Softfirm
J. Tomkins
1985
Puzzle
£4.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

25
Chris Bourne

Computer-Wordsearch puts those word-finding puzzles beloved of Competition Minions and Puzzle Fans onto your Spectrum's screen, and boasts a "vast range" of subjects from which wordsearch puzzles can be built over a hundred are available from the subject menu once the game's loaded.

The main menu screen provides four options to choose between: words on a set theme, which gives access to the sub-menu of subjects and allows the player to choose how many words the square will contain (9, 18 or 27); mixed words taken from a variety of subject areas (the player can chose to have 9 or 18 words in a mixed square); number of words that will be in the square at random, and finally, the player can opt to enter up to eighteen words of 2 to 10 letters for inclusion in a specially created wordsquare. Once the type of wordsquare desired has been selected and the number of words it contains entered if appropriate, the program then constructs the wordsquare inthe playing area.

All the wordsquares are 20 columns by 20 rows and are drawn row by row into a box which occupies over half the screen area. To the right of the main playing area are the status panels. One gives details about the square currently being played, including the number of words it contains, the theme of the square and the target time for finding all the words hidden away in the grid. There is a counter, which decrements in real time to remind you that you are supposed to be up against the clock, but a cheat mode (press H) allows you to suspend the passage of time well halt the clock, anyway in order to have a good think. Below the counter is a display area which lists nine of the words which have to be found. This can be paged if the square contains more than nine words. A score-line advises the state of play.

Once a square has been entered in the main playing area, the cursor keys control a flashing block which can be moved around to cover letters in the grid. When a word has been found the cursor needs to be moved over its first letter and the F key depressed, then over its last letter and the L key hit thus telling the computer that a word has been discovered. If the cursor has been used correctly, the word is then struck through with a blue line on the grid and removed from the wordlist.

At any time in a searching session it is possible to quit the game, and before returning to the main menu screen the computer strikes through all the words in the square that have not been found thus proving to the player that they WERE there all the time! If 20 x 20 wordsquares suddenly start appearing in the magazine, you can be sure that the Competition Minion has got hold of this program it allows you to print out a wordsearch you have created...

CRITICISM

'If you're keen on wordsearch puzzles, this game will go down well with you, despite the fact that it is not exactly brilliantly programmed. For instance, if you opt to make up your own wordsquare and don't actually put any words in it - hitting enter against the first word -the program merrily prints out a square, telling you that the square contains 0 words and that you have 4 minutes to find them. Do nothing for a minute, and pandemonium breaks loose: the border starts flashing, the beeper chirps away and the message "congratulations- all words found" scampers across the bottom of the screen. Pressing a key restores normality. While you can print out your own squares, it's a shame that the program doesn't allow you to print out the squares it generates itself from words it holds in memory - poring over the letters on the screen can get a bit tiring after a while. I can't be bothered with wordsearch puzzles at the best of times, so wouldn't invest in this game-but if you like such puzzles....'

'I can't really see the point of writing this soft of program on a computer - you can get books and books full of wordsearches for less than 5% of the asking price. The actual program isn't too bad and works quite well, the only problem is reading the telly screen like you would a book - some of the colour schemes are rather garish and eyeball strain sets in after a while. I suppose if you really enjoy making up wordsquares and you need a computer to help you to do so then this is find, but personally I find the whole thing rather futile.'

'A nice try at capturing a slot in the market. Somehow, though, I get the impression that even wordsearch fanatics will prefer the 'traditional' pencil and paper implementation. Peering at the little letters on a TV screen soon gets tiring, I found. The actual programming is fairly basic -there's no gloss to the package. At £6.95 this game is grossly overpriced - £1.99 would have been fairer. Admittedly, you get a finite number of wordsquares in puzzle magazines for seven pounds, but in terms of Spectrum games you can get much better value than Computer Wordsearch. Compare this game to Zoids, for instance, which is only a pound dearer...'

COMMENTS
Control keys: cursor keys to control flashing cursor, F to mark first letter in a found word, L to mark last letter, H to pause, I to Quit
Joystick: Cursor if you wanted
Keyboard play: perfectly adequate
Use of colour: a bit garish
Graphics: unsubtle- text a bit tiring to read
Sound: beep!
Skill levels: one
Screens: menus and main wordsquare
General Rating: Probably only for the most ardent wordsearch freak.

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