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



Author:  Rob Edwards Model:  48K Spectrum Format:    .TZX
Submission date:  4 August 2021 Documentation:  none Tested on:  Spectaculator 8.0

Download it here

"This is not the game I wanted to create.
On the whole, this is better, with far less effort, so really not in the spirit of competition.
Maybe I'll do the graphical version that I envisaged one day, but probably not."

- Rob Edwards

Text adventures can be hit or miss. Last year's competition had Gareth Pitchford's innovative Mirror Mirror, so I had high hopes for a similar experience. After all, tools such as The Quill and Professional Adventure Writer have been around since Sir Clive was still in short trousers, and they make the writing process a whole load easier.

Those hopes were dashed faster than writing PRINT "-" on a QL fitted with a Super Gold Card.

In this adventure, you live on a run-down sink estate, and your only hope of escape is to win a large enough prize on the National Lottery to be able to buy a house that's well beyond your current means. Round the corner is the newsagent, who will sell you scratchcards for a quid each; you have 10 on you, which is probably required for paying bills, whether they're to British Gas, your landlord (because there's no way this isn't a rented slum - or maybe it's a squat?), or your drug dealer. But, being a resident of a sink estate, you're going to spend it all on scratchcards instead, aren't you? Which, of course, will bring you trouble.

The first thing that indicates that there will be problems is that the text - the single most important aspect of a text adventure - spills over each line. Oh, how we used to laugh when Crap Games in days of yore did that... deliberately. But there's also no cursor waiting for a prompt - and no indication of what you could actually get the game to recognise, as if INKEY$ has been used instead of INPUT. Far less forgivable than the broken text, though, is what happens when you input a direction you can travel; the message to acknowledge that appears and vanishes so fast that even with the reactions of a fighter pilot, you'll not be able to read it, as the computer may have already CLSed before it had even finished PRINTing.

If you can manage to navigate your way around, there's no indication on what you should do if you find a scratchcard kicking around - so I'll have to tell you now. Press G to pick it up and X to scratch it. If you wander into the back streets where everything looks identical (sounds a bit like Milton Keynes, although this clearly isn't), you may be randomly mugged, for added realism. It also makes sense to avoid busy roads if you know what's good for you. Just keep your head down, go straight to the newsagent, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 from the dole office. Just spend your tenner on scratchcards, and wait for the inevitable.

I ran the game several times - every time I had to reload it, as there's no option to restart. The outcome was tiresomely predictable - scratch the cards, lose on them all, reset, reload, lather, rinse, repeat. Was it the case that, unlike real scratchcards, this game was coded to have a 100% loss rate? Because it's been written in machine code (which I assume is compiled BASIC), I can't examine the listing... but there is another way. By renaming the .TZX file to .TXT I could read the messages in the code, which showed that it's possible to win 5, 50 or 500, though with no indication of how rare these are - and also that it's not a good idea to reveal your winning card in front of the nasty rat-kids outside the newsagent. Armed with this knowledge, after a further four reloads, I won a fiver - and also found I could redeem the winning card again, and again, and again... it can be done three times a second, so I calculate that if I keep on pressing C for an hour at that rate, our suddenly-lucky protagonist will be 54,000 better off. I've since seen a legitimate 50 win, that could make our anti-hero a millionaire in under two hours, but have yet to hit the jackpot.

Until I hacked the game I was wondering if it was supposed to be a gritty socio-political commentary on the state of "THATCHER'S BLOODY BWWWWWITAIN!" (thanks for that, Rick...) from which escape is intentionally impossible, as well as a warning against pinning all your hopes on a game of chance that's rigged in favour of the house. Or it could just be a small text adventure, haphazardly nailed together with all the care and attention to detail of a 1970s British Leyland worker on the Austin Allegro production line - which cost him his job, so he ended up in much the same situation as in this adventure. It can't justifiably score any more than two masks for attainment, though as it's 11.2K of machine code - probably compiled BASIC, as I said, then that should at least count for three Ricks for effort.

And then... a Goolu jumps out and chibs one of the Ricks. Having to reload every time is annoying enough, but the main culprit is the problems with the text display, both static and dynamic. I cannot let that pass unpenalised. Call it harsh if you must, but it's just like life on the sink estate.

At least I can finish on a positive note: I also have a text adventure in the works for when I can finally enter my own games to the CSSCGC again, and this has made me all the more determined to get it done, and get it done properly.