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P.J.R. Harkin
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

The Key To Time is Lumpsoft's first adventure and is all about a time traveller who was all the rage when people used to watch television. The loading screen shows a picture of a police box and funny little robots with a bad case of metallic pimples and tunnel vision compounded by the position of their only eye on the end of a stalk.

Apparently it is a bad time for time travellers what with time storms distorting travel coordinates which might lead anywhere and it proves imperative that someone recovers the object that can dispel the storms for good. At a meeting of the High Council of Time Lords one senior member asked, 'Who can dispel the' time storms?' But this was taken as a command by the others and so you, The Doctor, ended up with the job.

On your first attempt at the game it's better to ask for HELP rather than STARTing straight off so you can gather some useful information. 'In this adventure you must guide your earlier persona by sending him messages through this Time Lord telepathic controller, cunningly disguised as a Sinclair Spectrum.' Here you are told of the game's intricacies including a timely list of recommended verbs including a general HELP, a more specific HELP (TIMESCANNER) and WAIT. The HELP is not as useful as it could be because it only results in a random selection from three or four phrases, one of which reads 'Never eat anything bigger than your head, ' a saying reminiscent of the work parodied by Lumpsoft's next program to be released, Malice in Wonderland. The other, more specific help command is very useful in that constructions like HELP (DALEK) give encyclopaedic information information concerning a certain object or creature, eg. cybermen are allergic to gold. I really do like this kind of encyclopaedic reference material as it was what we all thought computers were about, indeed what they are good at, until the limitations of micro memory become apparent. In this respect, I can't wait to see what adventure games the QL can produce. The WAIT command begins mimicking The Hobbit but soon departs with an amusingly prolonged diversion.

The vocabulary is very friendly with constructions such as GO (TARDIS) and ENTER (CRACK) equally helpful and the plot is similarly responsive; everything can be examined and if you look at the screen you find The Tardis materialised. Atmosphere: breathable. ' Swearing will bring the wrath of Mary Whitehouse down upon your head leaving you to regenerate into your next persona, perhaps this time the chap who is a trifle absent-minded and plays a pipe.

Time travel is the core of the game and if you find play relatively easy as I did, then you will proceed quite quickly through the five time zones, although you may well use up a few of the Doctor's characters. Moving through the likes of Daleks and Cybermen you arrive at Gallifrey where you enter, presumably, the final stages around the president's office. If the game's tricky moments hinder progress then you may have time to ponder on the difficulty of getting any score higher than 0 or how to travel from one time zone to another in the Tardis, an operation which involves a tricky combination of lever pulling and button pressing. The Key To Time is a very worthy effort from Lumpsoft combining a friendly response with an Interesting plot and amusing interludes. A text-only Quilled game with a familiar theme but very well executed.


Difficulty: mostly easy
Graphics: none
Presentation: very good
Input facility: verb/noun, pretends to be more complex but other words are ignored
Response: very fast
General Rating: Good.