Commodore User1st April 1986
Published in Commodore User #32
The book Rebel Planet (Puffin Books, £1.75) is one of the Fighting Fantasy series from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, written by Robin Waterfield. Basing an adventure game on a book is continuing to prove a popular format, but perhaps this series of books lend itself to the technique better than most. Rather than a story, you are presented with a brief background, and then read numbered paragraphs. You are routed through the paragraphs by making decisions at the end of each, as to what you would do next - almost like a computer adventure.
The year is 2453, and man has reached out to the distant planets. But the alien war-like Arcadians have learnt from man's technology, created an Empire, and enslaved the human race.
The Earth's underground resistance movement SAROS, plans to destroy the Queen Computer on Arcadion. Without it, the Arcadians will be finished , since for many years, they are controlled by it, through receivers implanted in their brains.
It falls to you to carry out this dangerous mission, and under cover as a merchant, you set out on a journey to the planets Tropos, Radix and Halmuris, ferrying cargo from one to the other. In off-duty moments, you must contact SAROS agents, to discover the vital 9 digit binary number that will admit you to the computer complex on Arcadion.
Stefan Ufnowski has adapted the original book, which tends to take itself rather seriously, and injected some new and devious puzzles, and a wicked sense of humour. For example, what's more awkward than a parking problem (of your spaceship, no less) at the spaceport! And how do you get out of the ensuing row?!
To this, he has added his own excellent artwork in the form of computer graphics, many examples of which are animated. The result is an adventure which is both exciting and humorous, and looks refreshingly different from most.
Animation has been seen before on cassette games such as Gremlins, but it has been 'flickering' type movement. In Rebel Planet, there are sequences of whole-frame animation, and it is all held in memory, along with the text, giving an immediate response.
This is achieved with Adventure Sort's new adventure system and Rebel Planet is the first game to be produced on it. No longer are exits and object descriptions shown, slightly unnaturally, as lists separated from the location text, but lengthy and descriptive text flows together, updating each time the game-state demands it.
By use of what Mike Woodroffe calls 'flannels', the screen display is stage-managed to give a far more readable format. Developed by Roger Taylor on a BBC Micro, the text side of the business gives a high degree of compression, and offers a very sophisticated command interpreter.
Graphics are created on a new system running on an Apricot. The two parts of the adventure are then 'squirted' into other computers and merged into a complete game, using a cross compiler where necessary.
Seas Of Blood was the first in the Fighting Fantasy series of Adventures, but Rebel Planet is quite different. Out has gone the 'combat mode' feature (adventurer's always did prefer their own judgment to the fate of random numbers!) In has come more logical puzzles, more humour, more entertainment. There is not merely a red herring in this game, but a complete hoax which is likely to have you cursing the author when you reach the end! Don't think I'm going to spill the beans, though - I'm just about to scoot off to the Tropos Fission Chip shop, to sample the night life...