The Master Of Cannons

I’ve been putting together another Definitive feature for WoS subscribers today – this time The Definitive Frogger, a 28-game epic history including the modestly remarkable ZX81 official port of the arcade original, and it led me to a bit of a nostalgia trip to the days when I was a young ’81 owner reliant mostly on magazine type-ins for gaming thrills.

In those days, impoverished gamers would spend hours at a time copying down text listings on the dead-flesh keyboard of the tiny Sinclair wonder-machine, and the only way magazines could get them to do that was to literally paint a picture of the magical experiences that lay in wait for the truly dedicated.

Now there’s atmosphere, eh viewers? A giddy bird’s-eye perspective above one of your cannon emplacements, looking down protectively on the vital fuel dump without which your mechanised divisions can’t possibly hope to hold back the evil enemy menace. The screenshot below, of course, is how it actually looked on the ZX81:

The thing is, though, with the first picture in your mind you don’t need fancy graphics to create the scene. You’re already there, perched in that high nest when enemy flying-bombs suddenly start raining down on the base. The unguided V1-style bombs skitter and spiral into the canyon, but their lack of intelligence renders them no less deadly. Should just two of the huge silos be blown up, your army’s tanks won’t have enough fuel, and the battle – perhaps the war itself – will be lost. Only you, in the firing-control tower that operates all six cannon emplacements, can save the day.

The point being, of course, that in the interests of dedicated research into something else entirely, I’d previously typed the whole bloody game in by hand in order to get a screenshot of it, so WoSblog’s beloved viewers might as well have a play too. Right-click and Save As on the link below, then load it into an emulator and go nuts. (I recommend Eighty One for the PC, no idea what the current state of the art in Mac emulation is. To load on the emu, type LOAD “CANNON”. LOAD is found on the J key, quotes are shifted P. I’ve made it autorun, and also implemented high-score saving.)

Controls are 1-5 for the top left cannon, Q-T for middle left, and A-G for bottom left. I’m sure you can deduce the controls for the right-hand cannons by yourself. Your blasts only reach halfway across the canyon, and the cannons can be destroyed if a rocket-bomb collides with them, something that becomes increasingly likely as bomb hits erode the canyon walls. Excessive use will deplete the massive power reserves required to fire, and you’ll have to wait a second or two for the generator to build up a charge. If you miss a bomb, you’ll just have to pray that it collides with the canyon walls or floor rather than detonating on one of your precious fuel tanks. Good luck, commanders! The current score to beat is 520 points.


2 Responses to “The Master Of Cannons”

  1. For all ZX81 fans out there, you might enjoy Part 1 of My Computer Odyssey, which covers me getting my first computer, a ZX81.

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