COMPETITION ENTRY #30: CLIFF RICHARD LOVES RIHANNA... FACT!
Last April, to relieve the tedium of state-mandated house arrest, I started typing in listings for The Type Fantastic. One of my projects was to complete the set of Sinclair User listings, and at one point I found myself typing in a database program for a dating agency. This is emphatically not my scene, but even I can see it was about as much use as a chocolate teapot in a sunroof-equipped submarine as it had room for so few entries that even the limited clientèle of The Undateables would find it inadequate. If only the people of February 1985 had (a) an Opus Discovery (which was only released later in the year), or (b) Andy Jenkinson to write programs for them. What he's done is make the closest thing the Spectrum is ever going to have to a dating sim. I will admit at this point that my only contact with that area of Japandemonium is ArmoredChocobo's playthrough of Ripened Tingle's Balloon Trip of Love... proceed with extreme caution (and I'd never play that myself).
Andy's matchmaking quest is based on a process he remembers from the school playground. Not, as he explains, pulling petals off a daisy, because that never worked (there is a historical example in his extensive accompanying text file), but a more mathematical process (I like this) that involves adding up the total number of matching letters in each name. In a nauseating display of sentimentality, the example provided is ANDREW JENKINSON LOVES SARAH MARSHALL. Add up the number of Ls, Os, Vs, Es and Ss, and you get 2-1-0-2-3. Then add adjacent numbers to form the next line, you get 3-1-2-5. Eventually this reaches 7-10, in which the 1 and 0 are split into individual digits, and finally Andy loves Sarah with a factor of 81%. I would assume the other 19% of the time is when he's spent too long writing crap Spectrum games instead of helping Sarah with the gardening...
The game, such as it is one, is enhanced by the proportionally-spaced font we've seen before on Sir Clive's Ink Lair, and an AY soundtrack which technically doesn't require a 128K Spectrum - a Melodik AY Soundbox attached to a rubber-key model will do, a Fuller Box will not (I've tested it with Spectaculator and Fuse) - but is most easily accessed this way. It will BEEP (well, PLAY, really) merrily to itself while you inquire if Lewis Hamilton really loves Nicole Scherzinger (69%, and it didn't work out), or if Jeremy Clarkson hates the Volkswagen Beetle (86%, don't we know it). Before you know it, you'll have disappeared down a very deep rabbit hole trying to find out if all sorts of spicy or potentially explosive match-ups will work. It can get even spicier if you attempt to access the NSFW mode by typing the correct word at the "Relationship" prompt, which Andy suggests but doesn't outright state in the text file.
Press ENTER at any prompt without any input and the computer will fill in the blanks for you, from a predetermined bank of your most or least favourite celebrities, some of whom are long dead (Hattie Jacques is one), some are fictional characters (that'd be Mary Poppins), and all of whom can get entangled in the most unlikely relationships - especially if NSFW mode is turned on. Some relationships will overload the algorithm into an ever-increasing string of numbers, which is quite common - but an endless loop is not. The program should recognise an endless loop, as shown in the screenshots, but JEREMY CLARKSON HATES THE VAUXHALL VECTRA will fox it completely. I have no idea why.
Play this any way you like - hit ENTER continuously to see what matchups the computer comes up with, press BREAK and change the names in the DATA statements, or put your own names and relationships in, and do let curiosity get the better of you. Make all sorts of politically or religiously contentious statements, see if your friends are lying, or if they have any hidden secrets, or if your parents should have split up before you were born, thus making your very existence a mistake. Never mind Johnny Ball, the Spectrum will reveal all.
This is a really, really simple concept that was mostly done in BASIC, but had 5.7K of machine code thrown at it to enhance the experience - and that's just in the main program, there's even more in the initial loader! There are no Challenges attempted, though I've included references to both Red and Yellow in the screenshots. Andy's used his own Stipple ATTR Art Tool to make the loading screen, from which only 768 bytes of attributes need to be loaded to reveal it (like an enhanced Robber, for those who have ever seen that game load). This is exactly what I was looking for - it'd have done fine as a type-in without all the fluff and frivolity, but adding it in requires extra effort. It's a score of three masks for attainment, as it was far more entertaining than something so simple has any right to be, and what would probably have been three Ricks for effort gets bumped up to five for the excellent, if completely unnecessary additions.
I was even half-tempted to raise it even further to six Ricks because of the inclusion of Janet Ellis amongst the in-built names...