Sinclair User

The Snow Queen

Published in Sinclair User #44

The Snow Queen

As I wandered the lanes of the vast exhibition hall, I ran into the Games Mistresses, alias the girls of St Brides, whose first production, The Secret Of St Brides, I reviewed last month. They favoured me with a pre-production preview copy of their latest opus The Snow Queen.

This is a computer reworking of the much-loved fairytale classic by Hans Andersen and has a plot ideally suited to the adventure format - the young heroine Gerda journeys into magic and danger in search of her friend Kay, who has been spirited away by the agents of the maleficent and beautiful Snow Queen.

The game is a Quilled text adventure. There are to be graphics included in the final version but the Girls are not yet sure what their final form will be. Priscilla, one of the prefects, says that they may dispense with the usual location graphics in favour of a system which displays pictures in response to the Examine command.

The copy I was given was the first of two full-length parts to be sold together. The storyline follows the original tale closely and players will need to read the story carefully before playing, rather like with The Hobbit.

If you have boned up on the story you won't find the early part of the game too difficult to get into - but beware, as extra problems have been built into it all the way through. This is no slavish copy and there are plenty of original and humorous touches to add spice and variety.

One such piece of originality is in the 'personality' of Gerda. You don't simply take control of her - she allows you to help her. There are times when she won't approve at all of what you suggest and, if things go wrong, she will simply head off on her own and end up in a right pickle.

When I sent her down on a bucket into a well poor Gerda got soaked. She immediately went into a real sulk and ran off into the trees of the witch's cherry orchard. There she got stuck and had to be helped to safety from the slavering jaws of a rabid guard-dog.

You will also need to remember that Gerda is quite a little girl and not necessarily as accomplished in her education as you are. In her search for escape from the bewitchment of the orchard she comes across some blocks which teach the language of flowers and birds. She tries hard to understand them but you will have to push her more than once to concentrate properly.

All this gives a nice feeling of interplay between Gerda and yourself. The gradual increase in the difficulty of the problems also helps to get your enthusiasm going because, by the time you get well and truly stuck - instead of temporarily stumped - you will have progressed far enough to want desperately to continue.

The Snow Queen is well-written and it really is a pleasure to see literate computer games passing on the pleasures of traditional stores. I'm sure that it will have considerable appeal to everyone in the family, girls and boys, big and little. The final version should make an ideal Christmas gift - we'll give the game a rating as soon as the retail version is available.