A&B Computing

The Ultimate Prize/Pirate's Peril

Author: Jonathan Evans
Publisher: Heyley
Machine: Acorn Electron

Published in A&B Computing 4.10

The Ultimate Prize/Pirate's Peril

These two adventures are the first marketed games I have received for review that were written with our Adventurescape game writing system. This system uses disk access to enable writers to create far larger games than can be held in the computer's memory. The main limitations of the system are that it has a two word parser and a fixed table of condition-action lines for puzzle creation. Although allowing quite complex problems to be created, it is not, in principle, as flexible as the puzzle systems for The Quill and The Graphic Adventure Creator - two systems which are, however, limited in memory size.

Until now, the other games which I had seen written by authors with Adventurescape (those entered for the original competition) were of small size and contained, in many cases, bugs in the puzzle logic. By contrast Heyley's games are huge, using the maximum dimensions (250 locations, messages, etc) and completely filling a 40 track disk each, even with 'squashed' text files. It was also necessary for the BASIC program which runs the game (ADVRUNF) to be compacted in order to provide enough dynamic memory space to run the games. The games are also remarkably free of both spelling and logical errors, and the authors (H & H Roberts) have evidently fully understood the puzzle writing system and exploited it to its limits.

In the time available for the review, I have only been able to play one of the two games, Pirate's Peril, extensively which I in fact played right to its conclusion. This is a considerable compliment in itself, especially in view of the size and complexity of the game. Even when I am making progress, few games sustain my interest long enough to elicit that much investment of time. It's different for reviewers, you see. For one thing we have to meet deadlines, and there is always another program waiting to be seen. And, we don't actually have to pay for the games, so there is no incentive to grind on through dull text with gritted teeth just to get our money's worth! A game which I go on playing long after I have seen enough for the review is, then, a happy exception. In the case of Pirate's Peril, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and only occasionally resorted to the cheating which is the system designer's privilege!

The game makes an excellent start by providing a really complex set of puzzles for you (the pirate) to escape from your starting location in prison. Thereafter you wander around a fairly small area until you are able to find yourself a skeleton crew (literally) to help you build a boat and make your escape. However, you have only really just started for you now get shipwrecked on to a huge island with all sorts of problems to solve. I particularly enjoyed the ogre's castle, but there were many other aspects to the play in this section.

Having played both Pirate's Peril and Duckworth's disk-based Egyptian Adventure right through, I can make direct and objective comparisons. At £7.50, Pirate's Peril is nearly half the price and yet appears to be about three times as large, not only in terms of locations and text but also in terms of the amount of play and puzzles to be solved. I also found the text to be wittier and more atmospheric and the puzzle quality to be better, in spite of the limitations of the system. Each game uses a similar two-word parser, so you can see for yourself which is by far the better value for money.

I would strongly recommend Pirate's Peril as an excellent buy. What I have seen of The Ultimate Prize (written earlier) I have found rather dull and repetitious by comparison, though I have probably not persisted long enough to make a fair judgement.

Jonathan Evans

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