CSSCGC 2020!
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Sir Clive’s Ink Lair

Author: Andy 'Uglifruit' Jenkinson Machine Type: Spectrum 48K
Submitted on: 11th of July, 2020 Download or play online

1986 was a turbulent year for Clive Sinclair. Making losses of nearly £1 million pounds a month after both the C5 and QL failed to find a market, he was forced to sell the rights to his computer business to competitor Alan ‘sweet as’ Sugar on the 7th of April, in order to pay off his creditors. Andy ‘Uglifruit’ Jenkinson, of Blind Sweeper and Sarah’s Garden fame, has sent us a new game based on this historic deal for the Sinclair Birthday challenge, entitled Sir Clive’s Ink Lair. Unusually for Andy, there’s only one version to play this time, and it’s written in machine code of all things!

Once we have loaded the tape in, we get the story. Our old pal Sir Clive has to navigate the legal letter sent to him by Sugar, but his line of sight must dodge and manoeuvre around the words that constitute Alan’s mad raving. Simple enough? On paper, yes, but of course this is a CGC entry! Something will frustrate us in our quest. To find out, we just need to type ‘QL’ to play.

Upon starting, the letter begins to scroll down the page, and right off the bat, something’s not quite right. It’s well known that the Latin and Cyrillic based languages are written from left-to-right, while Arabic and Hebrew are written from right-to-left. And then there’s Alan Sugar, who writes from bottom-to-top. But hey, the business world is a tough one, and you’ve got to stand out on the market! Then we go to press a directional key and, WOAH, we’re off the other side of the page! For such a precision task, the controls are monstrously twitchy, which culminates in Clive’s line of sight veering off to the screen’s edge with only the lightest stroke of the keys. This isn’t too bad early on, when you only get so far each time, but near the end of the letter, where the lines are tightly packed together, it is an absolute pain. If you want to beat this legitimately, an emulator with quick-save is a practical requirement.

The graphics are excellent for a CSSCGC title. The font used is a proportional serif one, which is quite readable, even with such a limited glyph size. The vertical scrolling routine (courtesy of Ast. A Moore) is also appreciated, especially given how much character-based movement I’ve seen so far in this competition. The rainbow decoration in the bottom-right corner is also a neat touch.

As the letter progresses, we get to see Alan’s diatribe, which includes such gems as “I’m down with ‘da kids’ cos I’ve sold hooky-goods from a van […] while eggheads like you were getting swotting up” and “I prefer lap-dancer-types to the bookworms that you are used to, I’ll bet!” We learn of Amstrad’s plan to sell the Spectrum as a cheap games machine for the punters, first with a built-in tape deck, and later, with a floppy drive. “It’ll take weird floppies, that IBM will decided not to use!” The letter itself is reason enough to torture yourself with the controls – it’s downright hilarious and mimics Lord Sugar’s personality to a tee. Of course, if you can’t be bothered to play, you can always hold down Z and X to make yourself invincible, or even read the document straight from the included source code.

In conclusion, Sir Clive’s Ink Lair is a game with brilliant presentation, side-splitting writing and atrocious gameplay. In terms of enjoyment, though, the playability doesn’t affect it that much at all - it’s really just a wrapper to enable Andy to submit his humorous jottings to the competition. And I appreciate it.

Scores

Graphics Sound Gameplay Innovation TOTAL
58% 18% 28% 64% 42%