"Rescue the talisman," is the Mayor's plea as the game begins, so Julian, one of the brothers, sets forth from the village of Tambry, to search the island of Holm. To obtain the talisman, according to the instructions, requires the defeat of the necromancer, and the performing of some great deeds, possibly aided by special magic, to prove yourself an all-round jolly good and gallant fellow.
A map of Holm is included in the packaging, and to traverse around it is a matter of guiding your character, Julian, with a joystick. Julian is depicted as an animated picture in front, side, or back view, whilst the landscape is shown in not-quite plan view. Buildings are pictured from above, but with their south and east sides visible as when viewed from above. When Julian is walking as close to the west or north side of a building, it therefore appears as if he is actually walking partly on the roof.
Julian can enter buildings, which takes him and the disk drive approximately 40 seconds between them. Whilst moving about outside, across mostly mundane grassy plains, and footpaths, every so often, without warning the smoothly-scrolling movement of the picture grinds to a halt, as the disk drive cuts in to read the next section.
The joystick is also used to conduct combat, through the fire button - but to hit an opponent, Julian must be facing him. This is no easy task, as his enemies, not always recognisable as such, appear apparently at random, and Julian has snuffed it before he can sort his weapons out. Since it is therefore not a practical proposition to change weapons once under the threat of attack, it is all a question of joystick wiggling to try to keep Julian facing his opponent, who circles around him, and parries, like a demented fiend.
When Julian is killed, a ghostly figure floats into view, suspended on what appears to be a handheld rotor, and does an on-the-spot reincarnation job on him. However, after a few deaths, Julian is knocked out of the game for good, and the game restarts from Tambry, with his brother Phillip taking over, and finally brother Kevin, when he is the sole survivor.
There is more to the command system than joystick movement of the character however. Unfortunately, a singular lack of clarity and detail in the single folded A4 instruction leaflet, a user-unfriendly command format, and what I can only conclude is a collection of bugs in the command system, combine to make the game virtually unplayable.
Of the command menu, the instructions say: "This can be activated... by pressing an equivalent key on the keyboard." An equivalent key to *what?* They continue: "The first five options (in blue) will select which of the five different command menus you are looking at. Below is a list of all the menus. After each menu, in parenthesis, is the equivalent keyboard command." What exactly is meant by the phrase 'after each menu'?
There follows sub-headings of the five commands shown in blue: items, magic, talk, buy and game. In practice, hitting G at this point displayed a menu of three item which I assume could be given, whilst one set of sub menus included both Look and Load. L always offered a sub-menu of saved games to be loaded. Beware! Try one without having a data disk and you'll have to *turn off the computer and start again*. Incidentally, I never did manage to discover how to save a game.
Under Items is printed:
"List (1) show a list of all items carried.
Take (T) take an object lying on the ground or off a dead character's body.
Look (?) look for hidden items... and so on.
Give (G) give an item to someone else.
Use (U) goes to a sub menu."
To input a ? requires the use of the SHIFT key - and it took me some considerably playing time before I discovered that I should really have been using the / - the same key unshifted. Hitting 'i' on the keyboard blanked out my screen, leaving nothing but what appeared to be an immovable cursor displayed at top left. To recover the game screen I had to press the space bar or fire button, a fact I discovered while hitting every key in desperation - it certainly wasn't documented in the 'manual'. In fact, it transpired the blank screen was so because I was either carrying nothing, or possibly a cursor-shaped object, for when I later stole a key from a corpse, a picture of the tiniest of keys was also shown on this blank screen, with no text description.
The packaging, a flat square cardboard folder with pockets, was smart enough, but annoyed me. It is illustrated by some very attractive colour photos, bearing legends such as: "Phillip enters a cave". It required more than stretching my imagination would allow to link these photos in any way with the drab and unattractive graphics that appear on the screen. Is this a con, or what?
Faery Tale Adventure is an uneasy combination of arcade adventure and role playing game, whose title might mislead the purist into expecting a true adventure. It is not. I did not even find a playable game here.