Skooldaze Review | Personal Computer News - Everygamegoing

Personal Computer News

By Microsphere
Spectrum 48K

Published in Personal Computer News #090


I'm going to stick my neck out and say that Skooldaze is the most original, entertaining game I've seen on the Spectrum this year, if not ever.

Eric's lot is not a happy one. The school reports are stashed in the staffroom safe and the young lad must remove his before the headmaster sees it. The safe works on a four-letter combination, each letter known to one master only, and the headmaster's comes first in the sequence.

To get the letters Eric must hit all the shields hanging on the school walls. This starts them flashing which confuses the masters. Then you can knock them down and force them to reveal their letters.

Skool Daze

There's so much going on in Skooldaze that it's difficult to know where to start. Imagine the screen as a window on the school. There are three floors and as Eric approaches the right or left of the screen, it scrolls to reveal a side of the school. There are staircases at the extreme left and right, and the graphic detail is fantastic.

The map room on the top floor comes complete with a tiny black and white map of the world on the wall. Many of the rooms have blackboards and you'll occasionally see some urchin chalking up graffiti like "I hate fizzicks".

The school is a hive of activity - masters and pupils wander about, bullies flatten classmates, catapult shots are rife and should Eric be struck he's out for the count for a few seconds.

Skool Daze

And woe betide him if he's caught flat on his back, punching a fellow or using a catapult. The punishment is lines, lines and more lines. The worse his behaviour, the more lines he cops. If he accumulates more than 10,000 he's expelled and the game ends.

From time to time a bell sounds, marking a change in lessons and Eric must hurry to the room indicated at the foot of the screen. Some rooms are obvious, but before you can get very far in this game you have to master the geography of the school.

Arriving too early usually gets Eric involved in a scrap with his pals, but being late will earn him more lines. Even when he finds a seat and sits on it and not the floor, he can't look forward to a peaceful lesson. Pupils are in constant motion, may sneak round and unseat him, fire catapults at him from behind, rat on him to teacher for things he's not done and worse.

Skool Daze

Speech is handled brilliantly. A tiny, cartoon bubble appears by the speaker's head and acts as a window through which the words scroll.

During a lesson, questions are posed by the teacher and pupils answer, generally beginning "Please Sir, I cannot tell a lie..." And if Eric tries to escape the mayhem of the lesson, someone's bound to tell tales and it's more lines. It's unnerving to approach a group of schoolmates and be told that someone has hidden something implicating you in some misdemeanour, and that if one of the masters finds it you'll be in trouble - I had visions of the counter soaring to the 9,000 mark.

A clever touch is that you can use names of your own choosing for the characters.

Skool Daze

But what about the shields? Well, it'll take you some time before you get anywhere close to even thinking about that nasty report sitting in the safe. Merely existing for more than a few minutes is beyond the skill of the novice.

Most of the shields are too high to reach by jumping, but one method is to knock down a teacher with a catapult, then bounce another shot off his head while he's sitting dazed on the floor, hoping that the ricochet will strike the shield. Risky it may be, but it's not the only means at his disposal. He could knock down another pupil, then stand on him and jump or fire. Other methods I leave to your imagination.

But it's still not that simple. The History master cannot remember his letter. To find it out Eric must establish his year of birth (different for every game), get to a room with a clean blackboard before him and write it down, and when the master sees his birthdate he'll reveal his letter.

Skool Daze

Letters won't be given in sequence - Eric may have to make several attempts at opening the safe by writing guesses on clean blackboards, then rushing to the staffroom to try out the sequence. Once the safe's open all the shields have to be hit again to stop them flashing and conceal the evidence of Eric's errant ways. And then Eric moves on to the next class in school... I told you it wasn't easy.

The only criticisms I have are that it's so good that it distracts you from your aim, and it's too hard. But seriously, sometimes the keys repeat as if a keyboard buffer were being used. This means that if you hold the catapult key down too long, and get punished for the first shot, more, involuntary shots will be fired, and more lines given. Also, it can be difficult to position Eric accurately at the foot of the stairs to make an ascent, and there are some attribute problems.

Minor niggles apart, Skooldaze is brilliant. It's got the most detailed and interesting display I've ever seen in a Spectrum game, the setting and idea are original, the execution a triumph of the programmer's art.

It could even create a cult following - and if it's not number one by Christmas I'll be very surprised.

Bryan Skinner

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