Eeeek! Skeletor (Trade Mark - Mattel Inc) is attacking Eternia and you, as Adam (Trade Mark - Mattel Inc), Prince of all Eternia, must become He-Man (Trade Mark - Mattel Inc) and defeat him in this great Masters Of The Universe (Trade Mark - Mattel Inc) computer game!
Wow! Watch out for the Rockbinders, who - controlled by Skeletor - are guzzling their way through the granite to undermine our dear beloved Eternia! And watch out for Orko (Trade Mark - Filmation)... and Evil Lynn (Trade Mark - Mattel Inc)...
Well, that does it. I just can't bear it any longer. At the end of last year I said that I'd start to tell the honest truth about the way I felt about UK adventure software and when this game popped up on my screen something finally snapped.
It's appalling. It doesn't deserve to change hands for anything more than the price of a blank cassette. US Gold should be utterly ashamed to be offering software of this nature and should withdraw the product at once. And those are my more charitable feelings about the product...
However, there's no point in just being rude about the program. Let me now level with you and tell you in more reasoned tones why I feel this way. You, of course, may disagree, though somehow I doubt it.
First, let me make it absolutely clear that I hold no personal feelings of animosity against either Mike Woodroffe of Adventuresoft (the programmers) or US Gold themselves. On the contrary, Mike has hosted me at his offices in Birmingham and I was impressed by his dedication to adventuring in general - all of which I said in an article last year.
Mike makes no secret of his need to program mass selling games in order to pay the bills. He's perfectly entitled to approach the market in that fashion if he wants to. He obviously believes that the best way to get a big selling adventure onto the shelves is through licensing game themes from people like Mattel. OK, so far... US Gold obviously agree with him, otherwise they wouldn't be distributing his product.
What isn't OK is the actual standard of the product itself I feel pretty bad saying this because Adventuresoft are a good bunch, but really we've got to come clean here. This software is three years out of date. And to sell it in 1987 at this price is simply not on. And for me to say anything else in this column would be to do my readers a serious disservice.
Firstly, the design. The graphics are OK - some of them are even very attractive. But the text locations are brief and uninspired and the puzzles are frankly dull. Some of them are even bugged - I spent literally dozens of moves being "dragged back towards the water" by a tentacle from the moat without ever actually getting to the water. And during the process I was able to swim happily to and fro across the moat!
Finally, after reverting to my boring Adam identity (instead of He-Man), I was told that "the tentacles drag you into the water". At last - I thought - I've reached the water! But no - the next line informed me that, once again, "the tentacle drags you back towards the water". Ah well... For once I was grateful when I died and had to start again.
And the whole structure is so limited. Examining most things results in the message "You see nothing special". Most locations offer nothing apart from their brief description - no objects to look at (unless they're required by the plot). You go into the Inn and try to buy a drink, but "He-Man wouldn't waste time on such things" says the program. Well, He-Man might not, but most adventurers would.
The parser is relatively efficient - it offers BOM (i.e. OOPS, or Back One Move) as well as RAM save and restore. You can also DROP and GET ALL. But it doesn't tell you which word it doesn't understand and happily responds to inputs such as 'EAT KING RADNOR' with the response. 'THAT WON'T HELP YOU AT THE MOMENT AND THERE IS NO GUARANTEE IT EVER WILL.'
It says the same thing if you enter 'QWERTY QWERTY' or any other rubbish.
What about interactive characters? What about vivid location descriptions? What about a bit of SCOPE - for wandering around and checking out pointless objects for the sheer fun of it; for discovering different ways of achieving one's ends, instead of simply cracking an invarying sequence of puzzles?
I don't know anything about the actual Masters Of The Universe subculture, but I suppose someone had to spend quite a lot of money to buy the computer game rights. Perhaps they thought that by buying those rights they were in effect buying a big sale for the game. Perhaps even a position in the charts. Hasn't it occurred to the Powers That Be that there are other ways of getting people to buy your games - like programming them well, for starters.
Wouldn't it be nice for once if someone spent their money on buying up licence rights and then actually went ahead and developed a game that was, for example, up to the standards of The Pawn!
Or is it that, once the rights have been bought, there isn't any money left over for the program itself. If that's the case then how about a little originality - at least you don't have to pay for ideas that you come up with yourself.
Or don't we have any?!
As for US Gold, I can give them one for free. If they keep coming up with stuff like this, then pretty soon no-one's going to touch their product with a bargepole. No matter how much money they spend on licences.
Come on Adventuresoft - you've got the talents if you want to use them - have a bit more confidence in your own ideas, sto wasting money on licences, spend it on game development, and start winning customers instead of trying to buy them.
Finally - I suppose it's just possible that I've got it all wrong, and this game is really what everybody out there is waiting for. If this is the case, write and tell me, and I'll give up adventuring right now and retire to Disneyland (Trade Mark - Walt Disney).