Rebel Planet is the first release from Adventure Soft UK Ltd, which was recently set up by Mike Woodruffe. For the past year or two he was running the UK arm of Adventure International, best known for the Scott Adams, Questprobe and Mysterious Adventures series. Released in conjunction with US Gold, Rebel Planet's based on Penguin Fighting Fantasy book number 18 by Robin Waterfield.
Wouldn't you just know it, the galaxy's in danger yet again, and who's called in to sort it all out but the ever willing YS reader. Does the galaxy know the debt it owes to this fine band of mugs... sorry, people? The problem this time is that the mighty Arcadian Empire is tightening its stranglehold on the galaxy, and this is deemed to be a pretty bad show, all things considered. Hope rests in SAROS, the earth-based Search and Research of Space organisation. But a full-scale military attack is out of the question, on the grounds that you're outnumbered and outpowered by zillions, so a solo mission is instigated, with the aim of destroying the Arcadians' queen computer, the one that controls and organises the minds of the troop. Now it's a bit unlikely that you'd be allowed to fly straight to the planet of Arcadian and ask if you can destroy their computer (even if you said 'please'), so your cover is that you're a merchant. But first you must visit the planets of Tropos and Halmarus, trying to make contact with your spies in these places while simultaneously avoiding suspicion - those Arcadians are everywhere! Your merchant ship is the Caydia, and it's on the command deck your Mission Almost Impossible begins...
The screen straight away has that familiar Adventure International look to it, the top half given over to graphics, the bottom to text. The first thing you notice is that the graphics in this first screen are moving - nothing stunning, some flashing display screens and a few stars and planets whizzing across before you as you head for Tropos.
The program also has the familiar slight carelessness reminiscent of AI - the exits in the location descriptions all come complete with a comma , so the last exit each time has a comma followed by a full stop. Elsewhere, when examination of a dispenser tells you to 'insert card', you type INSERT CARD only to get the response: "Add a sensible object to that sentence." But card is a pretty sensible object to try to insert, surely! INSERT ACCESS CARD gets the same response, and only INSERT CARD IN DISPENSER produces the right result.
No matter, I am equipped with a limcon suit and the Caydia gives me seven locations to explore. After a while a message comes through that the ship is being followed by a UFO. To evade or not to evade, that is the question. Neither seems to have any immediate disastrous consequences, but you'll pay for a wrong move later. Always remember that you're trying to avoid suspicion.
Eventually you're told you're able to disembark, and the first problem is getting out of the ship! This kept me puzzling for a while, but it turned out that I'd had the means initially. Amazing how you're on a life or death rescue mission to save the entire galaxy, and the things you need to keep yourself alive are hidden away so you can't get at them! Who equipped this ship, that's what I want to know.
Landing on Tropos the first time saw me well and truly nicked, my possessions confiscated, and I was bunged in a cell where it seemed the only possibility was to rot slowly away. QUIT! One curiosity of the program is that you can SAVE GAME but can't directly load a saved game. The instructions tell you that "it is essential to load the program first before attempting to reload a Saved game." Not so, all you need to do is QUIT, whereupon you're whisked back to the start and given chance to restore a saved game.
I found this first section irritating, in that you had to retrace your steps again and again, starting at the beginning almost every time. slowly working out what was happening and what you could do about it.
It's worth persevering with, though, as the adventure does pick up once you get through customs, as the city on Tropos opens up to you - and you'll need to do some very careful mapping because the architecture leaves something to be desired, with all the streets looking the same. The latest technology vid-phones are available, if only you knew what number to dial.
Eventually I found the well- named Trosleeze Hotel. But there's another example of irritating program design here. You doWt enter the hotel by a direction, but with the command ENTER HOTEL. Once inside there are two directions you can take, east or west. I chose one, but that took me out to the street again, only this time ENTER HOTEL had no effect, so I was left wondering where the other direction would have taken me. I had to QUIT again to find out, and I wished I hadn't bothered. Yet another quick death.
In fact there were far too many deaths for my liking, and the other bits of carelessness meant that I didn't take to the time as much as I might have. Still enjoyable, and intriguing enough to keep me playing, but I don't think it's the best of debuts for Adventure Soft.