Amstrad Action

Knight Orc

Published in Amstrad Action #24

Magnetic Scrolls with Guild Of Thieves, Infocom with Bureaucracy - there's no doubt that the boys and girls at the top of the class have been wheeling out the big guns recently. But what about our old friends Level 9? Apart from Silicon Dreams - a rehash of older games - they seem to have been keeping a somewhat low profile. And in today's competitive climate that just won't do. Level 9 has been in serious danger of becoming yesterday's software house - can they keep up?

First, they needed to do something about their awful graphics. Whatever your own feelings about the pictures in, say, Silicon Dreams, I think they're rubbishy. I don't really believe that the Level 9 people - in their heart of hearts - think much of them either. Certainly when you put the graphics alongside something like The Pawn they begin to look sick. In fact, put them alongside any graphical adventure from CRL, Interceptor, Delta 4 or Melbourne House and they still look decidedly peaky.

Second, they needed to do something about the programming of their games. Other programmers are developing the art of interactive characters with each new release. Level 9 can't afford to lag behind in this race - anyone can introduce interactive characters in a game, but getting them right takes a bit of practice. The Level 9ers haven't even been going through the motions here.

Knight Orc

The fact is, the adventure market is changing. More and more people are changing to disk-based machines, and that spells death for the old way of life when a game loaded from tape and had to be squeezed into memory all at once.

Level 9 excelled at that sort of thing - its compression and parsers were second to none in the old days. They still are. But who needs them when you've got 128K and a disk-drive?

I know there are lots of readers out there without disk-drives. But do not despair - the prices are dropping rapidly. And if you're not interested, think what you're missing out on - no Infocom, no Magnetic Scrolls, no Koronis Rift, no Tau Ceti Special Edition...

Knight Orc

Meanwhile, however, Level 9 has come back with fists flying - and released Knight Orc through Rainbird, featuring - yes, you guessed - interactive characters, souped-up graphics, and an upgraded parser.

The game concerns an orc by the name of Grindleguts and comes on three cassettes or one disk. I have played the ST version and much enjoyed it, though I do have reservations. First, we're stuck with Middle Earth scenarios still, when other companies have struck out into other, newer game arenas. Second, the interactive characters are just a bit self-consciously programmed and their responses are sometimes incomprehensibly inappropriate.

However, you can now FOLLOW other characters, address them directly, give them one or several commands, and even WAIT FOR them to arrive. In addition, the game features GO TO and RUN TO commands which enable you to move directly to a named location, with location descriptions en route printed or not printed respectively. FIND does similar things with objects.

The game comes in the usual Rainbird sumptuous packaging complete with a poster and booklet containing a novella that sets the scene for the game. It also forms part of the anti-piracy system so you shouldn't throw it away unless you really know it by heart.

Stay tuned for the the definitive review of the genuine Amstrad version - coming soon...

The Pilgrim