Amstrad Action1st September 1986
Published in Amstrad Action #12
Hunchback: The Adventure
Never-Ending Story from Ocean has consistently achieved high ratings in our readers' adventure chart, so what news is there of this latest release from Ocean?
Hunchback: The Adventure gives you the romantic role of Quasimodo in a race to rescue the divine Esmeralda from the Evil Cardinal. Like its predecessor, Never-Ending Story, the game comes in three parts with four separate loads - an intro screen and three data files. Each load brings a new set of locations - the first being the Cathedral itself, the second taking you beneath the city of Paris, and the last dumping you in the Cardinal's mansion where you must find and rescue your lady-love. You can't begin a new part until you've completed the previous one.
Hunchback has been programmed by the same team as Never-Ending Story and its pedigree is very apparent. You have the same Mode 0 horizontal graphics window at the top of the screen with some excellent graphics and good use of colour. There are three main elements to the graphics display: a colourful backdrop; cameo pictures of the items you are carrying; and slightly larger cameos that depict scenes reflecting the current location or events. For example, if you are fighting a guard, a small window bearing the words "Pow! Biff!" etc will appear. If you're struggle is successful, you will then be rewarded by a mugshot of the dead guard.
Beneath the graphics display is a scrolling text window with the same attractive, alternative character set as was used in Never-Ending Story. When it comes to entering text however, the picture isn't quite so rosy. There are only about 25 verbs (not including the twelve direction commands which as well as NE etc, also offer IN and OUT) and EXAMINE is conspicuous by its absence. Even then, one of the words (SMASH) doesn't seem to figure in the game at all - at least the parser doesn't understand it! Words like USE and GIVE are also absence so that although objects and characters abound, the actual potential for interacting with them is pretty small. But then this was also true of Never-Ending Story and didn't seem to detract from its popularity.
My own feeling is that Hunchback: The Adventure is on about the same level as its predecessor. To start with, the locations are more meaningful and better laid out. The program doesn't always list all possible exits from a location, and since twelve directions are allowed there are times when experimentation may reveal a new route.
There are also occasions when the location layout is not entirely logical (e.g. a corridor that runs east-west but in fact doubles back on itself) so care has to be taken in mapping. Given the fact that you won't find that many locations in each part, one might say that the more difficult it is, the better.
The real trouble with Hunchback is the same as that with Never-Ending Story. Really, the game is too easy - certainly in the first part anyway. As you wander round the Cathedral, you frequently encounter guards, but their attacks seem for the most part to be ineffectual and I managed to kill every one with my bare hands without much trouble. What's more, on two occasions I was rewarded with the message 'Your attack fails! You have killed the guard!'.
In the whole of the first section, there are only about 30 locations but more seriously there is only one puzzle worth speaking of, and it's pretty obvious at that! Any experienced adventurer will polish this section off in about one hour of play, and that's not really sufficient for my tastes. Things brighten up a bit as you go on and there's a half-decent maze in the second half, but even that surrenders its secrets after you drop a couple of objects.
I didn't have time to make it to part two, but it does look as if this game is very much on a par with its predecessor. Which means that, for the experienced adventurer, it offers pretty graphics and an amusing scenario but is pretty short on challenge. For younger players though, I suspect it will be a huge success.