As you are now probably aware I do not live in Hampstead. You have searched every bistro and boutique but to no avail. Although Adventure Trail appeals to the AB group (top socio-economic assemblage in the epi-fauna) I have not succumbed to embarrassed recognition in high society but instead stand unaffected in the cool northern rain waiting for the occasional omnibus and knowing only too well that here it's all about where you bought your flat cap and how deep is the froth on your beer. For more ostentatious affectations one must move south.
You set off as a nobody somewhere in north-west London (i.e., nowhere) watching an undemanding, insubstantial, feeble-minded, spontaneously exciting, light entertainment show, 3-2-1! On the dole with no money and the corollary, no friends, you sit in your dingy council flat torn between viewing the non-stop entertainment on Nor following the clouds of smoke from your window as they belch toward you from the local power station. You can look forward to a life of lying, cheating, stealing and defrauding as you scheme your way to Hampstead but for now you must busy yourself with the task of finding that UB40 card. Should you, in real life, be Hampsteaded, or simply exist in nonplussed brain death in Surbiton, the booklet gives exact details concerning the card's use and the elaborate etiquette that surrounds it, such as, queue orderly and don't sleep throught the part where your name is called. The problem is you must attain Hampstead but think it unlikely you'll find many friends in Hampstead dole office.
Indeed, subsequent research proves this line of reasoning correct. Denizens of Hampstead fill their time with occupations that have them cast as critics, playwrights, architects and designers, actors and academians, some of whom, like yourself at the start of this adventure, were nobodies living nowhere. To go up in the world you try to gain the admiration and respect of your fellow man, and there's more to it than a fat bank balance. In Hampstead it helps to give the impression you know something of art and to be seen in the right places, with the right people and wearing the right clothes. Be careful not to be flamboyant - it's unseemly to be seen as a social climber in Hampstead so you had better settle there only when you have everything you need.
It helps to know something of London even if it's just the sites found on a monopoly board. You choose your route from the following: St. John's Wood, Richmond, West End, Covent Garden, Waterloo, The City, King's Cross and Cambridge. This isn't as easy as it looks as a pleasant suburb may provide such comfort that it becomes too onerous to leave and you join the ranks of the malcontents who never quite made it.
What about the game itself? Much effort (alas not enough) has been expended to conceal its use of The Quill, in the Spectrum version in any case, but the cursor and the distinctive R for Redescribe location are evidence enough to pinpoint the source of the program. Perhaps the changes 90 beyond the simply cosmetic, but surely if this were the case to any great extent all signatures of The Quill would have been vanquished. Quilled adventures haven't done well in the charts but this game may well prove an exception due to its uniquely funny storyline.
The adventure has opulent packaging with a sixteen page booklet and a very attractive casing. It sees itself as suitable for a wide range from beginner to experienced, taking several weeks to complete. The '100% machine code' reflects its Quilled origins. The loading screen depicts the home of Hampstead Man which is over two hundred years old, deep within leafy suburbia surrounded by rows of neatly-clipped hedges. On the colourful sofa lounge a Pair of matching Afghan hounds.
As you set off on your quest you would be wise to remember what you've read in the Hampstead Booklet which gives you precise details on just how you might achieve that coveted diploma in social climbing. The help offered includes question and answer sessions. One goes like this. Q: Why do dustbins have no lids in Hampstead? A: In order that passers-by may see the week's completed Guardian crosswords stacked neatly within. The booklet is very entertaining and amusing, if not enlightening for those who know little of London society, but reaches the heart of the matter on page 10; Hampstead - what's the point: 'Everybody wants to feel superior. This feeling takes two forms. Those without money must be content to feel morally superior.
Those without morals can financially superior. But only in Hampstead is it possible to attain superiority in both. 'So now you know. It's well worth making a thorough search of the house before you leave; the lack of one item in particular will see your sudden exit from the game. You meet this sudden social death with grudging acceptance struck by the reality that you had underestimated just how peculiar social climbing can be. Careful analysis of your every movement will have you in Hampstead before you can say 'colour supplement' but any disparity will be ruthlessly exposed.
Hampstead is the most original adventure theme to appear this year and is accompanied by the wittiest book I've read in quite a while. Spectrum owners might like to note that on this occasion the Commodore 64 has acquired the better deal as its version features graphics. Despite this the Spectrum Hampstead has powerful EXAMINE and SEARCH commands which make the early stages very easy helping the occasional adventurer into what is a very amusing and enjoyable game.
Difficulty: Reasonably easy
Response: Very fast
Input Facility: Limited verb/noun
Brilliantly original and very entertaining.
Dogs for Nobs in the HAMPSTEAD twin-set and pearls game from Melbourne House.