Skool Daze

A pioneer of the sandbox genre, this early on?

Source // YouTube

I've never seen Skool Daze, despite hearing it in passing, so I never had any idea what it was about, beyond a game set in a school - which doesn't sound incredible, but there are many aspects of school life that can be made into a game.

Skool Daze tries to get you to act out the roles of both a good student and a troublemaker in an attempt to steal your report card from the staffroom safe, and the entire school is open for you to explore in order to accomplish that goal.

Fun Times

As Eric, you wander the school grounds looking for pieces of the code to the safe, and the four teachers each have their own part of the code. It is up to you to coax this code out of the teachers while avoiding too much punishment for misbehaviour.

That can be tricky when you're armed with a catapult and are often firing it at the back of teachers heads. It's also tricky when other pupils also have catapults and you can be flagged up in cases of mistaken identity. You can even be caught out for not sitting down to a class, or for being on the floor instead of in your chair. Why would you be on the floor? Because that's what happens when you're caught in the face with a shot from a catapult. You can be penalised for being bullied, essentially. Ah, school...

If you get caught too often you'll get expelled, but so long as you don't you are free to wander around the environment in pursuit of your goal. The school is split into three levels, each with numerous rooms, all serving a purpose, and you're stuck here until you're finished with the game.


First off, I didn't have much luck in emulating Skool Daze. I played a bit of its sequel, Back to Skool, where I had a similar experience to that which I'm having while watching a video of Skool Daze - just what in the name of all that is Holy do you want me to do here?

The controls - as expected for a ZX Spectrum title - are all over the place when compared to today's button and keyboard layouts. I spent more time exploring my keyboard than exploring the school, and that's mostly because I was hunting down the key that was assigned to 'walk left'. How I got up the stairs is beyond me.

These problems are my problems though. The game, while it has a few irksome bugs, isn't too problematic. There seem to be some tricky moments that require you to line up a catapult shot correctly, which would then require you to have another student or one of the teachers to walk into just the right place for you. How you'd figure out to do this is beyond me, even when watching it.

Final Word

I don't know what's going on and don't understand how anyone is supposed to figure it out, but that doesn't mean I can't see the ambition on display from Skool Daze. An entire school of pupils and teachers all going about their business while you meander through it all on your own quest, all crammed into the ZX Spectrum. What's not to admire?

By the looks of it, patience is the key to getting through Skool Daze. A forty minute run for someone who knows what they're doing may be off putting, but you can at least potter about and pretend you know what you're doing, if ever you find yourself playing it. And, as a sandbox pioneer, you should. 

Not fully open world, but I guess you could say it's... still early daze.

Fun Facts

Both players and the AI students and teachers could write on the blackboards in the various classrooms, allowing you to temporarily keep some notes, or your classmates to promote other games by publishers Microsphere.

Skool Daze, developed by David Reidy, Helen Reidy, first released in 1985.

Version watched: ZX Spectrum, 1985 (RZX Archive)