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1987
Adventure: Graphic
£9.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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83
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

Grange Hill. How I used to love it! Dear ole Basser, Wodger, Codger, Bosser, Dodger and all the rest of the gang.

The real life! The teenage problems!! The romance!!! The computer game?

Now that, you have to admit, is a pretty odd licencing deal - even by the BBC's standards.

Quicksilva has got the deal and has produced the game.

And it's pretty odd. It's a mixture of adventure game text input, animated graphic action and menu and window option selections.

You play out an exciting plot in which you have to retrieve a Walkman from the locked school. It features a strong socially responsible line on teenage subjects (well drugs anyway). At an early part of the game you have to say 'no' to a drugs pusher (a man in a peculiar overcoat - always a strong sign).

Parts of the game are essentially arcade game tests - jumping over things, climbing down ladders and the like. In other ways the game is played like, say, Spellbound where you see an object, choose to pick it up using a menu system, select Examine to find out what it is and select Use if you want to use it - using the right object at the right time is obviously the test.

You are Gonch (for Gonch read Bilbo Baggins) and Holo, your school chum, is Thorin. And he acts like Thorin who, you may remember, frequently slowed up the action in The Hobbit by sitting down and signing about Gold.

Hollo just gets fed up and won't move until you plead with him. The pleading can take a while since frequently Holo says things like 'right' to your pleadings and then proceeds to ignore you.

Oh, and there's a time limit - you have to get the Walkman back before midnight - the current time is shown in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.

There are some curious anomalies in the game. One instantaneous ending is when you trip over a paving stone on the third screen. Not only is it a bit much that such a thing ends the game, it seems that Hollo can just walk over it (you have to perform a curiously straight legged leap).

As you play the game some good points emerge. The various kinds of action - typed instructions, menu selection and graphic action - interact very well and, at its best, Grange Hill is one of the best attempts at taking text adventure style puzzles and turning them into real actions.

The graphics are, well, OKish in a simple sort of way. Some of the backgrounds are pretty simple but they are functional enough I guess. The central animated characters of Gonch and Hollo are better than stick insects - quite like the schoolboys in Skool Daze only bigger.

But you'd better be into the puzzles aspects of the game if you're really going to get a lot out it.

The end result is pretty difficult to summarise. Imagine a mixture of Spellbound, The Hobbit and Skool Daze and you've got some idea.

Certainly Grange Hill is nothing like a dodo. I think if you like Spellbound style games or you're really into the characters of Grange Hill (anybody?) you'll like this I guess.

I felt a bit undecided. In some ways - for example the interaction of the different command systems and the windowing - the game is very clever and sophisticated. In others - some of the graphics - it looks a bit cheap and shoddy. Look before you buy anyway.

Label: Argus
Author: Assorted
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

****

A curious mixture of adventure and arcade game. Some good puzzles should give it some appeal.

4/5