Screwball Campbell - Robert (aka Flat Duck Records)

"This was intended to be a quick entry and started out as an afternoon away from home with only an emulator at my disposal. That didn't stop all the feature-creep, but an elaborate tour-de-force it is not. Nevertheless I hope you enjoy it." (Robert 2023)

Be careful what you wish for, or so they say. I wished for a version of Screwball scramble and I am delighted to say that's exactly what Robert has made. 

This loading screen is cool! I thought it was ULA+ at first. Works very nicely indeed. 

The first thing I was wondering was who is Scunner Campbell? As Robert explained, he was chosen because the name rhymes with Screwball Scramble. But it took me a while to realize that he was the baddie from Super Gran - a kids TV show from the 80s. Nice touch! 

The game features two levels, pictured above and below, which are accessed anytime by pressing 1 or 2. The level is then loaded in!

Is the Spectrum up to the job of rendering this game board? You tell me. Personally, I think Robert has done a great job of rendering the curves of the original as square attributes that the Spectrum is famous for.

As with all of Robert's work that I've seen, the graphics are on point. But how does it play? The original game was unforgiving, sometimes unfair and difficult. You control the scenery not the ball. However, Rob has switched this around, and in his version you can control the ball - not the scenery. This makes the game somewhat easier, but it took me a while to get the hang of it, and during my early goes I endured many a frustrating death resulting in restarting at the beginning of the course.

As for the ball moving rather than the scenery, I can understand what led Robert to this decision. After all, to code the game properly would be quite a feat, and the results could be rather GOOD. So as this was just a quick bit of fun, he has taken the easy way out by allowing the player to control the movements of the ball.

To make up for this shortcoming, the player is bombarded with insults by Scunner Campbell himself, who sits at the bottom of the screen waiting for you to mess up. There is a nice scrolling routine that carrys his insults across the bottom of the screen, this is written in ASM. Very nice. 

While this is a smartly made game, there were problems:

See the above image. Where I circled was my location before this error message. I thought I was on for a clear victory at last! But no, I was hit by this error! Also, I have indicated a location I was able to jump out of the first purple maze area. I guess this might be possible on a physical game, but it feels like a bug to me.

Final thoughts

There are, I imagine, a lot of ways to approach Screwball Scramble for the ZX Spectrum. Robert clearly didn't want to devote too much time to his version, however, the end result is a novel submission brimming with creativity and humor. I wouldn't say this is much of a game, but its probably better than a lot of Cassette 50's games. I think the novelty would have amused me as a child. It has a nice loading screen and if you click the link below it leads to Robert's page about how he made the game. These are great details and Screwball Campbell is well worth a look!

Get it here