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Stephen Preston
Stephen Preston
1986
Adventure: Text
£6.50
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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78
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

A curious game this one, but I felt I must review it as it fares well when compared to the heaving mounds of poor quality cassettes I receive each month. Adventuring, more than any other area of games- playing, seems to attract the program yet to be signed up, or worse, sold only by mail order with no hope of being taken on by one of the big boys. Could I take the opportunity here to dissuade anyone thinking of writing an adventure who has not got any original ideas to contribute - even with humour, the old torch-plank-hole adventure with no interactive characters just isn't going to get anyone interested enough to buy it in sufficient numbers to justify the time and energy devoted to writing it.

The Prisoner is curious because it is put out by a person with no company name (no big crime this as many adventure houses centre around a single programmer). Further, LOAD "" CODE is used to load it and, well, that really takes me back to the early days. What is unclear is whether the author has had express permission to use the copyright for the TV series. Up to a year ago, large entertainment companies were determined to stop unauthorised versions of their programs/books being used by small computer companies, but perhaps now they have become more lenient, I don't know.

This game acknowledges the copyright without saying whether or not it has been granted by ITC Entertainments, the owners of The Prisoner TV series. The reason why I labour this point is because of one or two similar games appearing over the last year or so which have clearly not obtained copyright and yet survived whereas any transgression by very small games in the early days tended to be met by a letter winging its way from some huge Hollywood film company. If large companies have decided to turn a blind eye to small games which digress from standard behaviour then this is only sensible as such games represent little threat, and if they do, they can always be officially endorsed!

The story of The Prisoner goes like this. You resign from your job in the secret service, but someone somewhere doesn't like it, and so they put you away (once a spy, always a spy?). You are abducted and wake up in a strange village filled with other people taken out of circulation. None have names, just numbers. You are Number Six. The village has a chairman and he is Number Two. His efforts to break you are not very successful, but then, neither are your attempts to escape. But one day the chairman hatches a plan to make you reveal your secrets whilst reading a fairy tale to some of the children in the village. You go to the nursery to see the children. There you find a storybook with pictures - a game of cricket, a boxing match, a village, a plane and a lighthouse. You start reading, forming a story from the pictures, but beware, Number Two is watching.

The aim of this game (The Girl Who Was Death) is to track down a mad professor called Schnipps whose intent, in best mad scientist tradition, is to destroy London with a super rocket. The only way you can find and stop him is to follow his daughter (the girl of the title) to his hideout. She tries to kill you at every opportunity and can easily be recognised as she is tall and blonde, and always wears white. When you reach the hideout you have to find the rocket which is disguised as something rather peculiar and your task here is to deactivate it. There is a time limit of half an hour to complete parts One and Two of the game. When the time runs out, Schnipps launches his rocket and your mission fails.

You begin with a game of cricket. An agent who had followed this trail before you was on the trail of Schnipp's daughter but, whilst playing a game of cricket for the local team, he was suddenly killed by an exploding cricket ball, presumably swapped when the last six was scored. This is your only lead. You start play with a game of cricket to try and find out exactly what happened. It's a pleasantly warm day on the cricket pitch. Birds twitter above and the opposition has clocked up 99 runs (shown on the picture). And ... you're holding a ball which is a bomb. Hmmm, I'll leave you to work out what is the best course of action here! If you choose the unfortunate combination THROW BOMB, you are still blown up as it reports "No time for that! The ball you were carrying has exploded". This is the first of many examples of narrow, unfriendly vocabulary as the next step, GET BAT, is refused with preference going to TAKE BAT. Game play is very unhelpful a little further on when you attempt to pick up a photo and are unable to as you are already carrying too much - a bat, a watch and an umbrella! The idea of carrying a watch in this sense is illogical.

The Girl Who Was Death is a very professional looking piece of software. The pictures at the top of the screen are very good (as is the loading screen) and the redesigned character set is most pleasant and readable. Both the theme and content are very interesting and absorbing for the player.

CRITICISM

COMMENTS

Difficulty: not overly difficult
Graphics: good
Presentation: very good
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: fast
General rating: good
General Rating: Good.

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