There has been for some time a body of opinion which puts forward the view that machine code is superior to Basic, per se. Arcade games, where speed is the deciding factor, may well lend themselves to this argument but some strategy, and all adventure games can be better served by some Basic routines. The reason for this apparent anomaly is clear to anyone who has taken the time and effort needed to master machine code. Although machine code is ideally more malleable in any given situation, coding in reality proves to be certainly slower and often less flexible, and crucially, the program is less easily altered.
After playing and reviewing many adventures this contradiction has made itself plain. The complexities of machine code lead to stilted adventures unless the author allows much development time. The economic vagaries of the games market alas, would make it far more worthwhile for such a successful author to produce two or even three arcade games in such a space of time with the certainty of a far higher income. The Quill, as is often plaudited on cassette inlays results in an all machine code program but the structure of each Quilled game is necessarily the same. What is less apparent is the use of similar devices by other software houses in order to reduce the development time of adventures. Herein lies the paradox. Even though machine code should be the more flexible, due to its time-consuming coding it is rarely so in effect and it would seem the case that it is the adventure which makes some use of Basic which shows the originality both in display, theme and plot.
So the next time you examine a cassette inlay don’t fall into the trap of making judgements based upon the divisive argument — Basic vs. machine code. Where the documentation tells of an all machine-coded program this in itself gives no indication of the quality of the game as an adventure. Basic is devalued by its simplicity and its familiarity but adventure is a more sophisticated market than arcade since at a time when the Spectrum has been pushed to its limits, imagination, theme and plot are now the decisive factors.