Hang on to your Speccies, here's the next essential adventure. Marketed by Ariolasoft, The Terrors Of Trantoss is written by the RamJam Corporation, the very same people who brought us the wonderful Valkyrie 17. And if you're wondering whatever happened to that game's follow-up, which was meant to deal with certain caperings in Carpathia, then you'll just have to carry on wondering - this game certainly ain't it. Comparing Trantoss to RamJam's earlier effort is like comparing champagne to Lucozade - and remember how good the Lucozade was.
Trantoss is due out in late April, so should be out by the time you read this - bu we all know how 'flexible' release dates can be, and my review copy is only a pre-production version. If the adventure is available, though, all I can say is go out and get it - it's a beaut!
It's also choc-a-bloc with those funny names so beloved of adventure programmers, names like Hapshal, Mortran, Scarn and Xyradd. Now can you guess which is one of the heroes and which is the name of a range of dark mountains? Okay, well here goes the scenario: south of the dark mountains of Mortran, in the region of Hapshal, lies a small village that doesn't seem to have a funny name at all, though it does have its problems - mainly the fact that it's slowly disappearing. Well, not the village itself, just the villagers, a few at a time, each night, and from behind locked doors as well. Sinister doings are afoot. Either that or Paul Daniels is rehearsing his next series there!
The sinister doings are not unconnected with a Xyradd called Trantoss, who's an evil old thing. In fact he's very old. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, he's undead. He was banished to far off mountains by the Wizards of Vane, who, rather unfortunately, are now just plain dead. The source of Trantoss's evil power was a golden mace that was smashed and scattered by the Wizards, but current happenings suggest that Trantoss must have been re-maced.
What do you think happens now? Enter the intrepid adventurer, to sort things out, right? Wrong! Enter two intrepid adventurers, who have woken up one morning to find the rest of the family missing. The survivors are Lobo the woodcutter, who's big but not exactly mastermind of Hapshal, and his brother, Scarn, who's a bit of a scoundrel and pretty nimble with it. You control both players, which introduces a few interesting commands into the regular adventure language. The characters can move either together or independently. At the start they move together but the command PART will cause them to move separately, JOIN will reunite them provided they're both in the same location, and SWAP enables you to change control from one to the other, no matter where they are.
The screen layout has the graphics down the left-hand side, text scrolling up the right, with a band inbetween on which you see Lobo and Scarn. The one you're currently controlling is indicated in yellow, with his oppo in green if he's in the same location and blue if elsewhere. The graphics are beautifully detailed and they change instantly as you move or as you swap between characters.
The brothers begin in the village street, with a tavern, a store, a house and a route west all visible. I made the tavern my first port of call where, naturally, a darkly clad stranger looked at me from under his hat. A strange place to keep his eyes, I thought, but never mind; he offered to guide me through the Forest of Gondin for a fee. Could he perhaps be talking through his hat? Not that it mattered as I was fee-less anyway. Back to the street and into the house, where I found a few useful objects.
The vocabulary looked fairly promising, too, as IN and ENTER HOUSE both worked, while in the store I was offered all the supplies I might need for my trip by a kindly storekeeper. Not having a list of commands I thought GET ALL was worth a try, and blow me, it worked, although I later found a (pre-production?) bug in the routine. The objects have different weights attributed to them, and the GET ALL command goes through the objects in order till it finds one that makes you exceed your weight limit. It then tells you that you can't carry any more, but in fact there may be lighter objects listed after the heavier one that you can pick up if you take them individually. I also tried to PUT BLANKET IN SACK, though that only resulted in me dropping the blanket. Slightly irritating but not disastrous.
There are so many goodies on offer at the store that I made my first SWAP and loaded up both brothers, but still had to leave things behind. Back at the tavern I was pleased to see the dark stranger hadn't done a bunk and so a bargain was struck. He then took us through hidden forest paths (and just you try to find them if he's not with you!), to the edge of a rocky ravine where he planted his staff in the ground, winked and disappeared. Ravine mad, obviously. As well as adding another dimension to maze mapping, having two different characters adds to the complexities of problem solving, too. Back at the well with the crumbling rope, which had mysteriously reappeared, would it be any easier if the nimbler Scarn tried climbing down the rope? Nope! Perhaps the dog's only scared of Lobo, or perhaps Scarn would be quick enough to throw the blanket over it? Who's got the blanket, Lobo or Scarn? And so your thoughts go.
As for me, I went back to the ravine to try to cross that and see if there's anything corny like an old bone lying around to help me catch this wretched dog. I found getting over to the other side not too tricky, though getting back is slightly different. But once you've gut there you encounter the Gates of Ganreth... hang on, let me check my list of funny names... no, haven't come across that one before. Who or what or where is Ganreth? And how to open the gates, which are naturally locked? Though I could part, join and swap my two characters, I couldn't get them to stand on each other's shoulders. At this point a quick peek at the cheat sheet was called for. That told me I was on the wrong track and I'd need to solve elsewhere before going through the gates and encountering the fanglizard that was waiting for me on the other side.
Back at the ravine I made Lobo wait while Scarn went off to explore some of the as-yet unmapped forest paths. But he only found himself back at the village where we began and with no hidden paths to enable him to return to the ravine. Lobo felt a bit lonely, and though he carried on for a while while Scarn made sure everything in the village had been explored, Lobo soon realised that he wasn't going to get through this adventure alone and QUIT.
The Terrors Of Trantoss is a really delightful adventure, and despite the few vocabulary faults it is generally quick to respond. I'm looking forward to more time with it than this quick preview allowed. Good graphics, and plenty of those humorous and detailed little touches that made Valkyrie 17 stand out from the crowd of humdrum adventure releases.