Having had his fill of page-compressed faces of alien monsters, giant apes, famous detectives and evil warlocks, Oliver broke out with this space action cover. No particular game was in mind apart from the defender/scramble concept, but the idea for a canyon constructed of game cassettes was Roger Kean's. It was a typical situation in the early days for Oliver to think up an idea, for Roger, David or Matthew to rework it as a visual gag, which Oliver would then implement so interestingly. And this picture long remained a favourite with readers.
The cover slogan, The ONE BIG Spectrum Software MAG, wasn't merely bombast, it was actually an aggressive parody of Big K's logo. Big K was another example of a large corporation (IPC) testing the software waters, in this case with a magazine, but though it was a multiuser title, Big K's prelaunch blurb strode across preserves we at CRASH regarded as peculiarly our own at the time, namely being irreverent about software (though of course we also thought we were the only really serious ones that's called having your cake and eating it).
When I look at the contents page of Issue Five, the thing that strikes me now is that of all the sections competitions was actually the biggest - seven DIYs - proving the point that we recognised their popularity. But one of those competitions stands out markedly, the Atic Atac map. Game maps were unheard of in publications in 1984 - it simply hadn't occurred to anyone that mapping a game was relevant, but there was no doubt that some games being produced were actually made up from maps in the programmers' minds. Atic Atac was one such, and certainly one where having a map before you helped playing it. There was also the fear that printing a game map might upset the software house, for games stayed upon the shop shelves far longer then than they do today. It was definitely a feather in the CRASH cap to sign a competition deal with Ultimate, for the magically successful software house was traditionally uncommunicative with both public and press. Later, C&VG editor Tim Metcalf even complained good-naturedly to Roger Kean about the secret CRASH pipeline to Ultimate affection.
Maps were the latest thing; Issue Five saw the inaugural edition of the Playing Tips. My desk was expanded and I began regurgitating the erudite scribblings of readers who added helpful hints to their letters. Among those had been primitive Atic Atac maps, and one or two reasonable versions of Jet Set Willy's terrifying mansion. The best, by Kenneth Kyle from Notts, was avidly poured over by Roger Kean (who got A level geography at school). He spent an entire weekend checking it out against the game, using a handy infinite lives cheat supplied by an embryonic hacker, and drawing up his own map which then appeared in the issue, thanking Kenneth for his inspiring version.
It started a trend; from this point on CRASH would have to have maps whenever possible, and before long every other computer mag dealing with games would follow suit. Otherwise the Playing Tips seem pretty tame now, along the, 'from levels 17-24 of Chuckie Egg, both the robot hens and the yellow hen are after you. This increases the excitement and makes it much harder' line. Thrilling.
This June issue was the real launch of Beyond, a powerful new software house put together by EMAP, publishers of C&VG and Sinclair User. Beyond's try-out game, Space Station Zebra, had proved a dud, but Psytron was a Smash, largely because of the complex, interlinked game elements and its use of crosshatched graphics. The technique wasn't exactly new, but this was the first time monochromatic line drawings had been used so extensively on a plain-coloured background, providing a tremendously detailed effect.
Meanwhile, Derek's new Adventure Trail had also found a Smash in Hewson's Fantasia Diamond. But at Psytron's release, Beyond hinted that a revolutionary new adventure game, Lords Of Midnight, was almost ready...