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Zzap! Challengers

Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 4:04 pm
by Filthy Raider
What a memory jogger this site is! I have fairly good memories of Zzap as I was the very first Zzap Challenger.

I always used to write tips and stuff for Personal Computer Games and had a letter to tell me that Zzap was being created so I quickly signed up and after sending in a few tips for the first issue was stunned to get a call from Chris Anderson. Would I go to Yeovil and play Julian Rignall? Would I?!

A veeerrry long train journey and I met Julian, Bob and Gary at the train station. We walked to the house where Zzap was - a old Victorian house if I remember. Upstairs they had two 64s and TVs back to back and we played Raid Over Moscow, Bruce Lee and Spy vs Spy.

Bob watched me and Gary watched Julian, both making notes and during Raid I heard Bob take a huge intake of breath. I had discovered a cheat in the game where you deliberately crashed at the end of a 'run' cos you had so many lives that crashing and doing it again meant more points. Like a twonk I missed the crash and had to carry on, not realising that the others knew the cheat and Julian was exploiting it hard (although I learned later he had only been playing the game for a week). I finished before Julian by about 10 minutes but he won even though he never finished as he had more points. On Bruce Lee (which I had lied to Chris Anderson about finishing - I only managed that three hours after he called!) Julian raced ahead and won, whilst my game crashed leaving me with more points, but he won because the rule on that one was to finish first.

Spy Vs Spy was the most interesting as I knew he was a good games player, but I discovered his main flaw that he was crap at head to heads - and I battered him to death every time we entered the same room. He finally expired after booby trapping his way round the rooms (unfortunately for him, back to me where I killed him off) and I finally died after trying (quite well as it happened) to deactivate the booby traps.

My prize was a choice of games and I tried to get them to hand over Pitstop 2 but as it had just come in, they couldn't, so I had Decathlon and Airwolf. LOL.

Afterwards we went over to a graveyard (Chris Anderson's idea) to get some pictures. Before we started it was Gary and Julian who broached with me the fact that Chris (who was away at Ludlow) wanted a picture of the winner holding the loser by the hair - they were then going to mess about with the picture and show the winner holding just the loser's head. Julian DID NOT want to do it - he was scared he would look stupid and they got me to agree not to do it BEFORE the challenge. So fortunately for me I wasn't made to look stupid either.

Main things I remember was what nice lads Bob and Gary were, and Julian was alright once you got to know him, although he was even nicer when he had won!

A long journey back (although only two changes on the way back as opposed to FIVE going there). To this day I kick myself for buggering up on Raid Over Moscow. I could have been the first Zzap Winner. Now that might have been something to brag about.

Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 4:40 pm
by Lloyd Mangram
Excellent story! Thanx! :D

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:20 pm
by Lloyd Mangram
Btw, welcome Andrew Clarke!

And here's the first challenge (with a picture of Andrew), issue 2 (June 1985) pages 13 - 15.

Andrew, any other details? Did you meet Oli and Roger as well?


Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:46 pm
by Filthy Raider
It's funny, but just after writing that bit I searched a scan of the issue too. I must have remembered it wrong as it says we played Bruce Lee last - and after thinking about it, I do remember that the order was Raid Over Moscow, Spy Vs Spy and then Bruce Lee. Well it was 22 years ago and I'm forty one this year with three kids!

I can remember JR getting verrryyy annoyed about me being declared the winner of Spy vs Spy which tied the scores - he argued that as I had died before finishing that I also lost, but I was playing for ten minutes or so after I pounded him (you might remember in Spy Vs Spy you ran from room to room trying to avoid traps and when you met you had to wiggle the joystick like mad to hit the other spy - I think I won as up until then I had only played the computer which was a hard opponent and nearly always won!) Bob did point out that Julian never finished Raid whereas I did, so he did give in. I had the feeling that Bob and Gary were on my side, so not sure if there was any needle. They were like a couple of best mates in a few minutes - I got the feeling they were dredding getting a nerd on the day, but we had a lot in common so it was like being with a couple of mates after a few minutes.

With Bruce Lee as the last game I knew I hadn't much hope - as I mentioned until the day Chris Anderson phoned I had NEVER finished it. However, it must have inspired me as after that I never failed to. Julian raced through it apparently (I couldn't see his screen) but I got stuck fighting and eventually it crashed (as it was often prone to do).

I never actually met anyone else on the day, they were the entire staff then excepting Chris (who was away). I often wonder what his reaction was when he got back and they hadn't taken the picture he wanted!

As a further brag, I had a letter on page 7 and my Spy Vs Spy tips (full page bragging rights!) on page 93. In fairness they were a bit short of material having just started and I don't think the infamous Stuart N Hardy had started writing to them just them. I suppose I was odds on to get the Spy vs Spy tips as I had beaten JR on that one.

About that time I was selling articles and type in games to Home Computing Weekly - Dave Carlos was the editor there, and actually commissioned a bonfire night game off me which I wrote in two days, but by then they went bust. I flogged it to Computer and Video Games after changing the name to Roy Fawkes in Raiders of the Houses of Parliament (by then Bonfire night had come and gone). Had a few games in Personal Computer News and one in Personal Computer World (£120 for that baby!)

