Life is all romance and roses for Amora. Daughter of Lord Senidea and heiress to the kingdom of Nulom, she is engaged to her childhood sweetheart Amanton. Fiancé and father haven't exactly been on the best of terms so when the evil sorceror Mallumo indicates that he is about to declare war, Amanton rushes off in a valiant attempt to sort him out. Amanton is no he-man - in fact he's a bit of a wimp and it's not much of a surprise when the ransom note arrives. While the enraged Senidea rallies his army and charges off, the aged Sajo suggests that Amora seek help from the magical powers of the legendary Jade Stone.
Amora's journey, which is divided into two parts, begins in the comparative comfort of her father's palace and winds via a couple of villages, a forest, a marsh and a seemingly impassable canyon to the final showdown in Mallumo's castle. To fit all the text into 48K, only some of the locations have graphics. Although carefully drawn, they're hardly elaborate but definitely contribute that little extra to the atmosphere of the game.
The descriptions are characterised by a wry, humorous tone. The EXAMINE command is particularly rewarding and very often initiates a pithy, light-hearted response. Your dad turns out to be 'plump, short-tempered but generally harmless and extremely thick' while before your very eyes, the white-haired Sajo is 'getting older by the minute'.
Amora encounters many travellers on her intrepid quest and a little measure of interaction is necessary with all of them. This is where the casting of a woman as the hero becomes particularly interesting. Success depends on a strange mixture of feminism and femininity. Unlike Amanton, Amora isn't afraid of a little sword-play (she can more than hold her own when it comes to fighting a battle) but she lives in a world where (quite realistically) brain is as important as brawn: she often has to fall back on qualities of intelligence and compassion - what some people might call feminine intuition! Suffice it to say that it's a good idea to take a needle as well as a sword on your travels…
In fact, the puzzles are fairly straightforward (with some rather complex plot twisting towards the end) and very suitable for beginners. Typing HELP often provides you with a useful clue and if you're on the right track to a solution but haven't got it quite right, the Program almost always tells you. Time and co-operation arc of the essence. Dither for too long over a problem and you may find that both lover and dad have been crushed before you've even had a chance to save them.
The PAWed parser accepts complex input and responds fairly well to different wordings of a particular command. There are the odd limitations but they're hardly the sort to bring you to a grinding halt as you flounder for the right words. Interesting use has been made of adverbs. Rush into action without a moment's thought and you may not succeed: behave with a little more care and, who knows, all your problems may be solved? Like Cloud 99, which gained 75% last month, The Jade Stone (which has been around for a while now but for various reasons never reviewed) is an extremely refreshing and playable adventure. Its unusual and light-hearted tone should appeal to beginners and veteran adventurers alike. At £2.95 it's the sort of bargain you can't afford to miss. Contact Marlin Games at 19 Briar Close, Nailsea, Bristol, BS191QG.
The local down and out in The Jade Stone proves to be a mine of information - for a price...