ROLL UP, ROLL UP! CIRCUS HAS COME TO TOWN
Quentin Heath investigates the secret of the Big Top
AS THE NUMBER of Spectrum adventures on the market increases, it is difficult to find one which is different in either concept or content. Adventures are usually graphics or text only and take place in underground locations, mysterious fantasy worlds, on battle fields, or in outer space.
That is not true of the Mysterious Adventure series from Digital Fantasia. One adventure from the company shows the differences from other adventures and the advances in both plot and quality the company has brought to the adventure market. The game is called Circus and it is for the 48K Spectrum.
Circus is slightly different in format from other adventures, as you can switch between high-resolution graphics and text with an extra push of the ENTER key. The plot is unusual, as it takes place in and around a shadowy circus ground.
Few hints are given as to what you should do in the circus or what you are seeking, but that is as it should be. The packaging gives some hints as to what to do when it indicates that you have become stranded near a circus when your car runs out of petrol.
The car is not the starting-point of the adventure and that could confuse you. It is a deliberate ruse to convince you that the car contains nothing of interest. First, you will find yourself in a field with only a few compass-point directional movements, such as south, east and west, from which to choose.
At the start it may seem as if you are limited in the moves you can make and to get anywhere into the game you need to discover an arcane secret of great difficulty. Nothing could be further from the truth. All you have to do is think of a different and more specific type of movement command, such as go, and then specify the direction in which you want to move. That makes the game very complex, as you will have to name the sites you want to visit in different sectors.
The main sectors in Circus are the field in which you start, the road and car which you can reach, using Go road followed by Go car, and the circus exterior and interior where much of the action will take place. Each of those sectors is discussed in the hints and tips panel.
One of the quests you will have to undertake is to find the petrol with which to fill your car to make your getaway. It could be in the generator which you will find near the circus or it could be in the dark depths of the tent. The generator is not working, so there is no power to go exploring in the tent. You will have to find your own, with a little help from hints and tips.
The secret of the petrol lies in the tent but you might like to explore the traps and pitfalls before you start to be involved with the quest. Learning from experience is usually the name of the game but there are some problems you can avoid with commonsense.
You may make a reasonable guess that most of the circus act equipment you find is in the tent and in the circus ring. The ladder you find hanging in mid-air. It seems to go up to the roof of the tent and is a temptation - if you ever wanted to swing on the trapeze you will find your wish granted if you can find the proper words to swing up to the top beams and canvas of the roof. If you jump from the trapeze you will land on the canvas of the roof and find nothing.
If you have a knife you could become a vandal, as the computer will accept the command to cut the canvas. Not much else seems to be possible from that vantage point and it is at that point, when you want to return to the ground, that you may have difficulty.
You may wish you had a map of the steps you took to get up to your precarious position. If you have not made a map you will become confused between ladders and swings. What you must not do is take out your rope, if you have it, and throw it. You might expect to find a quick way to the ground but the only thing you will get is a lost rope.
One other place to avoid is the human canon, unless you are trying to escape from the clown who keeps appearing. That character does little damage but he is difficult to follow.
One last strange, but useful, tip which can be given is that you should try and dig with your spade at every opportunity. No more said but you never know what you might discover.
Unfortunately not all software companies have the definition of an adventure game, in the computer sense, completely correct. Penguin Books calls its Korth Trilogy an adventure consisting of three separate cassette-and-book packages.
The packages contain only a series of arcade games based on all-too-familiar concepts. Many of them seem to have been written first, with the story-line slotted around them afterwards.
The saddest aspect is that the concept of this series of packages, based on traditional adventure lines, is fascinating and more software companies should try it.
The only advice I can give if you still intend to buy Korth Trilogy is to keep the science fiction story-book with the package and throw away the cassette. The relationship between the two is thin and you would be much less embarrassed if you did not look at the software. Penguin is, on the whole, better as a publisher of literature and might be advised to stay in that field.
HINTS AND TIPS
Useful items hidden close to the hand.Dig with a spade in a field.Your car is not as useless as it seems.Look in the boot before you scream.