Archive for the ‘shaken-but-not-stirred’ Tag

‘Shaken but Not Stirred!’ / Super Spy (1982)   3 comments

If you’re curious on the double-title, possibly lawyers were involved; Richard Shepherd’s game ‘Shaken but not Stirred!’ (“A 007 Adventure”), first released for the ZX Spectrum, was quickly renamed to Super Spy.

Richard Shepherd software was one of those quick-fire companies the cropped up the same time as the ZX81 in 1981/1982. Richard had been working as an accountant and his wife Elaine was in publicity. Elaine saw “a computerized version of the Dungeons and Dragons adventure game running on a large computer” (I suspect Crowther/Woods Adventure, but it’s hard to know) leading the Shepherds to buy an adventure of their own for ZX81. They were disappointed, but that encouraged Richard to try writing his own game. (There’s not that big a selection in 1981, I’m going to guess maybe Planet of Death.)

Richard ended up making Bargain Bytes, a compilation of 8 pieces of software (not just games).

Your Computer, April 1982.

The problem is that the ZX Spectrum went for sale on the 23rd of April, meaning the game came out right when people were upgrading. They switched to ZX Spectrum along with everyone else to make the simulation Ship of the Line, and here I’d like to share a story direct from the news article I’m referencing:

They took it to the Edinburgh computer fair, where they were one of only three companies selling programs for the new machine. Elaine recalled. “When we went to Edinburgh, we couldn’t afford a hotel, and had to camp. We woke up in the middle of the night to find that Scottish football hooligans were shaking the top of the tent.”

Eventually they had a breakthrough with sales to the company Smiths and were able to quit their day jobs in early 1983, but Super Spy was written before this happened. The first advertisement appeared in the October/November issue of ZX Computing.

“Recover a stolen warhead from the lair of Dr. Death”.

Super Spy is a hybrid game in four parts, so it isn’t entirely a pure adventure. From the instructions:

a) The round the world spy chase in which you aim to discover the location of Dr. Death’s secret hideaway.
b) Exploring Dr. Death’s island to discover the entrance to his underground maze.
c) The 3-D graphic maze which you must navigate yourself through to find the control room where Dr. Death has hidden the kidnapped missile.
d) Breaking the code to disarm the missile and save the world.

I’m honestly surprised we haven’t hit more hybrid games as of yet; I think this this is another case where Crowther/Woods was such a fully formed genre people didn’t feel obliged to experiment but wanted to copy instead. Given our last work was such an, ah, slavish copy, I figured something that went the opposite direction might be worth a try, even if the adventure credentials are marginal.

You start the first part of the game pick three gadgets. There seems to be no functional difference other than the number of shots.

Once you’ve picked some gear, you get to travel to different cities. There isn’t any real “physicality” to them that I can tell (other than London is home base). You get random events at each one which potentially give you clues. The clues are single letters which eventually form an anagram of the location you’re supposed to go to. (The manual indicates the location is not on the list — so it’s just an anagram of some random location on Earth.)

Yes, “mysterious”. At least we aren’t dealing with Earthquake San Francisco territory here.

Another encounter is a mysterious taxi that can pull up. If you skip the taxi the game says you “missed a clue” but if you trying to enter the taxi the people inside kill you. It’s possible this is a one-shot find-the-right-command puzzle, like The Room was; I wouldn’t put it past the game to say you missed a clue but you really didn’t though.

You can sometimes get attacked. This stumped me for a long time and I nearly gave up here.

The instructions just indicate to type a sentence appropriately. KILL PRIEST? SHOOT PRIEST WITH GUN? DEFEND MYSELF? All rubbish, apparently. I really did run through quite a few options:

HIT PRIEST
KILL PRIEST
SHOOT PRIEST
FIRE PISTOL
USE PISTOL
SHOOT PRIEST WITH GUN
THROW KNIFE
USE WATCH
IS YOUR PARSER REALLY THIS BAD

I went to find a video of gameplay just to watch what they did. It turns out the magic formula is to type in lowercase. Eek! So yes, “use pistol” and probably a few of the other options work. (You can use uppercase elsewhere, it just doesn’t work here. I did start giving subsequent commands in lowercase, though.) The lowercase rule doesn’t necessarily apply elsewhere, although I didn’t rigorously figure out all the places where you can use uppercase and where it was only lowercase works.

I ran around enough to get the letters R, O, E, I, and S, but I didn’t need to go any farther than that because I got a clue (“from London”) that was just the whole location, just enciphered.

AQVOIXWZM

That’s just the letters rotated by 8 from SINGAPORE. The amount of rotation is random (I also saw HXCVPEDGT, which is rotated by 15).

The location of Singapore is not randomized so on subsequent playthroughs you can skip part 1 altogether and just type SINGAPORE as your very first command.

Dr. Death’s island is I think vaguely modeled off an adventure game but the author forgot to put in, er, gameplay. It randomly generates a map and you meet an enemy every few steps.

Your weapons always work. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to pick anything other than the highest capacity weapons from M at the start. The frequency of enemies degrades your weapon supply until you have to resort to just hitting (hit octopus, etc).

There is almost literally no strategy whatsoever — it’s just getting whittled down and hoping to eventually find Dr. Death’s base before dying. There’s a map up at CASA Solution Archive but as I said, the map is randomly generated, so it doesn’t really help. The only thing that’s a general pattern is that the base seems to be always near the center.

I did eventually get lucky (see above) and made it to part 3, a 3D maze where you are pursued by PAWS.

I’m not sure, given the fearlessness of ripping off copyright elsewhere, Richard changed the name of “Jaws” (from the original James Bond movies).

You are dead if you see this.

Unfortunately, while this section is good enough to include an automap — one that you can only look at for a limited time, but it takes so long to draw in authentic ZX Spectrum speed it doesn’t matter — the overall goal of evading PAWS eluded me, and I was never able to make it to an exit. I think there may be some emulator issues — at the least, the game only barely wanted to recognize when I made a keypress — but I decided given the lack of adventure credentials overall it was high time to bail. Sorry, that means I don’t know what part 4 is. Probably Mastermind or something.

There is at least some interest in this game touching upon (but not well-implementing) the idea of an “episodic adventure game”; while Oregon Trail and its brethren worked in episodes, all decisions were reflective of current resources (do you have enough food? do you want to risk losing oxen?) The first part of this game had one-shot episodes with potentially a brief “adventurer choice” with a freeform command.

The second part was just rubbish due to lack of strategy. With every potential enemy being felled in an equal way by every weapon, the gameplay simply consisted of trying to outrun a countdown timer finding a randomly-placed room. I see what the author was trying to do in a narrative sense, but the gameplay was never brought up to match.

There might have been something to the third part which follows in the same tradition as games like 3D Monster Maze but forgets about the part where you’re actually able to dodge the monster coming after you.

I was honestly tempted to pitch the game altogether instead of writing about it but it did take a while to suss everything above out, and it is true that Richard Shepherd Software will appear again, as they published a few traditional adventures, including one that is allegedly rather good.

Via Mobygames.

Posted September 5, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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