The Silicon Dream Trilogy consists of Snowball, Return to Eden and the yet to be released The Worm in Paradise. This, the second adventure in the trilogy, starts where Snowball left off , and has been written using Level 9's ever increasing library of compression techniques to give a full-bodied, more complete narrative with about 250 locations and 240 pictures. As with Artic, Level 9 have deemed that all truly commercial adventures must accommodate graphics from now on, and I am pleased to report that in this particular case the graphics, far from being a distraction, actually add to the quality and flavour of the game. The locations are exotic and the scenes psychedelic.
If Level 9 have a boffin image they've done themselves no harm with their latest technological breakthrough, the type-ahead. This idea allows you to carry on typing commands even when the program isn't ready for them, so you can type a whole series of short instructions and then watch as the program carries them out. Recent notoriety and fame have not ruined a cottage industry; Level 9 still provide clue sheet forms with each 'Welcome to Eden' booklet. Snowball 9 carries two million sleeping colonists to Eden, the only habitable planet in the Eriadni A binary starsystem.
Eden's plant life is legendary and was probably seeded by long-vanished aliens. City building on the planet at first went well but problems developed as the myriad plants and cunning creatures adapted to fight bask. Robots have been making all important decisions since the late 2100s and run the colonisation program. Within a wall built to protect the city, the robots work ceaselessly to perfect the environment for its fragile and vulnerable human colonists. The city still looks new but impressions are misleading; its foundations are broken by a million root cracks and vermin infest the lower levels. What may be worse, the robot army has been fighting too long.
You play Kim Kimberley who has just saved the interstellar transport, Snowball 9, from disaster. Unfortunately the control room vidcoms show how you enter and hurl a bomb engulfing the room in flames. The resulting trial finds you guilty and you are summarily sentenced to death. The waldroids close in and, rather than stay to argue your case, you think it wiser to flee in the stratoglider lifeboat to become the first human to land on the planet Eden. Crewed by people who think you are a murderer, Snowball 9 orbits far above you. But alas, the interstellar transport itself is in danger, as it has entered orbit off schedule and, due to damage, ignores all attempts at radio contact. The robots on the planet below, unable to chance a hostile presence in orbit, are wary...
Playing the game is made all the easier by Level 9's type-ahead, sure-footed input and friendly vocabulary, Including WEAR which has you wearing clothing without first having to GET it, an A(GAIN) command which repeats the last entry, and another innovation - IT to mean the previous specified object, eg. LIGHT LAMP, then MINE IT. The redefined character set gives a futuristic flavour (as does, of course, the myriad technological artifacts - vidcoms, traddads, skyhooks) but it can be difficult to read when more than one Level 9 fanatic crowds around a small TV screen. Could this be the beginning of the monitor boom? I won't say too much concerning the plot itself having given away too much of Snowball in the CRASH July issue, well worth checking up if you're interested in how the trilogy began (and for some appallingly heavy-handed clues). Let me just say this of the game, it isn't just the graphics which are peculiar and psychedelic.
Return to Eden is a very worthy successor to the highly acclaimed Snowball. Far from being just another follow up, it is a new and exciting program in its own right and has many features which keep Level 9 at the top of intelligent science fiction computer exploration.
: very difficultGraphics
: most locations and very goodPresentation
: quite good, but a little crampedInput facility
: good, even with graphicsResponse
: goodSpecial features
General Ratin: Very good.