Monday, 27 May 2013

A Star

By Darken

Genre: Arcade: Fallacy

The first thing to notice about ‘A Star’ is the nice loading screen and annoyingly, loading protection to stop me messing about with the code easily, grrr.  On loading we see the following info:
A new star?  A crushing wall of super fame?  Surviving Hollywood?  Handling media fallout?  Sex, drugs and exposure?  How tremendously exciting!  If this build up is to be believed we have quite a mixed adventure ahead of us, involving not only excitement but the gamut of genres too.  My first guess was it was a text adventure, and on pressing a key to start I discovered I was wrong.

What follows is a scrolly, rally-ish game in which you must find the path through the wall that rushes towards you.  The shift key acts as a rudimentary gearstick and allows the player to move at twice the speed, in fact most times you will not be able to reach the safe pathway without it.  I must confess I’m struggling to fully make the leap of imagination that links the actual game with its star spangled description.  I can imagine a game like this being advertised in the back of a magazine during the 80’s with a suspicious absence of ‘in game’ screen shots, and the many times bitten customer parting with their cash in exchange for weary disappointment.

I do love simple games though, so as long as you don’t mind character based movement there’s nothing really wrong with this and, like me, you might find it good fun.  The High Score challenge starts at a pitiful 90 (I know the one above shows 39 but I did reach 90- honest!).


There are some nice crap effects for ‘Game Over’, such as a machine code loop to colour the screen that is slowed down enough to be BASIC!  The main game engine is BASIC and it calls upon some machine code subroutines, and I’m a little puzzled why the intro screen is printed using a very fast unrolled print loop instead of BASIC’s ‘PRINT’ (it’s very nicely done though).

A Star is a simple game that uses ASCII graphics and has a massively inflated and misleading storyline.  As such it is most welcome in this years competition.  Thankyou Darken!

HACK SACK   Easier wall POKE 25989,31: 25990,210

                        Download the disassembly here.

Tipshack:        Use the Shift key most of the time, and when at either far edge be ready to come back to the centre before you see the wall.

Download the game here.

Sunday, 19 May 2013


By Lee Spoons
Genre: Utility: Dubstep

Like most Spectrum fans, I like to think I have my finger on the pulse.  Most of my Saturdays are spent wearing headphones in front of HMV shaking my hips while listening to the latest banging tunes, and occasionally giving a high five to a passing blood.  This means I’m fully aware of the phenomena that is the Dubstep, but for those not in the know here are a couple of quotes from Wikipedia:

The music generally features syncopated drum and percussion patterns with bass lines that contain prominent sub bass frequencies.

"tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals."

If you venture further and listen to some ‘Dubstep’ samples on the web you would be forgiven for thinking it to be nothing more than a bloody racket.  That’s the attitude of a square of course and not my view at all.

The question is, in this post Dubstep age, how are we to take the genre forward?

With DubSpec of course!  Lee Spoon’s Advanced Dubstep Generator.  From top to bottom this utility oozes crapness: an irritating (and thoroughly unnecessary) delay at the start, a SCREEN$ with the bottom clipped due to the SAVE message, and an overall crap idea.  DubSpec uses the routine around 1300 that simulates the loading bars, Lee informs me this is the same one often used during the 80’s to make Speccies appear to be loading permanently in shop windows.  So with no key pressed you get the loading noise, press ‘space’ and it warps the sound, exactly like Dubstep.

So what are you waiting for?  Close the curtains, pop a couple of paxmans, plug in the USB disco ball and get jiving to some dubspeccing beats.  Cowabunga!  Thankyou Lee!

Tipshack: Insert 1 NEW at the beginning of the program.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Advanced Superior Space Invaders 2600 Conversion Simulator (ZX Spectrum & Sam Coupe)

by spud

Genre: Arcade: Attack of the ports
I first received the SAM Coupe version of this game, and in spud’s words it’s ‘a crap, lazy good for nothing cynical quick profit attempt at publishing a game for the SAM’.  If you want to sample the delights of the SAM (firstly don’t judge it on this game alone!) but aren’t lucky enough to own one, try the rather splendid Sim Coupe emulator. ASSI2600CS is a straight port from the Spectrum, and like many games directly ported from it they failed to play to the new machines strengths (just mention R-Type to any Amstrad CPC fan and see what happens).  I’ve not seen the original Spectrum game but judging by this it must have been pretty rum to begin with anyway!

