WHO needs 30 packs of pure gold acupuncture needles? Hookey stuff, without a doubt, but that won't stop you from making a deal in Minder, based on the hit TV series.
Minder puts you in Arthur's shoes with a two grand stake and a fortnight to get rich. Visit the Winchester Club to make the contacts you'll need to buy your stock, or have a chat with proprietor Dave about the doings of the Old Bill, in the person of mean, moody, Inspector Chisholm.
When you've bought the goods you want, you'll have to try and sell them to one of the many shady dealers in the manor. If they're bent, Chisholm will be after you. And there's always the aggravation of trying to get hold of Terry to do the fetching and carrying. True to form, all Arthur ever does is count the money.
The game is played out through conversations with the many characters. There are up to 35,000, identified by an identikit style of graphics to build up their faces. You can use Arthur's own brand of cockney most of the time; the program recognises much slang, although at times you have to use a specific phrase to clinch a deal. You can also play a more devious game, selling goods you don't own and then trying to pick them up cheaply before time runs out to make a killing.
It's all great fun and very much like the TV show, except in so far as Terry's life as a minder, with all the violence and confusion, is barely mentioned. Unfortunately the game is marred by the occasional bug in the interpreter, so that conversations can go off the rails, with words missed out or the wrong prices agreed on.
That tends to destroy the illusion and show up the program as rather more simple than it appears when things function properly. However, you will never get the old 'I don't understand' comments.
There is plenty of humour, particularly in the extraordinary goods you will have to buy and sell. Chisholm can be a right pain at times, and you may have to cut your losses and dump bent stock to avoid being hassled on other deals. But the roots of Minder are still those of a fairly simple trading game, and although it may sustain itself for a while, it will ultimately become boring to play.
In all fairness, Minder could have been done extremely badly indeed, and to the credit of DK'tronics and Thames TV it is not at all bad. Just a bit more care at the final stages, with a touch more variety and depth to the conversations, and it could have been a classic.