This is the first commercial game release to land on my doorstep that uses Incentive's Graphics Adventure Creator. There have already been many successful games released using The Quill (Terrormolinos and Subsunk for example), so I was eager to see how Global and GAC got on together.
The storyline of The Beer Hunter revolves around, predictably, drink. The luckless adventurer will have to make his way from one social blackspot to another, and the opportunities for observing other members of the human race in varying degrees of stupefaction and degeneracy are many. You even start the game in the toilet, and can only proceed in the game by first pulling the chain!
There have been a number of adventures recently (Terrormolinos, again, is the obvious example) that have attempted to show us the middle-class way of life, warts and all, and Beer Hunter is firmly in that tradition. This is a world of Escort XR3i's and pretentious wine bars - definitely a far cry from Middle Earth. You make your way from the pub to the final scene via an amusement arcade, El Gringo's Wine Bar, the Barbican, and a Magistrate's Court.
The trouble with choosing this sort of 'everyday-life' scenario for an adventure is that to make it gripping/amusing/suspenseful or whatever, you have to have a very well-developed sense of program design. I felt that, although The Beer Hunter was quite competently put together, there was a slight lack of spark. Yes, some of the locations were quite amusing, and there were one or two amusing take-offs of the traditional adventure, but I neither fell off my seat laughing at any time, nor gripped it in suspense. A pity... but then much of adventuring is a purely personal thing and others may well find it more to their liking.
Unfortunately The Beer Hunter suffers from some rather annoying programming features. The copy I got was not a production copy, however, so it is conceivable that the program has not yet been duplicated, in which case I may prevail upon Global to rectify some, if not all, of the programming deficiencies.
For example, the most serious drawback is the program's method of scrolling. Text is displayed at the bottom of the screen beneath the graphics, and when a longish description is being printed, the program whips the text up the window and out of sight in a split-second, and usually before you've had a chance to read it. The solution is to type TEXT, and leave out the pictures altogether, but this is only a compromise and something has to be done about it.
The next drawback is that the program simply ignores words it doesn't understand, and re-displays the input prompt. This is a pity - it makes a lot of difference to a game if the level of communication between the program and the player is kept as high as possible, and reporting errors is just part of that communication. The less communication, the less feeling of involvement. Also, what responses there are tend to be extremely brief.
Finally, a word to all programmers of adventure games. The Beer Hunter occasionally uses ink colours for the text that do not display on a green screen Amstrad! This is criminal, and must be avoided at all costs. I can't enjoy a game that I can't read.
The Beer Hunter is, I suspect, the first of many GAC programs. It's a reasonable effort, but goes to show one thing - the whole point of using adventure generators is to free the programmer to concentrate on design and plot. If you fall down on those two points, then all you'll have left will be a program that looks like dozens of others and doesn't even have uniqueness to recommend it. Thankfully, The Beer Hunter isn't by any standard near to that dismal category, but it does alert one to the depressing possibilities of GAC as a program that could encourage the production of a load of cloned codswallop.