Pam Ferris's Ferrous Ferries - Andy Jenkinson

Mr Jenkinson is back to complete his trilogy of EXCELLENT basic games for the 2023 crap game competition. There is so much to love here I don't know where to start. OK, lets hear from the author first...

In Andy's own words

This all came from me enjoying "ferrous ferries" as a phrase, and I wondered if it could be a game.  And then I realised that there aren't that many games with magnets as the control mechanism.


Pam appears frustrated. Are the Ferrous Ferries too hard to master?

And I rather like the game, and have tweaked it A LOT to make it the best I can within the confines of BASIC.

And I have spent a lot of time playing it, as well as writing it.


  • 10 levels (but they're quite challenging)
  • A loading screen (I'm quite proud of it!)
  • Some UDGs (characters A-O)
  • A nice 'big font' when you complete level 9
  • A cheat mode to skip to each level (press '3' on the menu) - no high scores for cheaters though
  • A beeper arrangement of Barnacle Bill Hornpipe (based on Mike Oldfield's version)*
  • Quite pretty, for BASIC
  • Quite playable

PS I slightly fudged the 'magnetism', as applying force with an inverse square relationship with respect to distance slowed the game in BASIC down a lot. But it's still consistent with direction of pull, if not proximity.

Hope you enjoy it

Andy, August 10th 2023.

* Under 128K basic the timing isn't quite right, which is annoying. Play it in 48K mode, as the BASIC is slightly faster.

Back to the review 

We're being spoilt! - With music too.

So the idea here you have to guide a tiny pixel, which represents a ferry boat through a set of obstacles using a system of magnets. I am going to be honest and say that at first I found this task very difficult and I wasn't sure where I was going wrong. The ferry seemed to build up speed and take on a life of its own no matter what I tried. HOWEVER I was sure that this was is not because of any shortcoming of the game. I can't stress enough that the failure is all mine. 

The game is very hard, but also insanely well made - it even has a loading screen! Using a pixel as the boat/player is a great idea too. Otherwise the basic would be slow and the movement character based - the game would be terrible for sure. This is a game made by someone who understands all the shortcomings of Sinclair Basic, and has designed a game to make those shortcomings irrelevant. So the game is fluid and fun to play, in fact you quite forget the game is written in basic at all.

Then after a few more goes, all of a sudden, I started to get the hang of it. I just hadn't realised that you could make the ferry go backwards. There magnet are more powerful than I first thought! Once I got the hang of the game I really started to enjoy the challenge. It is still a hard game - but one that feels fair.

It's bonkers how well made this game is. Far beyond anything that you would have found on Cassette 50. Andy, your last 3 games in this comp deserve a physical release!

Final thoughts

Ferris Bueller's day Offshore? 

This is simply a GOOD game. What else can I say? You must play it, here

Guide to making your own levels

DATA format for making new levels:

Levels are stored at lines 6000+level*100, the first free one would be at 7100

Change line 9450 MAXLEVEL to ONE MORE than the number of levels (so it is currently 11)

# LEVEL NAME,Number of magnets (up to 7),starting timer

7000 data "Easy Does It",6,130

# Harbour blocks, number of blocks, then the coordinates of each in the format Xposition,Yposition,Xsize,Ysize

7001 data 0

# The Magnet Coordinates (x,y) and intensity of each magnet: 3 = normal, 2= more intense, 1=even more. negative numbers "push" rather than pull.

7002 data 1,15,3, 6,1,3, 15,1,3, 20,15,3, 15,30,3, 6,30,3

#Start pixel coordinates of ferry (x,y), and initial direction (dx,dy)

7003 data 10,10,2,2

#Fixed baddies; Number of, then co-ordinate pairs for each one (x,y)

7004 data 1,2,2

#Fixed collectibles; Number of, then co-ordinate pairs for each one (x,y)

7005 data 0

#Random baddies; Number of, then co-ord limits [x,y] (top left) and size of block they can appear in [dx,dy]

7006 data 7,4,4,14,24

#Random collectibles; Number of, then co-ord limits [x,y] (top left) and size of block they can appear in [dx,dy]

7007 data 3,8,8,6,14