Personal Computer News27th April 1985
Published in Personal Computer News #109
Concentrating on the BBC this week, Mike Gerrard finds himself locked in a dismal cell, exploring a haunted house and finally chased by horrible nasties in one of the trickiest adventures published to date.
The adventure score this week reads BBC: 3; The Rest: 0, with three rather different adventures - all of them worth a look.
The most traditional is Island Of Xaan (Robico Software, £7.95), where the aim is to escape from the island by finding a suitable disguise and enough treasure to buy yourself a passage on a sailing ship. This is one author who doesn't need graphics to paint a vivid picture and you begin in less than salubrious surroundings: "You are in a small, dimly lit prison cell, filled with the stench of death and decay."
The only exit is a huge iron door to the north, locked of course, although you also see an alcove in which is lying a seemingly immovable chain. You are carrying nothing and wearing some sacking which is rough, ragged and filthy.
Escape from here isn't too difficult but in the heady excitement of your bid for freedom don't leave anything behind in the cell as the door slams shut when you exit, showing you now to be in a long east-west corridor. There's also a warning that the cold chills you to the bone, so better do something about that fairly quick.
It isn't long before you step into 'a twisting maze of echoing corridors' where each sound you make is amplified as it bounces between the cold rock walls (echoes of the loud room in Zork I?). This maze turns out to have few locations and even fewer ways to get through it although plotting a path isn't the only method of dealing with the eight visible exits in each location.
No sooner had I got out of the maze then I walked slap into a guard who seemed to be snoozing but alert enough to any move I made. And there I'm ashamed to say I'm stuck unable to creep past the guard, get him out of the way, or attack him with anything more deadly than a cloak. I've tried smothering him and wearing the cloak round my feet to sneak past, but every time I find my head rolling lifelessly along the floor after a short back and sides from the guard's sword. Rats! Despite that, the adventure looks promising, with quick responses and all the necessary features.
Unusual features are in Spooky Manor, one of Acornsoft's recent titles which allows up to four people to play at one time. This is done by splitting the screen into four windows and the position of each player is displayed in his or her window. The object of the game is to explore the haunted manor, gather treasures and escape unharmed.
One person can play alone, but that might lead to slight problems where two people are needed to solve some of the tasks. Each player must enter their number before the actual command and you can play either as rivals or by cooperating. You could have two teams of two seeing who can get to the goodies first and each player can address the other players by using their names. If player one decides to summon help from player two, the message will appear in player two's window.
The game, at £9.95 on cassette, is well-presented and comes with a booklet that includes maps of the manor indicating that it's meant for younger players rather than the lone adventurer burning the midnight oil. The four-player facility does mean that the adventure itself is a little more restricted - but it's an ingenious idea that's being published under the Acornsoft Home Education banner and deserves your attention if your household has several rival adventure players.
Even several players might find it tricky to deal with Quondam, the latest adventure from the nasty devious mind of Peter Killworth, author of earlier Acornsoft classics Philosopher's Quest and Castle of Riddles.
This time he's joined forces with Rod Underwood and they should bother be chucked into the Goblin's Dungeon with no means of escape for coming up with this dastardly effort. You can't even SAVE the game without threats of violence and there's a thorny problem every way you move as soon as you start the game.
The idea just for a change is to accumulate as much treasure as you can find. Before that though, you have to get out of the spider's web near where you begin; this being a nasty maze with nasty inhabitants constantly snapping at your heels. Then there's a pretty merciless knight and even our old friend the lamp isn't what it was. Try turning this on and it's curtains. A sort of deadly lampshade, I suppose.
There's no logical story to Quondam as you leap about all over the place ... or, more likely, crawl agonisingly slowly from one mind-boggling problem to another. How long the sealed envelope of clues remains sealed is up to you. One for the adventure masochist at a cost of £9.95 on cassette and £11.50 on disk.
Finally, a mention for Rachel Knox of Abergele who was so frustrated at being unable to find a drink in Denis Through the Drinking Glass that she penned a lengthy plea beginning:
O woe is me, this desperate plight,
Commodore bashing day and night.
At last reduced to pen this letter,
Chained to Denis please un-fetter!!
For this adventure I can't start.
Where's that drink - please have a heart!
Unfortunately, the answer doesn't lend itself to rhyme, not even backwards. For those seeking a snifter: MOOR DEBN ITOPE NIMA XE. Cheers!