Month: January 2016

Advanced Bridge Building Simulator

It’s the last game of the competition! Hurrah! Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Etc. This is the first ever CGC entry from Ben Soundhog, but he knows what he’s doing – as well as being a proper C64 coder for a while back in the early ’90s, I have it on good authority that he was also responsible for the Speccy theme tune to one of those kids’ TV tie-in games by Alternative Software. Fireman Pat And His Black And White SuperTed, I think it was. Despite these impressive credentials, he claims to have not written a game in Sinclair BASIC since 1984, and only started writing this an hour before the deadline, finally sending it in just after 5am in the morning (to paraphrase Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield). Still, I can think of far worse ways to spend New Year than writing a crap game. HOOTENANNY! Oh boogie-woogie off, Jools.


Not only do we get a loading message plastered across the screen, but also a series of ascending beeps, just like all those Ultimate games from 1983! This has got to be good, right? Right?


Wow, that’s the best loading screen I’ve seen for ages, and not at all spoilt by the obliteratory (LMLWD) message. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took Ben six whole hours to draw that!


I particularly like the way the problem of word wrap is solved by mis-spelling some words. Nice use of “scroll?”, too. Imagine if this was the first Speccy game you’d ever loaded, and you actually pressed Space at that point. Doesn’t bear thinking about. A bit like thirty-odd years ago when I, erm, a friend of a friend of a friend unwrapped his Spectrum+ for Christmas, loaded up the User Guide Companion Cassette, it asked him to press a key and in his infinite wisdom I, erm, he chose “BREAK”. Cough.

Anyway. A member of the public is trying to cross a river, but there isn’t a bridge available. That doesn’t seem to stop him though. He just keep plodding along, expecting a bridge to fall from the sky right in front of his feet. Luckily you are “one of te countries leading experts in buildng stuff”, and you can save the hapless pillock by dropping girdles from your aeroplane to make a bridge. I assume “girdles” is a regional pronunciation of girders. Or was “girdles” what Irn Bru was made in Scotland from? I can’t remember which is which now, I need to do some research on “girdles”. Back in a minute.


(some time passes)


(Advanced Lingerie Section Of The Freemans Catalogue Simulator, anyone?)


Ahem. Where was I? Yes. River, pillock, aeroplane, bridge. You fly along from left to right, and you have to drop the girder in the correct spot so that when the dozy twonk takes a step onto the bridge, there’s a bridge there to step on to. Exhibit A:


UDGs? Never heard of ’em, guv. You see that sideways Tetris block thingy? That’s you in your aeroplane, that is. You see that asterisk on the right-hand side? That’s the cranially challenged member of the public (“member” being the operative word), that is. Simply press Space to drop your girder (represented by an INV VIDEOed letter X) and it’ll miraculously float on the water, a bit like that bloke with a beard Cliff Richard’s always banging on about (Dave Lee Travis? Ed.). But here’s the catch – you have to drop it next to an existing part of the bridge, or it’ll sink! Whether these “girdles” have magnetic properties causing them to stick to each other is not explained, but that’s how it is.

You don't want to do it like that...

You don’t want to do it like that… want to do it like this!

…you want to do it like this!


It’s a good job this is written in BASIC, as machine code would be far too fast to drop the girders accurately. As it is, you’ll still need cat-like reflexes and eagle eyes more eagle-eyed than the eagle eyes of Eagle-Eye Cherry. Curiously, dropping a girder on Asterisk Man’s head has no effect at all – a shame really, as in real life it would either kill him stone dead or knock some sense into him and make him go the long way round (via Crewkerne, or the Black Cat Roundabout on the A1). My first couple of goes ended in a drowning, accompanied by a dirgey rendition of the death march that makes Gloomy Sunday sound like the Bubble Bobble theme tune.


However I soon get into my stride and, whistling Bridge To Your Heart by Wax as I go, my massive erection starts to takes shape. F’nar.

Woah-oh-oh oh woah-oh woah woah-oh-oh...

