Nineteenth century literature gave birth to a whole series of sinister characters: Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and Jekyll's dangerously violent alter ego, Mr Hyde. Drawing on the more forbidding elements of R L Stevenson's novel, The Essential Myth have recast the dark tale of Mr Hyde in PAW ed adventure form.
The nightmare is divided into three parts entitled Dichotomies, Duality and Denouement and weaves from the relative safety of Jekyll's house through dingy and sometimes blighted London streets. As the tale begins, you are jettisoned straight into the role of Jekyll on the evening before he is destined to brew his infamous potion. He still believes, idealistically, that giving life to his darker side will be of infinite benefit to mankind. So far he has two of the three essential ingredients; your task is to get hold of the third, brew up the mixture and successfully negotiate the painful metamorphosis into Hyde. The rest of the story concerns the consequence of that terrible night.
Time passes and the everyday events of Jekyll's London household unfold, regardless of whether he chooses to involve himself in them or not. A maid of dubious repute, a loyal if unintelligent footman and a butler with strong views on his master's welfare quietly go about their business. Unless they are interrupted, their actions may seriously jeopardise the vital experiment and bring Jekyll's journey into the unconscious to a sudden, premature end.
As a result the puzzles, very much in the style of an interactive novel, are strongly linked to problems of time and place. Observation and interaction are far more important than the systematic use of objects. Realistically, there are more ways than one of solving certain problems. You can act with foresight, and attempt to prevent a situation before it arises or try and make good after the damage has been done.
The process takes a little getting used to and involves playing the game over and over again to work out the order of events; the Ramsave option definitely helps. Everything in the location descriptions, even the colour of the text, has to be taken into consideration. As long as you try to take into account other people's views, progress shouldn't be too difficult.
An oppressive Gothic atmosphere pervades. As Hyde, you can wander through the landscape of your former life, leaf through Jekyll's diary and explore the experimental debris in his lab. The occasional monochrome graphics create a grim period flavour and the slightly tortuous location descriptions (designed to imitate Stevenson's style) alter at different times of day and night.
The weather, in particular, contributes to the suffocating atmosphere. Before the storm of Jekyll's subconscious is finally let loose, the air is 'tangibly close, and almost muggy'. 'Far off yet ominous thunder' constantly threatens to descend anticipating the terrible power about to be unleashed on to the unsuspecting London streets.
The poser is of standard PAW ed sophistication. It accepts complex input and allows for all the usual commands including Ramsave and REDESCRIBE. On some occasions, particularly when speaking to other characters, finding the correct input is slightly awkward but this is an almost unavoidable problem and certainly shouldn't put anyone off.
The gloomy, foreboding atmosphere of Jekyll and Hyde makes for an unusual and demanding adventure. By drawing all aspects of the location descriptions, ongoing events and experiences into the puzzles, the programmers have managed to suggest a link between Jekyll's subconscious and the unfolding of events. The technique may take some getting used to but it's definitely worth the effort.
At present The Essential Myth are looking for a company to publish their game on a wider commercial basis. In the meantime they can be contacted at 54 Church Street, Tewkesbury, Glos, GL20 5RZ. The 128K versions, unavailable at time of review, should have more graphics, extended location descriptions and generally more sophisticated responses.
Drawing up plans for the evening...