JaguarWong's Blog

Posted on Aug 14th 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (JaguarWong)
Posted under Classic Games, retro, nostalgia, ZX Spectrum, Surfing, Sport

The first REAL computer sport?

Back in May 2020 an article appeared, somewhat bizarrely, on the BBC Sport website about a 1985 videogame designed to teach people how to surf.

It was a fascinating piece that I'll link at the bottom and I thoroughly recommend you read, but with little interest in surfing my imagination was particularly captured, so much so that I tracked down and bought myself a complete copy of the game, by the game's bespoke controller; a plastic surfboard shrunk down to a size a little smaller than the original model of ZX Spectrum. This device was designed to sit on top of the rubber keys and claimed to offer the player scientifically developed 'realistic' movement.

It's a brilliantly bonkers concept, but how does it work? And is the game any good?

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly (especially if you've read the aforementioned article) the game has the air of being put together by someone who's never made entertainment software before. It's worrying enough when the loading splash screen looks to be comprised of the in game graphics which were, it should be said, very simple even by 1985 standards. But furthermore, once loaded, you're immediately presented with the questions "Choose your board 1-5?" and "Gear Selection 1..5", the latter of which inexplicably requires you to enter more than one number and then, for some reason, enter an "X" to move to the next screen.

This is a menu system that is entirely impossible to navigate without constant reference to the game manual, and once you're in-game things only slightly improve.

First up, you have to plod up and down the beach as you choose the best time and place to paddle out... or risk being washed back the way you came. How far you paddle is a variable, as is when to mount, how to turn, how to re-mount... and all this is must be achieved while watching an energy bar that constantly depletes, and is impossible to refill.

On the underside of the game's 19cm surfboard controller are a central pivot, and several little nubs around the edge that press down onto certain keys. Placing a hand on the board, you press in the various areas, relative to where you would press with your feet when real-world surfing, to perform turns, dip the nose over waves, and replicate other surfing moves that I have little knowledge of... I think you can even "hang ten".

Or so the manual says.

Continue reading Playing 1985's 'Surf Champ' - 'The game that teaches you to surf'

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