In demo mode, ERIC bases his every move on where little boy no. 10 is and what
he's doing (see the routine at 62483). One corollary of this important role
is that little boy no. 10 is in all of ERIC's classes (if he weren't, ERIC
would be guilty of truancy in demo mode). In fact, little boy no. 10 is the
only character besides EINSTEIN who joins ERIC for every class.
There are two POKEs in line 33 of the BASIC saver program that
saves the fast code block to tape:
POKE 29387,80: POKE 29391,45
These POKEs set the instruction at 29130 to 'LD L,80' and the
instruction at 29135 to 'DEC L'. (The contents of addresses
24832-32767 are shifted down by 256 bytes to 24576 by the startup routine
at 33204 before the game starts.) Which makes one wonder what these
instructions were before they were POKEd.
As it turns out, some tapes of Back to Skool were released that are missing
line 33 in the BASIC saver program, and contain 79 at address 29387
(29131) and 44 at address 29391 (29135); with these values, the
corresponding section of code looks like this:
Any input from the joystick?
Jump if not
Jump if the joystick was moved right
Jump if the joystick was moved left
This code makes ERIC move left when the Kempston joystick is moved right, and
vice versa. Which is clearly a bug, and indicates that line 33 of the BASIC
saver program is nothing more nor less than a bugfix.
MR WACKER waits for ERIC
Like time, MR WACKER waits for no man - except when it's assembly and the man
(or boy) is ERIC. In fact, MR WACKER will dutifully wait on stage, silent and
motionless, until ERIC has arrived in the vicinity of the assembly hall, before
delivering his detention speech.
To verify this curious phenomenon, proceed as follows. When the bell rings for
assembly, go to the right end of the dinner hall and stand so that the stairs
leading down to the stage are just visible at the far right of the screen. Now
keep an eye on MR WACKER; when he decides that it's time to start assembly and
begins his descent down those stairs, move left until the screen has scrolled
twice and the stage is no longer in view. Then wait a bit - long enough for MR
WACKER to have reached the stage and begun his speech. After that, move right
until the screen scrolls once and brings MR WACKER back into view. MR WACKER
will be standing on the stage, and only when the screen stops scrolling will he
begin his detention speech.
(Hanging around on the outskirts of the assembly hall during assembly is a fine
way to get lines, so you might want to use the no lines POKE
before trying this for yourself.)
The reason for this uncharacteristically patient behaviour is the routine at
62032, which makes MR WACKER stand on the stage doing nothing until he comes
into view (or the bell rings for the next lesson, whichever happens first).
Lesson 43, where art thou?
Lesson 43 (MR WITHIT - YELLOW ROOM) does not appear anywhere in the
main timetable. But it is a perfectly good lesson. If you want to try
This removes the first PLAYTIME that normally takes place when starting the
game for the first time and replaces it with lesson 43.
ERIC can usually throw a punch or fire his catapult and be confident that the
impact will send one of the kids or teachers tumbling. However, on certain
occasions, certain characters are invulnerable to ERIC's violence. Those
characters and occasions are as follows:
Any boy, when he's looking for a seat in a classroom (because he's under the control of the uninterruptible subcommand routine at 26263)
MR WACKER, when he's on his way to open a window (because he's under the control of the uninterruptible subcommand routine at 63733)
Teachers and classrooms
MR WITHIT is the only teacher who teaches ERIC in all three classrooms. See his
MR ROCKITT never teaches in the Blue Room, and never teaches ERIC anywhere
except in the Science Lab. See his personal timetable.
There are 64 periods in the main timetable: 16 playtimes, 8
assemblies, 2 dinner periods, and 38 lesson periods (when ERIC is supposed to
be in either a classroom or the Revision Library).
In the 38 lesson periods, ERIC is scheduled to be in the Science Lab 15 times,
the Blue Room 7 times, the Yellow Room 7 times, and the Revision Library 9
ERIC has 11 classes with MR ROCKITT, 10 classes with MR CREAK, and 8 classes
with MR WITHIT.
