COMPETITION ENTRY #4: CRETANS
Steve McCrea, a.k.a. Kweepa, is no stranger to the CSSCGC, having mounted even more of an assault on the 2013 competition than I did last year, and even threw a few entries into the ring of the ill-fated 2018 edition. And via an archive of his long-defunct former website, I have also found out he was one of the authors of the Trinity College Doom WAD in 1994, which counts for a huge amount in my book as I am as much a devotee of the Doom engine as I am for the Spectrum, and Trinity was the college next door to me from 1997 to 2001, so I know the place well.
Anyway, Steve has returned with another of his somewhat minimalist games, in which - as the opening screen will tell you - you're spirited away to a distant past, as many years before some bloke who was nailed to a plank of wood as we are beyond that time, and you're in Crete. You have to reach the centre of a maze, rescue some delightful young ladies of the day, and avoid becoming a mid-morning snack for one of Bully's more violent ancestors. Great, smashing, super, press any key to step up to the oche and throw 101 or more in 6 darts to win a speedboat...
...hang on, wrong game. What will actually happen is, you choose a numbered maze between 1 and 65535 - and according to the seed you give (which is duly fed to the RANDOMIZE command), a maze will be drawn on the screen, in green, in about 20 seconds. All the walls are drawn diagonally - and as soon as it's drawn, your quest begins. But rather than resembling a hero of the Minoan civilisation in any way, you're... a dot. A single pixel. And you have to move through the maze from the top of the screen to the bottom, where your reward is VIRGINS. Hopefully that doesn't mean a 4,042-year-old Star Trek convention.
If it sounds easy, it isn't. The pixel moves rather quickly, and before you know it, you'll crash into a wall and it's game over - there are no lives, you can't slow down the motion (at least not without breaking into the program and adding a PAUSE), and the controls are of the Knight Lore style - Z and X to rotate left and right as the dot moves relentlessly forward, rather than a diagonal equivalent of Q/A/O/P suitable for Q-Bert-style games (I favour A/X/K/N to move NW, SE, NE and SW respectively). And because of the randomly generated maze, there's no guarantee of a clear passage through to the bottom of the screen. Shown in the solitary screenshot is maze number 1979, which does have a path from start to VIRGINS, and I'm on that path - but in case your way is completely barred, you are given four rotators, activated with key O, which will flip the nearest wall from the NW-SE orientation to NE-SW, and vice versa.
Steve may argue that this game is stripped bare of any flim-flam. It's a mere 2,404 bytes, there's no loading screen, no redefined character set, no sound whatsoever (I checked the listing to make sure), and only the very barest congratulatory screen if you should make it through the maze, by fair means or unintentionally foul. However, I would say it's devoid of everything that piles up the Ricks in this competition! But it does play well for what it is, it would definitely have made the grade as a type-in in 1983, and there's some attention to detail in the programming, such as the error-checking routine for the maze input and two nested IF...THENs to check if there are any rotators remaining. While I appreciate that, it's still only two Ricks for effort (Steve admitted in an email that it took all of two hours to program; a loading screen would have made it three Ricks) and two masks for attainment. The controls are not particularly to my liking, but as they're not utterly ridiculous (and some people actually like Knight Lore-esque controls), it racks up no demerits. May that record continue for the whole year.
I further suggest that, despite the POINT function and the UDGs, it might be possible to de-convert this game for the ZX81. Who wants to take up the Green Challenge?