The Calling

Publisher: Visual Dimensions
Machine: Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Crash #56

The Calling

If you knew a bit about cars you'd never have got yourself into this mess. After a comfortable meal out with Jenny you're stranded in the driving rain somewhere in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors. Not a telephone box or AA van in sight. (I know the feeling - Ed.) Through the rising mist you can just see the mysterious outline of a house. While Jenny goes in search of its phone to call the recovery service, you decide to wait in the car. Almost an hour later, she still hasn't come back and, though the car looks warm and dry, you've got to investigate this mysterious house.

A journey up a forbidding path leads to an ominous building. The rooms inside, ranging from study to pantry, from library to remote house-top tower, give occasional glimpses of magic and enchantment and are atmospherically described. A ghostly suit of armour whispers messages, a mysterious symbol on an attic wall gives off a strange, supernatural glow and a notebook in Professor Quinn's study hints at the necessity of human sacrifice. Jenny obviously found more than just a phone.

The graphics which illustrate intermittent locations are boldly drawn, bright and colourful. As an added bonus they contribute to the atmosphere and give the game a polished and professional look.

The Calling

Initially, the only human inhabitants of this well-presented mansion appear to be the servants: a flustered and thoroughly preoccupied cook, a doddery butler and a gardener whose behaviour is extremely unfriendly. Each one needs to be treated differently to secure the minimal amount of help that they have to impart. Not that the interaction is of a particularly complex variety: fairly simple actions turn out to be far more fruitful than any attempts at speech. The butler, for example, is a mine of historical information - most of which is totally useless.

Inevitably, puzzles centre around the problem of rescuing Jenny and putting a stop to the mystic experiments of the eccentric professor. Essentially this means sussing out how the house's magic forces really work. Seemingly irrelevant magic rings and charms prove very helpful as long as you make use of them in the right place. Perhaps they're connected with the supernatural atmosphere that surrounds the hollow in the study wall... Problems are graded in difficulty (a few extra twists on the 128K version) though there aren't any really mind-bending toughies. A few blushing red herrings give the whole procedure that extra edge.

The typical PAWed parser accepts complex input, recognises ALL and a small selection of adverbs. A RAMSAVE option allows you to save yourself from the occasional sticky moment. Unless you search CAREFULLY you may miss certain clues. Occasionally the program is rather fussy about the precise wording of a particular command (at one point you actually have to look into a chest that you don't know is open) but this hampers rather than halts progress.

A tale set in a strange and mystical house isn't exactly the most original subject for an adventure game. None of the puzzles are exceptionally challenging, but as long as you don't expect too much, they're quite fun to solve and should keep you occupied for quite some time. At £1.99 you can't really lose.

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