It's the middle of the night and a strange light is coming through the window; a mysterious voice is calling your name. One of the weirdest adventures suburbia has ever encountered is about to begin. Jack Frost has been messing up the weather and you've got to put everything right before dawn.
Linda Wright's latest adventure (two have been published by Incentive already) comes in two versions. The 48K adventure is text only while the 128K version has graphics, more detailed location descriptions and one or two extra commands.
The weather quest begins in the comparative comfort of your own home. Like all the best homes, it's in a terrible mess, and the text does its best to bring you all the gory details: there's 'junk littering your desk and covering the floor', and as you stumble into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from your eyes, you notice 'crockery that's piled in the sink and on the units, as well as the sticky finger marks which cover the cupboard and taps'. Further exploration leads you to the weather city of Cloud 99 (it's outside your front door, of course), with three levels of sabotaged weather halls and all the trappings (including theatre and tourist office) of a wealthy tourist town.
The 128K version has different graphics for every location from hen house to art gallery, theatre to barn. The small, clearly defined pictures, which take up about a quarter of the screen, don't contribute a tremendous amount to the light-hearted atmosphere conjured up by descriptions. Still, with opening doors and running water, they're an added bonus.
The havoc Jack has created in the weather halls is rather like the disorder in your own home. A fire is melting the ice hall, the rain dispenser is blocked up and the thunder machines have lost their drumsticks. Initially the player has limited resources: judicious interaction with some of the city's characters, who respond in various ways to pleas for help, are necessary. In most cases they'll help you if you help them; it's just a matter of working out what an American tourist, a crestfallen angel, or an anxious baker want most in the world.
The puzzles are light-hearted and logical: common sense generally provides the answer, although in one or two cases some extra lateral thinking may he required. Linguistic jokes should not be overlooked. Only some solutions are interdependent, with the advantage that getting stuck on one area of the game doesn't necessarily bring progress to a complete and grinding halt. As you restore order in each of the halls a congratulatory message flashes up to commemorate your success: it's very satisfying to get a pat on the back early on in the game.
All these user-friendly features make Cloud 99 an ideal adventure for beginners, although experienced adventurers shouldn't he put off. Some of the problems require alert, logical thinking and the time limit (the clock ticks away even between turns) gives the challenge that extra edge.
The game, which was written using Gilsoft's PAW, accepts fairly long, complex sentences. It may take a little time to discover the necessary wording to carry out a particular action but usually there are strong hints in the descriptive text. Additional commands include RAMSAVE and SAVE and, in the 128K version only. HELP and PAUSE. The latter stops the game temporarily should you want to make a cup of tea or get on with something else.
Cloud 99 is another example of the high quality home-grown software that can he produced using a facility like the PAW. It's not one of the toughest adventures around but the humorous tone and the ingenuity of the puzzles make it one of the more enjoyable to play. At £2.95 for both versions, you can't lose. Marlin Games can be contacted at: 19 Briar Close, Nailsea, Bristol BS19 IQG.
A taste of home comforts before he frost bites...