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Macsen Software
Armand Jammot
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Bourne

Are you a whizz with words, nifty with numbers, a giddy gamester of the computer kind? Then perhaps this game is just up your street, especially if you're a fan of the Yorkshire TV version. A game for one or two people, Countdown (or Onwuontcd if you're an avid anagrammer) is a jumbly jaunt through vowels, consonants and knotty numbers.

There are nine rounds in this game, the first three of which involve unravelling an anagram. The idea of these is to get the best word possible from a selection of nine letters. By pressing the C or V key a player can choose a consonant or a vowel, then there are 30 seconds the Countdown to make a word using some or all of the letters. A green bar along the bottom of the screen which gradually shrinks as time passes, turning red when it nears the end. Below the anagram, the computer gives variations so that alternative combinations of the letters are revealed.

Mistakes may be deleted up to the last moment, and words entered are checked against the computer's own dictionary. Should the word entered not be in the dictionary, it must be verified by 'The Guardian of the Dictionary' someone who has been appointed by the player or players to check the accuracy of words. The word can then be accepted or rejected simply by pressing the Y or N key. If the computer can make up a longer word, it is given at the bottom of the screen at the end of the game. The cumulative score is indicated in the left-hand corner of the screen.

Having won the word games, it ' s time to test numerical skills in the Numbers round. The player chooses six numbers from four rows, the first of which contains numbers between 25 and 100 of which up to four may be chosen, or none at all. Rows two, three and lour contain numbers of a value less than 10. Having chosen these, six numbers are displayed in a row of boxes at the top of the screen. Then it's time for Cecil to do his work Cecil is the unseen spinner who produces a random number of up to three digits to the left of the screen. It is then your task, within the 30 seconds available, to obtain this number (or the nearest you can get) by adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing the six numbers at the top. Fortunately, you don't have to use all the numbers. When time is up, the player has to enter the calculations. If you can't get close enough, Cecil displays a perfect answer just to show you how easy it really was.

Following this, there are three more word rounds followed by a numbers round. The climax of the game comes with the Countdown Conundrum in which there are 30 seconds to unscramble yet another anagram.

So, pit your wits against the computer or take on a friend or is it drienf... or maybe enfrid...


'The TV programme is a very good, audience-involving show, but although it looks like an idea you could translate to the computer it lacks that certain something that makes you want to get It off the shelf and spend a long time playing it. Countdown should only be played against another person as this is the only really competitive part of the game. I found myself stuck on long words in the Countdown, but easily getting the ten points available for obtaining the correct formula to form Cecil's random number. A skill level option is sadly needed. Countdown will appeal to a limited few who like a fun game for parties, but I reckon it'll prove a little expensive for the average Countdown watcher.'

'Countdown is quite good as a words and numbers game, but there are no frills, and very few thrills. The theme tune rendition is absolute BASIC rubbish, and other than boxes to highlight letters, I didn't notice any graphics, which could have brightened up the rather drab screen display. I got very little entertainment from it, and even if you are a fan of the TV series, I doubt if this would appeal to you much. I'm a little surprised that Channel 4 are giving the rights to such a game as this. because although it impersonates some of the series' features quite well, I think that this game would deter me from watching the TV show.'

'I used to watch the programme on the telly a couple of years ago, and I'm sorry to say that this does the show no justice whatsoever. The original's spirit has been lost along the way through the very slow play that makes it extremely monotonous. There are no graphics to speak of and the sound effects are inadequate - nice tune though. If you like the TV series and are a bit masochistic you'll probably get along quite nicely, but in general I'd stay well clear of it.'

Control keys: whole keyboard
Joystick: none needed
Keyboard play: very slow input
Use of colour: below average
Graphics: hardly any at all
Sound: some weak spot effects and a passable rendition of the theme tune
Skill levels: one
General Rating: Definitely not the best of TV conversions.