ERIC has 11 classes with MR ROCKITT in the Science Lab (which is more than any
other teacher/classroom combination), but only one class with MR WITHIT in the
MR WACKER is on dinner duty for one of the dinner periods, and MR WITHIT is on
duty for the other one.
MR CREAK is the busiest teacher: he teaches a class in 37 of the 38 lesson
periods (lesson 42 being the only time he takes a break). MR WITHIT is
the laziest teacher, teaching a class in only 29 periods.
MR ROCKITT teaches most often in the Science Lab (28 times), MR CREAK teaches
most often in the Yellow Room (23 times), and MR WITHIT teaches most often in
the Blue Room (18 times).
MR WACKER spends 21 of the lesson periods (including 4 of the 9 Revision
Library periods) pacing up and down in his study, and the remaining 17 lesson
periods on a tour of the boys' skool, oscillating between the cloak room, the
assembly hall stage, and his study.
Every boy is taught at least 4 times by each teacher, and at least 4 times in
each classroom. In addition, every boy has at least one lesson period in the
Revision Library, though little boy no. 9 has only one period there (lesson
42), while all the others have at least three.
ANGELFACE spends more lesson periods in the Revision Library than any other boy
(14 periods compared to ERIC's 9).
In the 38 lesson periods, MISS TAKE teaches 24 times in the top-floor classroom
and 14 times in the middle-floor classroom.
HAYLEY has only one lesson period in a classroom with no teacher (lesson
42 in the top-floor classroom); each of the other little girls has at
least three such lesson periods.
Little boys 4-10 spend every playtime (of which there are 16 in the
main timetable) walking around from one randomly chosen
location to another; little boys 1-3, however, each spend two of these
playtimes walking up and down in the Revision Library until the bell rings.
Like little boys 4-10, all the little girls spend every playtime on a random
walkabout; HAYLEY, however, spends 12 playtimes on random walkabouts, and 4
playtimes walking up and down in the kitchen in the girls' skool until the bell
MISS TAKE spends 9 playtimes walking up and down in the kitchen in the girls'
skool, and the remaining 7 on random walkabouts.
BOY WANDER spends two playtimes writing on the boards in the girls' skool, 4
writing on the boards in the boys' skool, and the remaining 10 on random
ANGELFACE spends 9 playtimes stalking HAYLEY, and the remaining 7 on
When demo mode or a new game starts, the timetable index is always
192, 200, 208, 216,
224, 232, 240 or 248 (which are all
playtime, of course).
When demo mode starts for the first time after the game has loaded, the
timetable index is 200. When a new game is started as soon as
possible after the game has loaded, the timetable index is 208.
Understandably, ERIC is always eager for playtime to come, but the number of
non-playtime periods (lessons, Revision Library, dinner and assembly) he has to
tolerate between each break varies between two and four throughout the
There are two periods between playtimes at timetable indexes 198-199 and 214-215
There are four periods between playtimes at timetable indexes 193-196 and 209-212
There are three periods between all the other playtimes
Teachers and fresh air
The only time MR ROCKITT, MR CREAK and MISS TAKE will leave their respective
skools is when they are chasing ERIC; if ERIC never gave them reason to chase,
they would be permanently skoolbound. So do your bit to give these teachers
some exercise and fresh air by playing truant once in a while.
The usable unused door
Though the left study door is never used in a normal game, there is support
built in for opening and closing it (see 56893, for example). To bring the
door into service, try these POKEs.
Play area tiles 1, 11, 21 and 30 in base page 144 are unused:
However, there is evidence that they were used at one time and were later
discarded. The evidence lies in columns 88-92 of the play area, which contain
tiles mostly from the tail end of base page 136 and the beginning of base
page 144. The usage of tiles from base page 144 in each column is as follows:
0, 2-5, 40
6-10, 12, 13, 40
Note the gaps where tiles 1, 11, 21 and 30 seem to be missing from
columns 88-91, and tile 40 is present instead. Furthermore, tile 40 is used
at the same y-coordinate (14) in each of those columns. So what would the
relevant region of the play area - on the middle floor next to the window at
the right end of the boys' skool - look like if tiles 1, 11, 21 and 30
were used instead of tile 40? Here are the 'before' and 'after' pictures:
To my eye, the 'after' picture looks nicer: the bottoms of the boxes (or
whatever those objects are) no longer look as if they've been chopped off.
