COMPETITION ENTRY #18: CAMEL RACING
"I command you a game of ZX81, Camel Racing, is a very common fairground attraction in Spain."
- Salvador Camacho
And already I can see why Salvador provided no documentation for the game... not that it really needs it. (And not that my attempts to write in Spanish would be any better.) Whether or not Camel Racing actually is a Spanish fairground attraction or not (can any Spaniards confirm it?), Salvador has made a game that's simple enough to work on a ZX81... but just barely.
On the title screen, presented in Chunk-o-vision™ that even avoids the quarter-square ROM graphics, we are shown how simple the game is - there is one control key! Press that key, or any other, to start, and the ZX81 grinds out the playing screen with all the speed of an Aixam voiture sans permis in a traffic jam on the Boulevard Périphérique. On the left, you see the holes which you are aiming at; on the right, the four camels in the race, which actually look like camels if you smear Vaseline all over your screen and stand at the other end of the room. A star will move left and right along the bottom of the left hand side of the screen; press Z to send the star hurtling - well, sauntering, really - towards the holes. Once the star connects with the hole, your camel - the one at the top of the screen - will advance forwards according to the number next to the hole, with the up-and-down motion of a fairground horse. Except this is a camel.
The winning camel will need to advance ten steps to reach the finish line, so as will become obvious, your goal is to hit the "3" hole in the centre. The other camels will advance at random, even while the star is limping towards its target, but in your favour, there are only seven positions of the star, and five of them are guaranteed to hit a target. So unless you're catastrophically uncoordinated (and even I'm not that far gone), it should always be possible to hit the minimum of four required targets (e.g. 3, 2, 3, 2 or 3, 3, 3, 1) before any other camel crosses the finish line - either that or you'll have to be very unlucky.
If there was an award for the least optimised code I've ever seen - and 2022's host should consider having one - then this game would win, no questions asked. Even accounting for it being on a ZX81 with no multi-statement lines, I've never seen quite so many long lists of LETs, IFs and repeated PRINTs of the camel graphics. 7.6K of BASIC is a hefty listing for a game that does so little, though I suspect that it would still have made it into a magazine in the early days; a text-editor-readable listing (.BAS) has also been provided, so I further suspect that it was written on Notepad++ or similar with a lot of copy-and-paste for the animation subroutines. I do like the way the camels have been drawn and animated, so that there's at least some concession to making it look like it belongs on a fairground. It's a two-and-two game overall - though I'm going to add an extra Rick for throwing in the cassette inlay, just in case anyone actually wants to transfer this to tape! More importantly, though, it's another step on the way to a double-digit number of entries for the ZX81.