With dozens of reviewers all ready to unleash comments along the lines of 'a load of bells', 'goes like the clappers' and 'gives me the hump', here comes Ocean's adventure follow-up to its two successful arcade games. What I want to know, though, is how could they resist the temptation to call it The Hump Strikes Back?
The game comes in three parts, plus a core program which has to be loaded first. And naturally enough you need to solve each part in succession before going on to the others.
They've gone all out to make the text as jokey as possible, a sort of Humpstead, and you begin part one chez Quasi, a semi-detached hovel with all the charm of a sewage farm. Quasimodo's quest is to rescue Esmerelda, and you're told that first you must escape from Notre Dame itself, then part two will see if you can find your way underneath Paris (obviously a sewer-side mission) to the Cardinal's mansion, where part three takes place.
The graphics window at the top of the screen promises much - it has pictures of the objects you pick up added to it, and the occasional change of picture within a location, but with no clearly defined area for each part of the picture the overall result is just a mess. Some of the fight sequence illustrations are quite amusing, though.
Those fight sequences are my first niggle though. As you map out the first part, you continually encounter guards who attack you. Your part in the proceedings is to type ATTACK GUARD or STAB GUARD several times in succession, till eventually the guard pegs out. Combat sequences are all very well, but the program doesn't respond to SCORE, STRENGTH or STATUS, so you have no idea what your own strength is - if indeed there's a counter for strength in the program at all. After a few plays, no guard had managed to kill me, though when I tried STAB GUARD one time I did get the interesting response "Your attack fails! You have killed the guard!" Pardon? This bit is really tedious, and when I came across the third guard in three successive locations I thought it was time to check the swear-word routine (but it doesn't have one.)
Nor does it have a help routine, as typing HELP results in "There's no verb in that sentence." Funny, I thought help was a verb. After so long in production, it's annoying to see so many faults in the game. Some exits that exist in the text don't exist in reality, such as the blacksmith's showroom where you're told "Exits are down and southwest." Type DOWN and "You can't go in that direction."
Major drawback to me, though, was when, after about thirty minutes' play (twenty-nine of them spent typing ATTACK GUARD) I discovered I'd finished the first part! There I was, thinking I'd actually found my first real problem at last, how to deal with the bishop in the library, and when I solved it I was on my way to part two! On an action replay I managed to get the solution time down to five minutes! The guards are always in the same places and you can easily avoid more of them.
Part two takes you straight into a maze, and you're not allowed to take enough objects through from part one to enable you to map it properly, so your time here is spent shifting things about to work out which exits lead where. Tedious. This is where I pulled the plug on the game, deciding my Spectrum had done nothing to deserve being treated so badly. Give me the arcade version any day.