Melbourne House
1986
Adventure: Text
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

91,92
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

This one sees itself as a real life adventure, which doesn't mean much until you consider the previous Lever/Jones releases: Hampstead, which lampooned the desire among many of the capital's residents to move up to the suburb where living in London makes some sense, and Terrormolinos, which showed where you'd end up if you couldn't quite make it. Well, with this game here we take a further tumble down the socio-economic ladder, to those who would be on the bottom rung were it not for their ingenuity. In short, these are the folks who got on their bikes and made off with your video recorder.

In Hampstead, your task was social advancement from a UB40 to a turbo UB40 (a government salaried job?), and in many ways this game plays much the same - except that the definition of social advancement here is a much more immediate and tangible concept. Thieving is the usual way of life for these crooks, but the character you control, just released from prison after serving three years for his part in the Long Dittos Spaghetti Caper, is also preoccupied with the little business of dealing with the grass who set him up, and landed him with a two year sentence (he got an extra year for bad behaviour).

The object is to find yourself a nice little earner which will see you alright on the Costa Brava, safe from the prying eyes of Her Majesty's Government. To do this you must first get a gang together - this composes much of the first part of the adventure. The second part involves the robbery itself, and lets you see how well your selected villains operate 'on the job.'

To be totally honest, my first impressions of this game were not good. The adventure was developed on The Quill, and then reprogrammed by ASHMINSTER COMPUTING. Departures from the usual Quilled program format include the 'longer than one line' entry, but the game shows no airs and graces by keeping to the R for Redescribe.

Unfortunately, ASHMINSTER have not done a good job (with the Spectrum version at least) as the Input routine is nothing short of diabolical. Letters get repeated all over the place when a series is entered at normal typing speeds. Even when just putting in one letter for a direction, for example S for South, pressing ENTER gives you another S - this is frustrating enough to introduce a vicar to the delights of blasphemy!

The authors' work is no masterpiece either, as the presentation is flat, with short, uninteresting location descriptions which are mostly made up of directions to adjacent locations - for instance, "St Judas Road. To the north-east is Pork Pie Parade, and to the south, Terminal Street. A winding lane leads southwest." Although such constructions are superb for mapping purposes, they leave something to be desired in terms of creating a riveting atmosphere.

The program can be quite 'out to lunch' at times, with a lack of response that leaves the player cold: RECRUIT GEORGE, CONTACT GEORGE, and KILL GEORGE all give the same reply - absolutely nothing! Surely when you try and kill a guy there should be some sort of response.

Just to round off this whingeing and moaning section, it sometimes happens that a description of some import is whipped off the screen before you have had time to read it, and all you ' re left with is a new game and the feeling that something or someone must have wiped you out. Do not despair though, this game does grow on you - once you take the time to get to know it a little better.

On the simple level, the character set has been attractively redesigned with round Hobbit-like runes (although the input W looks almost exactly like the U): while on the more fundamental level, a time element has been introduced with the HANG ABOUT command - a means of zipping through Friday night and into Saturday morning if you should so wish. One reason why you might want to alter time is to fast forward to when the pubs we open, pubs being a good place to meet dodgy geezers (or so one would have thought - the game isn't quite that easy).

The poster descriptions which can be brought up onto the screen (READ POSTER) are inspired. These give an opportunity to learn more about your peers - and a chance for the Lever/Jones humour to shine through. With these descriptions its best to go straight to the crook's nickname, as here lies the clue to how the character earns a living in the seedy London underworld. Jack Bolter is Cracker, has a nervous twitch, and only three fingers on his left hand due to an explosion. Arson in 1980 left him with three years arson around - in prison. Septimus Griffin is Little Ken (of Terrormolinos fame?) who is cheerful and friendly, and has scarred buttocks as a result of a childhood holiday accident. He is an experienced cat burglar and suspected of 312 separate thefts of rare cats. But the crook with whom we can have the most sympathy is one Nbedele Jogo (Mr High-Score or Video in the Mr Men parlance) who has highly cultured tastes, a PhD (Cantab) in Computer Science, but who fell foul of the Tax Inspector and unwittingly began a life of crime with a 1980 sentence for tax evasion.

Clearly, Dodgy Geezers isn't the best-programmed adventure I've ever played but that isn't really the issue with a Lever/Jones program. Humour is the name of the game here, and this program offers much amusement to those who either just read the cover, or really get to grips with the intricate plot. There's something about the Lever/Jones style that I really appreciate. Take this example from the starting sequence - "Keep your noses clean, your eyes peeled, and your cheques crossed" , and this advice on leaving prison - "Since you area professional criminal, it should be quite obvious that you must find yourself a crime to commit, and a gang to help you commit it." Recruiting the gang isn't so easy as you must first prove your worth as a leader by negotiating the various intrigues of the underworld. A question which will most certainly exercise your mind on your travels s ... just who is the guy in the white Gucci shoes who seems to lurk in every shadow and doorway?

CRITICISM

COMMENTS
Difficulty: easy to wander, not so easy to be a dodgy geezer
Graphics: few and far between; mainly mug-shots in first part
Input facility: AND and IT accommodated
Response: fast
General Rating: More interesting the more you play and get into the theme.

79%
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86%