Skool Daze

In its early promotional material for the ZX Spectrum, Sinclair often went to almost painful lengths to avoid using the word 'games'. Released 35 years ago this month, the microcomputer was designed by Sir Clive Sinclair with serious applications in mind, and an optimistic role as a central hub for the nation's households. Constantly reiterating its expandability, these initial adverts were all about tech, emphasising the Spectrum's 'massive' RAM of 16 or - crikey! - 48k, as well as its high resolution and accessories, including a printer and the doomed ZX Microdrive. As it turned out, the manufacturer was swimming against the tide. Programming? Hmm, might try and type in a few POKEs I suppose. Educational? Game of chess or Scrabble aside, not likely. No, what the majority of kids wanted from the Spectrum was games. And games, much to the chagrin of Clive Sinclair, were what they got - in their hundreds.

Skool Daze

Skool Daze

Pay Attention At The Back!

What's immediately noticeable (to anyone who isn't a well-to-do public schoolboy with a gob full of silver plums, at least) is the wonderfully accurate pastiche Skool Daze makes of genuine British school life. The lumbering, disenchanted masses shuffling between classes; the tediousness of lessons given by disinterested, broken willed teachers; the stereotypical characters that populate every school and the desperate attempts to celebrate mediocrity by way of cut-price tarnished trophies are all present in full monochromatic splendour. But, unlike most schools, Eric's has a far more conspiratorial use for its economical awards paraphernalia.

It's his duty as a practising delinquent (and main character of the game) to avoid punishment for the trouble he's caused by intercepting his report card before it gets home to t'father. Unfortunately for Eric, the report card is locked in the staff room safe and he doesn't know the combination. By "activating" the various shields decorating the school (either by shooting them with a catapult or touching them), he can sneak into the off-limits staff room and recover the incriminating evidence of a school year spent in reprehensible endeavour - all without acquiring more than 10,000 lines for his rampant mischief.

For creators David Reidy and Keith Warrington to have so successfully extracted the pure essence of a typical day at a 1980s high school is a remarkable achievement. From the stereotyped teachers and classmates to the prison-yard congregations around the dining hall at dinnertime, every possible nuance of a tiresome day at school has been woven into the fabric of Eric's wonderfully ordinary life.

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