Then a couple of days later spud ported the SAM version back to the Spectrum and submitted it, confused?  Good.  The two versions are obviously very similar, though the Spectrum one is upgraded with an intro screen drawing that would be more at home magnetically attached to a fridge*, and a grating siren noise.  A good start.
*and I presume, not done by jaco - Blackjet's graphics guru

This Space Invaders clone actually plays pretty well, it’s fast furious and difficult.  It certainly draws you in to see how many times you can beat the level, and that’s when you start to notice a few bugs.  Firstly when the aliens change direction, they all adopt the same graphic, there is also an occasional graphic cleanup problem and on the ZX version the border colour is not set until you hit an alien.  This may sound like small beer, but these subtle and natural artifacts make for a very satisfying crap game.  The SAM Coupe version also seemed to get locked at the start of one game, though I wasn’t able to reproduce this.

It’s nice to see tradition honoured in the ZX Version, instead of a bonus mothership we are treated to the advanced lawnmower man.

If this game had a bit more polish, less bugs and some sound effects it would be an excellent Space Invaders clone.  Just as well it hasn’t!  Thankyou spud!

And as this marks the 50th entry to the competition, this prize will be on its way to spud as soon as I knock up the certificate (just ignore what I said earlier).

 The next numerical prize will be for the 100th entry, god forbid we get that many....

Tipshack: I can’t give tips to any die-hard Space Invaders experts but I found sticking to the offsides of the alien herd worked quite well.  The score does not get zeroed at the end of the game, so to get a top high score just play it over and over again!

HACK SACK:       neverending lives            POKE 32849,246

                                Fast as hell                          POKE 32865,0

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Joystick Hero

By Pgyuri

Genre: Arcade: Waggler

An interesting entry here that one can play without even owning a telly, (though you do need a Currah ┬ÁSpeech unit and ideally a joystick).  While some may complain about the Spectrum’s graphical limitations there is no argument it led the world in sound capability.  Those beautiful fuzzy crackles that were farted out in games like Ghostbusters still cause a wetting of the mouth, oops sorry – eye.  Such games didn’t use the Currah unit, and I think it’s fair to say that most Spectrum owners will not have one – but used correctly, it helped enhanced a few games (like err E.T?).  No problem if you don’t have one though, as some emulators include a Currah feature (ZX Spin for example).
So, once you connected up your Currah unit (the game checks it’s there and crashes accordingly) and load the game, you get an all black screen and a barrage of digital, clicking gibberish which I presume is meant to be words.  I put the babel fish in my ear and all became clear:

You follow the various messages & choices, like type of controller and gender, then we are launched into FAST PACED RESPONSE FUN!  You are asked to push up, pull down or move left/right on your joystick.

What’s that?  You don’t own a joystick?  Well you can still be a JOYSTICK HERO! just press 5 and use keys 12345 (lrduf).  This is how I played the game, and found it strangely fun – possibly mainly because I’m not used to these keys and actually working out the correct finger to twitch was mildly fun. 

Who knows, if you have the inner strength even YOU may be able to negotiate the obstacles and hear those immortal words…

".....Y***uUUu REE &LLL ****JSTkck hirow....."

So, is Joystick Hero crap?  Well, I spent most of my time playing attempting to work out how the hell it worked, couldn’t understand a word of the speech assault and found it totally unplayable without help. Well done Pgyuri!

(Though once I knew what was being said this was actually quite good (I played with my eyes closed), and a good idea for a more developed ‘proper’ game.)

Tipshack: As per the instructions press ENTER while it loads, and it prints a speech translation at the bottom of the screen (not that you’ll need that of course).

HACK SACK: Success after one key: 190 LET l=100

Download the game here and the instructions here.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Game of Life (v1.0.2)

By Shaun Bebbington

Genre: Utility: Cellular Automation
This excellent program from Shaun marks the first non-Spectrum entry to the competition.  Game of Life is coded using z88dk for the ZX81.  Despite never owning a ZX81 ‘back in the day’ I have fond memories of my brother using one, its unyielding hard keys (not forgetting the cool squidgy overlay) and horrible CRT picture.
So not being a ZX81 user I have to find a way to play G.O.L.  I was lucky enough to acquire a few ZX81’s from work ages ago, but for some reason when I plug it in it doesn’t work.

So emulation is the way to go.  Eighty One (can be downloaded from seems to be the most popular so I went with that.  On with the game:

Game of life is a computer model and probably exactly what Uncle Clive hoped his range of computers would be used for.  Shaun’s version follows the standard rules of G.O.L:
The ‘player’ sets up the initial variables – screen size, number of steps and in a godlike fashion sets the whole experiment in motion.  Typically G.O.L shows surprising and beautiful patterns rapidly dancing before your eyes, however Shaun’s version is subtly different from this in three ways.

