Compass Software
1985
Adventure: Text
£3.25
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

95
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

This game uses every programming aid in the book but looking at the result this may not be such a bad thing. The loading screen acknowledges the use of Melbourne Draw land very nice the screen looks too) and the use of the Quill and Illustrator, along with the curious 'Patch' for the main program. As with most things it's not what you've got but what you do with it and in this instance what Compass have done isn't at all bad with some additional features not normally found on such games.

Machine code screen and sound effects are much in evidence. Telephones ring, sirens wail and the exploding screen effect which greets your untimely exit from a game will have you lumping out of your seat with fright. Should you be beaten in this way not all is lost due to a feature which greatly impressed me. This game boasts a STORE/ RECALL from memory facility which allows you to save your position using STORE before attempting anything dangerous (or silly). If the inevitable happens and you die a death then you can simply type RECALL to return you instantly to the state of play before you died. When I say entering something silly I do not include swear words which unceremoniously crash the program with no recourse to the type of joke seen in Ramjam's Valkyrie 17. The game has 130 locations (30 of which are split screen graphics), 80 objects (many illustrated by UDC's), 80 messages and a 150 word vocabulary.

You play a Professor Neil Richards who, whilst working in his laboratory at home, irradiates himself in a freak accident. Panicking, he runs out of the house and drives off down the road to his colleague's laboratory a few miles away. While speeding down the road a tyre bursts and the car swerves into a tree. Your task is to get to your colleague's house but this is made all the more difficult by two almost insurmountable obstacles. One is your size which has apparently been reduced to about that of a pen, which must be as a result of the animal miniaturization experiments you were carrying out at the time of the accident. The second difficulty is the COM 2 high-tech computer controlling your colleagues lab security. Its main task is to stop you from entering the lab, something you must do to attain the solution to your problem.

Though I liked the theme of this adventure a lot, and the presentation of the text is very smart and helpful, its vocabulary left a lot to be desired. Generally only one word set will work in any one situation (take entering the shed where all verbose attempts ended in failure while the almost idiotic IN does the trick). This can make things very difficult when the program chooses strange words (take crossing a crevasse with a twig, where CROSS TWIG is not accepted while CROSS BRIDGE is, this when there has been no mention of a bridge!). A limited and inconsistent vocabulary need not ring the death knell for a game if it makes good use of prompts (perhaps 'The twig now forms a bridge across the gap' ) but, sadly, this game makes little use of prompts. To compensate for these shortcomings the game does offer one or two refinements. Take a handle early on where TURN HANDLE gives a slightly open window, WIND HANDLE does the full job very clever I thought.

The story of this adventure is dominated by your small size and on the whole the game gives a realistic feeling of being small, for example, using an egg cosy to wrap around yourself and a thimble for a helmet, but in other areas it left me wondering. Would it be possible for such a diminutive chappie to loosen the belt from a scarecrow without first climbing up, or to cut glass with a diamond ring a feat difficult even for a normal sized person.

Project X is a fine game with a different storyline. Its screen presentation is super with different text colours to break up the screen. Where it falls down is in its vocabulary, which is unfriendly, and with its graphics, which are simple and generally poor. For just under three pounds, though, it is not a bad buy and is available from Compass Software, 63 Cozens Rd, Norwich NR1'1JP.

CRITICISM

COMMENTS
Difficulty: many tricky points due to unfriendly vocabulary
Graphics: some, generally poor
Presentation: good use of colour in redefined text
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: instant Quill response
Special features: store/recall within memory without recourse to tape (although has save tape also)
General Rating: Good value at £2.99

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