The comp.sys.sinclair crap games competition 2015 -

it's crap! In a funky skillo sort of a way.

Category: Crap Games

Arcade Attacks!

Here’s a new (well, submitted on 15th October, but don’t tell anyone) game from WoS forum member Insert Coin, entitled Arcade Attacks! As a big fan of arcade games I have high hopes for this game. Let’s see how soon my hopes will be dashed, then…

ArcadeAttacks01

What a fantastic loading screen! This is far too professional for the CGC. I’m positively salivating during the short loading sequence. It won’t last…

ArcadeAttacks02

Yes, thankfully the whiff of general craptitude soon sets in with the title screen, with its bog standard Speccy font and minimalist instructions. Speaking of which, Mr. Coin has helpfully provided some more detailed instructions in the zip file to save me the bother of having to type too much, so here they are:

A dusty arcade console in a dark corner of an off-licence boots up, passes its ROM check and is now demanding more than just your money. After studying Galaxian A.I. over a number of years it has assembled firm plans on world domination by unleashing a torrent of fear on its screen. Your team, having co-incidentally just entered said off-licence, recognise the symptoms and offer to help the owner get it back under control. 15 minutes later, and having infiltrated the offending ROM’s sprite code (using the elusive red 48K Spectrum), you must take down 5 waves of baddies by firing character code 138s at raining cherries.

That’s what I like, a blurb that says everything and nothing at once. Just like the old days, when the back story to a game took longer to write than the game itself.

ArcadeAttacks03

And here it is. You control the two teeny tiny stick men holding the normal-sized Spectrum, or the two normal-sized stick men holding the humungous Spectrum. You have to shoot character 138s at the cherries. I’m not sure what the eye thing is, but it doesn’t seem to do you as much harm as not shooting the cherries. What’s wrong with cherries anyway? Can’t it be dried apricots, or those horrible slimy Medjool dates that get passed around every Christmas and have the texture – and quite possibly the taste – of slug intestines? It’s not as if they would’ve had to be the same colour as real fruit in this game, given that the cherries you’re firing at are yellow. Mind you, I have a cherry tree in my back garden and the cherries do go yellow first, before turning red and getting eaten by birds (they’re welcome to them, they taste sour anyway). So perhaps Mr. Coin knows what he’s on about after all.

This game is clearly a load of old bobbins. On the other hand, as I’m stupidly busy at work at the moment and have about ten minutes a month in which to write reviews, I only played it a couple of times, so perhaps there’s a hidden level in which you have to do something other than fire ASCII characters at fruit. Somehow I doubt it though. About time I finished this review really so I can take another six weeks procrastinating over the next one, by which time it’ll be January and nobody will care any more.

Score: 3 goes for 50p.

Download here: zip file

International Global World of Swingball

When I was ten or eleven, I made the perilous journey from cosy Bedfordshire all the way to steely Sheffield for some family party or other. Three things stick in my mind about that weekend – buying Jack The Nipper from Just Micro (home of Gremlin Graphics), annoying my mum on the train home by putting on a fake Yorkshire accent, and spending a very pleasant hour before the party playing swingball with two girls who I think were either my first cousins twice removed, or my second cousins, or possibly my second cousins twice removed – whatever your nan’s brother’s grandchildren are, anyway. And no, “playing swingball with my cousins” is not a euphemism, so stop that right now.

Swingball, then. As far as I can remember from that long lost afternoon, it’s a two-player game where a tennis ball is attached to a pole via a piece of string, and you have to hit the ball in one direction, your opponent hitting it the opposite way, until the string gets to the top or bottom of the pole. There’s 17 gazillion Speccy sports simulations but as far as I know GReW’s latest effort, International Global World Of Swingball, is the first to feature swingball.

All the best Speccy games – Monty On The Run by the aforementioned Gremlin Graphics, and, erm, Action Biker – have more than one loading screen. So does this one.

Swingball01

Cleverly, when the second screen is loading in the background the pixels are completely hidden by the first screen’s attributes. And look, following on from Gab Amore’s recent efforts, it’s yet another Chunk-O-Vision game! Yaaaaaaaay!

