Complex Maths... WITH DRAGONS!
Jim Waterman strikes again, submitting this ZX80 entry (our first program for the machine) just one day after his 128k mega-game Corona Capers. This time, he has sent us an educational program to keep the grey matter ticking over during the Great Quarantine of 2020. Apparently, he wrote this to pass an afternoon with no internet connection. Personally, I can’t think of a more torturous way to spend your time, but each to their own, I suppose.
The inlay contains an incredibly obtuse story to explain the presence of the Dragon. The year is 1984, and George the ZX80 is feeling miserable and useless, since he is the least powerful of his brothers, Nigel the ZX81, Bob the Spectrum and Chad the QL. Wandering through Wales, George gets in an argument with a Dragon 32 who speaks with an American accent (a reference to said machine being based off of the TRS-80 Colour Computer). The Dragon bullies George for having no floating-point capabilities built-in, but George doesn’t take kindly to this comment, so to prove his superiority, he challenges the Dragon to a “duel of mathematical prowess”, involving complex numbers.
Now that I’ve typed this summary, I’ve just realised the parallel between George the ZX81 fighting the Dragon 32 and the story of St George and the Dragon, which may have been intentional, considering that St George’s Day 1982 was the release date of the ZX Spectrum. Or maybe I’m just looking too deeply into this, with a brain frazzled by crap software.
For those unfamiliar to the subject, complex numbers are numbers which can be written in the form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers, and i is the solution to the equation x2 = -1. Got that? Luckily, I’ve studied complex numbers before, so I was able to get straight into the game.
The “game” comes in two versions: a trio of programs for each type of problem, which will load on an unexpanded ZX80, or a single program combining all three problem types for a ZX80 with an attached 4K RAM pack. For this review, I will focus mainly upon the 4K version of the game. Rather ironically, the included text file is larger than all four tape files combined.
The 4K version features a relatively elaborate illustration of George the ZX80 being terrorised by the Dragon. The weight of this situation is diminished by the matter-of-fact way of speaking. No screaming or hollering denoted by exclamation marks, but instead, a simple, dreary “EEK”, answered by an equally monotone “ROAR”. On the 1K version, George and the Dragon are represented by a capital U and a greater-than sign respectively. We are given a problem, which may consist of addition, subtraction or multiplication. Basically, this is like Do Your Sums from Cassette 50 but for A-Level students.
The addition and subtraction questions are incredibly easy, and the multiplication isn’t too much harder, especially if you have the aid of a calculator, or have the insight to realise you don’t actually have to work out the answer but instead can just type the sum into the ZX80 and let it calculate it for you.
If you get the problem right, you earn a point. Win twenty points and the Dragon is defeated. Get a problem wrong, however, and the Dragon inches closer towards George. Ten wrong answers results in him “being toasted to a crispy mess”.
All in all, Complex Maths w/ Dragons is a pretty rubbish. It might have made a fairly nice educational program, were it not for the fact that simply answering problems from a textbook would be much faster than trying to faff on with volume levels on the cassette deck to get the tape to load.