vDriveZX review – a Microdrive based SD storage solution for your Spectrum
Sep19

vDriveZX review – a Microdrive based SD storage solution for your Spectrum

Sinclair launched the ZX Microdrive in July 1983. True to Sinclair’s philosophy of miniaturisation and low-cost, it promised a cheap, high-speed storage system using miniature tape cartridges. Unfortunately the Microdrive didn’t take off as well as Sinclair hoped, dogged by unreliability and also the high cost of the tape cartridges. The Microdrive (and accompanying ZX Interface 1) are sought after in the current Sinclair retro-scene, be it by completist collectors, those who used it back in the day or those who wanted one and never had the chance to own one. With the arrival of the vDriveZX, there is now the opportunity to own a new Microdrive that doesn’t rely on the vagaries of ageing tape cartridges. The vDriveZX is a new device which is capable of emulating the ZX Microdrive – it provides one or more virtual drives, hence the name. It also provides the software tools to manage these virtual drives and tape cartridge images, in .mdr format, from the ZX Spectrum itself. The information related to the virtual drives and cartridge images are stored on SD card. Housed in an existing Microdrive housing the vDriveZX can be  connected to the ZX Spectrum via the ZX Interface 1. An excellent manual is provided with the vDriveZX clearly explaining the principles, operation and use of the vDriveZX. Also covered, and showing that the vDriveZX is likely to gain further features in the future, is how to easily upgrade the firmware. This is literally a case of having the new software on the SD card in the vDriveZX and typing .UPDATE – a considerable improvement over the process used during testing! Up to eight Microdrives can be emulated, each with a different cartridge image. Using the software toolkit provided with the vDriveZX, additional virtual drives can be easily added or removed to suit. In addition to this the toolkit provides Bank commands which in simple terms load a previously saved set of images to the virtual drive. An example is that you could have four drives setup as word processor, current documents, archive documents and an empty drive, but by using the Bank commands, you can instantly switch to four drives, each with a game on, ready to play. Further toolkit commands provide for directory control, deletion and renaming. In use the vDriveZX is pretty much indistinguishable from using a “real” ZX Microdrive as it uses the existing commands used for the ZX Microdrive in Sinclair BASIC. The main differences are the lack of noise from the motor, as it is no longer present, and faster access times as the correct file no longer needs to be found on...

Read More
Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter update
Aug01

Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter update

As we reported in our last article, the Crash Annual 2018 Kickstarter campaign got off to an astonishing start – reaching its £12,000 goal within 9 hours. That was just the beginning of the story though and currently – with 18 days to go (at time of writing) the campaign is funded 258% and stands at over £31,000. Stretch goals have been announced and subsequently smashed. Backers can already expect to have a 38mm Crash badge and a beautiful Crash covers calendar included with their Annuals. We are sure there will be plenty more to come too! Stretch goal 1: Crash Badge Stretch Goal 2: Crash Calendar The mainstream and gaming press have also been going crazy over the campaign to bring everyone’s favourite Spectrum magazine back too. Articles have now appeared on Kotaku, The Independent, Eurogamer and the Metro’s pages. Metro The Independent Eurogamer.net Kotaku Stay tuned for all the latest developments and of course, if you haven’t already done so, head on over to the Crash Annual 2018 Kickstarter page and see what all the fuss is about for...

Read More
Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter
Jul23

Crash Annual 2018 – Kickstarter

The legendary Crash magazine is set to return next year with issue 99 being produced by Fusion Retro books after successfully funding their Kickstarter campaign in around 9 hours. Along with original Newsfield Owner/Editor Roger Kean and original artist Oliver Frey, Chris Wilkins is bringing the publication back in the style of a hardback annual which will feature much of what has happened in the Spectrum universe since the last Crash went to print 26 years ago. Reviews will play a big part in the Annual Famous name such as Simon Butler will have their own sections Crash Mug perk The exact cover art will be kept secret but it will be by Oli Frey so it will be good! Crash Wallet perk. Crash Watch perk Chris – who has worked alongside Oli and Roger on a number of other projects – has reached out to the Spectrum community for input, with some big names from back in the day such as Simon Butler, Jas Austin, Steve Wetherill and the Oliver Twins responding and contributing articles. Reviews are being written by Spectrum users, just as they were when Crash was the top selling Spectrum magazine in the UK, Nick Roberts will be taking up his ‘playing tips’ section again and Stuart Williams will be taking up the ‘Adventure Trail’ section, all helping to keep the annual’s format familiar to fans. Lloyd Mangram has even been tempted out of retirement to answer readers letters 😉 To top it all off there are some amazing perks to be had including Crash branded mouse mats, wallets, mugs, t-shirts, watches, canvases and even a framed ‘Oli-Bug’! Stretch goals have yet to be decided but are likely to include badges, a calendar a cassette based game by Jonathan Cauldwell featuring none other than Egg-Head. All in all, this is shaping up to be an unmissable treat for Spectrum fans new or old. If you haven’t pledged yet, please do so, lets make this Annual all it can be! Check out the Crash Annual 2018 Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/47744432/crash-annual-2018-the-next-chapter...

