Month: September 2015

The Trunk

Another entry from beautiful Sicily, and this time it’s Alessandro Grussu, author of fantastic AGD game Funky Fungus from a couple of years ago, and a whole load of other games, the names of which I’ve completely forgotten, because I’m a bit crap. I don’t know what they’re putting in the water in Sicily at the moment to make its residents churn out such, erm, interesting games, but if the Sicilian crime drama Montalbano is anything to go by, they’re all as pazza come una scatola di rane* over there:

If that’s not enough, it turns out the original Montalbano novels were written by a bloke called Andrea. See what I mean? Bonkers.

This game, however, is dark as hell. According to Alessandro, The Trunk is “ostensibly inspired by Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun novel and film. The main character, a young American WWI soldier, finds himself into a puzzling situation. He must first understand what’s going on, then try to find a way out from his predicament. If you already read the book and/or saw the film, you know the poor soul has been reduced to a living trunk – hence the title.” I’ve neither read the novel nor seen the film, and after playing this, I don’t think I want to.


“Well I feel sorry for the elephant”

Nice loading screen, and in the tradition of all CSSCGC entries this year, it’s – all together now! – the best part of the game. It’s not that the rest of it is bad as such – a lot of work has gone into it (Alessandro used ZX-Editor, ZX-Blockeditor, ZX-Paintbrush, Retro-X, HiSoft Basic 1.1, Notepad++, Bin2data and Pasmo 0.6.0 to write the game, as well as  ZX7 compression by Einar Saukas) – it’s just “bleak, painful and unpleasant – just like war itself”, to quote the warning screen that pops up after loading. Although it’s not without some black humour:



I was always a bit rubbish at text adventures, and this doesn’t appear to have changed. You are the eponymous trunk, a paralysed body without limbs and no way of communicating. You can’t see, you can’t hear, you can’t feel anything, and you certainly can’t go North and listen to Thorin sitting down and singing about gold.


I may well have missed some command or other, but other than MOVE HEAD (You can barely move it) I couldn’t seem to do anything… which I guess is the whole point of the game. One one level, this is a crap game because it’s literally unplayable. However it is rather thought-provoking – I ended up wondering where all the baddies in Speccy games like Commando and Operation Wolf end up after they’ve been blown to bits by us gamers, and perhaps it’s here, locked in their own private hell.

And as you attempt to make sense of things, maybe you’d like to listen to this cheery little ditty from Metallica, featuring footage from Johnny Got His Gun:

Score: absolutely nothing. Because Edwin Starr was right – that’s all that war is good for.

Download here.

*”Mad as a box of frogs”. That’s (Google Translated) Italian though, I have no idea what it is in Sicilian. Answers on a postcard.

Stickman Olympic Challenge – 100 Seconds Hurdle

This is the first of two games from Gabriele “when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s” Amore – it would have been three, but he decided to turn his 1D Frogger entry into a proper non-crap game called Hop ‘n’ Frog. A shame, as the original entry really was a pile of old bobbins. “Done with AGD in creative Sicily”, Gab says – and mamma mia, just look at this animated title screen!

You can guess what’s coming next – yep, the flashing screen is the best part of the game. Although it’s actually quite a colourful affair, with a nicely-drawn stick man on an athletics stadium. Confusingly the starter starts the race with “Get set, ready, GO!” which throws me off my stride a bit.

They're under starter's orders... (That's horses! Ed.)

They’re under starter’s orders… (That’s horses! Ed.)

With no instructions to speak of, I’m left to stab at the buttons. Now I was expecting this to be a keyboard masher in the style of DTD or Hyper Sports, and it is to some extent, but it took me three or four attempts to realise that (unlike the aforementioned games) I don’t need to press alternate keys to make our hero go faster. It’s just one key, repeatedly, stab stab stab stab stab, and then another key to jump. I’ll leave the discovery of which keys do what as an exercise for the player. I bet you can’t wait, huh?

Clatter, crash, bang, ouch.

Clatter, crash, bang, ouch.

So once you get the hang of running, it’s a case of timing your jumps. If you manage to clear the hurdle you get a point. However if you knock over a hurdle you lose a point – assuming you had any in the first place. After a while I got the hang of how fast I needed to press the “run” key and got myself a point – yay!

See, I'm not completely pointless.

See, I’m not completely pointless.

And that’s it… you run, and jump, and run, and jump some more, until the timeometer reaches 100*. There even seems to be some sort of athletics track simulation in action here, because if you’ve knocked over any hurdles, they seem to come round again later already knocked-over, meaning you can’t gain any points from jumping over them. So there’s even a strategy element to the game! (What – don’t knock over any hurdles? Not exactly strategic, is it? Ed.) After a while I got into my stride and reached a high score of… wait for it… thirty-nine. Ta-daaa!

Usain who?

Usain who?

Like most sports, there’s no purpose to this at all, other than trying to beat your own score. Despite this, it’s fun and quite addictive – almost not crap at all! Must try harder next time!


*STOP PRESS! Since posting this review Gab has contacted me to say there’s an updated version which RANDOMIZEs the time you get to run round the track – clearly I wasn’t paying attention when he sent the games in three-and-a-half weeks ago! So both versions are available below for download.


Score: 3 failed doping tests out of 100.

Download .tap file here (100 second version) or here (random time up to 100 seconds version)

Advanced Toaster Simulator

Another day, another ZX81 offering, this time from absinthe_boy aka Angus Gulliver, who was last spotted in the CSSCGC 2014 with his Sochi Advanced Downhill Tea Tray Simulator. I get the feeling he’s missed a trick here, not calling this game “Advanced Great British Bake-Off Simulator” and featuring a mini-game where you control Paul Hollywood’s raised eyebrows (“You’re using apples in your apple pie?! *long pause* O-kay…”) , but never mind.

Not just a bog-standard toaster simulator, this.

Not just a bog-standard toaster simulator, this.

It’s a game about toast. After loading the .z81 file (yay, another file format I’ve never used before!) and pressing RUN there’s some weird flickering and the above title screen. I can only assume this game is for people who don’t have a toaster, or don’t know how to use one. There’s probably a joke to be here about the “toastrack” on the 128k Speccy, or even the Commodore 64 “breadbin”, but I can’t be bothered to make it.


Ooh, such choices! White, brown or 50/50! I never had that in my day, we were too poor to afford any sort of flour and had to make our bread out of pencil shavings, acorns and dog shit.

You'd have to be "extra thick" to enjoy anything about this game.

You’d have to be “extra thick” to enjoy anything about this game.

More choices! Although surely “extra thick” won’t fit in the toaster?


Blimey, this ZX toaster even has a heat setting! Whatever next? I’d better put it in the middle. Middle for diddle, as The Wurzels once sang. The excitement is killing me…


And there you have it… a 24% virtually burnt piece of virtual hot bread, and the end of the program (signified by the cryptic error message “0/590”). That was fun, wasn’t it? Nah. Shall we try it again? Nah. Because, pretty though the toaster graphic may be (for a ZX81 anyway), this game does suffer slightly from being a ZX81 program – what I’d really like to see is a Spectrum version of this, with a loading screen, full colour hi-res graphics and a Tritone version of this 70s oddity from Streetband (featuring Paul “Not Chris Young’s Brother” Young on vocals):

Score: 0/590.

Download here (zx81 .z81 file, use the “Load Snapshot” option to run in EightyOne, if you’re using a different emulator then I’ve no idea, sorry)