Tag: ZX81

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.

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

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)

Alan Turing’s Octal Challenge

Garry “GReW” Wishart is back with his second entry for the ZX81. Now I didn’t get my Speccy until late 1985, so much like the music of the Grateful Dead, the ZX81 isn’t something I’m familiar with at all; I’ve heard of it, but I don’t necessarily want anything to do with it. However he does say to type the familiar LOAD “” command to run the game. This I try (having fired up EightyOne). I assumed the LOAD keyword would be on the letter J like the Speccy, but imagine my surprise when I get the RANDOMISE keyword – spelt rather curiously with the British “S” instead of the Americanized “Z” of the Speccy – instead!

Not a ZX81 screenshot.

Not a ZX81 screenshot.

I jab away at some more keys, searching for the LOAD command, before realising I’ve actually selected a ZX80 in the emulator, not a ZX81, and I have to start the whole process again! Thankfully the ZX81 has a far more sensible (Speccy-like) layout and I find the LOAD key and start the tape. Garry’s sage advice is to turn on tape acceleration “unless you have an episode of Cash In The Attic to watch while it loads”. I’m curious to know what a ZX81 loading sounds like, but after a full five minutes of high-pitched whining (at least half of which is coming from the emulated ZX81 rather than assorted family members who have gathered in the Sqij Towers dining room to see what I’m up to) I give up and hit the flash load button in the emulator.

A ZX81 loading. Wot no stripy border?

A ZX81 loading. Wot no stripy border?

To the game – which has surprisingly detailed graphics for a ZX81, even down to the digitised piccy of Alan Turing on the title screen. The year is 1940, the world is at war, and Alan has to defend Blighty using the most powerful weapon known to man… an understanding of octal and boolean logic.


Now to me, Octal and Boolean Logic sound like a grime rapper from East London and a 1970s space disco band, but it turns out Octal is a counting system a bit like decimal but with only eight numbers (curiously, not including the number eight), and Boolean Logic is a space disco band who had a hit in 1978 with “Boolie Oolie Oolie (Turn Me On, Turn Me Off, Turn Me On Again)”. Or something.

The first problem appears on the screen, and immediately I’m faced with a second problem – I don’t have a chuffing clue what the answer is, even in decimal. At least with Geff Capes’ Hexadecimal Budgerigar Extravaganza (or whatever it was called) I could have a decent stab at the answer, but 023 minus 365? With the help of good old Microsoft Calculator I work out that 023 is 19 and 365 is 245, meaning the answer is minus 226 in decimal, or, erm, 1777777777777777777436 in octal. I think my calculator’s broken. Curses! So I just sort of stab at some buttons and one of my ships gets sunk. Rats!

However that’s nothing compared to the next question…


316 XOR 214? I know that XOR means eXclusive Or, but how to apply it to octal is anyone’s guess. So again I just stab randomly at some numbers and hope for the best. I notice that quite a few of the number keys don’t work either – I think this is a feature rather than a bug, as Garry states “the routine is very poorly written and has a 1 in 256 chance of overwriting the BASIC system variables and crashing the computer.” A crashed computer at this point sounded like a far more appealing prospect than playing the game, and I must admit I didn’t progress any further – but if anyone knows what happens if and when you win, send the screenshot on a postcard to Rt. Hon. Reverend Chris Young (Mrs), Acting Assistant Under-Secretary to the Temporary Chairman, Sqij Towers, 666 Boulevard des Jeux de Merde, Biggleswade-on-Sea, Kidderminstercestershire.

Score: 1 XOR 1 out of 144.

Download here (ZX81 zip file)

Advanced Fiesta Simulator 3D

I owned a Ford Fiesta over ten years ago. The blower stopped working except on position “4”, which necessitated turning the radio up, not that the speaker on the driver’s side worked properly anyway. One winter the internal heater decided to fail. Some time afterwards the radiator developed a leak, requiring a top-up every morning and an emergency spare bottle of water in the boot. In summer, my commute to work largely involved watching the temperature gauge slowly increase, praying that the “Road To Nowhere” wouldn’t be at a standstill, as the only way to keep the engine cool was to drive fast enough for the surrounding air to do the job. In winter I was dressed as the Michelin Man, praying that the “Road To Nowhere” wouldn’t be at a standstill, so I could get to work before I froze to death.

I figured this was qualification enough to review Garry Wishart’s Advanced Fiesta Simulator 3D for the ZX81.

I had a piece of shit car like this myself once.

I had a piece of shit car like this myself once.