So why were tiles 1, 11, 21 and 30 left unused? Probably because when
they are used, the bottoms of the boxes appear under the feet of any
characters walking past, which looks a bit wrong:
The '/' (slash) character in the Back to Skool font has a bit missing:
Interestingly, the corresponding bit is also missing from the slash character
in the version of Skool Daze that was released by Alternative Software Ltd in
1987, but it is present in the original 1984 release by Microsphere.
To complete the symmetry, the '\' (backslash) character has the same bit
Depending on which part of the play area is currently on-screen, the
character-moving routine at 25296 will skip certain minor characters, thus
giving a performance boost to the other characters. Don't let the fact that
there are immobilised kids off-screen to the left or right distract ERIC from
his mission, though.
Fast ways from A to B
As if being immobilised while off-screen were not enough, those same minor
characters are occasionally teleported to their destinations too. After
scrolling the screen right (as ERIC approaches or goes deeper into the boys'
skool), the routine at 25080 considers teleporting little girls 1-7; after
scrolling the screen left (as ERIC leaves the boys' skool or approaches the
girls' skool), the routine at 25026 considers teleporting little boys
1-8. And just before the bell rings for a new lesson, the routine at 63309
considers teleporting little girls 1-7 and little boys 1-8.
After ERIC has obtained the Science Lab storeroom key, the mouse's days are
numbered. The next time it goes into hiding will be the last: it will never
re-emerge. Instead, its character buffer is appropriated by the frog, which
then appears at its initial location in the storeroom (see 31372).
The apprehensive amphibian
You may have noticed that the frog is a tricky fellow to catch, and the reason
is that it's programmed to be wary of ERIC. If ERIC is not close to the frog,
it will decide to keep still three times out of four. But as soon as ERIC gets
close, the frog will make a move (turn round or take a hop). See 30906.
Unlike the theme tune and the tune that plays when ERIC opens the safe, the
other sound effects in the game are played with interrupts enabled, which means
they are affected by keys being held down. This is especially noticeable with
the bell and the lines-giving sounds, which are somewhat longer than the
others. To make them even longer:
Now put ERIC up to mischief in front of a teacher, or wait for the bell to
ring, and see if you can detect the change in pitch as you hold down various
Between a closed door and a caretaker
When ALBERT tells MR WACKER that ERIC is escaping, MR WACKER comes hurrying to
the scene. However, if ERIC stands one step away from the skool door, MR WACKER
will stand on the other side without opening it, continually giving ERIC lines
for not being in class while at the same time preventing him from getting
Points for a punching or a pelleting
ANGELFACE is unique among the cast of characters in that if ERIC knocks him
over with a punch or a catapult pellet, 30 points are awarded (see 30773 and
30796). No points are awarded for knocking anyone else over in this fashion.
ANGELFACE and EINSTEIN are conkerable
If EINSTEIN or ANGELFACE is hit by a conker, he is knocked out, you get 100
points, and a unique sound effect is played. See the section of code at
ANGELFACE hates HAYLEY
During some playtimes, ANGELFACE specifically hunts down HAYLEY for the sole
purpose of hitting her (see command list 44). Which is bad, because
ERIC's chances of scoring a kiss diminish every time HAYLEY hits the floor (see
Violence and kisses
Every time HAYLEY is knocked down (by ANGELFACE's or ERIC's fist, or by BOY
WANDER's catapult pellet, or by the conker), her kiss counter is
decreased by one (see the section of code at 30155), thus making her less
likely to pucker up in future. The lesson here is to look after your
HAYLEY's lines count too
If HAYLEY is given lines - for being the nearest main kid to a downed teacher -
they are added to ERIC's total. See 29716.
In lesson 45 (MR WITHIT - SCIENCE LAB), HAYLEY is on her own in the
dinner hall. Is she hungry, or waiting for a tryst with ERIC?
