Is the Forest pointing the way towards better adventures?
Dense fir branches suddenly gave way to an easy ground of mature trees, through which I could easily maintain a brisk pace. I checked my progress, scanning the woods for any telltale signs. Yes, there it was at barely 10 metres distance, a few white rocks hidden under vegetation. I stood in front of the ruins I had set my bearings on for the last 100 metres. Producing the map, compass and protractor I set course for northwest, maintaining the same altitude. This would lead me to the clearing, well clear of the open moor, then down the valley to the edge of the lake, after which it would be child's play following the waterfront to the large boulder. Then across the woods due east to the edge of the town and the finishing point.
If this reads like a typical orienteering course then it is because Graham Relf has made an astonishingly realistic simulation of the sport on the Spectrum. There's no need to be in top physical shape - leave that to Olivia Newton John, but it would be wise to know something about the art of map reading and navigating. It is here that you can learn something and yet fully enjoy the game.
There is an enormous area of geography enclosed in the game, approximately 37 square kilometres, of which only a small portion has been charted so far. Included on this map is a 12 point course ready for you to tackle in the shortest possible time. All you have to do is visit each control point in the right sequence. The proof of your visit will be printed on your control card, which you carry with you. Each check point has a special code, so cheating's out.
Each step taken is approximately one metre, as in real life, with a random variation of plus or minus 10 degrees. This means taking ten steps for every millimetre of the supplied 200 x 210mm map! As your bearing drifts while moving, don't go running for miles without checking it.
The display shows you the terrain six metres in front of you and it varies from thick fir trees, to running wood (mature trees), moors (hard going), open grass, town area or even lake. Special point features such as buildings, boulders, rock outcrops, mine shafts, knolls, depressions etc. will be displayed as a message (with code if it is a checkpoint).
An eye level marker in front tells you whether the ground is rising or falling, so you can easily follow contours on the map this way. As real time is used you can check on elapsed time. It can be taken at a very brisk pace as the graphics are updated in a short instant, and speed, as in real life, is dependent on the terrain. If you are ascending in thick wood, you will be puffing and panting - not too strenuous from your armchair!
The orienteering feature of the game is excellent in itself; but further to that you may use the program to chart the vast areas which surround the printed map on the cover. Calling up the menu at any time you can get exact co-ordinates of your position (but using it in orienteering will affect your final results). Provision is made for drawing out contour and terrain maps of any area you specify, and a routine is provided to detect any point features in a given sector.
With these many features you will be able to construct maps similar to the cover map, but be warned - it's a major task! If all this is not satisfying enough, there is a facility for displaying cross sections of the landscape and, better still, constructing a 3D view with these cross sections of any given area!
The Forest certainly makes a change from the usual arcade or even adventure games. It also points the way to better adventure games. Based on the graphical display of the terrain and the actual technique of movement (in paces in any direction) the games player could be living in a fictitious and weird fantasy world of a 10 square kilometres or so. A vast area to explore.
Given the added thrill of self-propelled adventure characters, living their own lives in this vast area, similar to the Hobbit characters, and visually better point features such as caves, castles, dungeons, forest huts and so on, you could be moving in a total fantasy world. Now if someone were to combine these features with a brilliant plot and with cartoon-like moving characters such as in Valhalla, you could be in Adventure Land...
THE FOREST, showing some of the symbols used throughout the program.
One of the facilities offered is the drawing of 3D sections of the landscape.