Thursday, 31 January 2013


By g0blinish

Genre: Arcade farce

First things first.  Take a moment to reflect on this introscreen.  It may look hastily thrown together with no word wrapping or centre-ing but what you are looking at is the ZX Spectrum’s version of the white album.  We have to thank g0blinish for this sheer minimalist beauty.

After pressing a key and the game starting there is no waiting or prep time, we go rapidly into FAST ACTION PONG!  (whether you’re ready or not).  You control the blue paddles at the top and bottom with the <> keys and must keep the red attribute from leaving the vertical reaches of the screen.

However, looking at how the game was created we begin to deviate from this being a crap game.  Firstly it is in written in assembly language – in the early 1980’s many a cassette inlay would have dreamed of being emblazoned with the words ‘programmed in machine code’.  Secondly the game engine is crammed into 251 bytes!  Although efficient Z80 code and a crap game competition make unusual bedfellows, we can breathe a sigh of relief when we look at the gameplay…

I could be wrong, or just hopeless at playing the game but as far as I can tell it is impossible to wrong foot the magenta paddles.  The ‘ball’ seems to bounce in the same direction independent of which part of the paddle it hits so follows a cycle around the screen.  With these properties in mind it is clear that CARPONG is a virtually unwinnable game, and as such is a test of the human spirit against the computer.  If CARPONG is to be played seriously (and who on earth wouldn’t play a CGC entry in such a manner?) then the victor is the first to break.  I didn’t expect to have such a responsibility on my hands when agreeing to host the CGC.  Play this game at your peril.

So in summary:  attribute based graphics and gameplay that is only possible with pokes.  All the hallmarks of a crap game.  Well done g0blinish!

Download game here.
Download source code here.

Tipshack: pour a sugary solution down the back of your Spectrum, that way you have a chance of beating the computer.

poke 24852,1              ;tiny paddles
poke 24851,40            ;computer fails every time

Monday, 28 January 2013

100% Unofficial First Entry Simulator

By Shaun Bebbington (DONKEYSOFT)

Genre: diabolical adventure

The 100%UFES gets off to an excellent start by not autorunning upon loading.  Having to type RUN and press ENTER is not a particularly onerous task but is just irksome enough to add crapness.  And as the 3rd entry in the competition the title is rendered completely redundant!  So before even starting the player knows they should brace themselves for something special (granted the coder has added the caveat that it may not actually be the first entry).  It’s this level of attention to detail that gets bonus points in the CGC.

They say the pictures are better on the radio, and that modern fancy effects cannot outstrip the power of the players imagination – which is just as well because 100%UFES seems to have just one screen!  It does however, transport you to an eerie dark cavern, Why are you there?  What lurks behind the veil of darkness?  Powerful stuff.
The aim is to escape the caverns without being eaten by a Grue.  The tension rises as you walk (signified by an optimal ~2.7 second PAUSE) between caves, and you are warned when a hungry Grue is near – a terrifying thought.
On examining the code you can tell the game engine is driven by the powerful RND command.  So as you wander N,S,E or W your fate is (almost) entirely dependant on the Spectrums random seed variable.  From about 10 tries 2 of them resulted in success.
I don’t know much about non speccy games, but it’s encouraging to see that 100%UFES has not been on general release a day yet and there are already remakes!
If you are lucky enough to escape the caverns without being eaten, you are treated to the hallmark of a truly crap game: the STOP statement.  On reaching this point, if you have any sense, you will turn right around and get back into those caverns for another exciting game!
Tipshack: The game code checks that you are moving in a straight direction when it is ready to let you escape, so pick a direction and stick to it!
HACK PACK: Grue not hungry: 13 LET zork=170

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Rat Mole!

By Rebelstar without a cause

Genre: Pliagamaze

Hmmm.  Rat Mole!  Reminds me of something somehow* but I just can’t think what.  Anyway, have a look at this introscreen.  You might be forgiven if you thought the asymmetry of the R-Redefine keys was a mistake, but on closer inspection it’s obviously an ingenious way to offset the whole screen and give the game an anarchic feel.
It’s rare for a crap game to have a redefine keys option, and all I will say here is that Rat Mole! takes an….alternative approach to it.
The game starts and gives the appearance of a rather nice 1980s type in maze game.  The goal, I assume, is to shoot all the other udgs on the screen (you are the black one).  The first thing to notice is the speed, Rat Mole! is excruciatingly slow and the keys unresponsive.  In fact at one point I thought the code actually intentionally waited for the baddy to pass before allowing me to shoot at it!  There’s some interesting collision detection here, sometimes you can’t shoot the baddies in the backside, and it’s funny watching them collide with each other and spend a while stationary while deciding what to do next.  The AI involves changing direction on collision with a block or another baddy, so they spend more time on the outer reaches.
It took me a little while to work this out, but when you shoot the blue udg the game completes and gives you a ‘You Success!’ message (and caused me to unintentionally guffaw – quite an achievement).  So the aim of the game is more to ‘shoot the blue UDG’.  I had a poke about in the code but couldn’t see why this was, as it uses the DIMension command which I never got to grips with while learning BASIC (for shame).  There’s some pretty decent coding behind this, especially as it was coded very quickly and after bedtime!
Rat Mole!  has a lot of great features that makes it perfect Cassette 50 material: an inkling of an idea, some effort put in, not too shabby coding, but fundamentally flawed - So well done Rebelstar!
All in all a model entry, and with some sound effects, a few bugs fixed and played on an emulator cranked right up – I would actually enjoy this.
*My lawyers will be in touch
Tipshack: the sprites spend most of the time on the outer corridor, so stay in the middle and shoot from there.

HACK PACK: Immunity 606 LET tomato=255

Download here.

EDIT-Rebelstar downloaded a bugfixed (?!) version which can be downloaded here.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Kick the ballboy!

By Rebelstar without a cause.

Genre: Ballboy management.

Well, you can’t accuse the Spectrum community of not having its finger on the pulse – barely a day has passed since a big football story and a satirical game has appeared.  You don’t have to know much about football to enjoy this game, if you can recognise Wayne Rooney doing one of his famous backflips after scoring the winning goal for the Magpies you will know this game refers to Chelsea’s Eden Hazard being sent off after a ‘set to’ with the home side’s ballboy.

The opening screen creates a dramatic atmosphere, and tells you what you need to do: KICK THE BALLBOY!  The game boasts some animated sprites of Brobdingnagian proportions, and as the ref’s eyes scan the field left and right, you need to press K to kick while he’s looking the other way.  The referee is a creature of habit, and his eyes follow a somewhat hypnotic (and very predictable!) rhythm.
My best score is 102, and it’s harder than you might imagine as you become impatient and attempt to squeeze another one in before the ref sees.  In this way KTBB is a very clever, if open ended game.  However, it is silent and cries out for some grating BEEP effects.
I may not have said many negative things about this game yet, but rest assured, it is most definitely CRAP!  An excellent start.
Tipshack: when the referees eyes have just moved away from the right, you can squeeze in 6 or 7 good kicks.
HACK PACK: Lenient referee: 2020 LET SOCCER=0