Woah-oh-oh oh woah-oh woah woah-oh-oh…

...building a bridge to your arse!

…building a bridge to your (Arse. Ed.)


After completion of a level, the whole thing starts again, except Asterix the Twat is closer to the river, meaning you have even less time to get him across. Ben says in his email “By level 6 you can’t make a mistake or it’s curtains for you, sunshine”. There’s a level 6?!

This is a crap game in the original spirit of the CGC – a game that I can easily imagine being included on Cassette 50 or in the type-ins section of Your World of Comp.Sys.Sinclair Spectrum User magazine. I look forward to more crap games from soundhog and Corse Hair Software, but I’m equally pleased I won’t have to review them.

By the way, I have to mention soundhog’s other talent, for DJ mixes, remixes, re-edits and – no, I won’t call them m*sh*ps, as I know he hates the word, but those things where someone gets the vocal from one song and the backing from another completely different song and puts it together in a clever way. If you’re not completely tone deaf (and I’m aware that excludes at least half of the CGC entrants this year, judging by the copious quantities of atonal blooping they wrung out of their collective Speccies) then you’ll want to have a listen to this stuff. In fact, why not do it now, while you’re all waiting for the Sqij Towers team to decide on a “winner”? Click on the soundhog website to start.

Score: 1984%.

Download .tap here.

Kamikaze Karaoke Shootout! Trak Pak – Xmas Edition

Remember Kamikaze Karaoke Shootout? I’ve spent the last month trying to forget about it, but Myke-P just won’t let me, with this additional pack (sorry, Trak Pak) of Christmas (s)hits. You know that sinking feeling you get when you’re at work, and it’s five to five on a Friday evening, and you’re just about to go down the pub, and then your boss walks past your desk and goes “Oh, if I could just have that sales report on my desk by seventeen hundred hours today, there’s a good chap”? That’s what it felt like when I read the “Oh, and by the way” at the very bottom of Myke’s email about his last game, “The“.

It’s a cover tape bonus, so I won’t waste too much time on it, as I’ve still got one last proper game (remember those? Proper ZX Spectrum games? No, me neither) to review. In the tradition of bonus giveaways like Moley Christmas, Myke was commissioned to make this by Your World of Comp.Sys.Sinclair Spectrum User magazine, a publication I’m not familiar with, but I’m sure is even funkier, twice as skillo and infinitely more crapola than the competition (Your Sinkplunger, Computer & Vegetable Games and so on)


Merry Christmas! Today is January 14th. I feel about as Christmassy as Wham did in their video for Club Tropicana. I ran out of pickled walnuts on Boxing Day, I have no interest in my colleagues’ leftover Christmas cake, and if anyone so much as whistles half a bar of that godawful Paul McCartney song within earshot, I’m liable to punch them in the baubles. Mind you, that applies at any time of year.

Right. As this is a Trak Pak and not a proper game (and I’ve already wasted 250-odd words on it) you’ll need your original copy of Karaoke Kamikaze Shootout. This can be found here. Then load it in, stick the Christmas tzx thingy in the festive virtual wossname, read the on-screen instructions (which to Myke’s credit are very easy to follow – he’s certainly aware of the mental capacity of his target audience) and marvel at the awful beepy rendition of whichever Chrimble tune Myke chose to, erm, rend. Rendite. Renditionize?

Is that 400 words yet? Oh, that’ll do. It’s not as if it hasn’t already been reviewed once. Either play the thing now and feel all nostalgic for three weeks ago when it was actually Christmas, or shove it in the attic until the middle of November and then go “What’s this crap?” and throw it away.

Download tzx here.

