at The PCW Show, Rod Cousens's Electric Dreams was an offshoot of Activision. Its first released game was I, Of The Mask, an elegantly contrived 3-D 'tunnel' experience by Sandy White, whose previous games were the revolutionary Ant Attack and its sequel Zombie Zombie.
Swallowing up existing software houses was by now an established practice, but creating offshoot labels like Electric Dreams was fairly new. It smacked of corporation tactics and echoed the music industry with its giant parent recording companies and their numerous labels each specialising in a different musical style. Ocean had done much the same with Imagine when it bought the title from the Receiver. To start with, Imagine specialised in sports games, but with its Konami licences Imagine's game portfolio broadened out. No-one was quite clear what Electric Dreams would do that was different from Activision, but everyone agreed it would be interesting to wait and see.