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Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

Not so much a program, more a way of country life, or perhaps a course in scriptwriting in this Level 9/Mosaic joint venture which follows the success last Christmas of the similarly styled Adrian Mole. After a quick burst of that well-known theme tune, you're straight into the multi-choice game. A few more instructions wouldn't go amiss, as although the cassette inlay is choc-a-bloc with them, nowhere are you told that you can type in commands like HELP and SCORE if you can break out of the 1/2/3 multiple-choice options (I only discovered it by typing in a nonsense input.)

SCORE in this game, where you're a trainee scriptwriter, means increasing the audience figures by a substantial amount through the decisions you make as to how the storyline should go. First of the four characters you control is Jack Woolley, owner of the Grey Gables estate amongst other things - but if you're not familiar with the Ambridge characters, don't worry. The inlay gives you potted biographies, these being essential reading if you hope to succeed. You have to make them act in character to a reasonable degree, otherwise your die-hard listeners will complain about the lack of reality and start switching off their sets.

What you're given with each character is about six or eight overlapping stories, and you've got to get the most out of them. Like Jack Woolley's trouble with the poachers. Having heard from Detective inspector Barry that a gang of ferocious poachers is operating around Ambridge and has already raided Netherbourn Park, do you (1) Patrol the woods with your faithful dog, Captain? (2) Get your gamekeeper, Tom, to patrol? or (3) offer sympathy to Lord Netherbourn? And if you're patrolling the woods and hear a cry, do you assume it's a vixen, an owl or a ferocious poacher?

Other stories revolving around Jack include worrying about his own ill-health, or that of Captain, or what to do about the shop that's running at a loss. The stories, which run in a different order each time, are also interrupted by memos from the Controller of Radio 4, or CR4 to his chums. These tell you how your listening figures are doing, and also pass on complaints from the likes of Nigel Pargetter fans complaining about his lack of involvement in the programme. If you can increase the audience by a respectable amount by the time you've been through all the stories, you can load up the next program and carry on with the other characters: Elizabeth Archer, Eddie Grundy and Nelson Gabriel.

The graphics are disappointingly chunky, but the main problem of the game is that it's very, very repetitive. In fact sometimes, like The Archers itself, it has a built-in repeat. My response? Like listening to the radio show - once is fine, a repeat you can take for the bits you missed, but repeated repeats are for registered addicts only.