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



Author:  Salvador Camacho Model:  16K ZX81 Format:    .P
Submission date:  5 November 2021 Documentation:  none Tested on:  EightyOne 1.23
Recycled from Nohzdyve (1K ZX81 high-resolution version) by Johan Koelman (Dr BEEP)

Download it here

In the beginning, there was Lewis Carroll. In 1871, he published Through The Looking-Glass, and introduced us to the Bandersnatch. 113 years later, it would have been the name of Imagine's super-mega-awesome game that instead exposed how much their ambition (and arrogance) exceeded their ability to deliver on their promise, or even program the game in the first place. And that was it... until 2018, when Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror spawned an "interactive episode", called (what else) Bandersnatch, that brought the name hurtling back into the ZX Spectrum world. Not because Imagine's wonder-game was very belatedly revived (à la Mire Mare), but because a completely different game was actually downloadable and playable from within the episode. I don't have Netflix (and never will), so I can't tell you how this program was extracted from it, but what I do know is that it draws a QR code (also something I have no access to as I refuse to enter the murky world of smartphones) and that in turn will link to the website of the fictional Tuckersoft and their equally fictional games... except for Nohzdyve, the game that's actually real. (Matthew Westcott, a.k.a. Gasman, was involved with it - he was the one who wrote the music for Chromatrons Attack! from the 2013 CSSCGC, the inspiration for the Jewel of Ankhel award this year).

As to how we got here: Johan Koelman, "Dr BEEP", added Nohzdyve to his lengthy list of high-resolution 1K ZX81 games; I know little about this except that the WRX option in EightyOne has to be selected to make it work. For those of us not up to speed with the extreme technical capabilities of the unexpanded ZX81 and just have a bog-standard 16K RAM pack (or an internal upgrade), Salvador Camacho has once again run some C code through Z88DK and saved us.

It seems odd to say it, but Salvador's game that takes up 7,193 bytes (or at least that's what EightyOne's tape browser says), appears to be a further cut-down version of Dr BEEP's (which is 948 bytes) - and, unsurprisingly, both are cut down from the Spectrum original. In the original, your character will throw himself out of a window, and plummet endlessly, trying to pick up some kind of balloons with tails (like a flying Portuguese Manowar) while avoiding some seven-league false teeth, and the walls; movement is very rapid and responsive, and doesn't stop when you let go of the direction key. Dr BEEP's version sacrifices sound and colour (obviously) as well as the extraneous graphical details, the character's initial suicidal jump, and the violent acceleration whenever the character is moved, but otherwise it's a faithful copy crammed into a tiny amount of memory.

This is how Salvador's version is pared back further; there are no high-resolution graphics, so everything is made of ROM characters, and your controllable character looks like an embryo viewed by a fly's compound eye - although the initial jump is retained, out of a window that isn't. (As a side note, Salvador says that Mr Palo T. is flinging himself out of the window because of the "success" of his original Spectrum game - which looks like it should have been an entry for the Mojon Twins' "make something with our Mk1 engine" competition, but isn't highlighted as such.) The only objects you'll encounter are shields, which are to be avoided - you score points for as far as you fall before you inevitably hit a shield. The game speeds up very soon, and the number of shields generated also increases, so before you know it you'll get to a point where you unintentionally fall into an impenetrable wall of shields that you didn't know would be there until it was too late. Your movement stops when you release the key (O and P for left and right, as per the original), but even that won't be enough to save your bacon (or should that be jamón Serrano?) in the end...

This is very reminiscent of Salvador's earlier game, Zhunder Vlade - whereas that was "scroll horizontally and avoid obstacles while constantly racking up points", this is not much more than that game turned through 90° to scroll vertically, and without the score being displayed. As ever, Salvador has published the source code, so those more fluent in C than I am can check how similar the two games are. Something this also reminds me of is Asteroids Ahead!, a type-in from ZX Computing that I remember from t'old days and which I added a few of my own enhancements to; that didn't stop it from being one of the worst-rated games on World of Spectrum (before the Great Unpleasantness) - I thought they should cut type-ins a bit of slack rather than judging them against the likes of R-Type and Quazatron!

Anyway, judging Crap Games is a different can of worms - this one's easy to judge, though, as it warrants exactly the same score as Zhunder Vlade - three and three, even replicating the Green Challenge as Salvador specifically mentioned Dr BEEP's version of Nohzdyve as his inspiration to write this game - that it's effectively doubly-recycled is enough for me to include it. And it's worth three masks as I kept on playing it to see if I could beat my rather fortuitous high score of 369 - which was more down to luck than judgement.

Stick around for the next couple of reviews, for which I've already had two simultaneous entries, and hope that I don't take the same option as Mr Palo T. You'll see what I mean soon enough.