It's June 1984.
In the UK, education secretary Sir Keith Joseph has announced that 'O' levels will be replaced by GCSEs. Elsewhere, Gremlins has been released in US theatres. France wins the footy Euros, Michel Platini & Bruno Bellone earning a 2-0 win against Spain.
In the Crash hotline charts, a famous sequel flies straight to the top, knocking its predecessor off its lofty perch.
(Perhaps the only time there's been two games in the same series holding the top 2 spots?)
In the same month that Bruce Springsteen releases his 7th album "Born in the USA", the UK charts are being pounded by new wave:
...As the greatest crooner of all time starts to fall from his perch...
(Radio 1 listeners breathe a sigh of relief and cancel their earplugs orders)
Also this month - the best selling video game of all time was born...
The contents screen appears, displaying what we've got this week. Now as you know I don't like to be spoilered ("Eeew") so I move on quickly.
Though at a glance, I did notice a small thing - that the contents are actually listed in the contents... (huh??)
Intrigued, I wonder what the contents have to say about the contents...
Heh. Well, I suppose they ARE on the tape. Enough of that, let's get on with it...
Haha - can't beat physics humour, eh? I can't say that I remember learning much about quarks and nutrinos, but if 16/48 is gonna hit me with some learnin' on the first program, the game better be good.
1 - up
q - down
m - left
s/shift - right (interesting...)
space - fire
OK, let's get going, and... WTF???!?!?
OK, so we have small UDG sprites, but this game is surely NOT written in BASIC.
And holy carp, does it get fast:
A quick check of my emulator debugger tells me that the game IS machine code and fits in just over 1k (leaving aside the small BASIC program). OK, so it's not the most mind-blowing game in the world. The UDGs move in character squares, printed to the screen using RST 16 (I think).
But hey - we have fast-moving graphics, 8-way movement, and in the context of 16/48 game history, I reckon this is a:
As the number of quarks decreases, the quicker they move around the screen (despite the display suggesting the level is still 'slow' mode). Success increases the challenge, speeding up the quarks.
The program seems to indicate you can get a 'perfect score', but I failed miserably to cope with these sorts of speeds:
Overall, not a bad start - despite having a quick trawl through the program, I couldn't find anything to indicate who the author was, which is unusual for 16/48 as they've tended to give credit for its programs.
Eventually a combination of my crappy reactions and the insane speeds the game was reaching force me to concede defeat with this one. Let's move on.
We're welcomed to the start of the second half year of 16/48. Apparently people have been getting in touch online (Micronet p6002913 if anyone's interested) to express their continued enthusiasm for the mag.
The first news item is the announcement a 16/48 program called Breakless. This comes after a tirade against publishers of educational software who BREAK-protect their games.
"Any child with any curiosity will always try the BREAK key at some stage. Making the machine crash so that the tape has to be reloaded is not the answer."
And also a little secret - The Long Way Home has been hiding references to Spectrum games within its graphics. We're encouraged to "keep a note of these as they are to be the subject of a future competition". Hopefully some of these will have appeared in one of clever Morkin's earlier posts, as the graphics in these adventures have been pleasant enough to screen grab..
There's certainly at least one - a fairly obvious one - in this month's adventure, have a look and Speccy fans should spot it instantly.
SERIES & PARALLEL RESISTORS
Hang on, I'm sure we had a previous resistance program didn't we?
OK, let's see what all this is about (as if I can't guess)...
...Of course, it's all about I = V/R
Despite an occasional foray into the hardware threads here, I'm not adept at electronics, and didn't bother with the practice examples, so got a few of these wrong.
I was impressed with the way the program explained the answers though, with step by step animations showing how to combine the figures. I would have grabbed an GIF to demonstrate but I decided it probably wasn't worth the effort.
THE LONG WAY HOME PART 4 - TROGLODYTE
The next instalment from Barry Thorne. For those of you who aren't caught up on this:
tl;dr It's somewhere between Quantum Leap and Dr Who.
You're stuck in space and time trying to get home. In each episode you find a trans-mat unit and jump somewhere else. So far we've had:
- a spaceship filled with dangerous Sinclair-branded robots, who do more damage than a 20 minute ride on an 'A' bike
- the Mary Celeste, where a 10 second walk can leave you dying of thirst, hunger and err... rats
- a pyramid, filled with deadly traps, and at least one dead end
This month, we find ourselves in a barren marshy grassland. There's no entry code this time round. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure the code actually worked properly anyway.
