Starlight Software
1987
Arcade: Adventure
£8.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

28,29
John Gilbert
Chris Bourne

Norman the cat stumbles blindly out of his local pub and into one of the most bizarre arcade adventures ever to cross wires with the Spectrum.

At first the land Greyfell resembles the Ultimatesque exteriors of Knightlore and Alien 8, combined with an icon control system that looks as if it's been lifted from Beyond's Enigma Force.

But there the similarities end. The game is a wickedly sarcastic comment on heroic fantasy where 'umble 'eroes battle darkhearted demons.

The nearest you'll get to an 'umble 'ero is Norman. The great wizard Hitormis, tells you of how the land of Greyfell was plunged into darkness when Mauron, the Evil One, stole the precious orb of light. Peace and love have been banished forever from the land. Anyway, that's enough plot. Basically its incomprehensible tosh - and intended to be so. I suppose you ought to know there's an Orb too which needs to be returned to its proper place in the Cup of Sorrows.

Greyfell is absolutely chock-full of seemingly useless objects some protected by medieval security systems, huts with seemingly useless interiors, and seemingly endless tree clusters.

You'll never walk alone in Greyfell. Not for long. There are five goodies and eight types of baddie. A simple artificial intelligence routine makes the goodies talk through speech bubbles - a technique first used in Imagine's Movie - while baddies remain silent, but deadly if they get too close.

Greyfell's characters talk in riddles and spout on about their standard of living and what they need to survive. Offalorien, the shifty spy, for instance, says 'Fruit 4 me'. When you come across a strawberry, perhaps, pick it up and look for shifty. Maybe he'll give you something in exchange to help you with your quest.

You pick up objects, choose Zap spells and use them with the icon-control system. It's slightly unwieldy and, when baddies are badgering you, almost impossible to use.

The Zap icon is easy to use, you just press Fire twice and the current spell wends its way slowly towards the enemy. If your luck holds - and it's the right spell - it'll hit the baddie and destroy it. More than likely, however, the spell will float over its head and it'll get even more angry.

The other icons are more of a pain to use. You have to flip through four of them and press the Fire key to pick up an object. That would be OK but if several rats are making you feel as if you're the minced meat in a sandwich you can't do anything but defend yourself and loose energy.

Only the right type of spell will destroy first magnitude monsters - wolves, killer tomatoes and cat-eating, fish-headed plants, but a good fist-clobbering will do for some of the lower life forms among the dark lord's denizens. Just hit the Fire button and Norman hits his foe. You will, of course, have to be within striking distance and you'll have to get in one or two good thumps before the baddie's blitzed and all the while you'll be in danger of losing one of your nine lives.

Greyfell is one big trap. You can fall down pot holes into useless dungeon locations. You can step on pressure pads which catapult you into the arms of fish-head plants. Or get pinned between walls which pop out of thin air.

The walls are there to protect some of the more important objects. When you step toward them, over an invisible boundary, they build brick by brick and, unless you've worked out which spell to use you'll just have to give up and go on searching for cup and orb.

Very rarely do two cliches put together make an original game, but Greyfell is an exception. And who cares if it's filched bits and pieces from Enigma Force, Knightlore, Alien 8, Fairlight, Marble Madness the Holy Grail...

Label: Starlight
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: John Gilbert

*****

Humorous fantasy combined with a strong, heroic quest, set in a Knightlorish world.

5/5