The Easter Bunny has to water the garden with a bad cough by firstly figuring out the controls

Picture the scene. The date: early January, 2016. The location: Sqij Towers. It’s a lonely place now. Everyone’s packed up and gone home. BloodBaz has gone back to his day job as taster of finest ales, Myke-P has joined a Beastie Boys tribute act, and as for DeKay, I’ve made sure to notify the police that he’s on the loose again. And if I peer at the horizon I can just make out the smoke from Chris Young’s beloved 1985 Vauxhall Skova (a cross between a Skoda and a Nova, with none of the redeeming features of both) as he makes the tortuous 17-hour journey over the wooden hills to Bedfordshire. Time to make myself a cup of strong coffee and review the last couple of games, then… hang on a minute, what’s happened to the Sqij Towers finest cutlery? Chris! CHRIS! Get back here, y’bast!

So (having followed Chris’s Czechoslovenian deathmobile at a light amble and retrieved my spoons) there’s just little old me and the last couple of games now. I can see why the ex-Sqij Towers residents have left this one, although to be fair to Myke, I couldn’t ask him to review his own game. It’s a bloody ZX81 effort again, which means I have to dust off the EightyOne emulator. Again. Oh joy! I’m almost nostalgic for the days of Sunteam and his +3 disks! Almost.

The Easter Bunny has to water the garden with a bad cough by firstly figuring out the controls, then. I considered leaving the review until Easter, which is only a couple of months away, but as I can’t remember if I paid for a years’ hosting or two years, I suppose I’d better get on with it. “TEBHTWTGWABCBFFOTC” – no, even that’s too long – “The”, as The Easter Bunny has to water the garden with a bad cough by firstly figuring out the controls shall henceforth be known, is a game in which you are the Easter Bunny and you have to water your garden with a bad cough by firstly figuring out the controls. At least I think it is. I haven’t managed to find EightyOne yet. Where the hell did I put it?

While I’m looking for it, I’ll take the advice Myke gave me a couple of days ago – “guess what the game will be and then play it to see if you were right”. Well, as “The” is a ZX81 game, I’m guessing it’ll be an explosion of colour and cacophony of multichannel sound, and not a piece of monochrome, sluggish crap featuring a blocky representation of the Easter Bunny that looks more like a cockroach.

I’ve found EightyOne now, it was in a folder marked “Kitchen Drawer” along with PetrolReceiptFrom2011.jpg, OldMobilePhoneCharger.exe, and 17DeadAABatteries.rar. Should’ve looked there in the first place.


Well, whaddaya know? “The” is not a piece of monochrome, sluggish crap featuring a blocky representation of the Easter Bunny that looks more like a cockroach at all! It’s actually a piece of monochrome, sluggish crap featuring a blocky representation of the Easter Bunny that looks more like a beetle!


I certainly wouldn’t want to meet this particular character on a dark night, anyway. Myke hasn’t included any instructions, but if you have a logical brain, you’ll work out the controls and the aim of the game soon enough. Unfortunately I don’t have a logical brain (why else would I have agreed to host this competition?), so I spend seventeen minutes jabbing at keys, some of which I think might be doing something, but it’s hard to tell because the rabbit/beetle/mutant termite thingy disappears every time.

This is Myke’s first ZX81 game. It’d be churlish of me to follow that statement with “…and it shows!”, and I suppose we’ve all got to start somewhere, but stick to Speccy games next time, eh?

Score: -81%

Download .p file here.

Ultimate Games Designer for the ZX Spectrum

And so, as we near the end of another great year of game crapness, I return from an extended leave of absence to the Towers of Sqij (still lofty, still menacing) to review one last effort from Andrew Green.

Not a game but a games designer.  And not just any games designer but The Ultimate Games Designer for the ZX Spectrum.  Are you beside yourself with trepidation?  Maybe!

Title Page

Title Page

The title page if full of guarantees to produce the best game ever; so much so that Mr. Green has even gone to the extra effort of using CAPITAL LETTERS to emphasise the fact.  The mention of complex algorithms however basically comes down to the ZX BASIC “RND” function and the NB at the end mentions a time to build this game is approximately the lifetime of the earth to date.  “program” – maybe; “design” – maybe not.