I'm not sure if it was the same year but I also got called to the Your64 office in London where all they did was sit me in front of a C64 with Dambusters playing and asked me to write a tips page. The reward for that was a 'slap up' meal that I had to miss to catch the train back! And the buggers never covered the train fare. That reminds me that Gary paid me my train ticket back out of his own pocket - he was going to claim it back off Chris when he got back.

Good fun days that I never exploited enough. By that I mean at the time I was not actually working other than writing at home. I think when they moved to Ludlow, the Zzap Challenger that beat Julian actually got a job on the mag - is that right? But it was ages before anyone did.

Maybe someone else can fill in on that last point.

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 9:26 pm
by Lloyd Mangram
Hehe. Great stuff!
Now I also realize your challenge was indeed before the move to Ludlow, of course.

About your last point. It almost went like that. But in fact it was Crash staff writer Dominic Handy who lost the Challenge (Pitstop II, IIRC) against Jaz, but started writing for Zzap under the pseudonym of Paul Sumner. Check it all out in my tribute to Zzap!64 magazine over here and here.

Enjoy yourself over here, hopefully a couple of other regulars will hop in anytime soon.


Btw, what about our final challenge, eh?

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 9:59 pm
by Mayhem
Welcome and what a tale of tales :)

As for Bruce Lee, I've never had it crash on me and I've played countless hours on it... maybe it was the early C64s or something...?

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 10:53 pm
by Filthy Raider
I seem to remember Bruce Lee regularly crashed without warning, and I used to think it was my 64 until it happened in the middle of the challenge. By that point I had lost anyway!

Only thing I forgot to mention was that the room we played in, in fact the whole building, just had the appearance of an empty house that someone had chucked a few desks in - bet they were glad to move!

Great site - many thanks.

Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 11:00 am
by Mayhem
If you're interested in other memories, I actually ran across Karen Wild a few years back online and she was willing to cough a few bits up :)

Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 6:56 pm
by LeeT
Nice story Andrew and welcome! :)

Posted: Tue May 01, 2007 5:57 pm
by Iain
Very interesting stuff alright!

I'd better go and backup the site before it gets hacked again and we lose the messages! (bit of a legacy in-joke there!)


p.s. That "final Challenge" article just made me laugh all over again. It's a classic humourous piece!

Bit extra

Posted: Tue May 01, 2007 7:19 pm
by Filthy Raider
Sorry if its a bit boring, but reading some of your stuff I think I can tell you are all a bit in to 'details' like me so I think I am on safe ground giving a bit more info!

I do remember that when I was using the 64 in the Challenge, Bob said that Julian's machine was 'his' and the other one I'm sure was Gary's - I don't think they meant in the 'the one I use at work', they were actually THEIR OWN 64s. I think it emphasises how the operation was run on a tight budget given they were nowhere near Ludlow!

When I went to Your64 in London they had proper offices with desks and the like, but I cannot get across how the Zzap! office had all the feel of one of those rooms in an old school where you put the old tables that wobbled! But when we had shut the curtains and started to play the games, it didn't matter. I didn't ask but I get the feeling that room was the 'testing' room. I read one article that talked about the 'offices' in Yeovil, but seriously all it seemed to be was the top floor in an old red brick house - think the old bedrooms.

The last bit of the day, after the 'not taking the right picture' in the graveyard, was the three giving me a quick tour, they had another room where there were a few shelves with games and folders, which was a bit more habitable and I think was where they actually wrote the reviews and stuff, so it was quick tour. This was while we were waiting for the taxi they had called for me. Gary paid the driver and we said our goodbyes and it was only on the trip back to the station in the taxi that I realised how faaaarrr we had walked to get there - another cost cutting measure, or possibly just an excuse for Gary to get a burger on the way back.

I can remember the driver saying to me, 'So what have you been doing all day?'

'Playing computer games' I said.

His final words perhaps summed up the whole Zzap! experience for staff and readers.

'It's alright for some.........'

Posted: Tue May 01, 2007 9:41 pm
by Lloyd Mangram
Iain wrote:
p.s. That "final Challenge" article just made me laugh all over again. It's a classic humourous piece!
I always love re-reading it too, hehe. Mind boggling stuff! :)

Ta, Andrew, btw.

Re: Bit extra

Posted: Wed May 02, 2007 10:27 am
by Iain
Filthy Raider wrote:Sorry if its a bit boring, but reading some of your stuff I think I can tell you are all a bit in to 'details' like me so I think I am on safe ground giving a bit more info!
You are indeed! There's no such thing as too much detail on this site!

Posted: Sat May 05, 2007 12:19 am
by Professor Brian Strain
Wouldn't it be cool to get a load of the Challengers together and test out their mad skillz after all these years? Either on the good ol' C64, or on one of those new-fangled console thingies.

Welcome to the site Andrew!

Posted: Sat May 19, 2007 9:33 am
by Filthy Raider
I'd hate to think what I'd be any good at today. I have three kids now and the youngest are two boys. The five year old has been playing since we could get a Playstation/Gamecube controller in his hand (from two or three) and he can give me a run for the money on some of the footie games.

I'm still into games, using the PC mostly, and have played Call of Duty 1 & 2, Medal of Honour Pro Evo 5 etc to death, but when the lads are playing Sonic DX, Sonic Adventures or whatever on the Gamecube I am at a loss!

Think the best challenge would be the challengers back as dads (or uncles!) cheering on the new breed!