Artic Computing is a company that made its name with its very popular yet difficult range of adventures. This adventure differs from the A-F series in its friendliness and extensive use of examine, and in its making use of The Quill.
The adventure is based upon the events leading up to a nuclear attack on Britain. International tension is at its greatest for many years and conventional armed conflict may well spill over into a full scale nuclear confrontation. law and order is breaking down and those who are to survive face a tough battle in the remaining few moments of confusion and chaos. To set the scene the program reminds you this is an adventure which one day we may well all have to face for real.
Nuclear war is a harrowing thought and to strike home the idea the game has a suitably nauseating loading screen wit a large flashing detonation plume. Stare at this screen too long and you could become a psychotic civil defence volunteer.
You find yourself in the lounge of a typical suburban semi with floral wallpaper, foam-cushioned three piece, ornaments and a television, which, if it is your wish to turn it on, provides a tricky first problem. The game professes to be verb/noun but I'll save you some time if I tell you that on this occasion the program treats television as the verb and the next word as a proposition. I don't mind being so heavy-handed with this due because a good adventure should go far beyond simple word-matching. Once you have the television on it receives a news bulletin which gives you the dues to your survival. These loosely follow those given in that suspect government handbook which has had us all lavishly furnishing our broom cupboards. There's a humorous end to the message - 'There now follows a cartoon'. Sadly the picture fades before you can check to see whether it's vintage Tom & Jerry or not.
No sooner do you leave the entrance hall outside the lounge when the phone rings. Recent research suggests that the phone rings either when we're in the bath or when we are doing things like hurrying around collecting items for a makeshift nuclear shelter before the bomb drops. More research suggests we need more phones around the house but another solution is not to have one at all and this turns out to be the case here. A mechanical voice says 'Normal telephone services have been discontinued. Please refer to public broadcasts for further information.' Better start looking for a battery for that radio right away.
The first few frames of the game have you searching the house using examine extensively whereupon you soon obtain most of the items mentioned in the TV announcement. Other items you come across are believable, everyday items you might find around the home are refreshingly useful objects such as knives, banknotes and food rations. These objects are sensibly disposed about your abode with a knife in the kitchen and a mattress in the bedroom.
Moving around outside the house is more fraught with danger as a trip out on the bicycle will soon prove. It's chaotic outside with troops everywhere trying to impose some semblance of order and many directions you attempt end in displays or an early exit.
Ground Zero is a Quilled, text-only adventure with a harrowing theme. Like myself you may find the theme uninspiring as the thought of building a small, poky shelter in the home is probably the largest single factor to explain why most people would rather not survive a nuclear attack. However, survive you must in this game and once the task is taken up the story flows along if not merrily, then consistently enough to have you thinking on just how you might build a shelter were the worst to happen. The extensive use of examine, clear presentation and believable plot make this a fine adventure - if you can stomach the theme.
Input Facility: Verb/Noun
Response: Very fast
General Rating: Good
The 'nauseating' title screen from GROUND ZERO.