If you choose a small screen (minimum is 9x9) a static arrangement is reached in a relatively small number of steps, though I imagine the larger choices would take practically for ever to do this.  I’m afraid I’m not a very mathsy person, though if anyone reading is I would value their input as to the possible outcomes for larger screen sizes (eg is a static screen inevitable and how long would it take Shaun’s program to reach it?) and G.O.L in general.
I rather like this, and although it is slow, Shaun’s G.O.L is probably a rather nice use of the good old ZX81.
Tipshack: Set the screen to maximum size, and leave running for 13 hours.  At this point the arrangement of zeroes bears a remarkable resemblance to famous comedian and birdwatcher Bill Oddie.


Saturday, 4 May 2013

Number 50!!

Hokkayyyyyy, the first of the years 'intra annum' prize events is imminent.  ALS Tactics marks this years 47th entry, and there are 2 in the bank (ie my email account).  This means the next entry is number


Now this may come as a bit of a shock and should have been announced sooner, but short of being on the ball and more organised in general there really is nothing that I can do.  That said, there is a prize for the next entry:

EDIT 05/05/2013

I've decided it's unfair to give people a few hours notice and the next one gets a prize.  So instead this is now the Spirit 50 award, a prize for the 'best' game in the first 50 entries.  There is no voting system, but I would like people to nominate their favourite game either on this blog, on the WOS or CSS forum.  In a couple of weeks I will gauge this internet noise, factor in my own bias + the 'it just doesn't sit right factor' and name the prize winner.  The 50 games are now in, with 3 still to be reviewed, so getting playing and decide the winner!

A real life copy of the Cascade Cassette 50 and Don't Buy This by Firebird + 'some kind of appropriate certificate'*

I appreciate not everyone is keen on giving their address for things to be posted, which is fine, in which case it would just be a scanned email of the certificate (still a highly lucrative prize you must admit).  If you are ok with the prize being posted, I am willing to do this overseas so don't let being a foreign johnny stop you.

Though please no 2 minute 10 PRINT x 20 GOTO 10 nonsense though (PLEASE!), get coding crapateers!

(though I can't guarantee I won't just pick the 'best' entry I receive over the next few days)

*yet to be cobbled together.

Friday, 3 May 2013

ALS: Tactics

By Jason Railton

Genre: Gardening: Strategy

Ok, I’m pleased to announce the third lawnmowing based entry to the CGC, and what an entry it is! (NB- ALS is a reference to Advanced Lawnmower Simulator for those not in the know).

The game takes a disconcerting 2 mins 30 secs to load (probably because it has not one, not two, but THREE banks of UDGs!), and leads into this rather professional looking screen with some rather erm…slightly less professional beeper noise (I would call it music but I kept flinching involuntarily on all the high notes). Then you press a key and have to wait 10 seconds for some data to configure, which doesn’t sound a lot but certainly feels it.

Before playing the game, in the finest tradition of Duncan MacDonald’s Advanced LawnMower Simulator, you get to choose your mower: now this is where the fun begins, because if it wasn’t exciting enough to mow a lawn strategically you get to choose the hardware to do it. I must confess, I’ve played the game at least 600 times now, and I’ve only noticed the most subtle differences between mowers – having said that I favour the QUALCURSED Badger s40.

As the intro screen suggests the aim of the game is to mow the lawn, but ALS is clever like. It is a puzzle based game in which you can circle the lawn around the beautiful white path, made of the finest Portland stone by the looks of it. Once you commit to mowing a line you can’t change direction unless something blocks your way, in which case you can choose a new direction or press restart if blocked.  The main crap factor here comes from the painfully slow trundle of the mower.
Once you’ve mown a bit of lawn you can’t walk on it again, and the reason for this is not clear – it could have been a radioactive mower (using liberal use of the FLASH attribute), alien infected grass or a dicky knee, however no explanation is offered and we’ll just have to suspend our disbelief. It does at least leave us with a rather nifty strategy game. One that I find pretty challenging, though after staring at it a while the solution usually becomes obvious. I’ve yet to complete this game ‘paniagua’but with cheats I notice it loops after 10 levels, which is about as much lawnmowing as a person can take anyway (and at least you have the option to go on should you want to). Every time you progress a level your abode (or the one you’re mowing anyway) becomes more majestic, from castle to mediterranean villa to spikey looking magenta death castle - it clear that lawnmower man is going somewhere!
ALS Tactics is a big mound of silage with some pound coins hidden in it.
Thankyou Jason!
Tipshack: don’t belive the WALKMO Turbo X+Alpha is as fast as it sounds and crank the speed up on your emulator (real hardware is available) to make this a really rather playable game.
HACK SACK: Level prance: Break into the game each level and type LET t=0:CONTINUE