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



Author:  Jamie Bradbury Model:  Z88 Formats:    .TXT   .Z88
Submission date:  4 June 2021 Documentation:  loading & playing instructions Tested on:  OZvm v1.2

Download it here

I have to admire Jamie Bradbury's tenacity. He wasn't put off by my review of ZX Chuntey Inspector, which he was adamant would work the way he'd intended (i.e. sometimes it would display a "successfully loaded" screen) when it flatly refused to do so for me and was slapped down mercilessly by the lost Goolu tribe of the South American jungle primeval. His response is to attempt to curry my favour by submitting an entry for the Cambridge Computer Z88, derived from the "Pandora" project and better known as Sir Clive's last stand on the computing front.

Jamie knows his way around "Pandora's Box" (as we might call it...) and its BBC BASIC facility, as his effort from last year, Ronaprise USS 19-2020, will show. It was a version of Star Trek themed round Boris Johnson's Conservative government attempting to tackle Corona-chan. While it didn't score very well, it was still a chunky 23K of BASIC and made for a far trickier interpretation of Star Trek than what I'm used to, which is Martyn C. Davies' Starfire from 1982 (which I played far too much in my younger days).

This is only the third ever submission for the Z88, and at a mere 2.2K is considerably lighter than Jamie's previous effort. I would say it attempts to play a game of Boggle - the dice-based word game that many of us will be familiar with from the 1970s and 1980s - but it doesn't, really. What it does do is simulate the grid of letter dice, and it does so properly - I have checked the listing, the letters are held in an array so that one letter is selected each time from a block of six, and then the 16 selected letters are distributed randomly into the grid. Then it runs a three-minute timer, during which the two players devise their words according to the rules that are briefly outlined in the documentation, and finally asks for each player's score. The game ends with minimal fanfare when one player has accumulated 100 or more points.

You may say this is cheating, but there are two points in Jamie's favour. One is that Boggle has previously been adapted for the Spectrum and was published as a type-in listing in the November 1986 issue of Sinclair User; by that time, user-submitted listings were such a rarity that anything worthy of publication had to be seriously good. And though there are bells and whistles - colour, sound, a graphical timer and on-screen instructions, this doesn't actually play the game either, it just simulates the letter grid. And furthermore... it would be rank hypocrisy to throw mud at Jamie for submitting a game-that-isn't when I did exactly the same thing back in 2004 with Noughts and Crosses, my first ever attempt to program a ZX80 with all its hideous, hideous limitations.

What we are left with, then, is a novelty entry - but one that actually works, even if it will take longer to install the game from its .TXT file (should you really want to do that - I've provided a .Z88 snapshot alongside it) than it will to see everything that is on offer. It achieves so little that it's an obvious two-mask score for attainment, but for effort - it gets three Ricks, as it's been thoughtfully programmed (e.g. it uses % integer variables when required), plus it gets an extra bonus for adding another new machine to this year's competition. But, given the evidence of Jamie's previous Z88 experience, it can't qualify for the White Challenge, so it doesn't get a fifth Rick for that!

Those who wish to attempt to run this program, install the OZvm emulator, which I've also linked to in the header - it's available as a bare Java .JAR file alongside its Windows, Linux and Mac installers, and the Java version is what I've been using. Loading instructions for noobs have also been provided, originally written by John Connolly last year for Ronaprise and which I've adapted for this game.

EDIT (10 June 2021): With the assistance of César Hernández Bañó (the author of ZEsarUX) and Jamie Bradbury (see this review...) I've been able to get this file working with ZEsarUX 9.2, and I can further confirm that the VDU statements in the listing produce sound effects that I have so far not heard coming from OZvm - although Jamie says they're still different to what he hears when he loads the file on a real Z88 (which I don't have to compare). Either way, the download has been updated with instructions on how to create an EPROM image on ZEsarUX, copy the text file to that and then run it the same way as on OZvm.