Your Sinclair1st May 1990
Published in Your Sinclair #53
The Hobble Hunter
You can never tell with an adventure. Some look deadly boring and blossom into great games, others start out promising and fizzle out completely. Unfortunately, folks, The Hobble Hunter is of the latter category, which is disappointing for a Compass release. When I saw the professional packaging I was prepared to overlook the fact that this has to be the 97th Hobbit send-up to be published since the original. There's a full-colour inlay, a very nice little map of the Middle Lands of Gordor, plus two printed sheets of instructions and general help and comments. There's even a poem, and the interesting information that in the Gordor time-scale there are 25 seconds to the Wobble and 90 Wobbles per day. The game's in real-time, so night falls every... well, every night really, and you have about ten days (or 900 Wobbles) in which to complete your task. Which is? Surprise-surprise, rescue the Ring of Gilthron from the evil Mildu.
The screen looks good and the text is colourful... in fact a bit too colourful for me in places. I don't mind a bit of rudery in a game, such as you get in Behind Closed Doors, but those games are also witty, whereas simply mentioning pony turds and big jobs isn't particularly clever or amusing. I do like the prompt you get at the side of the screen though, a typical Compass extra. The "What Now? Message has a Hobble's face just before it, with two hands directly below. As you type your input the hands separate to hold it, like an angler measuring out his catch. Nice touch.
A pity the nice touches haven't been extended to the game's logic though. I knew I somehow had to get out of Big Belly's tavern near the start, but I couldn't find any money for the landlord, who refused to let me back out again without paying for the beer I needed to buy - pretty true to life so far! In the end I had to shamefully resort to the cheat-sheet to discover that if your very first command isn't correct then you'll never get the gold coin you need at this point. There's also a bit in which you get bogged down in a swamp, across which you have to travel. After messing about with planks, I eventually got through by the ludicrous method of riding a pony. Now if Sam the fat Hobble sinks in the mud and gets stuck, what chance does a pony with fat Sam on its back have? One little fault doesn't spoil a game, but several do.
The vocabulary is nowhere near wide enough, especially when you're trying to talk to the other characters. It's the same old story - if you're not word-perfect they ignore you every time. You also die constantly, either through not eating or falling down holes and so on. The graphics are only average too, and some of the ones that draw slowly are repeated in different locations. It all gets to be rather annoying!
The Hobble Hunter is far from being the worst game you'll ever play in your life, but it's hardly what we've come to expect from Compass after past glories like Demon From The Darkside and the more recent Intruder Alert. I do warn people about writing yet more Hobbit send-ups, but do they listen? Do they flippin' 'eck.