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Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

Now here's a bit of culture for you. There was this geezer, who may well have been blind, sitting around on a Greek island in about 800 BC, chronicling the kind of tales that led to those spectacular monster films with hideous sea creatures and winged horses, and the gods above playing animated chess with the heroes. Well, that geezer was Homer, and even if some of the monsters may well have been a figment of the translation, the stones are still a super base for an adventure.

The story here centres around the Greek hero Odysseus's return from the fall of Troy to his homeland of Ithaca, the smallest of the Ionian Islands in the Ionian Sea. Odysseus was noted for his courage and ingenuity which helped the Greeks win the battle of Troy. His ten year return home was fraught with danger and he could only win his wife Penelope after killing her suitors.

The game begins with a very pleasant tune and a reference to a 'Beowolf which transpires to be an anonymous Old English epic poem notable for its starting words or stressing parts beginning with the same letter.

There are graphics in this adventure and the first picture showing your Greek sailing vessel is decorative enough. The first frame is of the 'you ain't gonna get any further until you've solved this one' type. 'You are on a beach along which are lit numerous signal fires. To the north can be seen a city engulfed in flame with a giant wooden horse rearing its head above the conflagration'. A short sword lies in a fire and you clearly aren't going to get it until the fire is out. Boarding the galley is perhaps a little exacting and is an early sign of the not-so-friendly vocabulary ahead. The EXAMINE command is also far from friendly and invariably fires out an 'I can't' with a mind-numbing lack of originality.

The highly entertaining 'I can't' greets your first attempt to leave the shore in your ship; the game wastes little time or effort giving prompts. Giving some nautical thought to your predicament should see you set sail for the first encounter where a lack of nautical awareness might make it your last. Your first destination is the Libyan promontory of Lotophagi, the land of the Lotus-eaters. This land bears the fruit of the lotus, a stoneless, saffron-coloured fruit about the size of a bean. It has the property of making those who have tasted it lose their memory. If I now tell you that some described the fruit as a kind of apple from which a heavy cider was brewed you'll see what I mean about the essence of these old works getting messed around in the translation.

There's a curious bit in the first area visited where you pick up the coconut and this is acknowledged by sticking the maze picture of the forest up onto the screen, otherwise it's a straightforward case of picking up the goodies and heading back to the ship. Once the nautical narks learned in the first instance are adhered to zipping from one area or island to another is perfectly feasible right up to the fifth destination, the shores of Aeaea. Beyond here are two large rocks representing the fates of the whirlpool of Charybdis and the six-headed monster, Scylla.

I personally found Return to Ithaca interesting as I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology. Ancient Greece was a time of real heroes and the enthralling mix of otherworldy events and ghastly, hideous creatures makes both compelling book reading and adventure playing. The programming behind this game turns out to be not as sophisticated as it might but the theme is enough to keep the player's interest.


Difficulty: moderate, perhaps difficult without a book on Greek mythology
Graphics: average for a cheap game
Presentation: good
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: fast Quill response
General Rating: Not bad.