Nothing starts the year out better than a space shooter. The top of the printout was quite faded, so I wasn’t sure about ZTSXXSTZ when I started to type it in. But, once I got the first few bits working I realized I had something worth sharing.
Tarantula, August’s program of the month, was part of a pair of games that made me think I was a game developer. At the age of fourteen, I didn’t let problems like the lack of a distribution channel tarnish my dreams. Although I didn’t make it into gaming, it’s still fun to look back on what could have been.
One of the coolest movies when I was a young teenager was Disney’s Tron. What geeky kid didn’t want to watch a movie about computers and video games? Sprinkle in some computer animation and how could I not fall in love. Needless to say, Tron was the inspiration for more than a few of my programs. Trail Blazer, September’s program of the month, is one of them. An homage to the light cycle segment, the goal is to crash your opponent first. But beware. All walls are deadly, including your own.
Not everything I wrote on the ZX81 was a game, although I did write a lot of those. In fact, some of my first computer programs did nothing more than print pictures. 3D Image, a badly named program, is one of my experiments in animation on the ZX81. Depicting a sun at the end of its life, it’s a uses simple math to generate an image.
“Jealous of Vargen’s accomplishments, a rival kingdom has attacked and kidnapped your king. As head Knight, you mount a quest to return the King, hidden somewhere in the forest by his captors. But hurry! The King's ransom has a time limit. Can you find the King in time and restore the Vargen Crown?” Sounds great right? An adventure game set in a single screen. I had high hopes for Vargen Crown. Castles, keys, and puzzles, our program of the month covered the basics of adventure. Using just the ZX81 cursor keys, playing it will leave you unsatisfied and, I suspect, quite frustrated. It’s too bad as the game has a decent look to it. I chalk it up to being a young programmer, but that's not an excuse. Still interested? Let’s dig in and see what makes this game tick.
Walls and creatures always make for a nice game and Faller, our program of the month, has both. It takes a bit of imagination, but watch the icky spider climb up the wall towards you. Their goal, of course, is to knock you off and claim the wall for themselves. Like any good hero, you sit at the top and move over the spiders using Z and .. But be quick and knock them off using M to save the day. Just don’t be a faller should you miss.
April is close to wrapping up and I was able to find time this weekend to type in another ZX81 game. Laser Blast, this month’s program, has you saving the world. Kind of cliché I know, but hey this was 1984. George Orwell’s novel didn’t come true, but at least we could blast alien’s with lasers. Use the Z and . keys to move and M to shoot your ray of death. But beware. The alien has a guided missile and it’s heading right for you.
Ah, spring time. As winter melts away, the weather goes haywire and it’s time to enjoy the bouts of sunshine, rain and the occasional thunderstorm of hail. Perhaps it’s fitting that in the middle of this meteorological mayhem that Computact came back to life. An outwardly simple landing game that is almost impossible to play. No matter, it demonstrates some interesting use of ZX81 BASIC as March’s Program of the month.
Digging through my listings, I struggled deciding what to offer for February. The first one I found was an adventure text game. Too close to last month's program, I decided against it for now. Further down in the stack, I found a code breaking program, but after entering it in I realized it needed work. The next program I pulled out, a graphic game called Teleport—ignore that spelling for now—ended up being just right.
January’s program of the month, Fireball, marks a first for me. Although I’ve used a few different methods to type in my programs, I’ve always gone back to a Windows so I could use EightyOne to generate the program files and images. However, for my birthday, my wife took me to the Apple store and I upgraded my old laptop to a shiny new MacBook Pro.
The old saying “time flies when you’re having fun” is so true of late. This year started with a bang and I feel like I’ve been running ever since. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to work on my old ZX81 programs, but they often take a back burner to other past times. That said, I did find some time to sit down this weekend to type in another program. For February I present you with ENLARGER.