Return To Doom (Topologika) Review | Amstrad Action - Everygamegoing

Amstrad Action

Return To Doom
By Topologika
Amstrad CPC464

Published in Amstrad Action #36

Return To Doom

"We wouldn't claim", begins the press release from Topologika concerning Return To Doom, "that the release of a new adventure game from the pen of Peter Killworth is earth-shattering news..."

I certainly can't contradict them on that point, but. at a time when we are besieged by hi-tech adventures from Magnetic Scrolls and Level 9, playing Return To Doom was far more enjoyable than I expected. If you have an urge to go back in time and play a real old-fashioned text adventure, this game should satisfy it.

To start with, long-lived Pilgs may remember my taking Mr. Killworth to task for leaving out the EXAMINE command in his adventure Countdown To Doom and sticking to a hopelessly outdated parser. Mr K wrote in to the column (see AA27) stoutly defending his position and, in this latest game he has stuck by his guns... so there's still no EXAMINE, and still a very ancient system.

The plot is pretty straightforward. The planet Doom is playing host to an unwilling party of politicians who have crash landed on its surface and been kidnapped by some runaway robots. Defying Newtonian physics, you pop over to the planet in the time it takes to load up the game and attempt to rescue the survivors.

Return To Doom is disk only and does a fair bit of disk-accessing during play. The text-only display flags the name of your current location and your score at the top of the screen, and below prints out descriptions in either VERBOSE or NORMAL mode. This is something of an improvement on earlier Killworth games but unfortunately it misses the mark. In Return To Doom, VERBOSE prints a lengthy description every time, and NORMAL does so only on your first visit to a location. What's lacking is a BRIEF command, which, always prints brief descriptions - the whole point being that when you have played the game several times, you want to be able to move through it faster to get to the right point. And believe me, you'll be RESTARTing this game fairly often.

Helping Hand

Other obvious improvements include the provision of "online" help. The inlay comes with a list of 88 numbered hints, and typing HELP during play prompts you for a number. Enter the number and you'll receive a series of hints concerning the relevant problem, culminating (if you want it) in the final solution. Whatever its other drawbacks, Return To Doom can now claim to have the best on-line help facility of any game I've seen.

You can also string together multiple commands using AND, THEN or simply commas. Again, this can save time when you know what you're doing. Saving to disk is fairly quick, but there is no RAMSAVE and no ability to catalogue your saved filenames while playing - both features it would be nice to see included.

It's debatable whether the excellent on-line help is really such a good thing, however, and that brings to me the game itself. If ever there was a program that relied on puzzling, this is it. From the very first screen you are confronted with a host of puzzles that prevent you from moving more than a couple of locations in any direction. If you're not chomped to death, squeezed to death, torn to death, or spiked to death, you're extremely lucky!

The puzzles are bad enough at the beginning, but after you've progressed a while they become positively devilish. It's at this point that the on-line help begins to exert a very unhealthy influence and unless you have a will cast from titanium you'll find yourself resorting to it more often than is good for you. If you can't resist, you might as well throw the game away - because puzzling is what it's all about. The lure of the adventure is definitely of the "I wonder how I can do that" variety, and not of the "Wow! Here I am in another world" type. Thought, not fantasy, is the name of the game.

Unfortunately, some of the frustration is not entirely enjoyable. To start with, the parser really is rather primitive and can actually mislead the player on occasions. There are certain puzzles which you can solve intuitively, but then be misled by the parser into thinking you have got the wrong approach. To open a door, for example, you naturally try to KNOCK ON DOOR, but the program won't accept this and definitely gives the impression that this is the input of a misguided adventurer. It's a bit annoying to discover (after resorting to the on-line help, of course) that the required input is simply KNOCK! That's what I was doing! This happens on a number of different occasions...

There is an enormous diversity of locations, puzzles, and dangers in this game. Frequent SAVEs will be necessary and it will take a while to solve (without the help). It also introduces a small measure of interaction with a character not unlike the Dagget in Worm In Paradise. Despite the primitive nature of the programming and presentation, it's a very enjoyable game that should challenge dedicated puzzlers anywhere. Unfortunately, for a game full of tricky problems, the biggest problem is the price.

The Pilgrim

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