As if in response to my recent pleas for more female heroines, Zodiac Software have created Charlotte Webster. A Fairly ordinary mortal with a weakness for computer games and Bay City Rollers posters (yukk), she is hurled into the midst of an absurdly crucial mission by the purchase of an innocent-looking computer game. Won over by the excruciatingly awful poetry of a certain Zytrwxz ('runty looking') she is summoned to the court of King Derek of Fantasmia ('self-loving') who charges her with the task of defeating the wicked, devastatingly evil and thoroughly selfish Ruth ('nasty').
This epic quest is divided into five action-packed parts, including an intermission which gives you a chance to sit hack and savour the jokes over a quiet little snack. The adventure takes you through the obligatory, glowing portal, the inevitable maze, a withered (no sorry, handsome) old man, a locked tower and a very climbable looking tree. No prizes for guessing that this whistle-stop tour of adventureland isn't to be taken entirely seriously. There's even a cliche corner where you can solve all your favourite puzzles for the 50000th time AND enjoy them.
It's very easy for a parody to lurch into a repetitive round of boring, predictable and thoroughly monotonous spoofs. This one doesn't - probably because there's too much going on. The screen does a passable imitation of your trusty Speccy loading up, turns into a badly programmed home-grown adventure complete with spelling mistakes (it's all over in a moment, don't panic) and punctuates Charlotte's trip with one or two appropriately musical sound effects. A variety of friendly and not so friendly Fantasmians include Norris the joking gnome, a sexist bookseller, several stereotypes, a herd of man-eating cows, a journalistic elf called Mike and an ore - of course.
Behind all this lunacy there lurks quite a playable adventure. Don't expect mind-bending puzzles (you'll be too busy reading the text anyway), just a thoroughly entertaining jaunt through a jungle of parodies, wisecracks and cross-references.
Interaction with other characters is always interesting and almost always helpful. If you do get really stuck you can summon Zytrwxz by saying Z. The environment is complex enough to take quite a bit of exploration and one or two brain-teasers should keep you guessing for a while.
As another production home grown in the fertile soil of Gilsoft's PAW, Fairly Difficult Mission has all the facility's usual advantages. The parser accepts complex sentences and pronouns, allows you to speak to other characters and has a RAMSAVE feature. Inevitably there are a few limitations but no very glaring ones.
Presentation throughout is impeccable. Colourful graphics and one or two special effects turn Charlotte's fairly difficult mission into a very professional game. If you have the odd £3.50 to spare, a lunatic streak, and a dark sense of humour, send your grubby contributions to Zodiac Software, 22 Peakdale Avenue, Goldenhill, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Meet Mrs Mop.