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Cult Games
1988
Adventure: Text
£2.99
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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59
Kati Hamza
Chris Bourne

Four precious diamonds have been stolen from the Black King's crown. The loss has turned him black in character as well as name; any visitor to his castle is imprisoned unless he bears the jewels. The kingdom's fourteen nobles have gathered together to hire a mercenary. Unless he manages to locate and unlock the four chests in which the gems are hidden, the land is doomed.

As the game quest begins you can choose to play one of (our characters: wizard, elf, man or dwarf. The attributes peculiar to each are depicted onscreen in the form of luck, strength and stamina points. A menu to the right shows the number and type or spells available.

What ensues is a cross between a role-playing game and an adventure. As you move through the rugged landscape of forbidding forests, windswept plains, marshes, lakes and seemingly impassable seas, your actions are limited to a number of options constantly depicted to the right of the screen. By pressing the appropriate key. you can examine, pick up and drop objects, travel, look in the direction of adjacent locations, cast spells or rest. Up to four objects, listed on a separate menu, can be carried at any one time.

Inevitably, the emphasis is on exploration and combat rather than solving puzzles. Mapmaking is essential. As you find yourself in a different location at the start of every game, you're forced to re-map till you become totally familiar with the potentially treacherous terrain.

The kingdom is crawling with dangerously bloodthirsty creatures. Giants, trolls, bears, ogres and ores engage in battle the moment they sec your tasty flesh. Depending on your ability and equipment you can attempt to counter using weapons or magic. Stamina and strength points are quickly diminished by direct enemy hits, though you can replenish energy and stores in villages and at life-giving springs. It's important to watch your step, as getting caught by a powerful nasty when you don't have much ammunition, leads to almost instant death. Frustratingly you can't escape; the program only asks which weapon you want to use, not whether you actually want to fight. Pacifists are definitely out.

If the responses to frenzied key pressing weren't so slow, the process of exploration, fighting, and making limited use of objects, would become quite engrossing. As it is, you have to wait ages for the screen to catch up with your fingers. Worse still, every time you die the game crashes and you're forced to reload from scratch. As it's quite easy to get caught in a no-win situation, especially at first, hours of miserable loading are ahead for anyone who really wants to get into the game. There is a SAVE option which allows you to record your character or your current position. I tried twice to save a game without success and was forced, bored and frustrated. to reload right from the beginning again.

All these drawbacks combined make The Damned Forest extremely frustrating to play. The Black King's plight pales into insignificance as you wage war against the keyboard, battle with the loading system and attempt to make sense of the SAVE options. Role-players and adventurers alike are well-advised to steer clear of this exhausting experience.

CRITICISM

41%

Screenshot Text

A more exciting moment from The Damned Forest.