Fleeced In Other Times
Ulysses and the Golden Fleece together in one full colour adventure? Could this game by the first of a long series of slightly wrong double acts, with titles like Jason and the Astronauts or Chinchilla the Hun?
The possibilities are endless, and games writers reduced to hair-tearing despair in their search for novelty will surely move over to this 'King Kong meets Godzilla' approach. Or perhaps they'll bone up on Greek legend before their next epic.
"You must become Ulysses," says the manual. "Your task, to find the Golden Fleece, and return it to the King. The perils are many, your foes powerful, but with courage, logic, intuition and luck, you can survive and take with you the secrets of sorcerers. Now sit back, close your eyes, and I'll spin a spell to open time's portals..."
The game is for one player, and is set in a number of locations, including the King's town, a tavern, a shop and Colossal Island.
In each of these places you'll bump into people - guards, sailors, shopkeepers - or stumble across objects or treasure to take with you on your quest.
You start off in the town. From there, you can move north, south, east or west. You may speak to anyone you meet, to see whether they have any information which may help you.
Any robbers you meet may steal some or all of your possessions. You may be able to buy something, or you may try, only to find that what you thought was money isn't legal tender here.
The instruction book doesn't tell you much about what you can or can't do - part of the fun is finding out for yourself.
The program comes on two IBM mini-diskettes, with an eight-page manual. Having skimmed over its excesses and gaped at its parchment-look pages, I started the game up, to find myself in a small mediaeval-looking town. I roamed about on the mainland for a while - having been told that it was too cold swim - to see the lie of the land.
I managed to find the King's castle, but I couldn't reply to the questions I was asked, and got completely stuck. Usually, you have to type in an instruction - BOW, for instance (I was beheaded once for neglecting to bow respectfully to the King) - and I was trying to reply by typing SAY YES, or REPLY ULYSSES. The log-jam was broken when I gave this up, and just typed in an unceremonious answer.
Each location in the game has its own picture, which comes on screen when you get these pictures - in the time I was playing, I found at least 20. If you stumble across some object you can pick up, say a mysterious floating bottle, you just type GET BOTTLE. The item is then added to your baggage and disappears from the picture.
You'll need to use your imagination to find the right commands, I finally managed to find the ship the King had given me, and got on board. But I couldn't get it to set sail until some genius suggested typing CAST OFF, and I was away.
The game certainly has a sense of humour. When I was unable to get any sense from a guard I met, I typed in KILL GUARD. The response was "That wouldn't be nice. Besides he's bigger than you are."
Once I was out at sea, things became rather boring; there was no indication of where I was - all the pictures are the same - and I ended up going round in circles. Eventually, I ran into a hurricane, with an island just visible in the murky distance. But whichever way I went, there seemed to be no way to get to it, and I usually ended up either drowned, or back on the deck of the ship in port.
I eventually gave up hope of finding the Fleece, but there were obviously many more places to be found.
This is one of the few adventure games available for the IBM PC. Hardened Adventure addicts will no doubt find it easier than I did, but it should present a considerable challenge for most players.
I wasn't particularly impressed with the standard of the graphics - I've seen better on micros such as the Apple or Atari, and this can be laid at the door of the IBM's limited colour graphics. But obviously, only a mad millionaire is going to buy an IBM PC for games. This game, along with others like it, will be played by the boss in the evenings. This could give a new meaning to: "Working late at the office tonight, dear."
Only you can decide whether Ulysses and the Golden Fleece will suit you. But it is certainly a game of considerably variety, and, if you succumb to its lures, should keep you happily addicted for some time.