Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K
Unspecified custom loader

Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

I review here a preproduction version (4.0) of Curse of the Seven Faces to be marketed by Artic Computing. If all companies supplied such authoritative maps of their adventures they might receive more sympathetic reviews. It isn't just the detailed map that has coloured my view of this game; the screen provides quite a dash of colour itself using some of the more pleasing Spectrum shades to show off a text adventure to its best. This along with the attractive colours gives the program the edge in presentation.

Alas, all is not well though. This is a good game in need of a script writer. As it stands the plot is so weak and thin, vacuous and inconsistent, it could only be used in a second-rate American movie - you know - the type that comes round every school holiday and makes a fortune to the utter bewilderment of anyone who has sat rigid for what seems like hours in front of adverts for choc-ices, and films about pampered poodles who, when tired of strutting and fouling Sunset Boulevard, quite like to windsurf along Venice Beach.

Anyway, it is a shame this game hasn't got a credible storyline because otherwise it has many strong points including copious and atmospheric descriptions in what is a very long adventure oiled by a friendly vocabulary.

This paragraph is only for those who don't feel queasy when they watch M*A*S*H on television or who feel that long spells of adventuring should be punctuated with contrasting spells of hard-headed reality. Mazes are old hat and this game has two of the wretched things. The EXAMINE command isn't error-checked so EXAM XXX gives the same response as EXAM WALL, and EXAM SHELF gives the wrong response. In a large, dense, deciduous forest you see a garden spade but when you go to pick it up it confusingly becomes a small silver spade. But more to the point, what is it doing in a hole in a tree in the first place? In another location you chance upon some dead adventurers, and searching their bodies turns up absolutely nothing while elsewhere objects are strewn around in the most unlikely places like confetti! If adventures can be compared to novels (and surely text adventures must be) then this adventure clearly falls short of the mark, unless it's a surrealist work. The structure of the plot is a trifle dull also. Nine times out of ten if you find something you'll find out what to do with it in the very next frame.

Hence, I'm not giving too much away when I tell you that you'll need the stones in the armoury. Even supplied with this clue you might find the eventual solution to the problem here rather implausible. The adventure has no classic problems but instead relies too much on magic, and why does the wizard's own spell book give details on how to kill the wizard?

So much for what is amiss. What about saving grace? The descriptions are really quite impressive. Here is an average paragraph: 'You are at the edge of a large, dense, deciduous forest. As you walk between the trees, the old leaves of last autumn crunch loudly under foot, whilst above you the new buds of spring are blossoming. A small pathway continues to the south-east, whilst to the north a hill slopes down into the peaceful valley.'

All eight compass directions are used with NE, SW etc. and the basic competence of the programming is high; the input routine is so sure-footed with a strong beep, and the action is so fast, that you get a tangible sense of pleasure just zipping around at high speed. The magic has you flying around even faster from here, there and everywhere like a demented pantomime fairy.

Curse of the Seven Faces is a structurally sound piece of programming but in these days when software is marketed with the sort of coherence and panache shown by the likes of the Midnight Trilogy, is it really enough just to plonk the adventurer into a labyrinth of anonymous wizards, trolls and dragons with a strange admixture of fantasy artefacts such as a staff, hat and cloak alongside futuristic poles inserted into locks, refined petrol and security discs more at home on a spaceship? Since, otherwise, the game is sound with many worthy features, it is to the extent you find such inconsistencies tolerable which will dictate your opinion of this game. To my mind it's' a bit like organic farming with DDT or becoming self-sufficient in video cassette production.


Difficulty: quite easy
Graphics: none
Presentation: very good
Input facility: goes beyond verb/noun in places
Response: instantaneous
General Rating: Good value.