To cut a long story short, your father, now presumed dead, invented a time machine which is hidden in the basement of his chateau. Having been mightily impressed by a journey to the future of 1987, he had planned a trip to 2125, and left the program written to take the machine there scattered around four time zones, lest they be stolen by his assumed assassin, Richard. Dad's last request is a letter imploring you to visit the time zones to find Richard, and avenge his death.
So the game starts in the chateau, and your first task is to find the programs to travel to each time zone, gather enough other useful objects, locate and reach the machine and get it working.
Commands are issued entirely by mouse operated icons, and these differ slightly between the two versions of the game. The ST version, as well as having eight compass points plus Up and Down, has icons for Pick Up, Put Down, Show Inventory, Light On/Off, Use, Turn, Push/Pull and Search/Examine, as well as utility items for saving game, setting external drives, and adjusting preference.
Below the picture at the bottom of the screen, is a window containing icons for objects in the player's inventory. Text messages to the player overlay this window, and the inventory can be restored by clicking on the Show Inventory icon. Pick Up and Put Down are self explanatory - click on Pick Up, and after a Where prompt, a click on the appropriate object whisks it into the inventory window. All well and good, except that there are not a lot of objects to be seen - most are not actually shown in the picture. Thus, before you can exhaust the possible hiding places, as well as opening every cupboard and drawer in the building, and examining them, it is necessary to Search and click on every area of every picture, to ensure, for example, that you don't miss a vital punched card which happens to be lying invisibly on a carpet.
Put Down has its quirks, too. Objects that 'belong' in the room take up their original position when dropped, and are shown in the picture again, if, that is, they were visible in the first place. However 'foreign' objects simply disappear fro, view, and the whole picture must be searched again to discover where they fell. And that brings me to another point - a bottle of wine counts as two items, bottle and wine!
The system has a lot of similarities to the Mindcape system used in Shadowgate and Uninvited, but having said that, the command range is even more limited, and a lot less logical.
In Chrono Quest, the pictures are quite attractive, and in the main, full of interest. Doors and drawers visibly open, and there are a few other bits of animation, but on the whole, the animation is minimal. So are the text replies. There are plenty of text descriptions of both useful and irrelevant objects, but there is no depth to the EXAMINE command. Perhaps most irritating of all the replies, is when you try to Use something unsuccessfully, and get an inane "It's Not Interesting".
Once the time machine has been started, your travels begin. You would have thought by now that adventure writers had got the message that sudden death with no warning can kill a game stone dead. There's plenty of that here! Visit India and you will instantly be savaged by a deadly tiger if you innocently take a step in the 'wrong' direction. So it is essential to save your game position frequently if you are not going to have to retrace your steps again and again. But there is a snag here too! You can only make one save per disk - the original save gets overwritten by subsequent ones, so to play effectively, you will need to have at least half a dozen formatted disks to hand.
The trouble with this game is that the limitations of the command system do not allow for any subtlety and depth. Once started, it has a certain addictive quality, but I doubt that it will find much favour among those who enjoy a good, meaty, Infocom, Scrolls, or Level 9 adventure.
Chrono Quest is a big game, coming on four disks for the ST, and three for the Amiga, but even so, it's overpriced at nearly 30 quid. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention - it's French. Despite trying hard, I have never found a French adventure that is logical and absorbing yet.