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River Software
Jack A. Lockerby
1988
Adventure: Text
English
ZX Spectrum 128K
None

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102
Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

A lot of people tried River Software's adventures for the first time in my 'Best indies' offers, some people ordering all 10 in one go, and many coming back and asking for more. That's a sign that they're popular as I knew they would be once you'd tried them, and now here's the latest offering: but no special offers this time, I'm afraid! The price is a bit higher than normal but then there is a bonus game on the tape, Letter Bomb, a word game that's an entertaining variation on the 'Hangman' theme, with an anagram game thrown in for good measure. I can guarantee you'll get your money's worth from it.

The adventure itself is called The Domes Of Sha and is set on the planet of Olaxas, which was devastated by a Great War. In a valley live the tribe of Sha, the land all around their valley dead and barren. They know their planet is dying, but something they know as the Cold Fear prevents anyone leaving the valley in search of any help that may be available. Until now, of course...

Soon after you start in the valley you make your way to the house of Kroll the elder, who sits you down on his hagrug, hands you a cube and tells you he always suspected you weren't like any of the others. Before you can take in the implications of this remark, you leave and head off on your quest to save the Sha. Wandering round the valley you find a character called Grunt, whose main features are the fact that he grunts a lot and whiffs a bit. But he's loyal and affectionate and understands simple commands like FETCH, STAY, GO and COME. I couldn't get any response to the last of these, and something the game suffers from is a lack of full instructions and explanations about talking to other characters.

Grunt comes in handy, of course, and I got quite fond of him as he sulked when I instructed him to STAY, and from time to time shot off in another of his mad fits. There are some nice touches of humour in the game. Type SCORE and you're told 'If you finish you'll get one big point.' HELP also provides some coded clues if you're stuck.

Sorting out the few problems above ground, you may be able to somehow open the rock door that leads down into a large underground network that has a touch of Colossal Cave about it, with quite good descriptions and generally a good use of PAW, which unfortunately hasn't been credited as far as I could see. Just a few minor bugettes, where found objects are put into the location text which then expands and obliterates the response in the scrolling section underneath, and unusually for a River game I found a spelling mistake! 'Sentance' instead of 'sentence.' Those play-testers not doing their job properly!

But Sha is well up to the standard of River's other games, and although it won't take a seasoned player too long to see it off, you'll still enjoy playing it. Beginners should get even more value from it. Pretty good all round, in fact.

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