Monday, 29 August 2011

Short Circuit (ZX Spectrum) - Guest Post

I know this one from when I owned it on cassette as a kid, and that's why I'm glad poor mecha-neko played it instead of me.

Because we all need a bit more input.

This game has two parts. You choose to play either one of them separately or you can play them both as one combined full game. I'm going to go for the epic full game experience.

Johnny Five is alive! And he's in a yellow room!

Let's say we're inside a NOVA facility and Johnny's chosen a moment unguarded to escape. There's nobody around here, so let's take stock of what we can do and what we have to hand.

Wait! This is an adventure game! How did I end up playing another one of these? Argh!

Because he's a robot, it seems that all he can do is try to connect to things.

Our first task is try to find a computer that we can actually connect to. We can't use the apparatus at the back of the room or the computer to the left.

There's no RS232 connection on the chair, desk or plant either.

We're going right, no, East!

Bingo! We've got ourselves some programs: SEARCH, USE and READ.

I suppose if he only came to life just a few hours ago, he doesn't really know how to do these kinds of things. We don't seem to have any kind of finite program verb inventory, so I'm hoping we can carry more than one at a time otherwise we're not going to be able to use the computer again.

I'll take 'em all. If this is an adventure game, we're going to need all the verbs we can get our grubby robot claws on.

Armed with his shiny new SEARCH program, Johnny has a good rummage through your drawers.

Looks like we've got both a physical items inventory and a program verb inventory. If this is an adventure game, we're going to need all the passcards we can etc.

Uh oh. We're out of inventory space so I can't pick up the VIDEO TAPE. That's not good.

So far, I've found a BLUE PASSCARD, a CALCULATOR and a 1 POUND COIN. There's nothing around here I can USE these items on. You can't USE an item by itself, you can only USE it on an object in the room. I can't drop the things I've found so far.

I'm-a keep looking around.

Because it's the eighties, USEing the CALCULATOR on anything nets you a Hitchhiker's Guide reference. That's all it's good for. Hooray.

Using LOOK on any object in the environment gets you I SEE AN INTERESTING <BLANK>. That's all.

I keep heading South and find myself at a locked door. Luckily, my BLUE PASSCARD opens the door.

If fill up Johnny's inventory with any three of the CALCULATOR, 1 POUND COIN, VIDEO TAPE or FILE KEY, you are, in fact, buggered.

Let's see what awaits us on the other side of this locked door.

Okay, this isn't what I was expecting. I thought that because we used the BLUE PASSCARD to get here, the room would be, y'know, blue. I'd have settled for any colour than yellow, so I can at least tell the places apart. Maybe Johnny has yellow monochrome vision?

There's no map, so you'd better either have a very good sense of location, or a pen and paper. Or you could use your 21st century future powers and find yourself a walkthrough.

That closed door to the North is the one I just went through to get here. For some reason, it's opened on the other side but not this side. You can open it again on this side if you want the extra points or if you need to go back. Still hasn't used up the BLUE PASSCARD though.

Until I can get rid of these items I'm holding, there's not much point me SEARCHing anything else.

If you LOOK at this computer, it says I SEE AN INTERESTING FRUIT MACHINE instead of DESK. USE the 1 POUND COIN, and you've got yourself a fruit machine!

Apparently Nova employees like to pass the time by playing fruit machine games on their computers. They must have a projector set up there, too. Neat.

I don't know how to play the fruit machine because the keys are really weird, but it's a relief to see a colour other than yellow.

Huzzah! I've found myself another terminal. Now I'm packing LINK, SEARCH, USE, READ, LOOK, BREAK and DROP. That almost makes up for all the rooms being the same colour.

I can't DROP items just anywhere, mind you. I can only DROP items into objects. Any object will do, be it a drawer, computer, bin or plant. I can finally ditch that CALCULATOR at last.

I try to BREAK a few things, making sure that there's nothing of value in them first. I'm told I CAN'T BREAK THAT <BLANK>. Darn. Some killer robot.

I SEARCH my robot siblings to find a RED PASSCARD, as well as LAZER SOFTWARE and JUMP HARDWARE. According to the cassette inlay (ask an adult) I'm supposed to be finding the LAZER and JUMP items before I can escape. Would you look at that, I'm making progress!

Too bad I'm still holding the BLUE PASSCARD and the 1 POUND COIN though. I'm going to make a few trips to the door I unlocked and systematically bring every item I've found so far into that one room and hide each item in a different object.


I've just realised what this game reminds me of. It's like Resident Evil crossed with Dizzy. Good lord.

Wait, FILE KEY? I know where I can use that! Now I have a PINK PASSCARD. (HO - HO - HO)

Can you guess which one of these PASSCARDs opens this locked door?

The answer is... none of them. They could have put a coloured marker next to the door so you know what item you're supposed to open it with, damn it. I know the Spectrum is limited, but it can still display red, blue and pink.

The only place left to explore is the room to the North.

I decided to stash the BLUE PASSCARD and RED PASSCARD and...


The moment I walk into this room, I'm set upon by this cylindrical robot goon! The moment he touches me, I instantly lose! That's it! GAME OVER!

Every time I entered this room, I get got by the robot. I can't avoid him, and I can't BREAK him. I can't LINK, SEARCH, USE, LOOK, READ or DROP him either! Argh.

The strangest thing is that as soon as I'm 'disconnected' here, I'm brought straight to Part 2 with my score intact!


It's an auto-scrolling 'avoid the stuff' mini-game!

We're assuming that Johnny Five escaped the Nova facility with the LAZER SOFTWARE and the JUMP HARDWARE and now he's on the run. We're supposed to avoid the cute bunnies and the birds and make our way to the right so we can fall onto Ally Sheedy's truck and have a hilarious yet heartwarming adventure.

Look at all those colours! There's must be at least, I dunno, six! Man, it's so great to be outside!

Watch out for the other SAINT robots, because if they catch you...


You can shoot the buggers if you must, but it lowers your CON gauge, as does hitting birds or bunnies. If you can't shoot things, why was it so important that we recover the LAZER SOFTWARE?

The JUMP HARDWARE makes sense, because there's tons of holes and rocks to jump over. Hit one and Johnny's head falls off and bounces on the ground.

Nooooo! Johnny Five is dead!

So what was the CON gauge about? Is it 'Consitution'? 'Condition'? 'Convivality'?

Nope, it's 'Conscience'. Johnny Five is alive, and he has a conscience. If you hit bots, birds or buns he comes to realise that his reckless escape is a dangerous and selfish act.

When the CON gauge is empty, he concludes that, due to being a killer robot, he's a menace to everything and everyone and shuts himself down. Either that or he realised he was in a Dizzy game and couldn't bear it.

The manual's advice on this is "Remember the 'robot code'.". I've never heard of the 'robot code' before. If such a thing existed, I thought it would be more along the lines of 'do what you're told'. It doesn't matter because none of this is real anyway, we saw Johnny get captured in Part 1. This inescapable scenario is his purgatory.

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