Jim Waterman has sent us quite a special game this time, in that it’s the first game in the twenty-four year history of the CSSCGC to be submitted on a +D disk, and it’s the first in TRD format as well. If he was able to create Corona Capers on cassette tape, then what will he be able to craft with 780K of fast floppy-based storage? Valley of Rains? Sword of Ianna?
Erhm... +D Blue Peter...
Yes, instead of using the space effectively for a ground-breaking title, Jim’s gone down the 1990s CD-ROM multimedia craze route. +D Blue Peter is a trivia game, where you must identify Blue Peter presenters from their photograph and some other information. Of course, screen dumps take 6.75K each, so you can fit a fair few of them on a floppy.
Once we have loaded the disk in, we are presented with the Blue Peter logo, accompanied by an AY rendition of the theme song. After that has finished, the menu appears, with the option to read the introductory text, or skip it and go straight to the game. Of course, we want to read the shoe-horned plot!
The story goes that you’re heading for an interview with the BBC in 1987, hoping to go all the way to the top and become the next star. You are ready to impress the head honchos with a presentation delivered via space-age technology – a 128K ZX Spectrum with a Miles Gordon Technology +D floppy interface (or a Beta Disk 128 interface, if you’re playing the Beta Disk version). Your dream of presenting Tomorrow’s World is shattered when Judith Hann refuses to leave, and the technology staff aren’t entirely pleased with you taking a rival computer into the BBC.
However, you decide that the other way into Tomorrow’s World is through children’s television, so, on the spot, you apply to present Blue Peter instead. The interview will quiz you on hosts of past and present, so you hook your Spectrum up to the Prestel network to begin your research.
Then, Lord Alan Sugar (!) decides to butt in, and appears through a time portal to 2020 created by Biddy Baxter (?). To spite you, he decides he’s going to test you on your knowledge of all the presenters up to today. As he leaves for 2022 (to escape you-know-what), he drops a floppy disk on the floor, which by complete coincidence, is formatted for G+DOS, and contains pictures of the presenters you will be tested on.
TL;DR – Jim wants to fill the disk, so identify some Blue Peter presenters until your patience wears thinner than the plot.
So, there are four skill levels to this game. Level 1 is the easiest, and shows you an image of the presenter, along with their name spelled out in nautical flags. Level 2 is like Level 1, but with the spelling ROT13 encoded. Level 3 is also like Level 1, but now the flags give you an anagram of the spelling. Finally, Level 4 only shows you the presenter’s picture.
For each round, you are given the presenter’s face in dithered monochrome. A little jingle plays, followed by the nautical flags appearing on screen. Now, you have the chance to give your answer. If you’re correct, you will gain the points specified by the skill level at which you are playing. If you get it wrong though, your score remains as it is, and the correct name is shown. Rinse and repeat 25 times.
Now, with little appetite to actually figure out 25 rounds of nautical signal flags, I decided about 2/25ths of the way through to cheat, and use the quick-save facility of Spectaculator. It certainly sped things up not having to search flags or trawl through Google Images, though it does leave you feeling a little guilty.
After you’ve completed all of the rounds, the verdict is given. The threshold for success is 100 points. If you reach this threshold, you win some brilliant prizes (which I won’t reveal in this review – play the game if you want to see them). If you fail though, Alan Sugar comes back to utter those famous words, “You’re fired!” Technically, this is inaccurate, as you haven’t even been hired yet, but one can’t argue with Lord Sugar, whose contempt is so strong that he gives you a Q Parameter Error on line 6090, on top of your dismissal.
Graphics are pretty good, including the digitised presenter photographs and the illustrations on the title screen and menu. Sound is excellent as well, with Jim’s usual attention to detail in the transcription of the Blue Peter theme tune.
In conclusion, +D Blue Peter is a “been there, done that” game. It would never have come about if it weren’t for the fact that nobody had ever submitted a game on +D floppy to the CSSCGC. It is solely here to tick a box, and said box has been well and truly ticked. All 780K of it. Well, that doesn't concern me anyway. I've got more to worry about – I can never look Lord Sugar in the eyes again after cheating on his quiz...