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US Gold Ltd
Canvas
1987
Adventure: Graphic
£8.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Alkatraz Protection System

29
Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

Okay, don't anybody try to leave the page until I've finished this review!It's taken a lot of hard detective work to get this far, sure as my name's Sherlock Hughes.

All you trainee gumshoes should pull on your gumboots and trench coats for one of the most original games you're likely to see this year. What Psi-5 Trading did for outer space, Killed Until Dead does for the inner workings of the criminal mind - but it does it even better.

That means it won't take a Marlowe to realise that US Gold has succeeded in translating a disk-style game, of the sod that's big business in the States, into a two cassette format. The only drawback is that it all loads in several parts and you've time to make several cups of coffee if you choose one of the more advanced adventures. But until the +3 establishes itself you'll just have to put up with those caffeine overdoses.

The plot is classic thriller stuff, with a knife in the back and a tongue in the cheek. A selection of ever-so-slightly psychotic mystery writers are gathered together for a meeting of the Midnight Murder Club, so called because on the stroke of twelve there'll be a dirty deed as an author passes on to that great publishing house in the sky.

It's up to you, as Hercule Holmes, to discover who's going to do whom with what and where... and you'll need to know why as well before you can bring the killer to justice. It's all a bit like Cluedo, as you gather clues and eliminate suspects by a process of deduction. In play, though, it's nothing like a board game... or an adventure or anything you've ever seen. All the action takes place from your desk because you're a hi-tech'tec, but that doesn't stop you getting about.

Luckily the instructions provide you with a smooth path into police procedure, so providing you use the PAUSE key (P) liberally to stop time slipping away while you read the next stage, you should be able to piece together the easier plots.

Start by reading the files on each character and, as well as picking up hints on personal animosities, you'll find some clues to the program writers' sense of humour. They're guilty of taking the classics of detective fiction less than seriously and of an odd strain of salacious wit. Some of the gags really slayed me!

The next step in an investigation is surveillance, which entails checking that one of the writers' rooms is empty, then answering a trivia question. If you fail you're barred from the room for ten minutes.

Once inside, various clues appear on screen and are recorded in your notebook for ready reference from the main desk screen. You'll probably find details of meetings, which may occur in the bedrooms or public areas of the hotel, You can either pry on them in person or set one of the three pre-sets on your tape recorder to get the details, which are again logged in your files. Eventually you'll have picked up enough information from snooping and the incoming phone calls, which are often anonymous, to start questioning. On first contacting a suspect you have to drop a remark that lets them know you've been in their room. As with all the questioning this is done via joystick selection of multiple choice statements.

Once you've shocked them into rapping it's time to start the squeeze, watching the animated face which will warn you if you're on the right track. Information is automatically recorded and can be sorted in any of the key categories, so that you can slowly unravel the plan.

You'll soon be ready to make an accusation, and if you get the right details you'll have to suggest the motive, based on what you've seen and heard. You're a hero if you get it right, but a wrong accusation results in a shadowy figure shooting you!

For a brain-game this is amazingly involving as you try to find where people are meeting, check your files and answer the phone, all before you have the sadistic satisfaction of seeing little old lady Agatha Maypole turn white when you quiz her about the axe handles in her bedroom!

Obviously it'll lose its appeal once you've solved all the cases - perhaps US Gold could put out extra data tapes? - but there are so many included that it'll take some time before you can brag, 'Elementary, my dear Spectrum,' with any real sense of conviction. So, there's only one possible solution... It would be a crime not to make Killed Until Dead a megagame!

Probably the best detective game ever. Take on the weird suspects and wild humour of this wholly original brainteaser.

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Screenshot Text

Your study is the main control screen, using the hand as a cursor. From left to right, Surveillance lets you spy on suspects and set the tape recorder; the Phone receives tip-offs and is used to question or accuse; Notes log everything you've discovered so far; and the Files contain details of the crime writers. The clock reminds you that time's ticking away...

Well, if it's not Sydney and Agatha in the Hall for their 3 o'clock encounter. Though these rendezvous only produce one line of chat for each character, they can be invaluable. If you can't make a meeting set the tape recorder so that you can play it back at your leisure.