Tennis ball last seen in Bounder.

Terry the tennis ball, last seen in Bounder.

After the game has loaded you get this lovely title screen complete with typo – bonus crap points here, as all the best games have typos, like “BARMY BURGER’S” and whatever game it was by “ELITE SYTEMS” that slipped through the net.

Swingball03

This is a two player game, which proved to be a problem for me, as I don’t have any friends, and even if I did, they’d soon run a mile if I asked them to play a simulated game of swingball on a 30-year-old computer. So I had to invent one – I’ll call him “Chris”, because most people at Sqij Towers seem to be called Chris these days. Apart from me. And Andy. And Myke (come to think of it, what’s with the “y” in “Myke” anyway? That’s just sylly.)

Swingball05

The very first thing I notice, as “Chris” serves the ball to me, is the ball isn’t attached to the pole at all. This isn’t swingball, it’s more like tennis without a net, played next to what looks like a telegraph pole or a half-submerged guitar with a long neck. That blobby bit under my eye isn’t my nose, it’s actually the ball, which I fail to hit again and again. My right hand – aka “Chris” – seems to be better at this than the rest of me, as after a few more bashes of the keyboard he only bloody well goes and “winds”:

Swingball06

Bah. Beaten by my right hand. No change there, then.

I must quickly mention the Play By Mail option, which allows people to play even if they have no friends in their immediate area – GReW really knows his target audience, doesn’t he? So if you fancy a game by post, here’s a code to start you off: BLCEHER6I5STIAA. Time to dust off your Amstrad Em@iler and send it to me by the magical cyber-tubes!

Swingball07

As crap games go, this is actually one of the better ones. Still utterly crap, but it’s in machine code, and fairly well presented – in fact I can almost – almost – imagine this being released by some budget software house at the arse end of 1983. Now I wonder whatever happened to my second cousins? Perhaps they’ll have a rematch, thirty years on.

Score: Love deuce (f’nar!)

Download .tap here.

The Training of the Warrior

Gabriele Amore is back. Did he ever go away, I hear you ask? Quite frankly, we’re not sure. I mean, we asked him to leave, but two days later I found him in the Sqij Towers kitchen eating all our biscuits. He distracted me by throwing a Shuriken into the wall behind me, which on closer inspection turned out to be a Spectrum game called “The Training of the Warrior”.

THE_TRAINING_OF_THE_WARRIOR.TAP

It wasn’t an original copy, being on a C90 with no inlay or instructions. Fortunately the title screen looked exceedingly helpful, despite being in a nearly unreadable font (bonus points for that), giving the two available keys “O – Punch and P – Kick”.

Eager to start my samurai training, I press O or P and am presented with some pixellated training screen.

THE_TRAINING_OF_THE_WARRIOR.TAP_2

I figure that at this point, pressing O or P might come in handy, probably P for Punch (or was it O?) as directed on the status guff at the bottom of the screen.

Pressing keys makes the screen flicker and moves the arrow at the top of the screen backwards and forwards. Sometimes it brings up an extra arrow and a white block. This might be a bug or it might be intentional and integral to the gameplay. I really have no idea.

Sometimes it does this.

Sometimes it does this.

Eventually after stabbing random keys, I complete my training, despite having no idea whatsoever what I was supposed to be doing. I bet real samurais didn’t get off so easily!

THE_TRAINING_OF_THE_WARRIOR.TAP_5

I then started up the game again to see if I could work out how to play it.

Other times it does this

Other times it does this.

It just showed me a different screen and flashed between kick and punch text and that was it. I reset the Spectrum in frustration. This is buggier than the average PC game on the day of release.

Score: 1 ninja star out of ten ninj… AAARGH, I’M SURROUNDED BY NINJAS. SEND HELP.

