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



Author:  Andy Jenkinson (Uglifruit) Model:  48K Spectrum Formats:    .TAP   .BAS
Submission date:  10 December 2021 Documentation:  instructions, background and feature list Tested on:  Spectaculator 8.0

Download it here

Right now, Andy Jenkinson should be making his preparations to be next year's host - out in front as the author of the Least Crap Game Of The Year, Zombie Dice, unless there's a minor miracle in the last week, it'll be his job. It's also only eleven days to the Winter Solstice; the night is dark and full of terrors, most of them from the Firelords of this world, and Andy has decided the story of a bright light in the sky is one we all need.

The threat of Christmas being cancelled once again looms large over us - two weeks to go and anything could change at any stage - and should the worst come to the (expected) worst, at least I've got a Christmas-themed game for a few minutes of amusement alongside a cheap turkey drumstick or two. The game revolves around the story of a young woman who cheated on her husband with a face in the sky, dropped a baby in a wooden box in front of a few sheep and horses, and the boy grew up to be a carpenter, finally getting a bit too close to the most recognisable piece of carpentry in two millennia. Andy has chosen to tell us the early chapters of this story, illustrated text adventure style, using a landscape drawn in patented Chunk-o-Vision and as many BASIC tokens as possible thrust into the text area - think of his contribution to WOOT! last year, Love Tokens, and you're not far off - although instead of an AY soundtrack, we get BEEP-based renditions of We Three Kings, Good King Wenceslas and God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen - the latter of which took a starring role in Rise of the Triad, if you play the game on Christmas Day. Lee Jackson made it fit the style of the rest of the soundtrack. That's genius for you.

But enough about my gaming heroes - back in Crap Christmas World, after two minutes and 40 seconds of unskippable intro that made me think Andy had sent a scene demo, it asked for my name ("Don't you know who I am?"), and then, we finally got some game. The Three Wise Men may be wise and good at navigation by a single star, but have a memory like a sieve. They've all forgotten their presents for the Babyjesus™, and rather than substituting chocolate, a rubber mask and aftershave, or going to the local bazaar to buy jewellery, shampoo and a Nintendo DS, they've turned to you to provide for them. Melchior, or at least a Chunk-o-Vision impression of the King of Arabia (no, not that one) resplendent in royal magenta robes, will march across the screen from left to right, while you - represented by a Chunk-o-Vision graphic 6, must throw a gift to him, timing it perfectly, like a heavily cut-down version of 3D Tanx. Except, Melchior won't fire back (isn't that good of him?) and you can't control your movement - your character will randomly slew left and right like a drunk trying to get home after ten cans of Special Brew, and you must press anything on the keyboard that isn't BREAK to fling the gold - wrapped in another graphic 6 that looks a bit like a present - towards the forgetful nobleman. Succeed, and you'll have to do the same for the green-robed Gaspar, and cyan-robed Balthazar, whose name is too long to fit into the screen using Andy's otherwise-ingenious method of scaling up text to four times its size in both dimensions. For a bit of variety, the final not-quite-so-Wise Man walks right to left.

And that's your lot. At the end of the game you'll be given your score in how many presents you've wasted, serenaded with the Christmas carols again, then it's back to the lengthy intro again. There's some more code that plays the Blue Danube waltz, but it appears not to be used (and I checked what happens if no presents are wasted). Is there a hint of a sequel there - which might have to wait until 2023? We will see.

It should be obvious that this will be the lowest-ranked of Andy's games - and he did warn me about that - so I can only rate it as a two-mask job. It would have been three Ricks for effort, but I'm going to have to add another one for doing just enough to meet the Magenta Challenge - another INPUT AT that actually does something useful, the text-enlargement procedure mentioned earlier that uses repeated POINTs, and scrolling the screen via a series of direct ROM calls: PRINT a repeated ("" AND USR 3583); series until the screen has moved the required amount. I'd never have thought of that. And before I forget - there's a loading screen as well. Four and two, I think that's fair.

As for the name of the game: your guess is as good as mine. E.T. does not feature in it at all!