Crap Spectrum Games
The Spectrum sports some of the greatest games ever designed, as we all know, but at the other end of the Spectrum (pun intended) it also sports some of the worst, and here I am to have a look at these monstrosities and analyse just what makes a Spectrum Game truly crap. This is opposed to merely irritating, tedious and repititious, which are easily emulated. No, making a game crap really is an artform in itself, and I hope to eventually distil what that secret ingredient is.

It has long been a tradition in the Spectrum games world to hold crap game competitions. Both Sinclair User and Your Sinclair both held Crap Game Competitions, and probably the most famous crap game is Advanced Lawnmower Simulator. More recently, Lee "Blood" Tonks held a Crap Game Compo on comp.sys.sinclair with some truly awful results. You can download them all from here, if you can stomach it. (Thanks to Lee for the link there).

What Helps Make a Game Crap?

Normally the following helps:-

There is a constant irritating tune that you can't turn off.

For maximum effect, the tune is normally comprised of a total of 3 notes (very often the same tone), and repeats itself over and over and over again. Radio jingles and Muzak can only hope to become some bad...

You have to keep pressing Enter every two minutes

This probably only applies to Spectrum adventure games. Having to press enter precludes every event in the game, and not just to receive the inevitable final end-of-game message, but just about anything, starting with the first location description.

The program beeps every time you press a button

This not only includes the above "having to press enter" syndrome, but for maximum effect the trusty beep should be employed in adventure games whenever any letter is pressed. When Sir Clive wrote the Sinclair ROM, he made one fatal error! He didn't make the "click" irritating enough!

Written in BASIC

Yes, that trusty language which others (like C) tried to copy but failed to inherit its basic easy-to-use greatness, is one of the real core design features of a crap game, killing two birds with one stone as it does so well; it's incredibly easy to program, meaning that any divot could churn out complete rubbish (as Cascade proved so well), and secondly it was slow beyond belief. 'Nuff said.

Attribute Clash

Unfortunately, this is quite difficult in BASIC, and is thus universally exclusive from the above point. However, it did allow many machine-code programmers to come exceedingly close to aspiring to true crapness. Unfortunately, they didn't do too well, and succumbed to that bastion of awfulness that crap games never are - irritating!. So near and yet so far!

The Name of the Game

No, not Imagine's catchline, but truly crap games aspire to the epic. One area (among others) where Imagine failed. Stonkers? For a truly Government Health Warning-ly crap title, it should have been Stonking Ultra-Massacre Nuclear Death Carnage Afterbirth XVII. (The Roman numerals are almost are almost as important as the name itself - no truly crap game can ever not be a sequel.

A Decent Keyboard Layout

Yes, even though a game is crap, the controls should at least allow you to do what you want to do, the moment you want to do it, without really having to think about it. So, for example, when you want to walk left, you don't want to have to spin left with one key, and then walk forwards with another. So unfortunately, games like Knightlore and 3D Ant Attack fail to qualify.

But What About an Example?

A good idea. I programmed a game which (IMHO) contains the very essence of a crap game. How about we distill it and see what we come up with?.

That's all for now. While I try and work out how many L's there are in trully, I'll be trying to program my own crap game. Look out for Textris II!

Unfortunately, I couldn't help copying (from memory) the ideas in SU's Crap Game Competition. Hey, at least I admitted it! (And why was the winner never released on a Megatape??).

Designed and Programmed by

Stephen Smith -

They should have included Norfolk as a map in Turbo Espirit. Would have made it so much easier...