As you'll remember, the challenge was to write a game in Sinclair Basic. But it wasn't to be any ordinary, good game; we wanted complete dinosaur doo, the sort of thing you would have expected to find on compilation tapes three years ago. And that's what we got. Hundreds of them. It's hard to select the worst from such a selection, but let's sort through the slush pile and look at some of the titles which caused the most hilarity at SU Towers.
ONE MAN FOOTBALL TEAM MANAGER from Richard Bacon took football simulation to the ultimate; not only do you pick the teams, you're the only player on the pitch and you can score at either end. Surreal.
The "social comment" award was divided between M Streuli for LESTER LOST HIS HORSE (and his liberty), an avoid-the-blobs game featuring the famous jockey and tax evader; and NUCLEAR FREE ZONE from Mark Gale, in which you have to steer a vanload of radioactive crud away from your town, while avoiding the nuclear death-spots and hostile policemen. Right on.
Back to straightforward zaniness, and HI-LO from Michael Rooney walked away with the non-existent prizes. This card game, in which you have to guess if the following card is of a higher or lower value, was marred largely by the fact that the same card always comes up, and whatever you guess, you're told you lost. Big points for gameplay, Mike.
Lots of entrants depended on a silly title, without managing to make the game itself notably silly. We were particularly taken with MUTANT SHOP ASSISTANTS AT THE EDGE OF TIME from James Backhouse; INVASION OF THE MUTANT KILLER WHIPPETS FROM MARS by Paul Austin; ATTACK OF THE HORRIBLE HOSTILE WORM THINGIES from Elton Bird; ATTACK OF THE MARSHMALLOW THINGIES by Gareth Long; KAMIKAZE HEADBANGER TRAIN ATTACK by Karl Johnson, in which you have to head-butt steam engines; and APPLE EATING FERRETS FROM MARS by Neil Gorin.
A good showing, too, for simulators. Code Masters take notice; JUMP OFF A CLIFF SIMULATOR from Kieron Gillen has a charming simplicity; PRO TRAIN CRASHING SIMULATOR from Stephen Piers offers the useful facility of being able to specify in advance what you want to score; while ADVANCED CAR WASH SIMULATOR from Carl Richardson captures all the excitement of automotive valeting services.
Younger game players were fairly well catered for; THE MOVING LEFT AND RIGHT GAME from M Lorimer was about as simple as you could possibly require, while HARRY THE BABY SAVES THE WORLD WITH HIS AMAZING WATER PISTOL won the prize for the longest title for James Price. We loved the killer ducks.
Another entrant in the long title stakes was JET SET HARRY GETS PSSST WHILE SKIING IN THE JUNGLE, a value-for-money compilation of four awful scrolly games from Richard Ambridge and Jonathan Parker. We also liked BILLY AND HIS PURPLE FLARES, a morality tale for the fashion-conscious in which young Billy is biffed by bovver boys as he makes his way home in his unusual bags. Well done, Richard Bradwell of Willington, where flares are obviously still the in thing.
We're getting to the cream of the crap now. BROS - THE COMPUTER GAME from N Darwin allows you to steer the pop greebos through the ups and downs of the music industry, spending money on singles and albums, aiming for a high chart position and even making videos (see those UDGs dance!) Almost up to Firebird standards, this one. We liked WORLD WAR III SIMULATOR from Mark Borland so much that we spent hours re-writing it so that it made sense. All you have to do is try to intercept incoming missiles by choosing a trajectory for your AMMs; miss and it's all over. Beautifully simple.
We also gagged over DEATHTRAP from Martyn Carroll. This brilliantly awful arcade-adventure with animated graphic sequences sets you on an Iran Airlines plane full of deadly spiders, terrorists and a Skoda 4x4.
We were most entertained by NEIGHBOURS from Mark Williams. The "official TV licence" (are you sure about this, Mark?) features all the most popular characters from the hit soap - at least, little blobs representing them. Awful. We look forward to the sequel, the imaginatively-titled Neighbours 2.
Our collective fancies were also tickled by 1944 - THE YEAR AFTER THE YEAR AFTER by Dan Hinton. Trouble is, this bottom-to-top scrolling dam-bombing game was altogether too good to win the prize.
This one has a sort of horrifying fascination because it's topical, awful, yet playable. OLYMPIC GAMES SIMULATOR from Tom Fahy came complete with a keyboard overlay and detailed instructions, claiming to be "simply the most sophisticated software ever to grace the Spectrum". Despite the fact that it boasts several events, such as synchronised swimming and pole-vaulting, you'll find they all bear a remarkable resemblance to SQUASH THE HEDGEHOG. Your little hedgehog has to surround the vicious hammer with his trail before he gets mashed. Picking up medals slows down the hammer, and you get a bonus for capturing the hammer quicker.
Tom Fahy's OLYMPIC GAMES SIMULATOR (SQUASH THE HEDGEHOG) will appear in all it's glory on a forthcoming Megatape, and Tom wins the £50 dosh plus a blow on the head.
If you have been particularly inspired by this article, you may also be interested in the
current comp.sys.sinclair crap games competition, or even the Crap Games Webring. Possibly.