COMPETITION ENTRY #48: ESCARABAJO
|AN ENTRY FOR THE GREEN CHALLENGE
Recycled from Escarabajo (16K Spectrum) by an anonymous author in ZX magazine, Issue 1, October 1983
Salvador Camacho's crusade to put the ZX81 near the vanguard of this year's competition has taken a new turn: for the first time, Z88DK has been sidelined, and he's used good old ZX81 BASIC for his latest game.
The game starts with an off-centre title, and some very brief instructions in what is either Salvador's best Polandball English, or is the result of an online translator; it may even be both. In the game, you must move your escarabajo - that's a beetle for us non-Spanish speakers, which appears as the ZX81's dithered graphic A ( - around the screen, with the cursor keys, avoiding the black squares which will drop in the eight positions around where you currently are. Instantly I was reminded of Fire Trap, a type-in from Sinclair User which I made a few modifications to, back in the day, and from what I have since gathered, was not a unique game - it was based on an existing concept which I have since forgotten. Either way, in Fire Trap, the debris would drop at the four compass points around where you were standing, with the game over when you're completely surrounded; in Escarabajo, you can end the game in a single move by running into the black squares. However, it's also possible to roam around the screen for long enough to rack up a triple-digit score, with a bit of care and attention to where you're going. The game will detect if you're trapped, Fire Trap style, between four squares, without having to run into one. The end is inevitable, it's just up to you survive for as long as possible.
The game is a conversion of a Spectrum original - a type-in from the first issue of the Spanish ZX magazine from 1983 - thus securing this game a spot among the contenders for the Green Challenge. Hence, I had to make a comparison with the original, which is downloadable from Proyecto BASIC without having to type out the original listing. This downloadable version has had instructions added to it, which Salvador has retained - including the off-centre text on the title screen! The instructions have been translated pretty much word-for-word: you are the beetle "with forgiveness" was either Salvador's, or the Evil Empire's translation of eres el escarabajo "con perdon". No, I don't know what this was supposed to mean either.
Salvador has provided the listing in .BAS format as well as a regular .P file, thus making it easier to see the remarkable job he's done in keeping everything intact that the ZX81 was capable of. All that's been lost from the Spectrum original is the colour, UDGs, and some irksome BEEP sound effects, which are not missed - particularly the amateur-hour rendition of that funeral march when the game ends. As for how the gameplay compares, the Spectrum version is faster, as you'd expect, but not much faster, as the sound effects slow it down. From my earlier description, anyone with a reasonable grip of BASIC would expect the game to be easy to translate - were it not for the way the Spectrum detects the fatal collision. SCREEN$ doesn't work with UDGs, but it can check that the square being moved into isn't a space. The ZX81 doesn't have this function at all, but its simpler display method opens a loophole which Salvador has exploited. His solution is to PEEK the system variable D_FILE, add the position on screen and PEEK (again) the resultant value, returning the CODE of the character in the square. I would suspect that this is a technique which has been known since 1982, but it's the first time I've seen it, so... better late than never.
Assessment of this game is easy; I don't need to consider whether or not it would pass as a type-in, because ZX already did that 38 years ago. It may not have taken much effort, which would score only two Ricks, but I have to add on one for meeting a Challenge. And as it's quite a good game by ZX81 type-in standards, I'll award it three masks for attainment.
When I said I wanted to break the record for the number of ZX81 entries this year, I needed eight; double digits was a target. This is the ninth entry, so we're close, and however we look at it, this has been the most successful CSSCGC ever for the ZX81 in the year of its 40th birthday, and to think that it took the sight of my own ZX81 looking all miserable at being neglected to kick all that off. It's all come good in the end!
Or, should I say, ITS ALL COME GOOD IN THE END.