The first thing which struck me was this game is HUGE. It needs a 16K ZX81, and the author advises against running it on a real machine because it “takes nearly 15 minutes to load”. However, he also advises there is a version with sound (“not included”) which only works on a real ZX81 – and requires a radio tuned to the specific frequency of 600kHz in the vicinity. That’s dedication, and I’m willing to take Garry’s word that such a thing both exists and works, as the rest of the code is unbelievably thorough – there’s even a mention of “friction coefficients”, though he has hand-rendered everything (which explains why the code takes up so much memory) rather than using his mathematical genius coupled with the ZX81’s UNPLOT command. Maybe the ZX81 wasn’t up to calculating the full first-person view of the road quick enough.

This advert was actually found next to Jim's wife in the back of Fiesta magazine, due to an administrative error.

This advert was actually found next to Jim’s wife in the back of Fiesta magazine, due to an administrative error.

The game starts with you purchasing a used car, for less than the price of a Sinclair Black Watch (probably). “One careful lady owner”, the advert states – omitting the twenty or so buffoons who also owned it at one point or another.

After that you’re straight into the action. With as many controls as your average ZX81 flight simulator[1], you can do everything from accelerating to adjusting the mirrors. Even the horn has a key despite the ZX81 having no ability to output sound. Bizarrely, there’s no option to turn on the hazards, which are the first things I’d check are working in a MkI Fiesta. Ah, well, it’s a game, you won’t need them. The game helpfully tells you the controls no matter what you answer to the question “Instructions?”, so somebody’s been reading my old guide to writing a crap game.

The main display is your classic pseudo-driver’s view – a road disappearing into the distance – but with a few features not normally found on 8-bit era driving games. Firstly, the game has a five speed gearbox (one of the speeds is “reverse”, but it still counts), whereas you’d be lucky to get Lo/Hi gears back in the 1980s. Secondly, there’s a rear view mirror, despite there being no other traffic on the road. Garry has also kitted it out with the usual computer game dashboard components – speedo, clock, brake fluid low indicator (Huh? – Ed), that sort of thing.

The A14 near Creeting St Mary.

The A14 near Creeting St Mary.

Unfortunately, the warning lights appear to be dead (It’s probably the fuse – Ed), as the first you’ll know about the engine overheating is when it’s on fire. The gearbox is faulty. The electrics are screwed up. If you slow down for the lights you’ll stall and be needing those hazard lights that haven’t been mapped to the ZX81’s keyboard. If you adjust the mirror it’ll come off in your hand.

I dare say that if you stay at a constant speed between about 20 and 40 mph, stay on the road and DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING you might reach Carlisle. Or you might still break down due to lack of fuel, an oil leakage, flat tyre or total boredom.

And.... stop.

And…. stop.

Mr Lake, co-host of the 2007 CSSCGC, also had an old Fiesta. Exiting the vehicle involved winding the window down and operating the handle on the exterior of the door, although I believe in later years that failed too, and the only reasonable way to leave was via the passenger’s side.

I strongly suspect this game is based on a true story. It’s also entirely as advertised – advanced, accurate and in 3D. If you took out all the bits about the car breaking down, this would have sold as a full price title back in 1982. With them, though, it’s a superbly executed crap game which has had far too much effort spent on it. Top marks!

Download HERE

[1] There’s only one – Psion Flight Simulation, and it has twelve keys, but three of them have nothing to do with controlling the plane so I’ve ignored them.

Advanced ZX81 Simulator

The CGC has long had a tradition of people writing “advanced simulators” of their favourite (second favourite – Ed) computer platforms for the humble Speccy. From the short:

20 NEW

All the way up to James Smith‘s Virtual ZX Spectrum – an actual ZX Spectrum emulator that runs on the Spectrum itself – and his potentially genuinely useful Twenty Commodes, Vic-20 emulator.

The question here was “which category is this going to fall into?”. Is it the usual cheap one-joke effort, or is it a fully fledged ZX81 emulator for the Spectrum capable of playing such classics as 3D Monster Maze and Barcode Hangman? (such things do already exist)

One of the delights that isn't playable with Advanced ZX81 Simulator, running here under a proper ZX81 emulator for the Speccy.

One of the delights that isn’t playable with Advanced ZX81 Simulator, running here under a proper ZX81 emulator for the Speccy.

It started off well, configuring my 16K RAM Pack with extra blu-tack to avoid the dreaded RAM Pack Wobble(TM) after three hours on Crap Castle Master. The ZX81’s K prompt stared back.

Ah... the dreams of every ZX81 owner... so this is what's "advanced" about it...

Ah… the dreams of every ZX81 owner… so this is what’s “advanced” about it…

Predictably, it’s a cheap one joke effort. Extra marks for entirely failing to mimic the ZX81’s error messages, and providing a polite wordy error rather than the abrasive unexpected reboot, screen corruption and freeze that plagued ZX81 owners in the early 1980s.

It appears that the “Advanced” in the title means “More advanced than an actual ZX81” and “Simulator” means “Not even trying to be a ZX81”.

I rate this ZX80 out of QL.

Download here.