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Willysoft UK
Ian Williams
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

This adventure came in, like dozens of others, with a covering letter from the author hoping I'd give it a review. Unlike most, The Realm is getting one. Why? Because of its originality, sense of humour and good old-fashioned fun.

The Realm is the land that you have to explore, and initially you know nothing more than that. At the start you're asked if you're male or female, and it's worth playing both versions as the problems and text are juggled around a little to adapt. In a cottage near the start you meet a wizard who asks you to wait there while he goes off in search of a goblin who's pinched a page from his spell book. In the cottage is a cage, and if you open the cage a little furry creature hops out. This, it seems, is a fwooble. All together now: awww! If you read the book you see the details of all the wizard's spells, page after page, followed by a handy appendix on fwoobles. A good job the wizard hasn't had his appendix removed. The spell details give the objects required, the incantation, and sometimes an explanation of the less-obvious ones. The only trouble is, once in the cottage I wasn't allowed to leave again, so this may be an adventure where you must quit and start again, bearing in mind the knowledge you've obtained.

The piccies are a bit slow to draw, and only the odd one is worth the wait, but you can always PIX OFF. The locations in the woods around the Realm contain a variety of people and animals, and The Quill is used to handle them well. The initial problems are fairly straightforward. Greet the old woman and she offers you a gift if you'll get her some firewood, while the little girl wants an apple. If you're female you can kiss the minstrel to listen to a song, while if you're male he asks for a song in exchange for a gift. The men get their kiss later with a maiden in the forest, though, so that's okay.

These problems and sub-problems are well-nested, and you have to keep careful notes as to who wants what, and also search everywhere you go. Some of the extra little touches really amused me, like if you jump in the pond you scare a duck, and if you try to get the duck it lays an egg and flies off quacking. Sound effects are used, as much as the Speccy/Patch combination allows, so that when you drop an object there's a splat, for example. The minstrel's song also has musical accompaniment, and, if you play as a male you learn part of the song from one of the other characters, then when you go to SING SONG to the minstrel he teaches you a bit more and next time you SING SONG you get a longer verse on-screen while the Spectrum beeps merrily away.

An excellent game for beginners, and anyone who likes to see an adventure with a bit of imagination. Spell-casters will enjoy it too, while Quill users should buy it and see what can still be done to brighten up an adventure.