Amstrad Action1st February 1988
Published in Amstrad Action #29
I like a company that's got guts. After seeing some of their titles slagged off by the Cruel Crusader a couple of issues back, Topologika are leaping back into the fray with this disk-based search, solve and steal game. Can it restore their reputation?
Hmmm... Difficult to say really, so I'll put the case to you straight and let you judge for yourself. I first encountered this game back in days of yore when it appeared for the BBC. Disk-only games were something of a rarity in those days and Acheton received a fair amount of acclaim as a Colossal Cave derivative with more than its fair share of textual description.
I was struck on playing it again how much of the game I remembered, evidence of its powerful atmosphere and original puzzles. On the other hand, I was also struck by the extreme primitiveness of the parser, which apart from the refinement of GET ALL and GET ALL EXCEPT... is remarkably unsophisticated.
Peter Killworth of Topologika has already written in defending the absence of EXAMINE in their parser, but to be honest I can't believe many adventurers would agree with him. It's not so much the importance of the word for the development of puzzles, but its presence serves as a natural foil to the inquisitive nature any adventurer who feels the urge to look more closely at anything he/she finds.
Other slight annoyances are the parser's habit of rejecting whole phrases when it doesn't understand one of the words used, so on receiving (for example) the response:
I don't understand "Clean the coat"
...you're left uncertain which word is causing the trouble (of course it may be all of them).
Additionally, the (now rather old-fashioned) technique of scrolling the entire display except the status line when something is printed or entered means that old descriptions rapidly disappear from sight. Since these contain exit details you'll want to reprint them frequently by typing LOOK, and the program doesn't accept the abbreviation L.
OK, enough griping about the parser. But the fact is that the structure of the parser determines to a large extent the structure of the game. Its simplicity means, in Acheton's case, that the gameplay is confined to finding and using objects and mumbling the occasional magic word. You don't have to wheedle information out of other characters, you don't have to look underneath things, and most of the time you don't have to use more than two words in your inputs.
Despite these shortcomings, the game does have considerable atmosphere. It's really a shameless Colossal Cave derivative, right down to the magic words, the chasms, the tunnels, and the syntax.
If you want a quality trip down memory lane then this is definitely a good purchase. If you're keener on graphics, characters, and more complex inputs then it's a waste of money.