Dead At The Controls (Artic Computing) Review | Crash - Everygamegoing


Dead At The Controls
By Artic Computing
Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Crash #15

Dead at The Controls

Arctic Computing, although often distracted by the arcade sector, still churn out adventures like so many hamburgers from a takeaway.

Arctic's large catalogue of competent and difficult adventures have not kept pace with the market where rivals have been quicker to innovate and refine their product. This game, again, is competent, with fine graphics and a fast response, but perhaps it is more correctly described as pedantic rather than difficult. You, Captain Ferret, are circling a strange planet when you take a direct hit and, courageously abandoning the crew to their fate, you parachute to the relative safety of the planet's surface. Here you begin the task of collecting the very important equipment scattered about in the debris.

Not much of a storyline admit Arctic humorously and, well, at least they are honest and don't go on trying to prop up a plot that never existed. To cut a short story even shorter the locations are divided into an Aztec sector and Hyperdome area. I hope this isn't one of those reviews where you try and make sense of the questionable bits and pieces of a pre-production cassette only to find all explained about two months later in the main body of the magazine. I can see it now, Dead at the Controls is a superb whimsical piece, so humorous, so inventive relating how a captain disguised as a ferret goes about proving the link between anxiety about hairy legs with the lack of trouser bottoms in pre-Socratic society and how this all relates to the artificial propagation of plants.

Anything is possible in computer software but I think it unlikely that a plot like that above will hatch out in this case.

The face the game presents to the world is attractive with a likeable loading screen followed by great graphics, although many on the forest theme are repeats, as are the pictures of the hyperdomes. One slight irritation in design is the use of large block capitals which are difficult to read when compared to their lower case brethren. The plot, or theme for that matter, remains obscure so I'll move straight onto the vocabulary. Alas, the vocabulary is most unhelpful with one or two specific examples coming to mind though the problem runs right through the adventure. Finding a mousetrap to deal with the mouse you GET MOUSETRAP but the program will only accept GET TRAP. Similarly GET HELMET rather than GET SPACE (HELMET) yet just as you were coming to terms with the dialogue it, on one occasion, chooses to accept the obvious; GET GEIGER or GET COUNTER are both accepted. Were this not awkward enough some of the verbs needed are ridiculously obscure. No ticking off for giving this one away. How about BAIT TRAP where SET TRAP is not accepted! The examine command is dormant and results in 'You don't see much'. Generally speaking, input is only accepted for the furtherance of your immediate task and there are few sidelines, humorous or otherwise.

I have said that this game has no discernable plot and this is true but it does have a thread running throughout in the form of a teleport machine. This machine is called by an object often found lying around on desks where calling the machine involves guessing which number to press and the location where you should press it. This is not so easy and soon becomes a chore.

Artic have produced a passable adventure which sports super graphics but is lacking in those ingredients that go to make a memorable game. Two comments best sum it up. In the first locality READ SIGN brings the retort 'Abandon all hope, etc' and, when caught out by the constant number pressing to summon the teleport machine it is worth remembering this game has the most efficient QUIT I have come across. No series of Y/N hurdles to negotiate. QUIT and enter sends you straight back to the first location in record time.


Difficulty: very difficult due to pedantic word-matching
Graphics: on some locations and good
Presentation: quite good although graphics scroll off
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: very fast

Derek Brewster

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