Reviewed by Master

Developer: Paul 'Eq.' Collins
Genre: Adult Adventure
Platform: Spectrum 128K
Language: BASIC

UDG-O-METER
BEEPER ABUSE
IMAGINATION
CRAP FACTOR
BradTheGame.tap (Spectrum 48K Tape Image)
Loader

The original Brad: The Game is a "bizarre and hilarious" web-based Choose Your Own Adventure-type affair from the late '90s consisting of 592 individual web pages and 223 possible endings.

I'd never heard of it so, before firing up Eq's .TAP file, I had a go on the original.

It works just like a CYOA book, however, instead of "turning to page 52" to make your choices at the end of each page of text you simply click on a link instead.

Tape Browser

Eq. describes this CSSCGC entry as a 'pretty faithful conversion' but, following a notably well-rendered loading screen, alarm bells started to ring as a long sequence of short blocks of code apparently failed to load.

A quick look at the Tape Browser in FUSE revealed 588 blocks of data labelled; "Character Array" which is, apparently, each of the original .html pages lovingly recreated as ZX BASIC string$ data and saved off using the SAVE DATA command.

Brad: The CSSCGC Game needs to be run in 128K mode entirely due to an Array-handling bug in 48K BASIC and not, as you might have hoped, due to the presence of beautiful AY-music, the PLAY command or in any way the use of all that lovely RAM*!

* The most data loaded at any one time seems to be about 16.5K?

In the world of mid-to-late-90s PCs, even if you were still stuck with a 56K modem, fetching a few kilobytes of HTML, downloading it and rendering in a Web Browser as more-or-less plain text would have taken a couple of seconds.

First Page

On a Speccy, thanks to the slower baud rate of 'tape', the data takes a bit longer to load into memory. The real pain, however, comes from searching through the tape to find the appropriate block to load in the first place.

So now we know that the long sequence of short blocks of code apparently failing to load after the loading screen is actually just the program searching for the first page of text which, of course, isn't in block 1**.

** It's actually block 497 because the original page was called "start" and I'm guessing Eq's character arrays are in alphabetical order?

Searching

After selecting 1, 2 or 3 from the choices on 'Page 1' the tape loader begins again and the screen begins to fill with "Character array: 488... Character array: 489... Character array: 490..."

If 'Page 2' was stored in 'Character array: 495' it wouldn't have been so bad, however, I had to check I had 'Fast Load' turned on*** as it took so long to cycle round all 500+ pages of text before finding the one it needs that I forgot what choice I'd made on 'Page 1!!'

Second Page

Eventually 'Page 2' loads and the story continues but we're literally talking minutes between each page of text. Unfortunately, while Brad: The CSSCGC Game has a cool loading screen, makes use of a lovely proportional font and is arguably more pleasant on the eyes than the original website, I think it's safe to say that the horrendous multiload pretty much kills any entertainment value to be gleaned from the embedded story.

*** It's even slower without!

Look at the size of that!

At 1.5MB this is certainly the largest game in this year's competition so far, however, it's still only a third of the size of Eq's own record-breaking Multiload Hangman from 2008!

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