COMPETITION ENTRY #22: ZHUNDER VLADE
|AN ENTRY FOR THE GREEN CHALLENGE
Recycled from Zhunder Vlade (Spectrum version) by Salvador Camacho
In a different reality, Salvador Camacho would be a multi-millionaire, or an internet celebrity, or both. We all know about Flappy Bird, how it came, it saw, it became a smartphone app sensation, The Lancashire Hotpots wrote a song about it, and it disappeared when its creator was spooked by the attention it brought him. It was released in early 2013. And yet, by that time, there was already something very similar lurking in the annals of CSSCGC history - the original Zhunder Vlade, entered for the Mojon Twins' 2011 CSSCGC, which Salvador says was based on a rudimentary mobile phone app from 2000. That's the year I bought my first mobile phone - a Nokia 5110, which treated its users to a version of Snake that wouldn't have looked out of place on a ZX81.
So it's appropriate that Salvador has entered the Green Challenge exactly as I'd originally intended - i.e. to down-convert a previous CSSCGC Spectrum game for the ZX81. I didn't say it had to be one of your own games, but this way there's no ambiguity about who gets the credit for the entry. I've familiarised myself with the Spectrum original, and this is about as close a conversion for the ZX81 as it's possible to get. Strip away the sound, colour, user-defined graphics and lower-case characters, and the essence of the game is still there, exactly as it was.
As Henry Kelly used to say on Going for Gold, "if you've been living on Mars" and are still unfamiliar with how the game works, you control a flying machine made of quarter-square graphics characters and an inverse Z (it was a helicopter in the Spectrum version, but this looks more like a plane made of Lego), and you must steer it through columns of upcoming junk, shown as asterisks. Press M to climb, release M to fall, and unlike Jetpac there is no hover-in-position key. (That would make it far too easy). Initially, only one column of asterisks will appear on screen at a time, but soon it'll be two, and by the time there are four it'll be considerably harder to thread your way through. The craft climbs and drops smoothly-ish - one character square at a time - a bit like a less sophisticated version of Rafał Miazga's Flappy Bird ZX, which had a similar motion pattern, only a lot smoother and with more inertia to overcome. It certainly doesn't lurch upwards and then nosedive like a lead balloon, the way it does in that infernal mobile app. Furthermore, there isn't just one "gate" to pass through - each column has (usually) three asterisks which can be avoided any way you like.
Salvador has provided the C source code, from which the game was compiled via Z88DK (the Spectrum version used Boriel). While I have very limited experience in C, I can at least confirm that there will only ever be four columns of asterisks on the screen at any one time, and that the number will increase at 108, 249 and 324 points.
The closest previous entry this year I can compare this to is Colin Williams' MotoRace81, which was written in no-compiler-required machine code in a couple of hours. Salvador admits this conversion took about the same time, and the main effort went into learning how to use Z88DK to compile it! I reckon it's about the same level of attainment, i.e. three masks - and I'm bumping this up to three Ricks for effort because of the Green Challenge being tackled in the way I'd intended. You'll see everything this game has to offer in two minutes, but beating the high score will take rather longer than that.
A final tip: you could enhance your ZX81 gaming experience by breaking the silence. The background tune for Flappy Bird ZX, written by Aleksandr Rostunov, is downloadable from ZX-Art in MP3 form. Put it on repeat play. (It's derived from the background music from Derevnya Durakov, the most famous part of the Russian-Ukrainian sketch comedy show, Calambur. Here's an example. Do not adjust your set...)