Apples In Distant Lands Review | Personal Computer News - Everygamegoing

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Apples In Distant Lands
By Sierra
Apple II

Published in Personal Computer News #047

The Apple is well served for adventures. Cliff and Denise McKnight look at what's available

Apples In Distant Lands

On cold winter nights we used to stoke the fire and settle down with the crossword. Then we got the Apple, and things have never been the same since. We did quite a lot of 'work' and played quite a fair few arcade games, but the things which really ate into the evenings were adventure games. You know, GET ROCK, KISS FROG and all that kind of thing.

The table below is an attempt to give some guidance on the Apple software market. It represents some of the games we've battled our way through (and some we're still battling with) so that you can get an idea of what is available. The list is by no means complete - fortunately, there are quite a few we haven't tackled yet so we've got plenty to look forward to.

If you're a complete beginner and have never played an adventure game before you should probably ignore the table for now and start with something like Birth Of The Phoenix from Phoenix Software. The manual explains the basic adventuring activities and the disk contains a text-only adventure game which you should find manageable. In terms of the scale of difficulty used in the table it rates a 1.

Older adventures (like Wizard and Princess) tended to occupy a single side of disk, but increasingly today's games are double-sided. Of course, Time Zone, with its six double-sided disks, is an exception, and it's priced accordingly. The prices given in the table are approximate, and you may be able to get the games for less if you put in some effort shopping around.

Of course, the advantage with disk-based adventures is that plenty of hi-res screens can be held on the disk. This means that the modern game is likely to be of the hi-res type, with four lines of text below each picture. It's a bit surprising, therefore, that one of the most popular Apple adventure games is text-only. The Zork trilogy is so popular that it has an independent 'user group' that publishes maps, hint sheets, bumper sticks and a variety of other items.

Escape From Rungistan also breaks with convention in that the graphics are line-drawings rather than pictures. However, it compensates by making more than average use of sound and animation. Similarly, The Prisoner doesn't have the usual style of graphics, but the game is certainly demanding. Incidentally, if you've played Prisoner I you won't find enough new in Prisoner II to merit another purchase.

If you've seen The Prisoner TV series and liked it, the adventure game is worthy of the name. It certainly makes a change from the dragons and magic swords variety. There are a few other different scenarios around too. Transylvania is a "Hammer Horror" game, Sherwood Forest is what you'd expect from the title, but Adventures In Flesh is not quite what you might expect.

Far from being a rival to the classic Soft Porn Adventure (which is what you'd expect), Adventures In Flesh follows the Fantastic Voyage approach whereby you're in a micro-sub journeying through the human body. It has the added distinction of being medically accurate, and comes supplied with a human anatomy colouring book instead of maps.

Another difference with Adventures In Flesh is that the 'solution' changes with each game. You have to diagnose eleven conditions which are randomly selected from a larger set. Practically all other games have a single solution, although The Quest has more than one route to the solution. Most adventure games get swapped (or sold in PCN Billboard) once completed.

The "Splodge Factor" is not something you'll find in any other description of adventure games. It's our attempt to capture the overall 'feel' of the games and is made up of several dimensions, some of which are hard to describe.

For example, some games have a distinct 'linear' feel to them. You are basically moving forward, and if you don't solve a particular problem you can't get any further. Some improve on this by being large enough for you to explore several bits, but you usually have to put the pieces together in a particular order. Linear games tend to have a low splodge factor.

Splodge is also correlated with what you might call command sophistication. With some games, you have to get the phrase exactly right - GET ROCK works but TAKE ROCK doesn't - and anything else is met with "I don't understand" or an equivalent. At the high end of the scale, some games have an almost uncanny intelligent feel and will keep you chatting merrily.

There is also a tendency for splodge to be correlated with difficulty, but it's not a perfect correlation by any means - see for example, the games with difficulty score of 4. Even low difficulty and low splodge doesn't necessarily mean a poor game, as Sherwood Forest demonstrates. It's a thoroughly enjoyable game and would be fun for the novice.

Some of the games, like Transylvania and Sherwood Forest, are overtly humourous, while others express their humour in the form of sarcastic comments on unusual actions. Indeed, one of the fun things to do with an adventure game is to see what sort of inputs have been anticipated - what happens if you use profanities, for example.

We've had good fun with all these games and it would be impossible to single out a favourite. There's bound to be a hit-and-miss element when you choose an adventure game - you might get hopelessly stuck and hate it - but if you like puzzles then gird up your loins, sally forth and good luck!

Adventure Publisher Price (inc. VAT) Disk sides G/T Scenario Difficulty Splodge Factor
Time Zone Sierra On-line £65 12 G History + Sci-Fi 4 5
The Dark Crystal Sierra On-line £30 4 G Fantasy 3 3
Transylvania Penguin £19 1 G Hammer 'Horror' 2 4
The Quest Penguin £20 2 G Fantasy 3 6
Blade of Blackpoole Sirius £30 2 G Fantasy 4 3
Escape From Rungistan Sirius £23 1 G Comtemp. escape 2 3
Kabul Spy Sirius £26 2 G Contemp. spy 4 4
The Prisoner I/II Eduware £25 each 1 G Surreal escape 4 7
Zork I/II/III Infocom £31 each 1 T Fantasy 5 7
Adventures In Flesh Krell £34 1 T Medical 2 4
Sherwood Forest Phoenix £25 1 G Robin Hood 2 2

Denise McKnightCliff McKnight

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