The March cover was a masterpiece of magical atmosphere, a theme in blue mist. As usual time was a problem. The subject was to be a composite image to suit the month's two Smashes, Feud and Ranarama. Oliver opted for lightly painting vague outlines, then airbrushing blue and black over the surface, leaving himself with the task of picking out highlights and the lightning with a brush in white. The accuracy of the line is hard to achieve but Oliver makes it look easy - and that is his wizardry.
Some of the big software houses seemed to be coming unstuck with the new year; US Gold faltered with their licensed Masters Of The Universe (Gremlin is making another attempt now) which received only 28%. Melbourne House did little better with Bazooka Bill (42%) and just as badly with 2000AD's Judge Dredd - they were working on Inspector Gadget too, but that would never see the light of day; Konami's Jail Break was disastrous (47%); Electric Dreams's ancient zapper Tempest raised only an average flicker at 62%; US Gold tried ten-pin bowling, but Tenth Frame only knocked down 56% of its skittles; Leisure Genius finally made it out with Scalextric, and that got 57%. It was left to Steve Turner's Ranarama for Hewson and a £1.99 budget game, Feud, on Mastertronic's Bulldog label to win the Smashes.
What was going wrong? Hard to say, but the failed games had a few things in common: a rushed appearance, little content and often very poor graphics. We wondered whether Christmas had knocked the stuffing out of everyone.
Things were little better in Ludlow. For several months it had become clear that advertising revenue in the Amstrad CPC field had almost dried up because the sales of games simply didn't warrant software houses spending money to promote them. So AMTIX! was badly hit financially, and during early February it became obvious the magazine could no longer survive the way it was. An attempt was made to change its nature dramatically, but forecasts showed that wouldn't work either. Newsfield's management decided to close AMTIX! down, and its editorial team of five was told the bad news - they would become redundant after their April issue went to press in mid-March. Only Richard Eddy would be retained to work on CRASH.
But meanwhile CRASH had its problems too. The experiences of February's issue were repeated, with Roger Kean being hauled away from LM to help put together the reviews at the last moment. He was alarmed at the way they were being written: this was not the fault of the reviewing team - the reviewers' sole responsibility was to play the games and write a short critical comment on each - but derived from the lack of editorial control. Roger and Ciarán spent a fraught weekend furiously rewriting just about everything, and then Roger spent the next two days in film planning, helping finish off the very late issue.
It seemed like the last straw, and once CRASH had gone to press, Newsfield reluctantly decided some rearrangement was essential. The financial problem of LM was another story, but editorially it was running very smoothly, so Roger Kean returned to King Street and once again took up editorship of CRASH, the magazine he had helped found. Lee and Hannah left in the reshuffle, and Graeme Kidd was moved to Gravel Hill to edit LM.
The full-time team Roger now inherited included myself (also doing other jobs), Ciarán Brennan, who became Assistant Editor, Richard Eddy and Ben Stone. For three days a week Ian Phillipson came in to write 'intros', the long descriptive sections of the reviews. He had been hired just before Roger took over and was still uncertain how the reviews should be tackled, but it wouldn't be long before Ian became an essential part of the new CRASH. The young part-timers included Mike Dunn and Paul Sumner, but there were a few others waiting to try their hands as well. We all got ready for a revitalised CRASH.