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Tartan Software
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

Double Agent is Tartan Software's best release yet, and definitely offers double-value. There's a free bonus in Escape, on the other side, while the main game allows you to control two separate characters, Trantoss-style, as well as offering a £50 prize to the first person to send in the shortest possible solution by 30th June, 1988.

To deal with Escape, it's described as "A bonus nonsense adventure just for fun," though that should be 'just for pun'. It involves you escaping from a locked cell, and took me about 10 minutes to solve, though I didn't mind as it's fun while it lasts and it was a freebie after all!

Double Agent is a different kettle of difficulty, though. The story is that your starship has been sent to the planet Marego to help overcome a rebel invading force from a dying planet. The rebels brought with them a crystal source of power which is slowly polluting Marego. Your exploration party has been killed by the rebels, save for two agents who escaped. Because of the treatment they received they're incapable of original thought or action, but their in-built communicators allow you to send them simple one or two-word commands. That's handy for an adventure game! One agent is strong but doesn't speak or read the Marego language, the other's the more intellectual type who can cope with the local lingo. They must work together to try to return with the crystal, and bring samples of rock and water for analysis.

There's a lovely loading screen by Shaun McClure, who gets everywhere these days, and then you're into the split-screen text-only game. Agent One reports on the left, "This is bleak and barren land with zilch in sight," while over on the right Agent Two says, "I am outside a building, the door of which looks rather strong and sturdy." The two agents aren't far from each other, though of course there's a barrier between them and getting them together is one of your early problems. A quick tip is to start your map for Two at the bottom of the page, and for One at the top! They do have to work together too, passing objects to each other and deciding who's to do which job.

At the foot of the screen is one line for your Command Input Console, and you keep control of one agent till you issue a movement command when control automatically switches to the other. You can switch any time you like, however, by typing '1' or '2', or stay with one agent by telling the other to WAIT. All in all it's a very nifty piece of programming by author Tom Frost - and he's even managed to squeeze a RAM save in there as well.

If publishers weren't so hell-bent on telling us we don't want text-only adventures, I'm sure this game would have no problem in finding a home with one of the bigger names, like Mastertronic or CRL. As it is, you should snap it up from Tartan. You'll not only be supporting the smaller software houses, but you'll discover how hard it is to prise fifty quid from a Scotsman.