On the Other Hand
AP01; AP02; AP07; AP12; AP19; AP28; AP30 (unconfirmed); AP31; AP35; AP36
A guiding light behind the invention of AP (and one properly housed in a lamp so it didn't set fire to anyone's hair this time) was to study previous mags with squinty cramming then nick any good ideas they may have had. AP Zero explicitly mentions in its sixth Outrageous Claim ("AP will be different") that there have been innovative mags before - "C&VG in its time, perhaps, and Zzap and Crash in theirs"* - and it's from the latter, pioneering Speccy mag that AP lifted On the Other Hand, the chance for AP staff members to supply dissenting opinions on reviews by piping up in a little box on the page. (Hang on - "a guiding light behind"? - Ed.)
Crash's distinctive review format turned over the majority of the article to a straightforward description of the game, with three anonymous reviewers chipping in a paragraph or two of opinion in separated boxes, their (unrevealed) marks averaged out to provide a final rating. AP's version differed in only three respects: the review was packed with thoughts; the dissenting voice (always singular) was not anonymous; and the alternative mark was displayed on the page but not counted towards the official score (because AP's reviews were all about the individual reviewers, not a committee. Also to this end, it was decided that On the Other Hand boxes would appear only when someone genuinely disagreed with a review, rather than artificially forcing a differ for the purpose of contiguous inclusion).
It's this version which appears in AP01, supplying dissidence (both unimpressedness and approval) for seven out of 32 games.
At this point, everyone involved checks into Scooby-Doo's Nutcase Motel.
AP02 drops the alternative scores (probably for clarity), with only two out of 27 conclusions rocking the collective harmony, a state of hippy daisydom that leaves the On the Other Hand drawer unslipped until AP07 when the The Blues Brothers review causes an irreparable schism that's only repaired five months later (nobody tells AP what to etc) in time for the near-civil-war divergence over Parasol Stars in AP12 (an ish which also features a pair of real-actual two-reviewer reviews, but let's not think about that overmuch). Exhausted by the muscular expenditure, On the Other Hand reels into a slumber beneath Matthew Squires' desk, waking in time for AP19 where, refreshed and alert, it appears record-breakingly twice before vanishing up the chimney when Jacquie Spanton tries to spear it with a javelin, apparently under the impression it is a giant olive. Calendar pages fly off the wall by the effect of a hoover on the other side of the room and it's now AP28 and the gay madcap jazz age of sinister mega-global corporations and minigun cyborg assassins is rattled by the fluttering box emerging in a flood of soot to peck at Robocod.
The staff take stock (but are unloaded at the front door by Wilf The Security Guard suspicious of their oblong trouser shuffling, but that's not important right now). The trouble with On the Other Hand is chiefly that of time: effectively, the bickering contributor has to have put in about as much of a play of the game as the reviewer, which is a bit of a luxury when everything arrives in the last two days as usual. Also, roughly half of the readers hate it. (Half of the others haven't noticed it.) The featurette has now outlasted three Eds and several hundred thousand Back Pages, but the decision is taken to kill it off. Alarmed by a squeaking stair, On the Other Hand leaps out of the window as our teddy men arrive and it vanishes among the floats of a convenient parade.
Is the Toki split in AP30 (where the Bottom Line and score are testily replaced in an Ed comment) the crafty work of the disputatious chamberlain? It's a budget game, unusual turf, so nobody knows or, on the other hand, they may, but before anyone can spring to a wrestle, On the Other Hand unarguably crashes through the saloon doors of AP31, a-rootin' and a-tootin' once and once only before slipping away through a moustachioed clamour.
The mighty beings now turn matters over to the readers, inviting them as the constituency of On the Other Hand to vote if they care one way or the other, pledging to continue the device if ten letters arrive in support. To electrify the politic bodies, AP35 features the pesky box given its head and it lolls across seven out of 11 reviews, including a guest appearance from Harrison Ford (himself later to recur). The ploy works and a vote pours into the office, inspiring the happy-go-lucky reviewers to put aside their unquibbles and argue punchingly over five out of AP36's 13 games. Everyone then pauses gasping in a big frieze of settling dust like in Asterix, but no further postcards arrive, so On the Other Hand is disintegrated in an evap-o-ray chamber.
A funny joke turns up in AP39's Ultimate Pinball Quest review, where Jonathan Davies, who hates the game, invites Steve Faragher, who's been playing it for hours, to contribute a confuting paragraph, but Steve's bored of it now; and invigorated by pipe-y nostalgia for three months ago when the world was lovelier and the sky a bit further away, a several of readers write in asking whatever happened to On the Other Hand. At the same time we learn that the wily oblong escaped atomisation by means of a cardboard decoy, but we can't be really bothered any more.
You've had your six (nine or ten).