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Activision Inc
Softstone Ltd
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K
SpeedLock 1

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Richard Price
Chris Bourne

PERHAPS Activision's cassette insert designers have become too exhausted by their efforts over World Championship Boxing or Ballblazer to spend too much time checking the accuracy of the instructions on Mindshadow, a new text adventure.

You are clearly told to enter LOAD "MIND1" to access the first part of the game. Don't bother because the program section is really called 'PART A'. Such laziness doesn't encourage either players or reviewers to adopt a positive approach and, for a game costing £7.99, comes across as pretty sloppy.

The offending insert describes the game as 'a brilliantly wrought mystery' and promises intricate challenges for novices and advanced adventurers alike, so I overcame my spleen and loaded in the preliminary instruction program to prepare myself for the excitement. That tells you how to play adventures and may be of some use to the total novice but won't really be of great interest to all you advanced types.

The game comes in two parts and you will need to complete the first to access the second. You are an amnesiac castaway stranded on a desert island. The aim is to find out who you are by visiting the locations and, at suitable points, to enter "THINK..." followed by the object or place you want to know more about. Some of your past history may then be revealed. A limited amount of help is available but it's wise to be sparing with this - only three requests will be tolerated.

Most locations have graphics. Those are colourful but take a long time to draw. That can be bypassed once you know your way around as the interpreter will understand multiple commands, allowing you to get to a particular location quickly without having to wait for the pictures.

The first half is an absolute doddle. All you have to do is rush around the island, using a map conveniently hidden in the cave, and find the correct things with which to make a fire. You'll also need a bottle of rum to bribe the pirates to rescue you. Once on their ship you need only find a way to drop anchor to board a waiting Royal Navy ship. There are very few locations so the permutations aren't very complicated. This took me about 20 minutes, without any help at all, and made me wonder just how big the second part might be.

Fortunately, the next section is a bit more complex, setting you down in the London docks area. By listening carefully to the ramblings of derelict winos you may pick up some tips on how to acquire forged air tickets to get you to Luxembourg. You will also find a bit more about who you are.

At Rick's Cafe you should take a close look at your hat to get the details of an assignation with, I presume, the hat-check girl. Regrettably the graphics showing the note inside your titfer are, as far as I'm concerned, illegible. This made the entire proceedings useless for me and I gave up in total rage after trying out many different approaches.

I wasn't too unhappy about quitting as, although the game has some good features, the plot is-not very original and follows the thriller/mystery format. I didn't get the terrible urge to continue that is the hallmark of a really good adventure.

It also seems to be rather small - the press release claims 80 screens and Part One had about 35 or so, cleared in under half an hour. All of Part Two is therefore not much bigger even if it is a little harder. I can think of many other games I'd rather spend £7.99 on, adventures which really do have intricate challenges.

Richard Price

Publisher: Activision
Price: £7.99
Memory: 48K