This month programmer and adventurer Derek Brewster launches properly into his quest for the perfect adventure. It’s going to be a long trail, but in its course there will be many gems to uncover and doubtless many less than useful objects too.
Although this issue of CRASH has a few adventure games which are included although not reviewed by Derek, we will be incorporating most reviewed adventures in future within the Adventure Trail. Letters which have been pouring in from frustrated, bewildered and stuck adventurers are being sorted out even now, and hopefully Derek will be able to cope with some of them in time for the next month’s issue.
Derek has also devised his own rating system for reviewed adventure games, which he feels is more suitable — it is explained below.
This month: Fantasia Diamond — a new offering from Hewson Consultants; Here Comes The Sun (Alligata); Temple Of Vran — the second in the Incentive Ket Trilogy; Incredible Adventure from CRL; a murder inquiry called Mystery Manor from Bamby; and The Lost Gnomes from Eric Bean Adventures.
PUSH, PULL, EXAMINE, HIT, GET, MOVE... STATUE — it often ends up with you entering expletives. If your input is designed simply to match the words in the computer’s memory, is this what adventuring is all about? What you need, surely, is a sense of reality in the otherwise fabulous world of the adventure. When engrossed in a good adventure you are aware of the computer as an aid only. It is a good sign when the program responds to as much of the input as possible.
It is infuriating when attacking and leaving a character for dead he returns fit and active enough to give you considerable problems only a few frames later. Never mind, he’s carrying some food this time and it’ll be worth it— but on examining the dead body you discover no food. Where has it gone?
The way in which a landscape is mapped out is a moot point. Many well-known adventures have vast regions where it is impossible to chart your progress (or retreat). Although this may add atmosphere in a misty swamp or the (unfortunately) ubiquitous maze, in the long run it makes you acutely aware of the data in the computer — as would a seemingly random selection ruin the storyline behind a set of holiday snaps.
A realistic combat scenario is important to any adventure — assuming the adventure is sophisticated enough to support one. A small defenceless creature should be easily dealt with without much loss of face whereas a warrior may well force upon you an early exit from the game.
Something that becomes clear after much adventuring is the absurdly linear and singular pre-eminence of the route you must take. An example is when you have some food, say gooseberries, incapable of eating since they can only be eaten by their rightful consumnant. Strange gooseberries!
EXAMINE, SEARCH and LOOK are becoming popular in adventuring since they allow you to take a more active role. I can only encourage such developments since the more active the part you play the more likely you are to become enveloped within the adventure. Isn’t this what the whole thing’s about?
Two adventures stand out above all others this month — Temple of Vran, which features a good combat scenario, and Fantasia Diamond, a superb graphic adventure with a very intelligent and friendly vocabulary.
The kind of headings used for ratings in the rest of CRASH are not entirely suitable for adventures. You may feel that the headings listed below require some additions — we would be interested to hear your views.
DIFFICULTY: The likely level of difficulty experienced by an average adventurer.
ATMOSPHERE: This rating reflects the quality of location descriptions and graphics, and how credibly the characters you meet behave.
VOCABULARY: Here we are looking for completeness of vocabulary and the friendliness of its response. A program should contain in its vocabulary all objects which are described in its locations, and all obvious words associated with these objects. If a tree appears in a location then the vocabulary should contain the word ‘tree’ as well as the associated world ‘climb’, otherwise the rating will suffer.
LOGIC: This rating reflects the logic of the problems encountered in an adventure and whether or not you are likely to be killed without warning or chance of escape. Chopping down a tree to cross the forest river is very logical — throwing a rope into a boat which is described in no location description is certainly not logical.
DEBUGGING: This indicates the level of crashproofing and debugging of the program. A program should not be crashed simply by making an incorrect entry or by pressing an unfortunate combination of keys (including BREAK!). This rating will also suffer from bugs within the program and spelling errors.
OVERALL VALUE: A general rating based on price and the other ratings BUT NOT AN AVERAGE OF THE OTHER RATING FIGURES as is the case in all other CRASH reviews.