A helping hand
After I started the Hac-Man column I began receiving, at regular intervals, copies of The Pokes Disc, a collection of pokes and cheat routines for many of the best-selling BBC Micro games.
These offered exceptional value for money: Priced at the level of a budget game, they offered help - in the form of pokes, passwords, hints and tips - for almost every possible aspect of many of the top games.
This enterprising venture was the brainchild of Mark Gidley, a highly talented individual who also devised all the pokes.
Cheat It Again Joe is, in effect, an updated version of Mark Gidley's Pokes Disc, with Impact Software's marketing muscle behind it. It comes as two volumes - with a third being released soon - on either tape or disc, and each is available separately. However, the two really complement each other, and I would certainly recommend buying them together.
When I first heard that Cheat It Again Joe was under development, my feelings were mixed. Certainly, this sort of product could raise a number of problems, both legal and moral. When I received my copies, however, I was glad to see that Cheat It Again Joe avoids any such transgressions. The cheat routines are themselves encrypted and give nothing away to anyone who manages to disentangle them.
In common with its Pokes Disc predecessors, Joe offers exceptional value for money to fans of many of the major titles released in the last couple of years. For a mere £3, tape owners receive a generous selection of pokes for 20 top titles. However, disc drive owners fare even better: For an extra £2 they get pokes for the disc versions of 20 games, plus all the pokes from the cassette.
Cheat It Again Joe is certainly rather unusual, in that - to the best of my knowledge - it is the first offering of its kind released by a major company.
In the business software field many of the industry standard databases, spreadsheets and the like benefit from software add-ons that make them more powerful or easier to use. So why not produce software add-ons for games?
I have often received letters saying that routines featured in my column have drawn old games out of the cupboard and given them a new lease of life: Joe offers further helpings of the same.
The collection seems to have been designed with the novice user - or at least the novice hacker - in mind, and a great deal of thought has been put into making the system easy to use. The tape or disc is loaded in the usual way CHAIN and Shift-Break respectively. Once the first part has finished loading, the micro presents you with a list of names of the games featured in that volume.
Using the cursor keys moves a highlight bar up and down the screen and pressing Return selects the game. Alternatively, pressing spacebar presents another page of game.
When you've selected agame the micro tells you about the cheat facilities provided for it and another press of the spacebar brings up a request for the version of your game.
In some cases, such as Superior's Repton 2, Joe caters for both the original stand-alone game and a compilation version. The disc version of Joe caters for all four versions of Repton 2 - the original tape, the original disc, the Superior Collection tape and the Superior Collection disc. Once the version is selected, the appropriate poke routine is loaded and you are prompted to insert the tape or disc.
Follow the on-screen instructions and the game will load apparently normally, but with all the promised modifications in place.
As one who can claim to specialise in this sort of thing, I know how long Mark must have spent devising the pokes in these compilations, and the result is very worthwhile.