Read More
The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 5
Jun11

The Bear Essentials: Developing a Commodore 64 game – Part 5

Creating Caverns I wrote about creating rooms back in part 3 of this series and how I began to store the room data in memory.  But of course, rooms in the game have to fit together to form a world in which the character will explore on their journey. With my game I thought it would be good to split this world into different areas where a number of rooms will be grouped together and have a common theme. I actually came up with this idea fairly early on, as I always find it easier to play through games when you exit one area and find yourself in a new area that looks completely different.  It keeps the game feeling fresh and encourages exploration. The first map I sketched for the game had 60 rooms.  I picked this number to aim for as I figured this would allow all rooms to be visited in around an hour, and also as this is the size of Miner Willy’s mansion in the first Jet Set Willy game, which is a joy to explore without feeling too overwhelming. I split the map into eight different areas:  Home, Forest, Cloudy, Rocky, Mining, Jungle, Tunnel and Secret.  However, I soon opted to cut this down to six areas (taking out Tunnel and Secret) when I realised how much work was going to be involved in creating a different look, and ideally, a piece of music for all areas.  With only 64kb to work with, memory was also a consideration here too! The map went through four revisions, until I settled on a final design. The Home area would be where the player starts and finishes the game.  This leads into the first ‘proper’ area of the game, which is Forest and serves as an introduction as to how the game is played and what the objectives are. From Forest, the player can opt to exit the area in two places which lead to ‘continue’ rooms, where the player is awarded an extra credit and a new point to start from when continuing after death.  These continue rooms also serve as a break from the game and a hub to which the other areas of the game are accessible. I decided to keep one special area of the game locked until all others have been cleared in the Mining area. This area works differently to the rest of the game, and forms the final part of the players journey back to the Home area.  It takes inspiration from Manic Miner and the very first idea I had for the game, which was to only allow...

Read More
Spectrum Addict film cover art by Oliver Frey revealed
Jun09

Spectrum Addict film cover art by Oliver Frey revealed

The upcoming film by Andy Remic – Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict now has an amazing looking cover, produced by none other than the renowned artist Oliver Frey, famous amongst gamers of course for his Crash and Zzap! 64 magazine artwork. We think it looks amazing and really captures the look and feel of those iconic 80s Crash magazine covers. There are still a couple of days left to get your own name in the film credits so head on over to remicmedia.com/speccyaddict/ and order a...

Read More
Spectrum Vega+ hands on – video and mini review
Apr09

Spectrum Vega+ hands on – video and mini review

Playing Halls of the Things Playing Halls of the Things The Spectrum Vega+ on top of an original Spectrum for size comparison Ant Harper surprised at how small the Vega actually is Will thought the size about right Will plays with a Vega+ This report was written by Will Woodvine, photography and video by Ant Harper. Disclosure: I backed the Vega+ Indiegogo campaign but requested and received a refund over the Christmas period. I asked for a refund due to what I perceive to be the appalling lack of information provided to backers. The opinion below is my own and is not influenced by inducement or coercion by any parties. It is written as a fan of the ZX Spectrum. I attended the Dizzy event with no knowledge that the Spectrum Vega+ would be present, so was unprepared. Like any true retro-gaming fan I spent Saturday 8th April, the sunniest and warmest day of the year so far, in a darkened room with no windows looking at computer games. The event was the Dizzy 30th anniversary in Nottingham. This took the form of a presentation by the Oliver Twins which covered their early years, mentioned the ZX81 (huzzah!) and gave me a greater insight in to the Dizzy world. At the start of the presentation a gentleman (who I think was Lee Fogarty) came down to the front and handed one of the Twins a white box. Inside was a Vega+. This was shown to the crowd, causing a slight stirring, and then placed on the podium. At the end presentation the Vega+ was left unattended so I took the opportunity to grab it and have a close look. At no time was there any interference from anyone or any attempt made to stop me from using it or Ant Harper, Simon Williams or Simon Osborne from using, photographing or videoing the device. I believe the device to be the pre-production device that has been seen previously. The hardware The device feels good in the hands, fitting well – I have medium sized hands. I gave the unit a torsional twist and the unit did not flex, which reinforced the positive feel of the device. The screen is bright and clear, easily read by someone who normally needs glasses to read and wasn’t wearing them. The buttons were an issue being unresponsive – you have to press them precisely for them to react. This maybe the “switch re-design” referred to by RCL. Simon Osborne has reported that he used a corrected production unit and the buttons were much more responsive. The spectrum flash is a sticker (peeling now) and...

Read More