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A.J. Wright
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

Here is the first part of The Crown, entitled Journey; the second part, Destiny, is due for ' release in late tune, completing the first part of the Quest Series trilogy. You might find all these parts and different names confusing, but if you want a crack at the £500 prize for completing the trilogy you'd better sort it all out - you have to complete every component to have a chance of winning. (Programs Two and Three of the trilogy should surface late this year.)

The adventure Journey is much like any other - except for its combat routine, which the author claims takes up 17K of memory. I find it hard to believe ANY combat system could eat up such a space, and this one seems straightforward, but give the routine some credit; it adds i mmensely to the game.

The story line on the cassette inlay is not too bad, with some imaginative names.

For many years the lands of Tharg had been ruled by King Rasselhague, under whose benevolent leadership the land prospered. But Rasselhague's half-brother Chaleb hated the King and longed to overthrow him. To forestall trouble, Rasselhague banished Chaleb to Acrux, a barren wasteland.

Meanwhile a child was born to the King and Queen. Named Yed Prior, he grew up at a time of increasing tension as Chaleb conspired with the goblins of Acrux. Together they constructed a tower of granite as a symbol of their unity under the powers of darkness.

From the tower Chaleb practised the rites of evil, eventually transposing himself into a nonliving entity, entrusting his genetic coding to several horologium stones which he mounted into a golden crown. He then hid the crown deep within the tower complex.

Rasselhague became alarmed at the dark powers seething at the kingdom's borders and so, after sending his wife and son to safety, he led an army to Acrux. Rasselhague lost the ensuing battle - whereupon Chaleb, leaving behind the goblins to defend the tower and guard his crown, travelled to Tharg to seize the empty throne.

In Journey you assume the role of Yed Prior, now grown up and heir to the throne, but known only as a common peasant. You set off with a broadsword and the ornate ring given you by your father, the only remaining clue to your distinguished heritage.

Undaunted by the dangers ahead you cross the desert of Vulpecula, heading for the capital, Turais. You are seeking Endanus, your father's adviser, who holds an important letter you must see. You must journey to Acrux and, once there, negotiate a route through the goblin-infested Mountains Of Doom.

The Crown has no pictures, and there's little to liven up the screen, but the character set is atmospheric and yet still readable. The print fades to nothing when you've seen your inventory, and at the end of combat - a nice touch.

But above all else is the combat system.

Combat is initiated with ATTACK or KILL, and the first enemy to require such treatment is the guard. This chap is beating some unfortunate woman and must be stopped before an avenue for your advance is lost.

Before you get stuck into the fray, remember that HELP GUARD will give you the lowdown on your opponent. (Every time I've played, it gives him a Constitution of six and has him carrying a sword.)

You can check on your own standing with STATUS, which displays those attributes randomly given to you during initialisation, a 'short pause at the very start of the program. Checking your status you will discover your Constitution is a number between six and ten and Dexterity between five and ten.

When I checked I found Constitution, together with its paired attribute Strength, to usually be eight; Dexterity and its paired attribute Skill varied more, but hovered around seven.

It's possible to significantly increase the chances of striking your opponent without him returning a blow - by noting which weapon he's using. This is because in combat you select LUNGE, SWING or HACK for attack and RETREAT, DODGE or DUCK for defence. Your opponent is driven to make his chokes by a 6S-per-cent-intelligent program and the interaction of LUNGES, DODGES etc works out along similar lines to the old scissors/paper/rock game.

But this is only useful if you can guess your opponent's move from the weapon he's carrying. The logic behind this is that the sword and spear are most effective when used to LUNGE, while the axe causes the greatest damage when used to HACK. When it comes to your attack these factors should be taken into account, together with situations not so cut and dried, such as HACKing with a spear.

When either you or your opponent scores a hit, the victim's Constitution is reduced.

If all this sounds a bit complicated you can always run away, an option which unfailingly comes up after each exchange of a battle (though remember: your opponent's Constitution will bounce back to its original figure should you decide to flee).

But the constant need to input either YES, you want to run, or NO, you don't (without even recourse to the abbreviations Y or N) each time slows things down too much.

And you need to press a key when the computer confirms your choice to retreat or whatever onscreen -just a short delay would give you enough chance to change your mind.

Vocabulary is listed on the inlay, and can be displayed in a more complete form within the game. Type VERBS to have them tisted; one or two critical verbs are omitted so as not to make the going too easy. There's also the unusual inclusion of an adverb, CAREFULLY, which you need early on in the game in a way which isn't totally convincing.

NOUN lists all the objects etc you are likely to need to describe, while the HELP command is necessarily obtuse considering the prize of 500 smackers!

The RAMSAVE, rather curiously, wanted me to start the tape.

Plotwise I found the prices inconsistent: two gold coins for a lamp, a whole gold piece for some oranges, but only two coins for a rare precision instrument like a sextant. Getting these gold pieces is difficult: the purse they're in is easily opened, but many minutes of gymnastic word games are needed to do something simple like extract the coins.

The Crown is a text-only adventure dominated by a combat routine needed to see off the guard beating the old woman, the drunken sailor, and a goblin guarding a lake. This routine is complicated enough to keep the player engaged and probably warrants taking some interest in this game and its very tempting £500 prize.

Wrightchoice can be contacted at PO Box 100, 159 Welbeck Crescent, Troon, Ayrshire KA10 6BD.


DIFFICULTY: combat routine might trip you up
PRESENTATION: very average
RESPONSE: fast Quill
General Rating: Interesting.