Ruby Runabout describes itself as a crazy fun-packed adventure. The cassette cover depicts a scene of fun and frolic with larger than life cartoon characters. The game's price leads one to expect a very ordinary adventure and in many ways this proves to be the case.
You play Reggie the Ruby' Robber, the alliterated antihero who has his sights set on the Rocksalmon Ruby, the most priceless gem in the world. He runs a garage, when he's not busy thieving, and your adventure starts at the petrol pumps. Is this comment directed at garage owners I ask myself or is it just the crummiest plot ever to package a computer game? Your quest is to get to the ruby first, but if you take too long you may find it has moved, so don t waste time. Having played the game and discovered some of its more dubious secrets, I can reveal that I have not got the foggiest what these instructions are about. But if you endeavour to shed any light on this matter don't write to tell me about ft because this is the sort of game where if things don't quite make sense it doesn't really matter. It could be the price, or the thin plot, or perhaps ft's the grievance felt when every programmer worth his microdrive is struggling with the limitations of 40K of memory, this programmer has, with an inefficient style, ventured to fill up as much possible with redundant code.
The game uses no memory saving techniques, and no wonder, since only 31K is actually used leaving 9K idle. Simple memory conservation could almost have halved the length of the program. To give two examples: variable names are up to eleven characters long while graphics use reams of Plot and Draw representing a vast waste in memory and is, these days, unacceptable in games thought to have any commercial value. Surely you expect a commercial program to offer something beyond that which the average hacker could achieve, no matter what the asking price.
Back to the cassette cover. You'll discover forty locations, twenty of which have graphic illustrations, and using your imagination and sense of humour, survive the journey to locate and remove Rocksalmon Ruby.
The only humour remarkable enough to remember is the comment that greets you when you examine the tape to be told - it's a Sony. That is unless you count the instant death meted out by the policeman should you be caught dropping a toffee wrapper. 'A policeman approaches you with a truncheon; you look at him so he hits you over the head with it for dropping litter.' Such occurrences are common, where attempting to kill almost anything will mark your early departure from the game.
Anything from a park attendant to a lowly wasp can present a threat but could you really expect an altercation with a car wash to be fatal? At times it can seem that everything you try ends up killing you for little justifiable reason.
I admit it's just possible I may have missed some of the humour as my interest finally flagged before completing the game. As for using your imagination you will indeed need it since the game requires mental contortions to explain the odd juxtapositions of locations and objects. An oil rig lies directly south of a post box, a wigwam is in dose proximity to an igloo, while by a building site - what's this? - The Suez. Oh! Uh? Many other locations are mysteriously unyielding. You seem unable to cross the budge or swim the river. Further, no access can be made to a single building you meet. As for the objects, would you really expect to find a blowtorch in a gym, or a file in a flower bed? You don't find the petrol at the petrol station but at the windmill. There is no strong storyline to explain these discrepancies.
Inserting a coin at the fruit machine thankfully does not result in death. In fact you win with your first attempt. Sadly you win on each subsequent attempt and you neither lose the coin you've used or gain the coins you win. You can sense any atmosphere fading away. Later the game has you scaring an elephant with a very elusive mouse and another scenario has you creeping over pressure pads sure in the belief that your step will be that much daintier dressed in slippers.
The graphics are simple but effective enough. So as not to hold up what is an entirely Basic program the graphics are marked out with simple Draw and Plot commands. The colour changes at every location but some of the colours used do not mix well. The bridge appears blank on a b/w TV and only reveals a black bridge against a red background clearly on a favourably adjusted colour set. A lot of input scrolls up to push the picture and location description up off the screen.
Ruby Runabout is a short and unimaginative adventure with a weak plot and no theme to speak of. There are too few problems and too many early exits. Good features include a pleasant intro tune and a very quick response time. This game is about a third of the price of many classic adventure games and I can't help feeling that here you get a third of an adventure, both as regards size and quality.
Graphics: Small graphics in some locations.
Presentation: Average - Good
Input Facility: Spectrum input
Response: Quite fast