COMPETITION ENTRY #49: HIGHWAY ROBBERY 2021
|AN ENTRY FOR THE GREEN CHALLENGE
Recycled from Highway Robbery (1K ZX81) by Sheldon Maloff
On 18 November 2021, on a highway near San Diego, an armoured (or should that be armored?) van carrying many thousands of dollars in $1 and $20 bills worked its rear doors loose, and flung the money all over the road. Delighted drivers stopped their cars, trucks, even bigger trucks (...wait, what am I saying, this is California!) ...I mean, their hybrids, e-scooters and ethnic peace bicycles in order to collect the cash. The security guards and the police took a dim view of it, but what else did they expect? Meanwhile, for those of us who missed out on the jackpot - i.e. everyone in every other country in the world, every other state, or even just outside the San Diego area, you can now have a taste of the experience... in patented Advanced (Insert Gag Here) Simulator Written In C And Compiled For The 16K ZX81 form!
At this late stage in the competition, after it was originally due to have ended (and there will be no further extensions), Salvador Camacho has declared that this will be his last submission for the year. Considering it's his eighth, I won't be complaining. There is an essential difference between your task in this game and that of San Diego's motorists: you don't stop to pick up the cash. Your car, a greater-than sign, will be sent carooming down the highway, and it will be your job to pick up the cash - dollar signs, obviously - while avoiding the obstacles, which are dithered squares. It's hard; the car moves at such a speed that after as many attempts as it took me to develop a mild case of carpal tunnel in my left wrist, I'd only managed a high score of $18. And if we consider that every "game over" is a head-on collision that writes off the car, even if we're constantly buying something from a junkyard that's barely even road legal, we're not going to come close to breaking even. Crime, even something as meagre as swiping scattered dollar bills off the road, doesn't pay - so maybe the police had the last laugh after all.
In terms of what Salvador has sent me this year, we've seen similar scrolling avoid-this games - most recently, Fall Palo T that scrolled vertically, and Zhunder Vlade that scrolled horizontally, though those two both increased the score automatically; there was nothing to collect. In this case, the recycling goes a lot deeper. Highway Robbery was first published as a type-in, in the January/February 1984 issue of Sync, the North American Sinclair magazine that was once a treasure trove of ZX80 listings. The original author, Sheldon Maloff, was from Calgary - see, even Canadians got in on the Sinclair action (resisting the temptation of Commodore, Atari, Radio Shack and the other stars-and-stripes-bedecked companies) - but Salvador had this listing brought to his attention via Spanish-speaking Argentina. This game was included in a four-program pack by Ciberne Software, intended for the TS1000 variant that was far more common in the Argentine market.
Salvador saw this maple-syrup-covered slab of gaucho-barbecued beef, saw that it was good, and decided to make his own version, using C and Z88DK instead of Z80 assembler. There are a couple of changes - the game has Salvador's usual title screen, that we've seen on most of his previous efforts this year, and the controls have been improved - Q for up and A for down, as opposed to the A-G for down and H-ENTER for up of the original, an absurd combination until you examine the listing and see that it took only two CP instructions to perform the checks that way, which was essential in a 1K game. Those changes aside, the game looks identical to the original, plays the same way - and at a near-unbelievable memory cost. A game which once fit onto the 1K ZX81, and was a mere 483 bytes in its type-in version, has ballooned to 6,448 bytes - 1,335% its original size. Is that Crap Credibility or what? I suspect, though it would take me a long time to perform a full investigation, that the C compiler has to be loaded along with the game to make it work - all of Salvador's games made this way are have been north of 6K. Whatever the case is, the C source code is available to view online for those who want to see how it was done.
Congratulations, Salvador: you've released what is probably the ZX81's first-ever example of bloatware. Except that, unlike PC bloatware, it actually works and doesn't slow the computer down to a crawl. It's a three-Rick game, the third Rick being for scoring another hit on the Green Challenge, but unlike the other two fly/fall-and-avoid games that were very similar, I'm docking this one down to two voodoo-masks because it's damn near impossible to get anywhere - it's game over within a few seconds. Though really, that's Sheldon Maloff's doing.
Salvador would also like to remind everyone that all his ZX81 and Spectrum games, CSSCGC or otherwise, are downloadable from and playable in an online emulator at salvacam.gitlab.io.
Finally, consider how far this game has had to travel over the course of almost 38 years. From Calgary, to Sync's offices in Morristown, New Jersey, to the pirate-bay in Buenos Aires, to Salvador's residence in Granada, Spain - and finally to me in the Cambridgeshire marshlands. According to timeanddate.com's distance calculator,, that's 14,435 miles.
Now consider how many times you'd have to play a real life version of this game in real life just to be able to afford the air fares.