As we've come to expect, some pleasant graphics accompany this text adventure, courtesy of Jim Dann
As suggested by the episode title, we've been cast back to the times of ancient cave dwellers.
As is typical with TLWH, there are plenty of ways to meet an instant death:
Thankfully there are not hunger or thirst issues this month. However, there are timed events - specifically, day and night. The main hazard is a pack of wolves, who hound you (ba dum tish) at night time and you have to perform certain actions to fend them off.
Once you manage to survive a night, it's relatively plain sailing, the main difficulty afterwards being picking your vocab when dealing with the chief, who I thought bore a passing resemblance to Linda Evans, of 'original' Dynasty fame (yes, it got rebooted if you didn't know).
Anyway, I just about limped out of this episode somewhat, but made it to the TRANS MAT unit to keep my 100% completion record.
As we know, apart from the graphics routines, the game is in BASIC, so my curiosity prompted me to BREAK into the program. I discovered that the insta-death from wolf attacks had a random element to it, which I thought was a bit harsh - if it wasn't for emulation and restoring games from snapshots it would have driven me crackers back in 1984.
Well, so far so good. I think the standard of side A has been pretty good so far. So onwards... And with the Dynasty theme tune suddenly a Morkin earworm, onto side B..!
OF DUNGEONS AND GREEN MEN
Judging from 16/48's bulging mailbag (erm... oo-er?) this month, people have been struggling with last month's Quill'd game The Sorcerer. I was a little bit surprised - I mean, it wasn't completely straightforward... It had a turn limit and a maze (urrgh). But it's not one of the hardest text adventures I've played.
I looked at the hints because I wasn't sure of the significance of some of the items in the game - it didn't help massively, but it did explain a couple of things.
Next we read:
"You've read the book"
"You've played the game"
"The Book, of the Game, of the Book"
10 points for anyone who guesses right.
(Seriously, will there ever NOT be an article about the s0dding Hobbit???)
(Sorry, couldn't resist)
OK, you get the idea - can anyone tell me if the above is actually possible? I'm not sure it is, but someone else will probably be cleverer.
I did a slightly easier one at least:
Jeez though, this is all a bit dull really. Perhaps a third pot or offering only possible puzzles might have helped. Though probably not much...
Ooh, what's this. First impressions - I reckon it's got quite a pleasant typeface...
Oh - it's a review of Micromega/Derek Brewster game CodeName Mat
Once again we're treated to a screenshot of the game (I wonder how they got them ) before plastering review text all over it:
Conclusion - an excellent game - RECOMMENDED.
Oh, it's another review - this time it's Jet Set ******* Willy.
I probably don't need to say much about this, so I'll just leave you with the conclusion. If you can actually read the s0dding thing.
"This must be the strongest contender for the game of the year... So far"
OK, hope the next program better not be another review....
Oh. So it's this thing that was mentioned in the editorial.
They weren't lying either. It works well.
Not particularly exciting, but as with some earlier tips, it's something that "80s BASIC programmer" Morkin would have quite liked, rather than use that POKE that just froze the Speccy. All in 50 bytes.
Ah, I remember this one... 'Imaginitive ways to clear the screen' I think? Am I right? Yes, I am.
Suppose you'll be wanting to see them then? There are only 2.
There we go. There were some sound effects, but nothing spectacular.
The entrants win a keyboard apparently - can't remember what sort - my guess is that it'd be a DK Tronics one, I didn't make a note of it in my issue 3 review. I'm sure if it'd been a Saga one they'd have got more entries...
Final program..! And it's...
No, it's not the spacey arcade game.
A bit of a slide puzzler this one... Unfortunately I couldn't do it. It was too hard, and it was getting late.
I spend a distressing amount of time on it, but this was about the best I could do.
If anyone wants to have a crack at it, feel free..!
....So that's it for this month.
I was a bit disappointed to only have one arcade game to play this month, though the single offering did
surprise me by being written in machine code.
The Long Way Home adventure was enjoyable if a little tough. Did you spot the Speccy game hidden in it? Of course you did...
Anyway I don't recall having this issue 'back in the day', so I'm assuming that each edition from now on will be new to me. Now we're heading into 'mid 80s' territory, I'd imagine that readers' expectations will increase, and hopefully the quality of the programs will increase accordingly.
On a side note, sorry about the slightly rubbish quality of images in this post - the emulator screen grabs seemed quite big and I lost a little bit of quality when I converted them. But I couldn't be ar$ed to go back and change them. I'll try not to do that next time... Though to be fair, most of the graphics are a bit rubbish apart from TLWH so maybe I'll just retain those ones..