Tony Dillon checks out the latest in spec hardware.
When I was littler than I am now, I remember there was nothing better than getting a new toy. No matter what the occasion, it was always a heartwarming experience. Christmasses were always merry, birthdays were always happy. The only time I was ever disappointed or frustrated about getting a toy was whenever I bought one of those Kinder Surprise Egg things. There was nothing worse than opening the wrapper biting my way through the chocolate and the yellow plastic tub, only to find that my model of Donald Duck had been destroyed in transit and was now just a few small twisted pieces of plastic and a picture on a small piece of paper. Funny how it always seemed to happen to me.
But I'm much older now, much more mature. Which is why I still had to trade my sixer conker and half of the red Star Wars bubble gum cards to get the latest Sinclair plaything, the Magnum lightgun. Marketed and built by Mastertronic, the lightgun aims to bring a whole new dimension to interactive action games such as Operation Wolf.
So what exactly is a lightgun? Well, it's basic premise is that it dispatches the need for joystick or any kind of actual physical interaction with a computer keyboard. Practically you use it by pointing the muzzle at the screen (at a reasonable distance) and pulling the trigger. The computer can then 'tell' what you are pointing at and give the appropriate reaction. A duck falling over in a duckshoot, for example, or an option on a menu screen being highlighted.
The gun unit connects directly to a 128K spectrum via the Aux port, and sources inform us that soon an interface will be available for all you 48K users. No extra hardware is required.
The gun itself is software controlled. In layman's terms, this means that on it's own the gun won't do an awful lot. It's only when you load in driver software, such as the six pack of games that come free with the gun (check the reviews) that the gun comes into 'full effect'.
Accuracy-wise, it ain't bad. Much better than I expected. Occasionally it does seem to be firing a curved beam, but more often than not, the shots are on target.
The gun unit is built from some very lightweight plastic, almost off-puttingly so. This does tend to give the unit a very fragile feel, but after extensive tests, the gun continued to function.
The design of the gun is simplistic enough. A long barrel, with two sighting markers, and a long moulded butt, designed to fit any size hand. The cable extends from the bottom of the butt, as not to get in the way, and the light beam is fired from a source recessed in the muzzle of the gun, shielded from outside light interference. One gripe with the design was the angle the handle is set at. It's much closer to 90 degrees than most actual guns, which means that aiming the gun seems too unnatural to start with. You have to remember to lift the muzzle, as holding the gun naturally results in the muzzle pointing earthward.
In tests, the gun performed with a large margin of success, but there were still times when it did things you wouldn't expect. Even so, it still looks poised to be much more of a success than the ill-faited Stack Light Rifle. It's by no means a defensive addition to your home entertainment system, but if guns are your thing, you could do a lot worse than shell some dosh on this.
You've unloaded your wad into Arkwright's Hardware Emporium's cash register. You've ran home expectantly with your Sinclair labelled box under your arm. You kick open your door, you run up to your room and lock the door behind you. You pull out your Spectrum, set it up and plug in your brand new Sinclair Lightgun. Then, what do you do?
Easy, you load up one of the six free games bundled in with your plastic death machine. Here, we present a detailed look at the direction your first few tentative shots are going to be aimed, Some of the names might seem vaguely familiar, others are a totally new spectrum experience. Make up your own mind as to which is which.
Easily the star of the pack, and possible the sole reason a lot of people are going to buy the Lightgun. If you are a Zeeb from the planet PetShopBoys in the galaxy of Crappomuzik, then you're probably the only person who hasn't heard of this mega-sadistical Vietnam completeit-annihilate-em-up.
You are a Vietnam-posted soldier with a mission. More importantly however, you are a Vietnam-posted soldier with a gun and a stash of grenades. By cleverly utilising the two, your aim is to single-handedly win the war.
You only need to glance back a couple of issues to find that we thought the original, joystick controlled conversion of this completely classic coin-op was a monster hit. But still we moaned. Wouldn't it be nice, we said, if somebody could take the original control method of using a replica gun and playing like that. And now somebody has.
And it's every bit as good as the original Spectrum version. The game is the same, only now gone are the crosshairs and the keyboard entanglements. Now if you want to down a soldier, just level the gun with his head, and fire away.
It all sounds find in theory, but practice is Mother matter. Aesthetically, the game is spoiled by the ever present raster bars and the slowing down caused by constant firing of the gun. Small discrepancies in the accuracy of the gun also make the game very difficult. The other thing that makes the game difficult is the way that the grenades are still launched by the space bar. This wasn't much of a problem on the crass-hair orientated version due to the way you could stop the crosshair. Launching and aiming the grenades is a Case of reaching for the spacebar and keeping the muzzle of the gun pointed at whatever you want to shoot at.
Final verdict: Mixed opinions. Captures the general feel of the coin op at the loss of some small, gameplay discrepancies.
It's up to the oche with Bully, your money's safe ond give em nice actually recall this appearing before, but perhaps that because it didn't really make the impact it should have. After all, everybody likes a bit of Bully.
Play Solo, or against a friend as first throw darts at a question selection board. Choose a topical field, and then use the gun to aim and throw the dart. Land the dart correctly and you receive a bonus, dependant on how far the dart landed from the bull. Answer the question correctly, end you receive even more points. Then go on a simple head to head darts match, finally finishing off with Bully's prize board. Remember, out of the black and into the red, you'll get nothing in this game, for two in bed.
Final verdict: An accurate conversion that successfully manages to capture all the excitement and adventure of the TV programme. Make your own mind up.
I remember having this explained to me when I was a nipper. Two things happen when you pull the trigger. Firstly, the light source in the muzzle of the gun fires a beam of infra red light at the screen. Secondly, the computer is told to stop everything and 'read' the screen to find the point that the spot of infra red light is hitting the screen.
To understand how the computer does that, you have to know how the TV picture is built up. A little spot races across the screen 625 times, leaving a trail of colour behind it. Then it goes back to the top of the screen and does it again. This it does 50 times a second. What Mr Spectrum does when the trigger is pulled is ask Mr Dot where he meets Mr infra Red. Mr Dot tells Mr Spectrum and Mr Spectrum reacts as it should. If, for example, it finds that there is a man stood in the position that the infra red dot is touching the screen, it displays the man drying.Unfortunately, this process takes a moment or two, and one of the resulting side effects is the game slowing for a second. The other major side effect is that the spectrum blocks out areas of the screen, creating large raster bars across the screen for a second or two.
Super. Now that's safe. Now take your time...