The lost lines message
Recall Skool Daze, where you could sit on the stairs and be given lines for
it. Seems so long ago, eh? Well, even though you can't sit on the stairs in
Back to Skool (or be given lines for it), you may find consolation in evidence
that suggests it was possible at some point while the game was being developed:
the lost lines message at 60480. Unused, but never purged. Feel any better
ERIC's pellet v. water v. plant v. desk lid
RAM is in short supply in Back to Skool. For example, ERIC's catapult pellet is
forced to share its character buffer with plants, desk lids, and water/sherry
fired from the pistol. One consequence of this is that ERIC cannot open a desk
lid immediately after firing his catapult. Another is that ERIC cannot fire his
catapult immediately after firing his water pistol, or while waiting for a
watered plant to grow. Yet another is that he cannot fire his water pistol
while his catapult pellet is still airborne.
BOY WANDER's pellet v. stinkbomb
As already mentioned, RAM is in short supply in Back to Skool. So much so that
BOY WANDER's pellet is forced to share its character buffer with the stinkbomb
cloud. However, unlike ERIC's pellet, which is allowed to complete its flight
before giving up its buffer to some other object, BOY WANDER's pellet can be
terminated immediately by dropping a stinkbomb. Try it and see: find the
stinkbombs, then hang around BOY WANDER. When he lets rip with the catapult,
drop a stinkbomb and watch the pellet die young. See 57910.
All about mice
Did I mention that RAM is in short supply in Back to Skool? So much so that
when ERIC releases a mouse, instead of using a character buffer of its own, it
hijacks the character buffer of one of the boys: little boy no. 9, little boy
no. 10, BOY WANDER, ANGELFACE or EINSTEIN. See 31502.
The hijacking will only happen if the boy is far enough away from the girls'
skool at the time of release, though, which is safe because mice can only be
released in the girls' skool. See 31462.
How do the boys get their buffers back? Unlike the 'main' mouse in the game -
which shares its buffer with the frog, again owing to RAM limitations - mice
released by ERIC eventually die (either from old age, or by ERIC leaving the
vicinity of the girls' skool). When a released mouse expires, the character
whose buffer it hijacked will rematerialise at x-coordinate 32 on whichever
floor the mouse was on when it passed away. That is deep enough into the boys
skool that you will never notice it happening. No matter how fast you run from
the girls' skool after releasing a bunch of mice, they'll all be dead before
you reach the far left end of the boys' skool. See 31254.
Don't bother trying to catch any of the mice released by ERIC: they cannot be
re-caught. Only the 'main' mouse (using buffer 212) can ever be caught. See
The aforementioned 'main' mouse always begins life in a new game at coordinates
(17,3) in the Blue Room (see 54305).
One more thing: when ERIC catches a mouse, a new one is supposed to materialise
somewhere else off-screen. However, because of a bug
in the mouse placement code, the new mouse can sometimes be spotted appearing
on-screen out of thin air at x-coordinate 10, 88 or 170.
The conker and the clock
Ever stood at the top-floor window of the boys' skool (as ERIC, naturally),
getting more and more frustrated because time is running out for you to knock
ALBERT out with a conker and get the sherry before the bell rings? Then you may
find some relief in the knowledge that you will have plenty of time to visit
the girls' skool and fill up the pistol with the contents of MISS TAKE's wine
stash, no matter how long it took you to give ALBERT a concussion. Why? Because
when you do manage to land the fateful nut on ALBERT's bonce, the skool clock
is magically wound back, thus delaying the onset of the next lesson. See the
section of code at 30145.
WACKER and the clock
When assembly finishes (that is, when MR WACKER has finished speaking), the
skool clock's MSB is set to 1, which means the bell will ring soon after, no
matter how early MR WACKER arrived at the stage to deliver his detention
speech. See 62032.
The catapult in Back to Skool is not quite so handy as the one in Skool
Daze. In both games, the catapult's range is the same (13 spaces), but in Back
to Skool, its 'hit zone' is shorter (the last 4 spaces of the range instead of
the last 7). So in Back to Skool, ERIC has to be further away from his target
in order to hit it.
To adjust the hit zone (and the range) of the catapult, see