Download: .tap

Fly Catcher

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a game by PROSM in which you play a spider and have to catch flies. WoooOOOooo! Scary! Okay, so that’s a very tenuous link to cover up the fact I’ve had this game since the middle of September and have only just got round to reviewing it. It wasn’t like this in the days of Eq Tetrachloride and Dave The Lurker, but to be fair, they never wrote 400-word essays about these games, like what we do at Sqij Towers. “Quantity, not quality” – that’s my motto, along with “better late than never, but even better really really late than just late”.

I was going to write down all the things that I thought PROSM might be an acronym for, just to pad out the review by 100 words or so, but could only think of “Patricia Routledge’s Octopus Smells Musty” before my brain started to hurt. So I stopped again.

In this game, you are a spider, and you must catch flies. I quite like spiders. I’ve never been the sort of person to go “Aaaargh, a spider, help, mummy!” and climb up the nearest tree to escape it. I’d probably make an exception for anything bigger and hairier than a kitten, or those Australian Arsebiter Killer Death Spiders who lurk underneath toilet seats and in underwear drawers, but on balance I’d rather have Boris the Spider and his chums as house guests than a bunch of dirty flies, zzz-zzzing around and vomiting all over me.
FlyCatcher1
Now what some people don’t realise is that when I first load a game for reviewing, I always turn flash loading off in my emulator, so I can experience the full experience of the loading experience, just like I would’ve done thirty years ago – that way I don’t miss any screens or fancy loaders. When I came to do this with Fly Catcher, I couldn’t help but notice there was a suspiciously short BASIC bit, followed by an even shorter piece of code, and then the game started. Now even with my limited knowledge of machine code I know that it takes more than 10 bytes of code to make a playable game – but to give PROSM the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it’s a 2K game compressed with zx7 or something. So I press a key to start, and… ahem. PROSM has entered what appears to be not a game into the crap games competition. Although at least it’s crap, so it ticks one out of the two boxes.

On the other hand, I might be missing something. The intro screen says “For more instructions see inlay”, so perhaps you’ll get further than I did if you can find it. I certainly couldn’t – I suspect this Holy Grail of inlays is at the very back of the kitchen drawer full of old batteries, rubber bands, and Soda Stream instruction manuals –  so if you do succeed in finding it, you could say there’s no flies on you! Ha ha ha! Ha ha! Ha! Ha. Christ on a bike, I’ve still got two months to go of this shit.

Score: 8 out of 100 (one for each spider’s spidery spider leg)

Download here.

Advanced Anne Frank Simulator

Uncle Jonathan Chicken wrote this in about ten minutes whilst drunk. I’m intending to write this review in about ten minutes whilst sober. Does that mean it’s any good? (The game or the review? Ed). Let’s find out….

aafsscr.tzx

You play Anne Frank, a Jew living in hiding apparently on her own in the attic (I’m not sure this game is entirely historically accurate).

The keys are:
O – Left
P – Right
Q – Jump
W – Write in diary
S – Sleep

W and S only work if you are in the correct location. Let’s see what they do. Here’s the “sleep” action:

Zzzzzzzz......

Zzzzzzzz……

Huh? What time is it? WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY ROOM?

Oh, I was reviewing a game. I remember now. Let’s try the W action:

Scribble scribble

Scribble scribble

I can’t see any way of ending this game, or any scoring mechanism. Maybe you get carted off by the Germans and gassed if you play it for a few years.

You can also jump

You can also jump

I can’t decide whether this game is in bad taste or not. It certainly captures the boredom of living in hiding, where all you can do is write a diary, sleep or jump around. I guess that’s the point.

The best I can do is suggest a donation to the Anne Frank Trust, so some good might come out of this game.

Score: I’m not giving this game a score, because it didn’t give me one.
Download: .tap

Sex on 1st Date

Here comes yet another entry from the (appropriately-named, in this case) Gabriele Amore. I’ve been pussy-footing around this game for a while, but finally managed to stop fannying about and snatch a few spare moments to review it, although I think it might be a bit hard.

