Wednesday, 8 July 2015

8th July 2015 - Of Z80, Noah and Nostalgia

Thought for the day: "You can look at some people and instantly know they're only going to get two awards in life, a birth and a death certificate. "

Google is a wonderful thing. I noticed a reference to the Spectrum 48K on a facebook page which prompted me to look up some of the history - and lo and behold - I came across the game I painstakingly wrote with my first machine code compiler, a small colour TV and lots of sheets of paper to translate into zilog - self taught.

Of course I played with the add on of the DKTronics keyboard. Take the spectrum out of its case and slot it inside the large keyboard for ease of writing.

Even more interesting is the fact that you can play the game on the PC now! And the reviews from 1984 are still available and reproduced here.

The comments are pretty fair - but it was the first 256 screen game with a Commodore 64 style Sprite Graphic, and I was breaking ground back in the day. The character of Noah was jerky - but was a fairly new concept and would have improved in time... I thought at the time that this would be the way forward, but I had not known that just around the corner would come Manic Miner and the whole platform game style which would change gaming forever.

Manic Miner

And so the review I found...

In the beginning, Adam and Eve weren't as good as they should have been, and as a result of their indiscretions, humanity wasn't as good either. In despair, God decided to get rid of everything and start over. Only Noah was nice, so God told him to build an ark and fill it with pairs of animals so they should be saved.

In this biblical epic you play the erstwhile Noah, not much loved by his fellow humans because of his tales of gloom and doom, and you must travel through the 256 screens collecting the 31 pairs of animals that live in the badlands and beyond the Great Wall in various unsavoury places.

The basic colouring of this game is yellow, with large graphics of animals in blue. Various obstacles confront Noah in his search like shrubs, trees, fences and the Great Wall itself, to which he must find the Great Gate key. Puddles are also a problem, and with a prescience of what is to come, Noah is frightened of puddles! Hitting a forbidden object causes the screen to flash with the ominous warning, Whoops Apocalypse. Too much of this sort of thing will kill you off and condemn you to a very tong re-intro.

Getting an animal to follow you is not very easy, some of them don't want to go, and there is the added problem that you cannot leave a screen unless you have first eaten the parcel of purple food. Some animals, snails especially, seem to cause an apocalypse, so what with avoiding them, dragging an unwilling animal, and trying to get at the food that the animal is obligingly blocking you off from it can become quite hard.


'Noah has rather large graphics which move a little on the slow side. The task of collecting the animals is no quick thing - in fact just trying to get one back is a task in itself. The animals are depicted well, each (from what I saw) looking like a proper elephant, snake, sheep etc. Because my Kempston had reversed itself between left and right with this game, I was slow to make progress. Overall this is a good game which will take quite a time to get into and complete.'

'At first I wondered what a game called Noah could be based upon. I was soon to find out what this monster of a game was - it drove me up the wall. The burden of having to collect food before you can move off each screen was frustrating, and while nothing seemed to go on as the game progressed, I became bored. I tried to persuade an animal to come with me to the am, but it said, 'Not tonight - I've got a headache!' I found Noah impossible to make any progress with whatsoever. To sum up this game it must be called the most unaddictive, highly frustrating, boring, non-progressive, slow game ever invented - it takes about as long to make its point as the Bible.'

'One thing you can say about Noah is that it is different. It's also rather large with 256 screens full of unwilling animals. Fortunately, in an attempt to prevent magazines doing maps of it, one is provided, although it only gives a vague indication, and irritatingly pops up every time you bump into something. The graphics are quite good of the animals but Noah himself looks a little on the simple side. Ifs an odd mixture, and I don't think I really enjoyed it too much irritation enjoyed to be realty good. '
Control keys: Z/X left/right, O/K up/down, M for map
Joystick: Kempston, AGF, Protek, Sinclair
Keyboard play: not very responsive
Use of colour: not over colourful
Graphics: animals nicely drawn, Noah poor, movement by block
Sound: not much
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 1 with allowance of apocalypses
Screens: 256
Special features:
General Rating: Mixed feelings from poor to good between reviewers.
Use of Computer: 67%
Graphics: 49%
Playability: 45%
Getting Started: 52%
Addictive Qualities: 27%
Value For Money: 44%
Overall: 47%

The map in NOAH.

Some Screen grabs:

When you bumped into the water, got bombed by a local with a water bomb - or ran out of food and energy - you would enter the "Whoops" Apocolypse" phase. I remember being really proud of my ROM disassembly that allowed me to be one of the first to work out how to get a rainbow border ...  

The purpose of the game was to rescue as many animals as possible and put them into the ark. These animals included the Unicorn that you could save in the game. Dependent upon which animals were saved - the review at the end would change to outline the history of the world without sheep, or with no elephants  - I though it was quite fun - but then I accept that it was a frustrating game to finish.

And if you like - you can play it here on this emulator - good luck !!!

and so to bed...

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