Now, I’m glad I got to review this program because I reviewed a program very similar to this back in 2010.  Advanced UDG Generator promised to create your perfect UDG simply outputting every combination of bits in an 8×8 pixel square.  This program takes this to a whole new level and I’ll explain why…


The program basically fills a large chunk of the Spectrum’s memory with random data before executing it.  Where Advanced UDG Generator would take a mere 2.2 million years to run through every UDG graphic, this program populates 36,612 bytes of RAM (between 28775 and 65367 (immediately below the UDG area) before attempting to execute it.  This is humongous leap in entropy space compared to UDG designer’s 8 bytes.


Yawn. I wonder what those numbers mean.


As with Advanced UDG Generator however, there are some flaws, and more so here:

  1. The game has been submitted as a Z80 Snapshot with no means to seed the random number generator.  Consequently, the sequence of bytes generated is exactly the same every time you run it from initial load up! We get just one generated game code instead of the potential 2^292896 possibilities (that is a number that is over 88 thousand digits long by the way)! Oh how the opportunity was missed.  Major fail!
  2. Assuming the above flaw was solved, the Spectrum’s implementation of RND is far too limited to generate all 2^292896 possible states.  See my own program RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE RANDOMIZE for more details on that matter.
  3. The aforementioned “lifetime of the earth to date” to make the greatest game.
  4. Despite checking the location of the machine stack, the program is supposed to display “PRESS ANY KEY TO RUN PROGRAM“, and give you the opportunity to press a key before running your masterpiece.  However, I kept getting “C Nonsense in BASIC, 20:1” at this point.  Now you might think, that the generated program might simply have bombed out with a “C” Report, however it hasn’t actually ran the generated program at this point!  I don’t know what gives here but I suspect Mr Green has some damage already built into the snapshot file.  It should be on line 50 at this point, not 20!
C Nonsense in BASIC, 20:1


So, credit where it is due, the program is crap beyond comprehension and probably took less time to write than it took me to review it.  But, if you like WAITING and DISAPPOINTMENT and ENTROPY SPACE and BLUE then you might get something out of this.  Personally I am a CYAN type of guy!

Score: 1 / 2^292896

Download: .z80

Protect and Survive: Threads: The Computer Game

Right, let’s get this over and done with. These games are starting to get on my tits now, I mean, we’re well into 2016 and the competition should have closed already.

Oh, hello readers. Didn’t see you there, due to the nuclear fallout damaging my eyesight and/or giving me six arms or whatever, but it’s OK as hiding under the table with a tin of beans has largely helped me get out of the bombing unscathed.

This screen loads in two code blocks and stays up for precisely less than the amount of time you need to read it (unless you're loading at Actual Speed, you weirdo).

This screen loads in two code blocks and stays up for precisely less than the amount of time you need to read it (unless you’re loading at Actual Speed, you weirdo).

Yes: this is Protect and Survive: Threads: The Computer Game, which I’m going to call Protect and Survive, Threads or PAS:T:TCG interchangeably at will.

It’s GReW‘s latest effort, and it’s based on the Threads TV show from the 80s. I don’t think I ever saw Threads, however it was repeated on BBC4 some years back and I taped it, and then didn’t bother to watch it. It’s probably in the loft now. I’m not sure it matters, the basic gist of the game is there’s a nuclear war on, and you’ve hidden in the cupboard under the stairs with – apparently – a bed, a cooker, the world’s biggest bottle of water and a latrine (as GrEw politely calls it).

My beautiful house.

My beautiful house.

There doesn’t appear to be any food, and I couldn’t get the cooker to do much – probably because the nuclear blast has cut off both the electricity and gas. I could, however, use the lavatory at my pleasure, wipe my arse as much as I liked, and go to sleep. Well, I could go to sleep once, and then the game would insist I wasn’t tired. Oh, there’s also a door, but you can’t go out that way.

My beautiful house. *sob* Excuse me, I've got a bit of radioactive isotope in my eye...