SOFD01

Enough of the puerile Finbarr Saundersisms. As you’d expect from the title, it’s a game involving having sex on the first date. As I’ve been in a relationship for 18 years and have two young children, the concept of both a “date” and “sex” are just a distant memory, but never mind, at least I can recreate it on the Speccy. Look at those graphics! I don’t think I’ve ever got so excited by a few well-placed attributes. Your lover and sex teacher Helen Blond certainly is easy on the eye (if you zoom right out and take your glasses off – alcohol probably helps too, but don’t drink too much)

SOFD02

My hart is full of lust, apparently. These pictures really don’t do the game justice, as they feature the best use of FLASH since the Manic Miner loading screen. And FLASH is the operative word – I won’t spoil the rest of the screens, but let’s just say that by the time you get on to the actual game your little swimming chaps will be stirred…SOFD06Did I mention this game was hard? Well it bloody well is. Using the M key (not sure what the M stands for – perhaps it’s something a bit mucky in Sicilian) you have to time your thrusts so that your lover is satisfied, and without getting too over-excited. Yellow star good, red cross bad.

SOFD07

On my first go, I got all aroused and it was all over far too early – a classic example of art imitating life. However with a bit of practice I worked out that if I hit the sweet spot every time my rubber lover would soon start BEEPing in ecstasy, and I moved on to the next position.

SOFD09

Now, either I’m not very good at this game, or I’m enjoying this position far too much, as I can’t ever seem to get off this level, and Helen keeps accusing me of being a selfish lover. Art imitating life again. Gab even included a link to an instructional YouTube video, but perhaps RedTube would’ve been a more appropriate place to upload it, as it now seems to have been pulled off (Stop it! Ed.)

Score: 69. What else?

Download here.

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.

Trunk02

“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:

Trunk03

Trunk045

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.

Trunk05

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.

Toaster02

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?

Toaster04

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…

Toaster05

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)

Sol Postman – Inter-planetery Courier

Calling occupants of inter-planetery (sic) craft… here’s a new game from Sqij Towers’ very own answer to Chris Young, Chris “Chris Young” Young. Well, he was fairly young when he sent it in over a month ago, anyway. I’m doing my usual reviewing trick of starting to write the review before playing the game or even reading the accompanying email blurb, but I can only assume from the title that in this game you have to take parcels and letters to people, perhaps avoiding vicious dogs and having the occasional cup of tea along the way. It looks like there’s a smattering of machine code in here, which could mean it’s a good game! Let’s find out…

SolPostman01

Nice loading screen, reminiscent of two childhood telly favourites – Postman Pat and Button Moon. If loading in 128k mode you also get a chirpy AY rendition of the Postman Pat theme tune. All together now, a-ONE-two-three-four:

Postman Pat, Postman Pat,
Postman Pat ran over his cat.
All the guts were flying,
Postman Pat was crying,
I’ve never seen a cat as flat as that.*

Sadly yet inevitably, this tune is the best part of the game – and the sole purpose of the machine code. It soon descends into the usual unplayable tosh with a spurious back-story – just the sort of thing we like here at Sqij Towers!

SolPostman2

Yes, it’s the year 2000 – imagine that! Sir Clive is running an inter-planetary mail order business, and you have to deliver his Sinclair HQ9000s all the way up and down the galaxy, from Peterborough to Pluto. In other words, it’s a sort of Asteroids clone with a spurious back story. Excellent!

SolPostman02

Yes, that funny squiggle is your intergalactic bright red van. Press space to drop the parcel, and nothing happens. Whack the keyboard 58 times and your parcel might just be ejected, depending on what mood your Speccy is in at the time. Good luck getting it to land on a planet though – I tried for a full five minutes and got nowhere, except for – and the Finbarr Saunderses among you will love this joke – crashing repeatedly into Uranus. Aha. Ahahahahaha. Waaaaahahahaha. Waaaaaaaahahahahahahaha. Wahahahyyyyyyyy? WHYYYYYYYYY?!?!??!

Score: 312,597 undelivered parcels a week.

Download here.

*No moggies were harmed in the singing of this song.

©2015 Sinclair Research Ltd sqij.co.uk