Key Issues Review | Personal Computer News - Everygamegoing

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Key Issues
By Lumpsoft
Spectrum 48K

 
Published in Personal Computer News #084

A triple-decker of adventures is sampled by this week's Master of the Dungeon, Bob Chappell.

Key Issues

A triple-decker of adventures is sampled by this week's Master of the Dungeon, Bob Chappell

Although one of the most popular science fiction characters on TV, Doctor Who has not so far featured in a text adventure to my knowledge. So if Daleks, Cybermen and things Galifreyean are your cup of Saurean Brandy, you're in for a treat.

Lumpsoft, an oddly-named Leeds company and new to me, has released a Spectrum adventure called The Key To Time and jolly good it is too. The program is dedicated to the memory of William Hartnell who played the very first Doctor Who. In the adventure, you have to guide the original Doctor by sending him messages through the Time Lords' telepathic controller (which has been cunningly disguised as a Spectrum). Without knowing what your mission is, you start out, of course, in the Tardis control room.

Once you've managed to get a nearby hologram player going, you'll discover that your task is to recover the five fragments of The Key To Time. The next thing to do is find out how to get the Tardis moving.

There are several places to visit, including Regents Park Zoo and, more exotically, Gallifrey itself.

The program appears to have a comprehensive vocabulary - but not the "zillions and zillions of words" claimed on the inlay. There are plenty of objects to examine, collect and think about, as well as a pretty good set of testing puzzles.

It has a sense of humour too. As a sample, should you type WAIT, you'll be on the receiving end of a batch of purple prose - "the infinite sands of time trickle through the cosmic hourglass". Then it turns Pythonesque - "I never wanted to be an adventure game, I wanted to be a Lumberjack." Python fans will immediately recognise the tune that follows.

None of this sits too comfortably with the theme of the adventure but it comes as a pleasant surprise all the same. Definitely one worth having in the collection for both Dr. Who followers and non-believers.

Ill-Manored

Not so hot is Mystery Of Munroe Manor, a text and graphics adventure for the Commodore 64 from Severn Software. The game starts in fine style. The background to the adventure in the form of newspaper clippings is followed by a scene of Munroe Manor where a silhouetted figure moves slowly past a window. To the accompaniment of suitably spooky music, the front door swings open to permit your entrance but suddenly closes with a bang.

Then the first disappointment - you've now got to load the main program, a wait of 12 minutes before you even begin. Once that's over, you find yourself in the hallway of the manor.

Each location is depicted in simple but colourful style. At the base of the screen, an area is reserved for a description of the location and any objects therein. Disappointment number two - the descriptions are extremely terse thus depriving the game of any much-needed atmosphere.

The same area is used for your input and the program's response, the latter remaining on screen for several seconds before the text area is wiped clean. Until this wipe is done, you can't enter any further commands. This really puts the brakes on. Particularly so since the game's vocabulary is very limited and you're continually being told that your command has not been understood - very frustration.

There are some depressing idiosyncracies in the game, too. Although you can read a book in the library, you can't take it because you're not strong enough.

Once such book refers to consulting a 'physicatrist'. Really!

A shame, as the game is not without merit. The graphics are drawn instantly and the puzzles appear tough - or are they merely obscure?

If you're prepared to put up with the flaws, you might actually enjoy Munroe Manor. Me? I've got better things to spend my screen time on.

Random Interference

The Code from Soft Concern of Warwick is a text only Spectrum adventure with a 2,500 prize for the first one to solve it. The game takes place on four levels deep within a KGB stronghold. The idea is to progress until you reach the Code Room where the instructions become suitably enigmatic.

Like many text adventures for the Spectrum, the text appears in white against a blue background. However, the presentation is slightly odd - there are no prompts or cursor to indicate that the program is awaiting your input. You begin in a security room and it's quite obvious you're going to need a pass before long. The reason for this is that a guard appears at random who, if you're not carrying the correct means of identification, will haul you back to the security room.

That, unfortunately, is not the only random event. Another such is an enemy agent who keeps popping up to take potshots at you. You can usually dispose of him for the time being with your own gun, but sometimes you miss. Then you have to keep defusing a bomb by pulling out one of four wires - it's pure luck whether you select the right one or get blown to bits. A further bit of silliness is that the lights keep going on. All you have to do is wait long enough and they come back on again.

You may have gathered from this that I'm no fan of adventures which contain random elements - and you'd be dead right. I can't stand them. The Code has some pretty interesting puzzles - although the topography is quite barmy - and it's a shame it's spoiled by these unnecessary random interventions.

Bob Chappell