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



Author:  John Connolly Model:  Jupiter Ace Format:    .TZX
Submission date:  3 February 2021 Documentation:  instructions
(inc. how to load) and word list
Tested on:  EightyOne 1.19

Download it here

On New Year's Day 1980, Britain's home computer market did not exist. By New Year's Eve 1981, you could have a BBC Micro model B if you were loaded, and a ZX81 if you weren't. With all that progress in two years, it's no surprise that 1982 was a year for the dreamers - two of which were Richard Altwasser and Steven Vickers from Sinclair Research. They would strike out on their own, and launch a new company to make a new computer that looked a mash-up between a ZX80 case and a Spectrum keyboard, and spoke a different language to all the others on the market.

And lo, the people of Great Britain did look upon the Jupiter Ace... and they did not see that it was good.

John Connolly was born in 2002 (that's two-zero-zero-two, as in, the 21st Century), so to him, 1982 is practically equivalent to the Middle Ages. But this hasn't stopped him from picking up an Ace (or at least EightyOne's emulation of it), learning a bit of FORTH and writing a bare-bones Crap Game for it - and with documentation as well, in which he makes it amusingly clear what he thinks of the Ace, and its language. At least he did what I asked and provided loading instructions - the Ace's standard loading command is just LOAD (with nothing else, like a ZX80), but this tape starts with a Bytes: block and requires the command:
Who would have guessed that? Nobody, I suspect. As the tape loads - and it reminds me more of a Dragon 32 than a ZX81 or Spectrum - the character set visibly changes. The things that can be done with FORTH, eh?

For the uninitiated (that's me), Genesis 1:28 is the Bible verse which is usually translated (from the original ancient Hebrew, for those who needed reminding) as "go forth and multiply". I did say in the Rules that overtly-religious games might start arguments that are best avoided, but this one is unlikely to rile even the kind of militant atheist that makes Richard Dawkins look like The Vicar of Dibley - because this is nothing more than a pun based on that Bible verse. All you have to do, in a game programmed in FORTH, is multiply. The only twist is that you'll be given the two values to multiply in the form of a word that has a Biblical connotation - TRINITY, for instance, is 3, DISCIPLES is 12, but most of the others were a complete mystery to someone with my level of enthusiasm for all things religious. At least John was good enough to drop in a text file with all the numbers corresponding to the words.

Here's where the game crashes and burns as hard as the Ace itself: with only ten values to choose from, there are only 55 possible combinations of those values, so the same sums will keep coming up again and again - and I don't think the Ace's random number generator is too clever, either, as I've often seen the same sum appear twice in a row. Get one right, which will mostly not require a calculator (or a knowledge of FORTH's use of Reverse Polish Notation), and the Ace will beep about an octave below middle C, which sounds like you've got it wrong; maybe the Ace's implementation of sound was as ropey as the QL's two years later, I don't know too much about it. Get one wrong, though, and you'll invoke ANGRY GOD, which will see your score wiped out to zero, although that may just be regular God delegating duties to Satan. That will be accompanied by a longer, lower beep that sounds more like the harbinger of a systems crash.

It takes longer to read this review than it does to see everything this game has to offer. There's no ending, the score just keeps increasing until ANGRY GOD puts paid to it, and even though I can break into the program I have yet to work out how to list it... not that I would understand the listing anyway. Had this been programmed on a Spectrum, or even a ZX81, it would rate only one mask and would probably be considered incomplete, needing a target score to win a round, high score, and some more Biblical-number-words to get it to magazine type-in standard. But that John's managed to do this, or indeed anything, on a Jupiter Ace makes it worth two masks, because I couldn't have done it in a month of Sundays, church-going or otherwise. Effort-wise, I'd rate it four Ricks - one for taking on the White Challenge for programming on an unfamiliar machine, and a second for learning enough FORTH to make it work, as much as it needs to - the other two are what it would otherwise rate had it been done in any form of Sinclair BASIC.

Something tells me this will be the first in a series of entries for obscure machines, probably as a form of payback for what I did to John's competition in 2020. This is what I can do with a QL and a SAM Coupé - bring on the responses!