Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Greatest Games Computer Ever: 2 - Quicksilva Scramble

The peace loving scientists beavering industriously away in Pixel Town Labs
looke dup in alarm as they heard the sound they dreaded above all else -
complete, unnerving silence.

'Run for cover' they signalled frantically to one another, 'Hide yourself'.

But it was too late, even for those who had managed to fit themselves
beneath the towering letters As which dotted the rugged mountain landscape.
Enemy fire was no respecter of mere capital letters and where the falling
rain of asterisk death failed to finish the job, a slow moving dash could
take out anyone in the higher, curiously monochrome, regions. The only hope
was to move in the gap between one deployment of the enemy's Shift-8
technology and the next, as each attacker could only fire one weapon at a
time and - perhaps uniquely in the history of war - was unable to launch a
second strike until the first had run its course. A design flaw, certainly,
but not one the peaceful scientists could ever hope to utilise in their

Quicksilva Scramble was just about as good as it got in 1981. A faithful
copy of the arcade game (at that point not yet a classic but a cutting edge
piece of arcade gaming) only available on tape for playing on your ZX81 in
black and white, with blocky non-pixel graphics and no sound other than your
own hollers and whoops as you carried out a particularly tricky manouvere
(using up, down, left and right only - no diagonals) or skipped blithely
past a soaring Capital A as it launched from the ground towards your little
black ship.

Scramble - and the tremendously literally named 'Adventure Game' - on the
ZX81 was the first computer game I ever played and for all that I'd never
want to play it again, it occupies a special 'first time' place in my heart,
alongside Regal Small cigarettes, McEwans' Export in a can and a rather lovely girl
called Fiona.

I met the guy who wrote QS Scramble a couple of years ago in the pub at a
head-wetting ceremony for a friend's new baby. I didn't have a mobile phone
at the time, but if I had and I'd taken a note of his number on that instead
of writing it on the back of a packet of fags with a bookie's pen, it would
probably have used up more memory than the whole of QS Scramble was written

Really, admit it - how cool is that?


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Blogger Scott Liddell said...

I still remember the night that I was in the pub and John first told me he wrote Scramble. I was in awe. If you are reading this JB, you're a legend my friend.

7:19 pm  

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