Life-Term (Alternative) Review | Amstrad Computer User - Everygamegoing

Amstrad Computer User

By Alternative
Amstrad CPC464

Published in Amstrad Computer User #37


Last month I looked at two cheapies from Alternative Software, Wizbiz and Star Wreck. The latest from Alternative is another from the same author, Life-Term. This has a more serious plot than the last two and is a devious game that will tax your patience and powers of detection.

The action takes place over 1,000 years in the future, Governments as we know them have broken down and their rule has been replaced by that of a number of enormously rich planetary trading companies. Life is good for the rich, for the others it is a living hell. Corruption is commonplace and what Justice there is, is meted out by the Trade Police.

You play the part of Jake Stalin, convicted of a serious crime even though he was millions of miles away from the scene at the time. As the death penalty no longer exists, he is put in charge of a refuse processing planetoid called Souzel. It is a life sentence to which there is no appeal. Can you find a way to give Jake his freedom?

Life-Term is written using Incentive's Graphic Adventure Creator and the text and graphics are well thought out. The only deviation from the normal GAC commands seems to be the inability to SAVE one's game position. As LOAD and RESTORE are recognized, this may be a bug in my review copy - check yours as this could be a very irritating omission.

The game is not easy to unravel and its directional sense is strange to say the least. I cannot say I approve of direction anomalies, unless there is a reason for them. If I go south, I expect to be able to go north to return to where I started. Sometimes there may be one-way routes and occasionally if you follow a twisty road one may expect some peculiarities. I am also quite happy to accept strange directions in the case of a maze. The action in Life-Term may take place on an alien planetoid, but I am sure that gravity effects would not account for what happens here.

The intent of course is to confuse the player, but I would prefer to be confused by good puzzles than by rather odd maps. Possible directions are not displayed and in the first batch of 13 easily visited locations, one spot can only be reached by travelling northeast (NW, NE, SW, SE are unacceptable elsewhere). Three locations can only be found by a rather unexpected UP. This is a fair enough stratagem but just a little sneaky! The inlay offers little help other than to list a selection of nine command words that may not be all that. obvious. A longer list is available from Alternative Software.

It is quite easy to make an adventure almost impossible to solve, by totally confusing the player, having unexplained commands or by having illogical puzzles. In a good game, information is supplied (however meagre), to enable a logical solution of clues that lead to other clues and puzzles. I suspect Life-Term is on the edge of being devious for deviousness' sake rather than to create a mind-teasing game.

Not everyone can solve every adventure, we all have our preferences for certain types of game and the way we think they should be played. It may be that Charles Sharpe just writes games that do not suit me - who knows, many of you may find Life-Term an acceptable and satisfying challenge. As it is so cheap (£1.99), why don't you get it and let me know?

Bill Brock

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