COMPETITION ENTRY #23: ARSE OVER TIT
First of all, I would like to express my seething contempt for Google's mail servers, which have yet again conspired to keep a CSSCGC entry away from me by dumping it it my Spam folder. Google has been awarded one demerit-Goolu for every day that this review is late because of their actions. But enough moaning about the New Evil Empire: here's the good news. Lee Prince once hosted this glorious competition (in 2015) and used to be a regular entrant. Now, after five years away (since NEW in 2016), he's returned with something every bit as ludicrous as I'd expect... but it's little to do with the game.
From the title, it should be clear and blatant and obvious that there's a parody of Head Over Heels going on here. And if it isn't, load the game at regular speed and you'll see a very crudely modified version of Head Over Heels' loading screen, with the Ocean logo changed to "Sea" and the central characters... I should not need to explain what happens to them. But this isn't all; Lee has included an alternative version of the .TZX which is encoded with Speedlock 2, just like the original Head Over Heels (and its Hit Squad re-release). This means it necessarily has to fill all 48K of the Spectrum's memory... and all for 1.5K of BASIC. It takes three minutes longer to load the Speedlock 2 version than it does the standard version. As unnecessary embellishment of bare-bones Crap Games goes, I will look fondly upon this one when Judgement Day arrives, which it will do after the next paragraph.
The game itself needs no documentation as, if you couldn't work it out for yourself from a combination of the title and examining the listing, you're beyond any help I could ever give. In short, you control the red arse with Q/A/O/P, and must position yourself over the magenta tit - so, literally, arse over tit - then press SPACE. The arse will flash, energy will decrease by one unit, and if you've got the position right, you'll score one point, accompanied by what I assume is some kind of BEEP-modulated trouser typhoon. You have 100 units of energy, hence a potential maximum score of 100 - but don't get ideas above your station! The tit moves around randomly, and can move diagonally, whereas you can't - so most of the time you'll miss it. A score of above 30 without resorting to savestates is enough to ensure Quicksilva Game Lord status. I am not a Game Lord, as you'll see below.
Judgement Day arrives, and if this was presented to me in its most pared-back form then it'd be a slam-dunk two-and-two. But, of course, there's the loading screen, crudely hacked about though it is, and the red-hot jape with Speedlock 2 to consider. This is the first unnecessary embellishment that I couldn't have done myself, as I haven't the first idea how to implement a custom loader. Then, if I dig into the listing, I notice that the title is displayed in a mostly-invisible REM statement at line 0 which is only partially revealed by LLISTing the program in an emulator with pixel-perfect ZX Printer emulation. The seemingly-garbage DATA COPY NOT... in the hidden part is actually the UDG codes which are PEEKed from addresses 23670 to 23776 and POKEd into 65368 onwards rather than using the standard DATA statements. Lee's even POKEd the system variables BORDCR and ATTR P in the initial loader rather than using the regular colour commands, all in the name of... it can't be saving memory, it must just be flexing. You know, "look what I know how to do!"
The game remains at two masks for attainment - you'll see everything it has to offer in one play, because for 1.5K of BASIC there won't be any hidden Easter eggs - but I'm going to increase its Rick score to four. My comparisons are Horace and the Vikings (four Ricks) and Don't Panic! (five Ricks), the latter requiring a different approach to add excessive fluff due to the ZX81's lack of loading screens. Both these two met a Challenge, Arse Over Tit doesn't, but that Speedlock 2 makes up for it; even so, I think the moderate fluff level keeps it at four Ricks. It can't pass the magazine publication test as it is because, family-friendly as it isn't, none of them would touch it with a barge pole; had it been the same game mechanic with a different title and graphics, then it would have made it (I'd even say it reminds me of Willy The Wasp 2, in the way Willy stings his enemies). Had it been given some rudimentary documentation, a mock-up cassette inlay, or been released on different formats (I still haven't had a Spectrum game on microdrive yet!), it'd have been five Ricks and a share of the lead for Most Crap Game of the Year; had it had all of these it'd be out on its own in front.
I'm now going to read some selected comic strips from Viz. Johnny Fartpants will surely approve.
DEMERITS FOR GOOGLE: