Players Software
Alex Williams
1986
Adventure: Text
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

52,53
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

Matt Lucas isn't a car emulsion, he's a private investigator who zips around in rr2i a red Ferrari, pulling up now and again to use it as a prop to pose against, leaning on the windscreen with gun purposefully pointed at the action (how's that for a Russell Harty introduction?).

The tough American city where this chap ekes his living is none other than the drugs capital of the States, Miami, lying luxuriously white-washed on the eastern seaboard of the sun-kissed peninsula of Florida. The curious geography of this coast probably explains how Man always seems to be strolling by the sea, as inlets, harbour walls and sand-bars allow great intimacy with the ocean (sorry folks. I can't quite seem to kick this Russell Harty flavour).

In this, the land where red smarties are banned, it's your job to infiltrate the seedy drug culture of Florida and find out what has happened to your partner in crime-fighting, John Harpinger. It seems that the poor chap has been taken hostage by a ruthless gang, therefore it's your most immediate task to follow the trail of clues to the kidnapper's hideout. Your colleagues on the precinct are Cosby, Deringer and Makepeace (I made that last one up) under the world-weary direction of Lieutenant Davis.

This program (which appears to be a GAC clone) doesn't set the world alight with innovation, but I was most impressed with its competence for such a low asking price. The location descriptions show a fine writing style, the problems are interesting (even if the solutions are unimaginative), and the program makes good use of informative EXAMINE statements to keep the game moving along. Try these two location descriptions:

`'Matt is near a T junction. Suddenly all the wealth of the city gives way briefly for the poverty of the high-rise flats', and 'Matt is outside the precinct. As he looks up at the familiar building he cannot help but think of his good friend and colleague, John Harpinger.'

These passages may seem unremarkable, but they are representative of a style which goes some way beyond the 'I am in/You can see' cliches of lesser games.

The game vocabulary is friendly without being a pushover; it might take a little while to get the right word combinations, but once achieved the correct solutions appear to be the most logical, or at least elegant. In the butcher's there's meat, which apparently must be bought with some presently non-existent money, and sawdust. EXAMINE SAWDUST gives 'Yellow and dusty. Very interesting!' while TAKE SAWDUST tells you in no uncertain terms, 'What the hell for?!' One non-standard useage is a reliance on TAKE only, with no GL I option. However, any annoyance over this omission is somewhat assuaged by the use of the abbreviation of T for TAKE.

A good many locations can be explored before the player has to do anything beyond simply mapping the adventure, and it's quite some time before the first objects begin to take on unmistakable associations. A car standing in a filling station with its petrol cap removed, a tube and a container is one of the more obvious strings of objects that no doubt can be brought to bear on the problem of getting that red Ferrari started - sadly, it just isn't going to work when it's found in the very first location.

Getting some way into the game reveals only good things, but some may gall at the very slow response times; for example SMASH VASE isn't the right way to go about making the vase you find in Phil's place useful, but it takes the program an awfully long time to look through its vocabulary to tell you this. There's also the small point of missing part of the game should you play with TEXT only (and to he quite honest, although the graphics are by no means the worst I've seen, repeating them so often allows the player to become jaundiced with their overwhelming simplicity. so playing text-only can't be ruled out). A computer lies on your desk in your office and inserting a disk (found elsewhere) causes a map to show up on the computer screen. Unfortunately you won't see this map on the TEXT option (although, admittedly, it won't take you long before you realise that you've missed something). But small niggles apart. Matt Lucas is a really tine game for the asking price.

Difficulty: easy
Graphics: average
Presentation: redesigned character set
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: sluggish

CRITICISM

General Rating: Good.

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