The comp.sys.sinclair Crap Games Competition 2021 - 25th edition!



Author:  Dave Hughes Model:  48K Spectrum Format:    .TAP
Submission date:  13 January 2021 Documentation:  none Tested on:  Spectaculator 8.0

Download it here

Recently on the Spectrum Computing forums, Pete Prodge's many "best Spectrum games" polls have started focusing on "what was the best Spectrum version of (insert classic arcade game)?" In this case, "classic" means the really big titles of the late 1970s and early 1980s - Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Centipede, Donkey Kong, and the like. The polls have included CSSCGC entries, so this year's second entry could not have come at a better time...

Dave Hughes, newly-anointed Programador de Excelência, has sent a rudimentary version of Mr. Do!, that was intended for a compilation to be released at the end of his tenure of the CSSCGC in 2013; why he's left it languishing on his hard drive until now is anyone's guess, but given that he's chosen to release it on my watch, I will not complain. The loading screen proudly boasts that it's written in 100% machine code - given what Dave's made in the past outside the CSSCGC, this is hardly surprising - though it doesn't bear his trademark hidden text that is then made invisible when the attributes load, so don't go looking for it. Given that the code loads at 32768, it's a 48K Spectrum game as submitted, but at only 8000 bytes (exactly), a bit of fiddling with the BASIC loader should see it work on a 16K Spectrum, for those who really must.

Dave did warn me that there's not a lot to review, given that it's a game that most people reading this will already be familiar with. The graphics are entirely in 8×8 squares, and feature characters that I'm sure I've seen before, probably in Wunderchar$ (it wouldn't surprise me). There's no documentation, but you won't need it; movement is via Q/A/O/P, with E to exit. (Press E to start the game and it will start and exit immediately, which I should probably award Crap Points to, had I thought of a means to do so that isn't a Demerit.) For those who don't know the game, run around the screen, digging tunnels through the ZX81-style dithered background (in colour, though!) and collect 20 pieces of fruit - or musical notes, blobs, bells, or whatever has been snatched from Dave's UDG collection - while avoiding the chasing monsters that move through the tunnels.

The introductory screen says "Just 10 levels, should be easy!", and you might get that impression as the monsters only ever try to move directly towards you rather than pathfinding their way through the tunnels. Most of the time they'll get stuck and you'll be in no danger, but they could catch you if there's a piece of fruit in a tunnel that they've surrounded. Their movement is rather jerky and unpredictable, so you'll have to make a dart for it if they're near your target, but for the most part they're thicker than Minecraft villagers. And all the time, you'll be serenaded by the sound of a rusty chainsaw, or so it seems to me.

Bugs? There are some, mainly that sometimes the level will consist almost entirely of disguised fruit and there will be far more than 20 to collect (as seen in one of the screenshots), holding down a key will cause your character to move multiple squares... eventually (a bit like the way the repeat works in the standard 48 BASIC editor), and it matters not whether you press Y or N for another game afterwards, you'll go to the title screen anyway. And I'm not entirely sure if there's any difference between one level and the next - just get through the eleven screens (numbered 0-10) with your one life intact for an intentionally disappointing end message.

Given that Dave's an accomplished machine code programmer I can't award extra Ricks for effort for avoiding BASIC, and there can't be any bonuses for being the first to enter, either - this is a three-Rick game, for which the shonky loading screen counts as one. But I'm going to give it three masks for attainment, because, when Pete Prodge's poll about Mr. Do! clones is eventually posted, Mr. Don't! will be part of the poll, and unless there is a great miscarriage of justice, it will thrash Postern's disastrous, near-unplayable mess that was Dinky Digger, and deservedly so.