It's not much fun, being a hunchback in medieval Paris. Especially when dastardly Cardinals keep on kidnapping your girlfriend.
Hunchback - The Adventure is the third game from Ocean to feature the exploits of Quasimodo. If you managed to jump, duck and weave enough in the last two arcade efforts, you might be forgiven for thinking that rescuing Esmeralda was going to be simply a matter of joystick control and superb timing.
You'd be wrong. This is a proper text and graphics adventure.
It isn't small either. Over 100K of code and data. That massive programming feat is divided into three separate parts, each of which needs a Load to itself.
Part 1 finds you, as Quasimodo, desperately lurching your way through the gothic surroundings of the cathedral of Notre Dame, trying to avoid the guards the Cardinal has out hunting for you.
Part 2, which you can't get to until you've finished Part 1, involves a little trip through the underworld - under Paris - to the Cardinal's mansion. And in Part 3 you have to beat the Cardinal, rescue Esmeralda, and escape.
As I have yet to finish Part 1, I can't give you any first hand information on what the other two parts entail, but I'll tell you what I have managed to do.
The top third or so of the screen is a graphics window which shows you, at first, a general view of the location you are presently in.
Superimposed on the right-hand side of the graphics window, you will see the various objects you are carrying.
The effect looks a bit like an advent calendar with only a few windows opened, and a rather odd choice of icons behind. There is space for up to six objects in this area of the graphics window. This is all you can carry.
On the left-hand side of the graphics, you get an event window. When something interesting happens, like an evil guard attacks you, you get an appropriate picture. For example, if you get into a fight with a guard, you see a little strip cartoon fight, all flailing arms and legs, and suitable 'sound effect' words like Biff, Bop and Bite.
The graphics are unexpectedly effective and quite unusual to look at.
Below the graphics window, you have the text. Orders are of the by now familiar two-word verb/noun sort, or you can shorten to n. s, nw etc for movement.
On the whole the location descriptions are pretty good, and are supplemented by the graphics. There is also a considerable amount of humour.
The Spectrum's character set has been redesigned for the game, and is suitably Gothic. Unfortunately, while it looks great, it is sometimes very difficult to read.
So far I have mapped about 30 locations, although I've been to at least another half dozen. I've made my way from 'Chez Quasimodo', down through the belfry (taking in a side trip on the roof where I found a sharp object), wandered round the catwalks spanning the roof of the Cathedral, then down the main staircase to the high altar. I've rolled in the aisles, peeked in the choir stalls, visited two chapels and unearthed the Bishop in his library.
I've also killed innumerable guards - the first with the dagger I found on the roof, the rest with the short sword I took off the body. With a dagger you have to get in two good blows before guards drop, but with the sword you only need one. It can get a bit dull, squaring off against the fifth guard. While I've been wounded countless times (well, at least six) I don't seem to have fallen over yet.
I haven't been able to find that many problems yet - at least, none of the classic locked door, monster that won't let you pass, falling portcullis type. I can't help feeling that I must be missing something obvious.
The thing that's really taxing my brain right at the moment is how to kill the Bishop - nothing seems to touch him!
I've found enough books to stock a small library (and don't drop them around the Bishop - he'll put them on the shelves and you'll never find them again), including a bible, a book on bellringing for the deaf, a black magic treatise and a cook-book. None of them have proved to be any use to me, as every time I try to read them I'm told I'm not smart enough! I've also nicked a crucifix, a candle, a lantern and a net and I haven't been able to work out what the heck to do with them either.
The problem with Hunchback - the Adventure is that there doesn't seem to be enough to do. I suspect that I should be using the book on black magic to raise a demon, which at some point I'll probably have to get rid of using the old exorcism routine of bell, book and candle. I'm also pretty certain that the way out of Part 1 is via the crypt and into the catacombs, but I haven't been able to find any steps down yet.
One difficulty with the game, incidentally, is that it doesn't always tell you about all the exists available from a location. In the library, for example, you aren't told any exits yet you can go north and east. Nor is this the only time this happens. If it's deliberate, then it's laziness - a good adventure writer creates problems according to the rules, not by cheating on what he tells the player.
What I have seen is a fairly decent introductory adventure, and I'm sure that those people who buy it on the strength of the first two Hunchback arcade games, and who haven't played adventure games before, will enjoy it.
For the hardened adventurer, the other two parts are going to have to be a lot better. Not that I didn't enjoy it - the graphics, with their comicbook feel, hold your interest and there's plenty to explore.
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Over 100K of adventure with interesting graphics let down by unsatisfying gameplay. Still great value.
The graphics are very unusual. Though sometime difficult to figure out. THe redefined character set give the program a strong gothic feel.