"Some guys are good, some guys are bad. But Sam Spillade was just plain dumb". So starts the latest spoof from the pen (computer?) of Fergus McNeill, via Delta 4 and Piranha Software. Having struggled with hobbits, Sherwood Forest and strange worlds across the rim of the galaxy, Fergus has returned to Earth. It is circa 1937 and the set-up (that's just about the right phrase tool) is a one man investigation agency in the heart of New York.
The Big Sleaze is on cassette or disc for the Amstrad CPC, and is a three part adventure based loosely on the life and work of American Private Eyes as typified in old films such as The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep and the TV series with Mike Hammer.
Sam Spillade is sitting at his desk, watching another dreary day sink slowly into oblivion. Suddenly a beautiful girl whirls into the room seeking assistance. Her father has disappeared and as he is worth more than the Empire State Building, she not surprisingly wants him found quicker than Sam can draw his trusty equaliser. More to the point she has a cheque for $100 made out in Sam's name to seal the deal. How can he refuse such a beautifully made offer? He starts to think of the way he will solve the case and also how he can get to his bank with the cheque before they file notice of his bankruptcy.
She leaves, and Sam wanders into the outer office to see if his girl-friday, Velma, has returned from wherever it was he sent her. No girl, but a well trained pooch wagging its tail and bringing Sam yet another case - and the cheque that cheers! This time he has to find pieces of a missing photograph and return them to the rightful owner.
As there is still no sign of Velma, Sam can start his sleuthing right away - where was it the girl had said she had been waiting for her father? Might as well go there and sound the joint out. Gumshoe is another word used for a PI but Sam never intends to wear out his footwear as long as his car keeps running. It would never get an MOT certificate, even the starting key has had to be replaced by two bare wires, but once running it always goes to where it is told - provided the destination is known to the program. To solve this adventure, let alone Sam's two cases, you must listen carefully to all that you are told. This will give you a clue to the next location you must visit on your investigations. Once there keep your eyes peeled and examine everything. There are quite a few objects to be found and most of them will help you to do something - even if it is only a way to get inside your own safe. You may go from one part to another and back again, but to avoid long loading times when using the cassette version, be sure to explore every clue first.
The parser is not that sophisticated and although it will accept short sentences it will only deal with one command at a time. This can be frustrating when you wish to repeat your steps, realizing that what you need has been left in the office. RAMSAVE is always a welcome command and I got into the habit of SAVEing each time I entered Sam's car. Note that if you store what you find in the car, it might save an unnecessary trip to another part of the program. Sam's car may have no locks but it does seem to be burglar proof.
There are not that many locations at each destination, but map them anyway - it will speed things up the next time you visit. The game really revolves around knowing where to go, in which order, and how to solve the puzzles along the way. The text is some of Fergus' best, and there is plenty of it. Humour abounds and EXAMINEing things is no only vital to the game, it also provides plenty of laughs.
There are a number of graphics, but not at every location. What there is, is well drawn and adds to the atmosphere provided by the text. The only criticism one can ever have with adventures from this source, is that sometimes the clues are a little too well hidden - all I will say, is that you should examine the SLLAWOOL and if you seek a lady with a torch, drive to KRAPYRETTAB. As there is spare space on the tape, and as Delta 4 has always believed in value for money, you may also have the pleasure of reading its latest electronic magazine - Sceptical 3.
This is full of amusing rubbish and is worth loading - after all, you got it for free. The Big Sleaze is a worthy successor to all previous Delta 4 adventures. It reeks of an atmosphere that would make Micky Spillane turn in his grave... and smile.