COMPETITION ENTRY #41: MINES OF MAGRATHEA
|AN ENTRY FOR THE YELLOW CHALLENGE|
"Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: 'it might have been'..."
- John Greenleaf Whittier
Some time yesterday, Paul walked under a ladder, let a black cat cross his path and then broke a mirror. At least that's what I'd assume, seeing as (a) this Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy themed game must have been intended to be entry #42 in this competition but was entered too soon, and (b) it was supposed to be a SAM Coupé game, but the Sim Coupe emulator chewed up the disc image that he was working on, or so he tells me.
What we are left with is a Spectrum version of what might have been - but what could still be. It took Paul under an hour to cobble together this version, and looking at the tape, I can see why: the program fits into a mere 1090 bytes, and he tells me the only SAM Coupé-specific code was the four built-in sound effects (which I'm well aware of, having used them all in Resistance Is Futile last year). So I really don't see any reason why this game couldn't be LLISTed, re-typed, the sound effects restored, given some extra embellishments such as a custom colour palette, and re-released as Mines of Magrathea II: SAM's Revenge or similar. It certainly won't take as long as it would for Deep Thought to calculate The Answer To The Great Question Of Life, The Universe And Everything.
Your mission, as is implied by the title, is to retrieve bags of gold from the mines underneath Magrathea. After all, they have plenty of it, what with all those unfathomably wealthy galactic oligarchs they built custom planets for. This also means Magrathea must be well defended, and as if a couple of warning missiles fired at any incoming ships weren't enough, the mines are guarded... with mines. Landmines. There are 50 of them on each screen, and if you find that's too many (or too few), Paul advises changing the variable mines in line 5.
You control a stick figure with Q/A/O/P. Who is this? With only one head, it can't be Zaphod, although he'd want that gold more than anyone else in the entire series. It can't be Arthur, because how much money do you need to secure a regular supply of tea? So I'm going to appoint the stick figure as Ford Prefect - because one day, his scam with the unlimited Dine-O-Charge card will be discovered, and the size of the bill he will have to pay off will be dwarfed only by the size of Zaphod's ego.
On each screen, which for some reason is green, you will be shown the position of the mines, and a flashing bag with a dollar sign (though not an Altairian dollar sign) on it. The mines will then disappear, and you have to guide Ford through the now-invisible maze (not that I'm in any position to complain) to the gold without being blasted to smithereens. Unfortunately for Ford, this is an endless quest - all he can do is carry on picking up the gold, screen after screen after screen, dreaming of the day when he can escape and visit Eccentrica Gallumbits again. I've examined the listing to confirm there's no ending. I've also found that Paul took the time to make sure that if Ford picks up one bag of gold, there's no plural displayed. See, Crap Games can have attention to detail, even at this level.
There are no extra bells and whistles on this game - other than the piercingly shrill BEEPs that Paul chose to replace ZAP, POW, ZOOM and BOOM with. So it would remain a bog-standard two-and-two, though due to its inclusion in the Yellow Challenge, the effort score increases to three Ricks. It certainly passes the type-in test - with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy including two radio series, two books and the TV adaptation by the end of 1981, it could quite easily have been in the pages of Sinclair Programs exactly as it is here, when the first Spectrum listings were printed in 1982. Although I will say that Spectrum programmers of 1982 would have made sure the UDGs loaded into the correct place on a 16K machine; that's the only obvious blemish on this program.
What is also clear from the listing is that, never mind its intended SAM Coupé origins, this could just as easily have been a ZX81 game, and its potential for publication might well have been extended right through 1983 had it been on the more primitive black-and-white machine. While I'd thought it might just be possible to cram it into 1K, the two 50-element number arrays that account for 255 bytes each will put paid to that. Nevertheless, as with one of Paul's entries from last year, Debris Rescue, a Green Challenge must surely be just round the corner for this one.