My beautiful house. *sob* Excuse me, I’ve got a bit of radioactive isotope in my eye…

It’s all rendered in 3D Speccyvision (aka Freescape), Total Eclipse-style, and just like Total Eclipse I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing, don’t know how to do it and am probably going to get very old before I walk all the way over to the only object I can see at less than one frame a second.

I’m being unkind, the 3D works very well and is quick. It’s a little too technically competent for the CGC (although appears to be created with 3D Construction Kit, so not that technically competent), but thankfully gREW doesn’t appear to have put any gameplay in, so that’s OK.

Even in the Nuclear Winter, there's no excuse for poor hygiene.

Even in the Nuclear Winter, there’s no excuse for poor hygiene.

As far as I can tell, you can either wait until you get radiation poisoning and die, or you can wait until your health deteriorates so much that you die. I drank all the water, cranked the emulator up to max and took the former way out. (You can also unplug the Speccy, which is quicker. Ed)

Of course the irony is that you wouldn’t be able to play this whilst waiting for the bombs to fall, as it takes precisely one-and-a-half minutes longer to load than the four minute warning allows.

I advise playing this directly after Gardener of Doom, for the full apocalyptic experience. Actually I don’t advise that at all, I think that’s the radiation sickness talking.

Score: One tin of SPAM out of an arbitrary amount of tins of corned beef.
Download: .tzx

Russian Roulecode

After confusing everyone with Fly Catcher – which had the look of a ZX81 game but that no-one seemed to be able to figure out how to play – PROSM is back with an actual ZX81 game which is moderately easier to fathom.

Shortly after submitting this game we received a follow up email in which PROSM admitted he’d left a line out of the program. Rather than attaching an amended .P file, however, we were advised how we could correct the omission ourselves; “before running the program, please insert the line: 90 RAND 0.”

Bug fixes and revised versions are generally frowned upon in CSSCGC as it is (under the assumption that a mistake or lack of attention to detail is a positive trait,) however, I think it’s a bold move to ask us to implement them! 😀

Of course I could’ve amended the .P file to issue a ‘corrected’ version – but why deny you the fun as well?

Minor corrections...

Minor correction…


Load the .P file in EightyOne (or your choice of Zeddy Emulator) and, when it shows “0/0,” type the following:

90T0[Enter] (0=zero, no spaces)

Don't press too hard!!

If you’re too hard? Oo-er Missus!


Congratulations! Our collective hard work has paid off; we can finally get to play the game as PROSM (henceforth known fully as ‘Peter Serafinowicz Obliterated My Sinclair’) intended.

It turns out that the RAM pack on a ZX81 was a little top heavy and prone to working loose from the Edge Connector during normal use – which usually resulted in a system reset and the loss of any data or, more critically, that program you just spent three hours typing!

In this tense simulation you are programming very own 3D Monster Maze-beater directly into the Zeddy as machine code. You’ve noted down each byte to enter on your notepad and all you need to do is type each decimal value in turn at the bottom of the screen.

There are only ten thousand or so to get through, however, the problem is that if you hit Enter* too hard then your RAM pack might wobble (or outright fall off) and you’ll lose the lot.

* or someone breathes too heavily, or opens a window, or a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan etc..

Enter the numbers...

Enter the numbers…


So, in a ‘gameplay’ style reminiscent of last year’s Ultimate ZX Spectrum Games Designer, you type your numbers and (gently) press Enter.

If you type the number correctly your score increases, if you type the number incorrectly your score is reset to 0 and you have to start from the beginning of the list. Alternatively, if the program deems you to be the heavy handed type, there’s a roughly one in 12 chance that your ZX81 will reboot each time you press the Enter key. Nailbiting stuff!

As I understand it PROSM is working on a sequel in which the in-game XP system reduces the chances of wobble over time by offering the user the likes of chewing gum, Blu-tack™ or Velcro® in order to try and secure the RAM pack in place.


Score: B/200

Download .p file