Melbourne House's latest foray into the adventure world is something very different, as GARY LIDDON, in-house comicbook afficionado and comic character discovers...
Mild, meek and very wimpish reporter Kevin Oliver awakes outside a hospital with absolutely no memory at all, an empty camera in his hand and some small change. Obviously bedazed by his situation, the puzzled reporter searches his synapses and finds three words: two of them make up his name, while the third is puzzlingly meaningless - 'KWAH'. As any amnesiac reporter would, Kevin says the puzzling word and Kablamm!, what was previously a wimp is now a muscle encumbered man of steel dressed in red with a range of super powers as matching accessories. And then Redhawk remembers his mission to hinder the course of evil upon planet Earth. Another quick KWAH later and Redhawk is back into his civilian identity.
After a bit of interaction with the surrounding scenery and a little weeny read of the inlay, the problem to be solved soon becomes frighteningly apparent. Some incredibly naughty person has decided to bomb the local nuclear reactor. If the device deposited there does manage to pop its cork then it's goodbye to at least three quarters of Kevin's home town. Obviously something must be done, and the only effective solution seems to be a Redhawk one.
Despite Redhawk's rather impressive physical endowments, the answer to this particular problem doesn't depend totally upon brawn. Brain is the major talent needed to prevent the surrounding countryside being littered wit h bits of power station. The first thing to do is get a job at the Daily News as a freelance photographer. This gives Kev a supply of money as long as the Editor get a supply of crime piccies - quite an easy task when you're secretly a trendy superhero-around-town. Six hours are available to Kevin/Redhawk before the bomb goes blam. To solve the problem of the exploding power station, our reddened hero must first sort out the mystery of who actually planted the device. As different characters are encountered and interrogated a veritable web of intrigue becomes apparent. Including the super hero himself, there are six main characters in the game, plus four supervillains who hinder the crusader along the way to truth and justice.
To complicate matters, most of the people around the place have a motive to destroy the power station and it's up to Redhawk, the great detective, to decipher who is behind this rather dangerous malarky. Once that's solved, then a way to prevent a rather nasty mess in the power station should become apparent.
Like all superheroes, Redhawk finds his doings closely monitored by the media, and Redhawk's popularity rating fluctuates according the number of criminals he apprehends or allows to escape. If he gets really unpopular, no-one will talk to him - which makes solving the mystery rather difficult, but if Redhawk spends too long basking in glory and apprehending wrong-doers, he won't have time to investigate the dastardly plot that threatens the entire city. A fine balance has to be maintained throughout the game...
Redhawk marks quite a departure from the usual format of adventures adopted by most software companies nowadays, including those produced by Melbourne themselves. Developed by Simon Price and Mike Lewis under the name of Silhouette Software Systems, the whole project is an extension of Adventure Games on the Amstrad, a book the two lads wrote while they were still at polytechnic. The best way of describing Redhawk is as an interactive comic strip - the way the game works is hardly surprising as Simon Price scripts a comic strip by the name of Redfox. The main idea behind Redhawk, and principal difference between the game and most other adventures, is that although it's not an arcade game, all the action takes place in real time with the situation and characters constantly being updated as text is input by the user. With a set of cartoon frames running across the top, the screen action is shown in classic comic book style as Kevin/Redhawk obeys the player's commands. Each new command entered by the player affects the cartoon frame on the right of the screen, and the frames scroll to the left, making a mini cartoon strip which is continually added to as the game unfolds.
Interacting with other characters is fun, as speech bubbles superimpose themselves on the action frames and speech scrolls itself across. Using the SAY command opens a little cloud-like speech bubble above our hero and text pours out for the benefit of anyone on screen who may be in listening range. All the while a real time clock shows what the time is as the minutes to doom slowly tick away. A very competent attempt at multitasking.
Though wimpish, Kevin has access to enormous power at the mere whisper of 'KWAH'. That power is far from infinite, and there's a little meter there, on screen, to prove it. Such superhero activities as flying and fighting sap away the old super powers until - 'KWAH' - the poor chap is zapped back into his human form for a little rest and recuperation. The Superhero batteries are slowly recharged while Redhawk is in Kevin mode.
The main problem with the Kevin incarnation is his inability to move around easily - he has to rely on taxis and the train system. The Daily News is a bit of a tight outfit as no matter how many receipts Kev collects, Nigel Barlow, the mean Editor, won't give back any money on expenses: that really takes all the fun out of journalism. The only way to fund travel is to sell photos to the paper as the transport facilities cost a rather excessive pound a trip! As the player becomes acquainted with the local geography it's possible to save money by FLYing to destinations in caped crusader mode, but this uses up Super-energy.