It was all going so well, wasn't it? One minute I'm assessing bargain-basement "games" for the ZX80 and Z88 (while waiting for a first-ever entry for the Lambda 8300, or better still, the Next), the next (pardon the pun), I'm assaulted by the CSSCGC's longest-running and cheapest joke at Code Masters' expense. The 1997 edition introduced the CSSCGC to its first "Advanced (Something) Simulator", the 2008 edition had sixteen of them, but the one I'll remember most is from 2004, the first year I was involved with the competition, although not with this title. Advanced Buffoon Simulator was based on a World of Spectrum thread that was hijacked by the comment "You, sir, are a buffoon" - which snowballed into a running joke almost overnight.
Here in 2021, not only does the "Advanced (Something) Simulator" joke steadfastly refuse to roll over and die, but we have our latest entry based on a forum thread. This time it's on Spectrum Computing, and... it's on my CSSCGC thread, at that. In the aftermath of my review of Z88 Boggle, César Hernández Bañó explained how to get the game working on ZEsarUX, and a mere four days later, Lee Prince sent me Advanced Adding A TXT File To An EPROM Card For A Z88 Emulator Simulator.
It would be ungrateful to complain. Not only have I been able to add loading instructions for ZEsarUX to any future Z88 entries (and there will be some, won't there?), but I have my first entry for the 128K Spectrum, and the Cyan Challenge all in one!
The "game" itself, though... well, it's not a game. It comes in two versions, one for the 16K and 48K models, the other for the 128K. I'll deal with the rubber-keyed version first: this is nothing more than a bit of explanatory text, followed by 18 yes-or-no questions asking what you want to do next, which are the steps of the process by which you can install and run Z88 Boggle on ZEsarUX. Answer with a lower-case "y" to move to the next question, answer with anything else to stop the program with an error report that isn't 0 OK, 9 STOP statement or anything equally sensible. Some of those that are easy to create but rarely seen are in there - when was the last time you made such a specific mistake with your programming that you saw I FOR without NEXT (as opposed to 1 NEXT without FOR, which is also seen)? I particularly like the appearance of Q Parameter error, as it's one I used last year which sparked the idea of the Cyan Challenge in the first place. It's unfortunate that a programming error means we won't see P FN without DEF, mind... but I can let that one go.
Even more Cyan is the 128K version, which cuts down the number of questions to eight, concatenating two or three of them into a single INPUT. This is so that every error message you'll see is a lower-case one specific to the 128K models, not all of which are easy to generate. Those you do see are generated via PLAY or FORMAT commands, the latter being specific to the 128K models' use of the RS232 interface.
And that's where we get onto the Magenta Challenge. There is enough - just enough - odd-looking BASIC to justify it, most of which is generates the error messages - the aforementioned FORMAT, an INPUT #x here, a PRINT #x there that isn't #0 or #1, but the most interesting is the use of the utterly unloved VAL$ to transport the questions from a DATA statement into an INPUT via READ without encroaching on the input variable. A round of applause for that one, because I can see a use for this technique in one of my future games.
One last point before the assessment: is this game trying to serve as a warning? Neither version is really "winnable"; on the 16K/48K version, answer "y" to the final question and it'll get stuck in a loop (by intention, looking at the listing); on the 128K question, do the same and it will produce the error report p © 1986 Sinclair Research Ltd, 230:1 without resorting to POKE 23610,43; instead, it's via a PLAY statement with nine comma-separated strings that cannot be entered via the 128 BASIC editor, which will only accept eight strings. (I've tried it on a toastrack, +2, +2A and +3, so I suspect this program was built with BASin.) Also, this will cause a crash. What is Lee trying to tell us? That it's completely futile to try to get ZEsarUX's Z88 emulation working with external software? Not a bit of it. Check the CSSCGC thread above, and check my updated Z88 Boggle review. I can do it, Jamie can do it, anyone can do it. So if Lee was trying to send us a message to give up, then on that front, the program fails.
Overall, this scores well for effort. It's two Ricks in its base form, but there are two unnecessary loading screens - one for each version, and they're significantly different, but clearly both the product of a quick knock-up with BMP2SCR - and two Challenges have been met, one mainly as a consequence of the other. Because there's so very little resembling an actual game, I'm reluctant to score it at more than four Ricks - but it should be equally obvious that this means we have a one-mask attainment score. Only the dreaded demerits can stop it from streaking out in front as Most Crap Game Of The Year... and I was all ready to unleash the Goolus if I found the error messages were generated via POKE 23610, which I consider to be cheating. They weren't - even the non-standard error in the 128K version.
We have a new leader.
EFFORT: ATTAINMENT: DEMERITS: none