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39 Steps
1986
Adventure: Graphic
£8.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
SpeedLock 2

Other Links


80
Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

We've all heard of computer crime before, but how about computerised crime? Seems there's an online database for everybody nowadays, including those light fingered types, possessed of names like Bad Bill and Mr Knuckles.

Your monicker for this highway to the land of heist is 'The Boss' so you'd better grab your striped sweater and fill your Spectrum full of SWAG - the Software for Aspiring Gangsters operating system. There's a lot of planning necessary if you're to change your name to the much more attractive Mr Big.

Your first step up the ladder of criminal hierarchy is to log on to the information system you saw advertised in What Crime magazine. This provides you with information on various jobs, criminals and fences and it's important to get the details right at this stage.

Every member of your team will require a percentage of the haul, as well as a flat fee. But each prospective gang member also boasts two skills. So the right choice will help you cut costs in the long run.

Your explosive expert could also be your driver. In addition, his skill with dynamite will mean you don't need that safecracker after all.

SWAG also stores information on the premises that you can raid. You can obtain in-depth information on various areas, but nothing comes free. If you want to know more about where the salesman stores the money at the end of the day, you have to pay for it.

Luckily for you, hardened criminals aren't expected to be hardened hackers as well, and SWAG is super friendly. It's completely driven by nested menus that pop out when you request them. It even keeps track of your bank balance, so there's no opportunity to try any confidence tricks on its accounting system!

To plan the raid you load the second part of the program. This provides you with a blueprint of the premises, including all the extra details that you paid for. You start with the gang sitting in the getaway car and that's also where you'll end up. How much loot they have, and how long they take to get it, all depends on what follows.

Commands are issued to each team member individually. Each action takes a set amount of time, so you can use the clock display to synchronise their efforts. You issue orders via a simple icon system, which expands to include additional options when they become relevant. Another display lets you know just where the character is.

This part of the game calls for careful timing. You'll need your locksmith to deal with the main door, but then he'll have to wait till the electronics expert has entered the building and disabled the alarm. You don't have to specify your moves at this stage.

Once you've got the crime of the century planned, it's time to put it into action. You're now in direct command of 'The Boss', while your cronies follow their instructions. You've given yourself the cushy job of keeping watch, but you're in full contact with the others via a walkie-talkie.

Reports come through to tell you what's happening, while time ticks by. You still have a range of commands, including the opportunity to enter the building or issue further orders to a character who's having problems. But don't stray too far from the door, or you won't be able to keep an eye open for police cars. If you see one the best option is to tell everyone to freeze until it's passed by. If the worst comes to the worst you can abort the whole job and re-plan it.

TSAM comes with a variety of robberies that'll take you to that much sought-after class of 'Public Enemy Number One'. You can save your status, so that any profits can be reinvested in further jobs. And being look-out means that you can do a runner and avoid the long arm of the law. so you're always free to have another go.

If you're into strategy, this game provides a unique challenge. I also reckon it's the most practical computer game I've ever seen. If you can make crime pay on this program, you could well be qualified for the real thing. In fact, it's so educational I wouldn't be surprised if there was some sort of moral backlash against it. But don't let that stop you. If you like thinking games, you'd be criminal to miss this one.

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A good gangster's nothing without a good gang and hired help doesn't come cheap. But luckily SWAG is the Job Centre for shady characters looking for a 'job'... knoworrimean, John?! Still, if you rethink your plans, you can always sack them again, until you're confident that you've got the ideal team.

The main part of TSAM is planning the raid. Be prepared for a bit of hard work if you're to synchronise the efforts of a crack group of cat-burglars. After all, you wouldn't want them tripping over each other, or opening the safe before its alarm was switched off. This icon driven 'crime processor' helps you get it all together.

On the job at last. Inside, your cronies are hard at work blowing that safe. Meanwhile you've got your eyes peeled for prowling pandas, and I don't mean Chi-Chi. Watch that clock too, because there are some jobs where you can't afford to get behind schedule. If you all make it back to the car then it's off to your fence to rake up a neat little tax free profit.