CSSCGC 2020!
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Social Distancing

Author: Chris Young Machine Type: Spectrum 16K
Submitted on: 1st of April, 2020 Download or play online

Our latest entry is written by the inimitable Chris Young. For those unfamiliar, Mr Young is a veteran of the CSSCGC, having hosted the 2007 competition with Phillip Lake, along with maintaining the Crap Game Finder and, to top it off, submitting a total of 89 games since 1998. This one is his 90th, and coming from such a master craftsman (surely crapsman? Ed.), I have low hopes for it.

For his latest creation, Social Distancing, Chris has taken a more topical bent, parodying the current coronavirus lockdown enforced in many countries. The game begins with some instructions, explaining the two-metre rule and explaining that we must “manipulate the people A to get past”. Just on this first screen, we can see some classic crap tricks, like not wrapping the text properly and forgetting to define the UDGs before they are used (hence the rogue A).

Once we get into the game itself (after the playfield has eventually been copied to the screen), we are given a flashing cursor which we can use to manoeuvre our protagonist or the various magenta stickmen. The controls for this cursor are simple and intuitive, and the program processes the inputs at an acceptable speed. The concept of keeping the people separated by a certain distance seems to be a fairly new, innovative one and it makes for a rather enjoyable puzzle game. With some work, this could probably sell as a mobile app!

The graphics are clean and minimalist (to put it politely), and are as good as can be expected from three UDGs and a chunky checkerboard character. The colour choices for the door are somewhat suboptimal, but do not significantly impede the gameplay. However, the miniscule size of the objects is simply inexcusable. Given that the playfield size is only 10x10, the objects could easily have been made 16x16 to take advantage of the Spectrum’s resolution, but instead, it gets crunched into the top-left corner of the screen like a ZX81 game. The sound is extremely lacking too, and consists of two beeps: a high one for winning, and a low one for an illegal move.

Unfortunately, Chris has done something rather odd with the construction of the program itself. Despite being so small that it could fit entirely within the memory of a 16K machine, he has made Social Distancing a multi-load. It must be understood however that this feature is more egregious than was originally intended, since this game was first sent to me on a +3 disk, and only converted to tape later so that it could be played on more machines.

Overall, Chris Young’s latest release is disappointingly good, and rivals the infamous puzzler Smiler in Arrowe Land in the gameplay department. I would wager that this level of quality was due to the game being written in two hours, and then finished off whilst he was “trying to do something else at the same time”. Real crap takes time and effort, so it is therefore unsurprising that this game has come out so well. Perhaps the King of Crap has become complacent, and not realised how much he has improved? Whatever the cause, I hope to never see a repeat of this glorious travesty!

P.S. With permission from Chris, I've opened a level design competition for this game. See this page for more details.

Scores

Graphics Sound Gameplay Innovation TOTAL
32% 24% 82% 43% 45%