COMPETITION ENTRY #11: 2D DEATHCHASE
Suffice to say, everyone in the Spectrum community has heard of 3D Deathchase. Released in 1983 and suitable for the still-lukewarm 16K Spectrum, it was a Crash Smash at the time, and maybe back in the day the slightly illogical controls, crude graphics, standard ROM font and some particularly nasty sound effects didn't detract from its obvious "just one more go" playability. Somehow, though, after all the advances made for the Spectrum in the next eight years, Your Sinclair declared it "The Best Spectrum Game Of All Time, Ever" in early 1992, which, despite the enthusiastic review, was a bit of a stretch.
For those whose pocket money wouldn't stretch to an official copy of 3D Deathchase in 1983, 2D Deathchase could quite easily have graced the listings of Sinclair Programs, nudging the countless home-brew versions of Pac-Man and Frogger out the way - which is exactly what I'm looking for in this year's competition. The gameplay is somewhat similar to its 3D forebear, only with a top-down view - and much slower, because it's written in BASIC. There is a hint of machine code, which Rob tells me is for collision detection, and to erase any moving objects without deleting the trees; it doesn't speed up the game in any way.
You are the blue bike, and you must chase down the two magenta bikes - but all the bikes move at the same speed towards the top of the screen and then disappear when they reach the top, so you're never going to catch them and send their riders into a tree with a well-aimed boot. Instead, you must blast them to oblivion. There are no acceleration, brake or fire controls - all you have to deal with is the left and right keys, 1 and 2. These don't just move your bike - they will simultaneously move a minuscule-pixellated version of Ryu and Ken's fireballs, which is constantly generated in front of you (must be a strange modification of the headlight...?) and moves at twice the speed of the bikes. Hence, you need to watch both your bike and the fireball, so that you steer your bike away from the trees, and flaming Japanese death towards your targets. There are no restrictions on the number of shots - all you have to do is not crash, and if the enemy bikes disappear off the top of the screen, you just have to get there yourself, the screen clears and you'll start again at the bottom of the screen with some newly-placed trees. Interestingly, line 130 in the listing prevents any newly-placed tree trunks from overwriting any existing leaves, so that the overall view is more like that of a chasing aircraft than directly overhead.
Smite both bikes with your automotive hadouken and you'll be sent to the next level, which places five more trees in your way. There's no night stage in this game, though a quick PAPER 0 would surely have done the trick there. Rob suggests cranking your emulator up to double-speed to get the game to run at a reasonable pace, but I've tested it at regular speed, as it would be on real hardware. At that speed it's not terribly hard; on my first attempt I managed to get to level 9, by which time the best chance of success is gained by threading through the trees, lining up as close as possible to the enemy bike for the start of the next screen and hoping that there isn't a randomly-placed impenetrable wall of trees in the way. Patience is the key; eventually you'll have a clear shot at the target. But I finally copped the inevitable, whereupon the game stopped with "You hit a tree!" - no "do you want another go", nowt. Thus Rob denied himself a golden opportunity to grab the Cyan Challenge by the handlebars; why opt for 9 STOP Statement when Q Parameter error is far more striking? Something else I'd note is that there's no sound, at all, and I've examined both the BASIC and machine code listings to confirm it. Given the ear-bleeding noises that the original made, that's not too much of a disadvantage. And maybe it's deliberate, because it's 2021 rather than 1983 and these are electric bikes?
It's a strange one to assess, this - I think it's worth three masks for attainment, in that I think it could be genuinely entertaining for a while (to the same level as other entries I gave the same score to), certainly if the speed is increased, and it would have been welcomed with open arms in the magazines of 1983. But I only award two Ricks for effort because Shower Simulator had a longer listing, and I gave that two. There's no loading screen, no custom character set, no microdrive version (although there is a source code listing in .BAS format that can be used on BASin), no thoroughly unnecessary embellishments whatsoever to pile on the Ricks... and somewhat oddly, this is only a 48K game because the machine code is poked to an address just above the top of the 16K machine - 300 bytes lower and it would been fine!