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Author: Jim Waterman (website) Machine Type: ZX81 16K
Submitted on: 26th of November, 2020 Download here!

Jim’s 7th entry is a strange one to say the least. It’s called Illuminati, and it was written for the 16K ZX81. Unusually for a Waterman program, the plot is fairly self-explanatory: the Illuminati, that evergreen catchall for preachers of the conspiratorial persuasion, are on the verge of world domination. Their Top Secret Pyramid™ has a combination lock which requires three hexadecimal-coded bytes. This gives them a total of 16,777,216 possible combinations. Unfortunately, due to their ineptness, 1 out of every 64 of these combinations will work, giving you 131,072 good codes to try. You’ve only got 16 chances to stop the New World Order, so your odds of succeeding are 3 to 1. Will you prevail over that most evil group of miscreants? Let’s find out…

Once the tape has loaded, we get a very nicely presented title screen, which describes the program as a “ludicrously over-polished game for an equally ludicrous concept in the most ludicrous year”. With such a ludicrous repetition of the adjective ‘ludicrous’, we can be assured that this ludicrous game is ludicrously ludicrous (that’s quite enough – Ed.).

You could try to figure out the calculation just by analysing the values from the pyramid, but it would take you quite a while. The most sensible way forward is to look at the listing, where you will discover that the calculation itself is a machine code routine, hidden in a REM statement on line 1. I do like a challenge, so I extracted the machine code and disassembled it – it’s a fairly simple routine of 85 bytes length, but obviously I won’t divulge its details – instead I shall use my newfound knowledge to join the ranks of the lizard-people, and leave you to starve, penniless. Coming back to my point, once I had determined how the calculation works, I drew the pyramid out on paper and substituted some letters in for the blocks defined by the user, and then I worked the formula through for each block. It took a little while to draw everything out, but after it was finished, I was able to solve anything that Bill Gates might throw my way.

If you get it wrong, the code is reset, along with the entire screen. It would’ve been far quicker just to clear the blocks within the pyramid, and considering you have 16 goes at it, the redrawing rapidly becomes tedious. If you succeed, however, the world is liberated from the clutches of the malevolent global cabal, and you get an amusing message as your reward. I won’t include it here, as it’s far more gratifying if you win the game yourself.

I suppose a nice analogy for Illuminati would be that it’s like one of those metal ring puzzles you get in a Christmas cracker – neatly presented in a small package, and with just enough difficulty to it to make it an amusing diversion for an hour or two. Nicely done, Jim! (And by extension, very poorly crappily done.)


Graphics Sound Gameplay Innovation TOTAL
61% 2% 58% 73% 49%