What an odd compilation this is. No theme or concept to it at all, just lots of stuff from 1987/88 that sits together rather awkwardly, a bit like chalk and cheese. A sports sim here, a strategy game there... surely nobody's going to be big on all of them?
Lucky then, that most of this lot are pretty good, there's even a smattering of megagames, though I can't really rave about the opener...
10th Frame - 55°
A ten pin bowling sim? Doesn't sound too promising to me and, ahem, it isn't. Don't get me wrong - it's a reasonable and challenging program struggling under the weight of an original game that gives very little to go on. There is only really one screen, with you as a little wire outline man bowling at the bottom, and the pins set up along an alley that stretches away in front of you.
You can take part in either League or Open bowling, with three different skill levels - though only the hardest 'professional' one is worth going for. What more can I say - the graphics are so dull that even the reasonable playability can't save it in my eyes. In '87 we gave it a (generous) seven, but in '89 I'll lean nearer 55°.
The Armageddon Man - 80°
Eek! It's a bit hard this maintaining world peace lark. Armageddon Man is a sort of Warring Nations Manager, in which your task is to juggle the economic and military balance of sixteen different countries and prevent war breaking out by a combination of praise, aid, condemnation and military force. An icon driven strategy exercise, it's far too complicated to go into here except to say that it takes a lot of concentration and a strong memory - which is probably why I succeeded in provoking limited nuclear exchange within minutes! I'll have to stand by the eight (pre-Foreign Legion) Gwyn gave it, though I did find the task of keeping all these squabbling youngsters in line, a bit 'trying.'
Shackled - 43°
A black and white Gauntlet clone that's a poor imitation of Avenger, Ranarama and the big 'G' itself. Small sprites, bad collision detection and poor animation ruin what remains a playable concept, especially in two player mode. Not a highlight of this collection.
Xeno - 86°
This one's pretty damn good too. Very simple and very playable, it's a futuristic variant on ice hockey featuring two saucer-shaped craft instead of teams. You look down on the pitch from behind the audience and control your saucer by a bizarre system involving projecting a cursor which is connected to you by a dotted line, and then shooting off as if catapulted along that line. It takes some getting used to, but in two player mode, with the time limit on each move reduced to a couple of seconds, it's one of the fastest cut-and-thrusts (Oo-er) around.
Bobsleigh - 91°
Brilliant, this one. One of the best Speccy sports sims I've seen. It links a very fast and convincing race down the banked track - where you have to learn the speed and angle to take each corner - with a waggling push off and management aspect. You have to keep the cost of training, repairs and upkeep to a minimum, while aiming to earn enough in sponsorship money to buy a world class Olympic 'bob.' It's very easy to get into, hard to get good at and absolutely spiffing!
Mercenary - 95°
Now this is the biz! What a cracker! It's ripper! Erm.. I quite like it. A 3D vector graphic thingie, representing part of the surface of an alien planet, it's absolutely jam-packed with hidden rooms, corridors, space-ships for the nicking, teleports, roadways and so on. You can quite easily spend hours just wandering around, stealing or buying spacecraft and shooting things. In the end though, you're going to have to try and get off the planet, for which you'll need a particularly super whizzo ship which is hidden somewhere. Our Dunc reckons it took him a good twenty hours of exploration and map-making, but I think he's lying and it took forty.
Trantor - 83°
Perhaps the most conventional game here, it's a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up with nice big graphics, fast and smooth animation and great sound. There's also a flamethrower (my favourite!). It's blummin' good, if not quite worth the nine generous Snouty once gave it.
Hardball - 70°
Colourful baseball sim, with large, well drawn sprites. It's obviously a thoughtful representation of the game, where you can play both fielding and batting sides, substitute team members and choose between at least eight sorts of pitching throws. The only problem is, I don't find baseball all that interesting. Ho hum.
Cholo - 72°
A wire frame 3D vector graphics thing that I found quite hard to get into. You find yourself in a post nuclear world. All the humans are trapped in an underground bunker by rampaging robots who are trying to keep them down there. You play the one sane robot trying to break the seal and let the people out by capturing and reprogramming the hostile droids. It uses all of Firebird's vector graphic skills and if it pales a little next to Mercenary, there's no great shame in that.
Psycho Pigs UXB - 79°
What was Dunc thinking of?! He gave this silly, monotone effort an eight. But I think it's hopeless, it's repetitive, it's... it's the twelfth time I just played it in a row. Yep, Psycho Pigs UXB is an addictive little sausage, full of mad porkers running around, dropping down holes, popping up again and blowing each other up. Cute, violent and fun. And it inspired an ace YS T-Shirt to boot!
A very mixed grill, both in type of game and in standard, but containing a fair amount of crackling nontheless.