Burning Question Review | Personal Computer News - Everygamegoing

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Burning Question
By Trillium
Commodore 64

 
Published in Personal Computer News #102

Just occasionally, a work of literature gets the micro adaptation it deserves, and Fahrenheit 451 is one of them, says Bob Chappell. With fire in his soul he then sought the last dragon's lair.

Burning Question

Just occasionally a work of literature gets the micro adaptation it deserves and Fahrenheit 451 is one of them, says Bob Chappell. With fire in his soul, he then sought the last dragon's lair

Question: What are fireman? Answer: people who put out fires. Marks out of ten: zero. I should perhaps have mentioned first that the firemen I had in mind come from the 21st century as depicted in Ray Bradbury's classic science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Books have become illegal and the firemen come not to douse the fires, but to start them.

The temperature of the title refers to the burning point of book paper; the firemen are book burners. Guy Montag is such a fireman with a fatal vocational weakness - he likes books. So he goes on the run, becoming the most wanted fugitive in the country. Montag joins the underground, a resistance group who have each memorised an entire book - every member is thus a living, breathing work of literature. I wonder who got to be Burns?

Good Feeling

Trillium Software has collaborated with Ray Bradbury to produce a text and graphics adventure game as a sequel to the brilliant novel. And, my word, the authorship shows. Never, in an adventure, have I seen text so literary and which for the first time really does give the feel of a book. Trillium calls its adventures 'interactive fiction' - you can believe it.

Fahrenheit 451 is distributed in the UK by WHSmith Distributors, Leicester. The adventure comes on two double-sided disks, costs £19.95, and is available for the Commodore 64 and Apple micros.

The game has a slightly unusual presentation. The top third of the screen is used to display up to three separate high-resolution pictures - it's almost like watching a slide show. The rest of the screen is filled with fulsome, scrolling text. Where there's not enough room to get all the text on screen, the program obligingly pauses at an appropriate point to await a key-press before scrolling onwards.

There's no need to play 'guess the right word' with this adventure. Not only does the game have a wide vocabulary (over 90 verbs/commands and 120 nouns, not to mention an assortment of conjunctions, articles, prepositions, etc) but they're all conveniently listed in the accompanying booklet. For those who hate to get stuck, Trillium also lists a number of coded hints in the booklet. Whether you consult the vocabulary or hints is up to you - but it's comforting to know help is at hand if you need it.

The adventure itself is extremely user-friendly, even to the extent that it occasionally gives a little nudge in the right direction if you seem to be struggling with a certain problem.

Light a Flame

I began the adventure in Central Park, New York City, a hazardous place even in the year 2070. Being drowned in a pond or torn limb from limb by a tiger is not my idea of a pleasant trip through the park. A pile of leaves alerted my Dungeon Master's seventh sense and with a swift kick, I had uncovered a route that I hoped, with luck, would help me avoid death by drowning or dismemberment.

A member of the underground soon contacted me and offered helpful advice. First I would need a lighter - the underground's ironic means of recognising a fellow sympathiser. I was also given a very special password phrase: "It was a pleasure to burn", to be used only on certain occasions.

Great care had to be exercised if I was not to be spotted by patrolling mechanical hounds. These are merciless, robotic tracker-dogs programmed to identify any fugitives and to despatch them swiftly with a poisonous bite.

Memory Lane

How many adventures do you know that allow the main character to have the power of instant recollections? Your memory takes many forms: a snatch of conversation, an incident, a face that stayed in the mind, a sensation. This device provides a wealth of background to the character you play and brings a unique dimension to adventures.

Then there's the text. If you want full-bodied, vibrant writing; if you want poetic imagery; if you want thought and depth; if, in a nutshell, you want literaturem you've got it. "He could feel the Hound, like autumn, come cold and dry and swift, like a wind that didn't stir grass, that didn't har windows or disturb leaf shadows on the white sidewalks as it passed."

Fahrenheit 451 is superb. It has everything: attractive and unusually presented graphics, text whose quality knocks spots off most other adventures, a powerful command parser, a wide vocabulary, good use of sound, several friendly features, excellent documentation and an original theme. Lastly, but most important of all, it provides many hours of adventuring pleasure. Go out and buy it.

The Last Dragon

Trillium has three other adventures on the market. My fellow Dungeon Master, Mike Gerrard, will be reviewing two of them, Rendezvous With Rama and Amazon. There's just room for a meritorious mention of the third, Dragonworld.

Having the same qualities but possibly slightly easier to solve, Dragonworld has you searching for your great friend, the last dragon, who has been kidnapped by the Duke of Darkness. You and another close friend, Hawkwind, must scour the vast land of Simbala to rescue him.

Beautiful graphics in an adventure covering three disks (five sides). Same price, same high quality, same recommendation.

Mike Gerrard

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