Ingrid’s Back

Level 9, £14.95 cass, £19.95 disk


Contrary to popular belief (the whole of my sheep flock), this is not the sequel to Ingrid’s Front, but instead to the very humorous Gnome Ranger (for some strange reason never reviewed in CRASH). If you’ve played that game you’ll know its star, Ingrid Bottomlow, is one of those brainy people always trying to fix what ain’t broke. In the first game her folks gave her a one-way teleport scroll in the futile hope of losing her.

Upon her return the accident-prone gnome is soon driving her family to distraction again — not to mention attempted murder. Unfortunately for Jasper Quickbuck she survives to become the biggest, not to say the ugliest, opponent to his plans to steamroller her village so as to make room for some yuppie homes! (A hanging offence if there ever was one!)

The adventure is split into three separately-loaded sections. In the first section Ingrid. with the help of her dog Flopsy, must get the villagers to sign a petition to block Quickbuck’s planned eviction order. Finding people is no problem as the special FIND command can be used: Ingrid then takes the shortest route to the relevant character. This is just as well, as the characters independently move around the countryside. But getting some of them to sign the petition is a little more difficult. Ingrid’s windmill-owning Uncle Dusty, for instance, is suspicious of her since she demolished his last mill! Then there are Quickbuck’s minions, who, if offered the petition, will sign silly names like Mickey Mouse. Nevertheless experienced adventurers shouldn’t take too long to finish the petition.

Section two is called The Steamroller — so much for the power of petitions. The Bottomlows are just enjoying breakfast when a strange sound suddenly erupts from nearby. It is the chugging and spluttering of a steamroller being driven towards the Bottomlows’ farm by Silas Crawley, one of Quickbuck’s unscrupulous employees.

Now if it was my house that was about to be flattened, I’d just set my pet Tory MP on them. Ingrid’s more into passive resistance, though; ie, lying down in front of the steamroller. This delays the destruction of the farm — not because Silas is worried about hurting anyone, but because the steamroller might get damaged by running over such a substantial gnome! However, this is only a temporary solution; the permanent one requires a lot more thought and puzzle-solving. Part three is equally difficult and involves infiltrating Quickbuck’s manor disguised as a maid.

Just as in Gnome Ranger, every situation in the sequel is laced with a characteristic type of humour which, depending on taste, will either have you splitting your sides or scratching your head in bewilderment. To he honest I didn’t much like the continual use of ‘gn’ instead of ‘n’, particularly as you have to spell inputs that way as well. It’s not too much to put up with though, and there are some brilliantly-funny scenes, such as where a travelling salesgnome is making a feeble attempt at playing darts. Some of the solutions also require lateral, whimsical thinking, so the humour isn’t wholly superficial.

Interaction with characters is mainly limited to ordering them around, eg GNOAH, LIE DOWN. But a good atmosphere is created by the hilarious descriptions of the various gnomes and trolls you meet. The typically-refined Level 9 parser understands virtually all sensible input and includes the useful commands GO TO a location, FOLLOW a character, and on 128K machines, UNDO and RAMSAVE.

The triple format (+3, Amstrad CPC and PCW) disk also contains about thirty black and white pictures on the B-side. As in Lancelot, the size of the picture may be altered by scrolling it up to increase the size of the text window below.

Littered with puns, Ingrid’s Back! is a fine adventure as well as a funny one, and should provide welcome light relief for weary adventurers. Indeed, Level 9 are so sure of her continued popularity that another Ingrid game is planned for release in May, titled Gnome Free!