BODKIN SOFTWARE is the cover name for two young adventure writers, Craig Davies and Mark Hale. Using the old-style Quill they produced their first version of Murder Hunt sometime last year and got a short review in one of the weekly computer comics.
A few people bought the game, a text-only adventure, and Bodkin has now tried to sharpen the presentation with the aid of The Patch, introducing some sound effects and screen colour.
In the remote hamlet of Keggly dwells Father Paddy Murphy, stereotypical priest of St Ivan the Terrible church. One day, whilst the good-hearted pastor is fixing a hole where the rain gets in his church, the idyllic peace of this country backwater is shattered by a scream of pure terror.
In the graveyard below Paddy sees the body of his gravedigger George and goes down to investigate. George has been brutally murdered and a newspaper beside his body reveals that a "homicidal murderer" - well he would be, wouldn't he - has gone over the wall at nearby Studmore Prison. The last report was that he was heading in the general direction of Keggly.
Obviously he has now arrived and his bloody footprints lead away from the graveyard into the woods around the village. Paddy sets off in pursuit and the hunt is on.
The plot is straightforward but the game is reasonably complicated. You begin your search in the churchyard and, after acquiring a few objects of uncertain use, head off into the wilds of Keggly and its neighbouring parishes to find the dastardly and cold-blooded killer.
A second killing awaits your attention down the lane. A search of the victim's clothing will give you a useful magic charm but you will have to spend some time quartering the fields, farmhouses and stately homes to get through to the murderer's hiding place. There are locked gates to break through, stone circles to investigate and a number of red herrings and pitfalls - literally - to negotiate.
The inhabitants of Keggly are not all predictable either - the reclusive aristocrat who lives in Haley Hall is quite likely to do you in if you trespass on his property and his servants are just as violent if you don't mind your manners. The tenant of the windmill up on the hill is thoroughly unpleasant and the only really nice person is the deaf old lady who runs the village shop. When you're totally stuck just remember that she will sell you absolutely anything you need provided you've got the cash for it - otherwise forget it.
You'll come a cropper many times before you capture the murderer. When you do find him you will have to return him to a suitable place of imprisonment before the game is over - that too has its problems, so don't be over-confident.
There are about 75 locations with good descriptions and plenty of action in a non-linear scenario. The countryside has a real feel to it: "You are at the top of 'Satan's Footstool'. In the centre of the hill is one large stone which is surrounded by 20 rectangular stones which have stood there since prehistoric times. They are known as Hell's-End Stones and are laden with superstition."
Messages too are atmospheric: "The charm is made of silver and is suspended on a silver chain. It is shaped like a moon with a sword of sacrifice sticking in the left side. This insignia is often attributed to black magic."
Touches like this give the game a high level of playability. Clues and objects are scattered far and wide and the game is carefully written with a certain macabre relish for the subject matter.
All told this game is good value and certainly comes top when compared to the other budget software reviewed this month. If you fancy a Murder Hunt you could do a lot worse than sending your £2.50 to Bodkin Software, 16 Carr Lane, Hambleton, Blackpool FY6 9AZ.
Publisher: Bodkin Software
Price: £2.50 inc. p&p