There are some themes that just look winners the moment you see them, and The Prospector, the first of two games on this tape, has one of those. Yep! It's a case of gold in them thar hills and a pile of mule's dung to ain'bardy who sez there ain't! The place: Tombstone Creek.
The date: 1849. You join thousands of others in a mad scramble for gold, arriving in this Californian one-horse town typically broke, with nothing more than the filthy shirt on your back. You'll have to use every ounce of your wits to get some money together, buy the necessary equipment, and then set about prospecting.
Then it's just a simple matter of dodging that iron pyrites (fool's gold) and get what's coming to ya - or is it! The assay office, where all claims must be registered, lies in the centre of Tombstone Creek, and it's your heartfelt wish to end up there in the near future - in one piece.
The very name of Tombstone Creek might suggest a town where shoot-outs are the order of the day, but you're far more likely to bow out of the game early due to the sheriff's enthusiasm for a well-ordered town. Hence, drinking the whisky you find in the saloon will see you incarcerated in the town's jail for 30 days, and the same sentence is given for pinching the lawman's hat. Either offence forces an early exit from the game.
The rest of The Prospector involves one or two tricky manoeuvres which will get you put in jail again if you don't get them exactly right.
It's a smart enough Quilled game, with reasons (though slow) graphics and a helpful beep to inform the player when the picture-drawing is at last complete. Perhaps the redesigned character set is a shade modern-looking for a story set in old California, but at least it's very readable.
The plot and the way it unravels are just that bit too obvious at times, but the actual nitty-gritty is surprisingly convoluted and will give even experienced adventurers a run for their money. There are still one or two typographical errors on my preproduction copy, but perhaps all will be well by the time The Prospector is released.
THE CROWN OF RAMHOTEP
Now for the second part of this two-parter, The Crown Of Ramhotep.
Some time ago you received by carrier a package containing an ancient scroll, a curious box, and a letter from an old friend, a well-known archaeologist. The letter reads as follows:
As you may have heard I have been excavating in Egypt and I have made a remarkable discovery. I have found the Crown Of Ramhotep. I was fortunate to escape but had to leave the crown inside the pyramid. I intend to set out on another expedition to the pyramid as soon as possible. Please come and assist me to retrieve this fabulous treasure. I suggest you come here to the village on the Nile where we met last year and then journey south to the oasis. All being well, we can share the glory of the discovery together.
Needless to say, with an offer of adventure like that you soon set off with your car and as much loot as you can scrape together. Unwisely, however, you spend most of your money on frivolous pleasures during the cruise to Egypt, so you begin the game just off the boat in a cheap hotel.
As in The Prospector, in The Crown Of Ramhotep you can call up help at the end of the instructions and before the game itself is loaded. But just to remind you of your self-inflicted plight the first help line is 'Remember you're broke! You will need some money'.
The Crown Of Ramhotep is almost an exact copy of The Prospector in style, right down to the redefined character set. The slowly-drawn pictures are still here, as is the rather obvious plot (though there's nothing wrong with a plot which runs smoothly!).
A couple of obscure vocabulary solutions to problems will ensure that even hardened adventurers find the game exacting; indeed, some might find the obvious plot pathways mixed with a few difficult problems a good blend.
I think the two games on this Tartan tape can be marked together; though The Crown Of Ramhotep might have a marginally better EXAMINE command, for example, they're very similar in structure, style and quality. I can't wholeheartedly recommend the pair to most garners - they just don't show enough novel features (it would be nice if the maps mentioned in the games came onscreen, or something).
But the kind of adventurer who collects most of what's going on should by all means send off for these to Tartan at 61 Bailie Norrie Crescent, Montrose, Angus DD10 9DT.
Like all utility adventures, The Prospector and The Crown Of Ramhotep are competent and there are few distractions from solving the puzzles.
DIFFICULTY: mostly obvious, but some very tricky parts
GRAPHICS: average, slow
INPUT FACILITY: verb/noun
RESPONSE: fast, but slow graphics
There's gold in them thar clones: you're always broke, seeking Egyptian treasure in The Crown of Ramhotep (above) and Wild West dollars in The Prospector (below).