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Digital Fantasia
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

The space freighter Pulsar 7 is returning from an exploratory flight to the outer regions of the Xanotar system, delivering the precious ore Redennium to the minor planetoids that have evolved beyond primitive nuclear power. As part payment you take on board a strange creature for the intergalactic zoo that grows too quickly for its cage, breaks out and is now concealed somewhere on the ship. The creature eats the entire crew but you have been shrewd enough to avoid a similar fate until now when you must abandon the freighter and make your escape in the frail shuttle craft.

The game has a layout now familiar to the Digital Fantasia Mysterious Adventures. A picture can be switched out from the top half of the screen to reveal the objects and exits while the lower half of the screen accepts input and puts up an occasional comment. A click accompanies all entries including the space key. You find yourself in the freighter's social room where you can see a sign and a closed steel door - and a couch. I wonder if this couch has a key in it as in Waxworks? On examining I do indeed find the key and a less than useful crumpled note. Well this is believable enough since there's probably about ten pounds worth of change down the side of my couch and no doubt keys and crumpled notes.

As is the norm with Mysterious Adventures you're told in the bottom half of the screen that 'I'VE FOUND SOMETHING!' and you must look within the list of objects at the top to find out exactly what it is you have found. A related report 'SOMETHING HAPPENED!' greets you when you turn the dull illuminant rod. Unfortunately you are not told exactly what has happened although to be fair you are told when you look at the inventory - you carry a glowing rod.

Moving south you enter a crewman's cabin and through another door (GO DOOR) into a similar crewman's cabin, but if you try to return to the first cabin you are greeted with the report WHERE?'. It appears to be a one-way door - strange if not incredible. I don't know about you but I'm no fan of the oneway door. Further on, when travelling from the Captain's Cabin to the Workshop you find your way back blocked, a ploy to force you down into the maze. At times like this you become more aware of the program in the computer and the adventure is that much less convincing. At other times it is the logic of the game which stretches your ability to believe.

Would you normally find a circuit board beneath a pillow in a bunk? You are allowed to move the pillow but not to take it - clearly the program is telling you the pillow isn't necessary when it might have been better to find this out for yourself. The more things you can do, whether useful or otherwise, makes a better adventure.

This game has two features which, unfortunately, have become standards. Unfortunately, because adventuring should be an actively developing area and not a stale, stuffy one. I refer to the maze and the small rucksack phenomena. I gave hints on how to tackle a maze last month so perhaps that will reduce the niggle here. The small rucksack can only carry five or in this case six objects and perhaps it's time for a new angle on this one. Continually dropping and picking up objects can get laborious while often adding little to the game. For example, is the assumption that it's just as easy to pick a long heavy floorboard as to carry a small key justifiable?

On loading this program you are asked 'Resume play on game?' and there is an ugly little bug associated with this. I was at the Vent and pressed N to go north but the computer did not respond; instead I was killed by the dust here and since the program then asks 'Play again Y/N?' the previously entered N NEWed the computer leaving me to reload a rather long program. It would seem sensible to have a double check where programs might be lost in this fashion.

In case this all sounds a bit too damning I must say that the vocabulary has a powerful EXAMINE which isn't always the same as SEARCH. I would like to see all adventures make use of these words and reserve EXAMINE for examining an object which should return a detailed description, and SEARCH for searching an object to reveal anything concealed about or in it. EXAMINE in this sense may tell you how an object might be used or how it may prove useful later on.

Escape from Pulsar 7 has a very fast response time, has good well-designed graphics that can be easily switched on and off and features 42 as opposed to the Spectrum's more usual 32 characters per line. However, the game lacks that spark of originality and leaves you with the feeling you've seen it all before.