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Zodiac Software
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

Fairly Difficult Mission? Sounds just about my level. This latest Zodiac game is a generous four-part epic (plus foot-notes, plus a bonus 'Intermission' program), hence the slightly higher-than-usual price, but it's worth every penny. As I've commented before, even the loading instructions with Zodiac games are hilarious, as is the introduction. One difference this time is that in the interests of sexual equality, the star of this adventure is computer-freak Charlotte Webster who sits at her Speccy about to load her latest game into it - just like you. Coo what thrills!

Zodiac's games are full of little touches that always amuse me. Try examining the TV and your own TV does a good impersonation of a TV just waiting to have a Spectrum game loaded into it. Later on in the game, when you meet King Derek of Fantasmia (who he?), you'll be given your own chance to review an adventure game that you also get to play, and it looks like some of those that are sent in to me from time to time, complete with mis-spellings and bugs! Clever use of PAW here.

You've been summoned to see King Derek by the man with no vowels (no vowels, I said!) and that's Zytrwzx, who also sounds like the hero of many an adventure sent in to me. Zodiac's tongue is never far from its cheek, if you know what I mean. After meeting Derek and being given your mission, which is to bring back the stolen... oh, never mind, that's not really the point. Next thing you know you're in the game's featured maze - and even this had me laughing, especially when I got some help at escaping from the rather tall elf called Mike, though he'd only give it to me in return for a stamped addressed envelope. Now who could this be based on? (Write your answers on the back of a fiver, please, and send them to me).

The first part of this game is admittedly more of a 'page-turner' of an adventure, to get you into the story, but the vast numbers of EXAMINE commands and little sub-routines make it great fun to play through. The nub of the adventure comes in the middle two parts, which I mention only because it allows me to use the word 'nub', which doesn't happen often. But when you get to the 'nub' (there it is again), the game gets tougher by far. Curses - you have to wait longer between the jokes! The whole thing's a send-up of adventures where the heroes have funny names, there's an obligatory quest, an obligatory maze and an obligatory glowing portal. They've even given you a chance to use a swear-word legitimately in the program - is this a first? And possibly a last?

Anyone who's bought earlier Zodiac games won't need me to tell them to rush out and buy this one... well, you've got to stay in and buy it actually as it's mail order only. Anyone who hasn't tried one before: do yourself a favour and investigate pronto, if not sooner.