Come on, admit it - you thought I'd drag out all the (gn..) puns, didn't you? Well, gno way am I... Oophs.
You'll have to have a strong stomach for such wit to play Level 9's new adventure Gnome Ranger - its first for ages. Level 9 manages to squeeze every ounce of life (or death) out of the joke.
The player's role is that of Ingrid Bottomlow of Gnettlefield. After attending the institute of Gnome Economics (I did warn you), she returns home in time to be given the order of the Gnomic Boot in the best Gnome tradition, that is by receiving a Magic Scroll which has the effect of teleporting her many, many leagues from Gnettlefield...
The three-part adventure concerns your efforts, as Ingrid, to return home.
In each part, there's a different problem to be solved, as well as a different overall theme. In the first, the Evil Witch's Cottage blocks the way home, so she must be defeated. The theme here is Animal.
The second part is Vegetable, and so vegetables play a large part in solving the Riddle of the Shrinking Teaplant, while the third part is mineral, involving the return of precious stones.
Each part is fairly small. In the first story, for example, I've counted 30-odd locations, and many of these are described with little more than 'a grass plain'. Level 9 has used a favourite device to increase the apparent size of the map, and included circular exits in some locations which will keep returning players to the same location. There is also the obligatory maze.
'Pseudo intelligent characters', are a heavily advertised feature of the adventure.
Though not so much of an original feature as Level 9 would like us to believe, you'll have to enlist the services of most of these characters to solve the puzzles, and it pays to think deeply about the attributes of each creature.
I didn't find these creatures particularly intelligent - they are there when you need them, react as they should once you know what they want (and they'll usually tell you) and wander about the landscape. Poor old Thorin was doing all that, many years ago.
Commands are comprehensive - all the usual ones like Examine and Inventory are present along with Again, which repeats a command. Wait (a certain number of moves) and Brief and Verbose, which control the amount of text description you see.
The 128K version contains others like Ramsave and Oops (take back the last command).
Neither version has the digitised graphics which adorn some other machine versions.
The puzzles are in fact not very complex, consisting largely of the traditional object manipulating.
Despite the fact that the atmosphere in the adventure is largely conjured up by all the puzzle solving rather than any scene-setting, all the juggling with objects and characters tends to hide this fact, hoodwinking the player into believing that more is going on than is actually the case.
Despite some minor niggles it's great to have an all-new Level 9 title at last - displaying the same sense of gentle humour, plays on words and situation setting that made the earlier games so captivating. And it's certainly been a long time coming.
It's not the best thing Level 9's ever done. It's not any major step forward for adventure game technology, either.
But it's great to have them back.
Label: Level 9
Joystick: Not applicable
Reviewer: Tony Bridge
So good to see Level 9 back again - with a return (after Mole) to its traditional adventure roots. Few innovations.
HINTS AND TIPS
Ingrid gnever got anywhere without making friends.She gnever believed everything she read!She wasgn't always kind to animals!She gnever seemed to get hungry.And she could whistle for help!
Waterday 6th Juniper
Institute of Gnome EconomicsI do gnot gnormally keep a diary, but this was given to me as a leaving present, and it would be a shame to waste it.This will be the only entry that I shall write at the Institute. Tomorrow I shall catch the stage coach for Little Moaning and will be home at Gnettlefield Farm the day after.