Barry Basic and the Quest for the Perfect Port

by Dee Cooke profile

Part of Barry Basic
2020

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The origins of Barry Basic, with some secondhand nostalgia, May 4, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

It's hard to capture the feeling of discovering a new programming language or system and seeing that, yes, some things you always hoped were simple are, indeed. Or that new feature is a bit different in ways you didn't expect. There's a lot of plowing through stuff and educated guessing until it works. There can only be so many ways to do it wrong, right?

That's usually not so hot in games. The plowing through stuff had better be obfuscated by an adventure, or it should be pretty short, and in BBQPP, you get both. It's a two-room game, with Barry's computer room (old BBC Micro, new ZX Spectrum) and the downstairs room where a new package has come in. So there's a bit of excitement built up here and a bit of nostalgia as well, even though I never had a Micro or Spectrum. I did have various programming books I understood progressively more of, the more I programmed them and ran them and tweaked them, and years later I was excited to a PDF-scanned version of a sequel to a childhood favorite. I'm sure Barry did the same sort of tweaking, too, though I don't think a wash-rinse-repeat in BBQPP itself would've been beneficial.

BBQPP doesn't tell you the commands to win, and while it's a guess-the-verb sort of puzzle, the verb isn't too hard to guess, and it feels like when I'm learning a programming language. I start looking for too-obscure stuff before realizing the solution was simple, and it should be, or nobody would want to move over to the cool new programming language.

The first installment of Barry Basic isn't as robust as the ones that came after it, but it wasn't supposed to be, since it was for a jam with a very specific purpose, and I believe it hit the target there without micromanaging the player. But it captured moments of discovery I remember for my youth. Perhaps it only did so because I had already played and enjoyed the two Barry Basic games (as of May 2022--cross one's fingers) that followed it and wanted just a bit more. But it did so nonetheless and reminded me I didn't need any extraordinary excitement or huge fights to have those moments. I wound up looking a lot of odd programming stuff immediately after playing it.