SLEUTHING BY THE SEA
Richard Price unearths a devious detective puzzle.
The rain dribbled down the grimy windows as I sat at my VDU, listlessly dabbling in some computer saga of wizards and dark castles. The day had been empty of excitement. Suddenly the post boy appeared and threw a package onto my littered desk.
I felt a thrill of apprehension as I took the buff folder from the envelope and saw 'Confidential' stamped in red across it. Could this be it, I thought - had some disgruntled civil servant decided to leak the secrets of the nation's war games computer to me? Not quite. The folder held a map of a seaside town called Fox Bay, a detective's notebook and a cassette. After playing for a short time I found I had one of the most entertaining Quilled programs since Hampstead.
Confidential is a detective adventure. One of Fox Bay's prominent citizens has disappeared and his wife decides to hire you, Craig Adams, to track him down. From your seedy office you must seek out the man's associates and contacts to build a coherent picture of the facts surrounding the disappearance. This is not a simple matter. Besides gathering information, often from reluctant characters, there are the hazards of day to day life in the town.
Holiday caravans moulder on sites which are veritable labyrinths. Your car will run out of petrol if you are not careful. You will leave some office in the town centre smugly thinking how good your interview was only to find a pair of yellow lines where the car had been. All right, stroll up to the local nick to get it back. Have you got your cheque book? You will have to find it then, won't you?
Radar Games has used the Quill with some originality and has developed a flair for making you think you're doing well and then bringing you up short with a new twist in the plot.
The screen presentation is attractive and makes full use of the various attributes on the Quill. There are small user-defined graphics which add to the professional feel of the game.
Movement is based on the road map provided and you are expected to pay close attention to it if you want to get around town successfully. This feature adds considerably to the atmosphere of the game. After a while you will begin to feel like a true, harassed, gumshoe - someone who no-one particularly likes or enjoys talking to.
Your problems begin the moment you start playing and there is no real let up. Some of the puzzles are relatively easy but they get tougher as you go along. What's really a change is that the game has continuity in its story line and doesn't simply expect you to be satisfied with just collecting objects or treasure.
As far as I know Confidential is only available by mail order - but do not let that put you off. It is far better than a lot of the pap in the chain stores now. Write to: Radar Games, 53 Flavel Street, Woodsetton, Dudley DY1 4NU.