Lumpsoft
P.J.R. Harkin
1985
Adventure: Text
£5.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

94
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

You might remember me reviewing Lumpsoft's The Key to Time a little while back. Well, here we have their follow up marketed by Sentient Software and, whereas the first game borrowed much from a BBC television program with a time machine and a Doctor, so this borrows from an ITV program featuring Mother and Steed (giving any more makes it too easy!). Mother has decided that all new agents need a good work out on a training assignment before joining the team.

Reading a letter from Steed given you at the start, you learn that your man in the Zndrovian Embassy has been murdered and the object of the training exercise is to bring back the name of the murderer and the weapon used. A card has some questions in Zndrovian on it, a necessity, as no-one in the embassy speaks English. The embassy turns out to be a manor house and the murderer to be one of five surviving occupants. Examining the body of Count Drezisird, the murdered agent, does not prove conclusive as this excerpt from the game shows: 'He's been stabbed, strangled, poisoned, shot and hit with a blunt instrument.' This humorous aspect to the game can be more subtle as in this earlier description, 'I am standing on an immaculate lawn. The drive is to the north. I can also see: A shrubbery. Another shrubbery, only not as tall as the first, giving a sort of two level effect. A rose garden. A rabbit burrow. The rabbit must be about six feet tall, if the size of the hole is anything to go by!' Later, GET PLAQUE plays on words to give the following reply: 'You should try not brushing your teeth'.

Central to the run of things, as you might expect from the title, are some pretty weird goings on. In particular there is a strange mirror. Look into it and characters start appearing in the dining room beside you, the marble staircase cannot be surmounted with UP as previously but now requires GO STAIRS, and what's more, they don't lead to the same place they used to! Looking into the mirror again reverses all these changes.

Something I never quite managed to work out during all this is how or where to play the mysterious game called wom with the womball found in the first few frames. There again, I didn't get anywhere near finding out who committed the crime - every suspect interviewed accuses someone else. Things aren't made any easier by characters turning up in locations only after some time playing the game, like the time I played for ages before the gardener suddenly turned up in the garden.

Malice in Wonderland is an interesting adventure with some good prompts (eg I SHOW CARD TO BUTLER and the program prom is me to SHOW BUTLER THE CARD) along with some fine touches of humour. I couldn't find out who did it and I think you might find it quite a challenge also.

CRITICISM

COMMENTS
Difficulty: becomes more difficult the further you play
Graphics: none
Presentation: white on blue
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: Instant
General Rating: Original plot.

6/10
6/10
5/10
5/10
5/10