Gaming Graveyard: SQIJ

Posted on by Ryan Shoptaw

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If you live outside of Europe, odds are you have never heard of SQIJ. After reading this, you will either be wishing you had never heard of it, or will be online trying to find a ROM the game to see just how bad it truly is. After all, this is the Gaming Graveyard.

SQIJ was released on the Commodore Plus, Commodore 64, Commodore 16, and the ZX Spectrum. For the sake of this story we’ll be discussing the ZX Spectrum version. It’s this version that many consider to not only be the worst game on the ZX Spectrum, but also the worst game of all time. Originally released in 1986, you play as a mutant bird who needs to eat food in a post-apocalyptic world.

When you start-up the game you will see SQIJ along with other objects scrolling up and down in the corners. You will first notice that you actually can’t move. You will check your keyboard and look on the inlay pushing the buttons that are clearly listed under the Controls section. That is because you actually can’t move due to a programming error. You see the game itself wasn’t programmed in machine code, but written in BASIC. Of course the Spectrum had its own built-in BASIC, but the game used a third party product called Laser BASIC. It’s at this point that I need to remind you this was actually sold in retail stores and catalogs.

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So how do you actually get the game to run? You have to poke it, and when I mean poke it I’m not talking about poking it with your finger. Poke is a term used to hack the game. Yes, you actually had to hack the game to play it! You could use the multi-face add-on to freeze a program once it was loaded into memory and into a one-line poke called multi-face pokes. You could also find an illegal code for Laser BASIC in the tape itself. How embarrassing! You think that’s the worse part? The program turns the caps lock on by default and it can’t be changed by just pressing the caps lock key. The code itself was built only to recognized lower-cased character inputs, hence why SQIJ is unable to move. The poke merely turns the caps lock off.

Once you get SQIJ to move, it doesn’t get better. It’s more-or-less a maze game and sometimes you have to shoot enemies on screen. However there aren’t any projectiles or anything indicated that you are shooting at the enemy. They just randomly die. Also you can spontaneously die if you it the Up button to many times.

So how in the hell did a game like this even get to be published? Well now we get to tell yet another crazy story. The game was created by a man named Jason Creighton who had a contract to deliver the game, but had a falling out and told Power House (the publishers of the game) to eat dirt. Power House continued to bug him for the game since he did have a contract, and he delivered on his promised. Creighton made the game in under 40 hours and through it their way. Since he technically delivered, he was given 250 Euros and walked away never to develop another game again. The most ironic part in all of this is that Power House had a clause in the contract where they could reserve the right to not release the game if it was of low quality.

It’s truly fascinating how most people today will refer to games like Big Rigs or the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game when they discuss broken game, but this might just be the true definition. If there is any game that has been covered so far in the Gaming Graveyard, it’s this game. This one belongs about 20 feet below the others down here in the Gaming Graveyard.