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Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

This game represents the second saga of Erik the Viking, following the book by Terry Jones, and details the adventures of the famous warrior who lived by the North Sea with his family and servants in Norway one thousand years ago.

One day Erik went to check his land and make sure all the sheep were in for shearing. Following the river which flowed past his home he soon reached the snow-capped mountains where he sat for a rest. Dozing beneath the fir-trees he had a vision whereupon strange creatures swarmed over the farm dragging everyone, including his wife, away. You play the freshly awakened Erik who must travel in search of these evil Dogfighters to rescue his family. Over two hundred locations reveal authentic viking settlements with wizards, dragons and giants populating these strange lands.

Playing the game you quickly see just how easy it is to move around and it follows that this adventure will have a strong appeal for a young audience or those who find the idea of prolonged mental anguish curiously unrewarding. Objects are easy to find where they stand or on a brief search of the locality. Finding uses for them is a little more testing, but it won't be long before that super feeling of having cracked a puzzle will egg you ever onwards. As you might expect from a commercially viable package and concept, there are no silly clangers to jar the sensibilities, no North Sea Oil Rigs looming out of the mists, only fully authentic stone saunas, viking ships and Scandinavian farm holdings with backdrops of tall mountains and deep fjords.

Not wishing to be thought a spoilsport, and to absorb myself in the role of Viking marauder, I didn't shave, or comb my hair, for a day; donned a thick woolly jumper, and leered at the landlady. Needless to say, the part came naturally enough (must be that easterly wind straight off the North Sea… brrr!)

Included in the large, colourful packaging is a small, glossy booklet with details on playing the game along with some extracts from the hair-raising adventures taken from the book by Terry Jones including 'Erik and the Storm', 'Erik and the Sea Dragon' and 'Erik and the Dogfighters'. Dogfighters, in case you aren't already in the know, are peculiar dogheaded creatures who instill such fear in their foes that they win most of their fights straightaway: their opponents throw down their swords and cower on their knees, ready to be slaughtered by the hideous beasts.

Every location has a full, well-designed picture which often adds immensely to your enjoyment of the adventure as they are really colourful and attractive. For efficiency in drawing, and to give the screen a fine layout, the picture is flanked on either side by a character who must be none other than Erik himself- he looks fearsome enough. Despite the reduced canvas, the graphics are still slow, but an option is provided through the words PICTURES and WORDS. With only WORDS, action is very fast and given there are so few barriers to overcome, you can really zip along. The character set used to display the text has been tastefully redesigned, and is both attractive and highly legible. However, owing to the constraints placed on available memory by all those detailed pictures, the quantity of text is always limited. Vocabulary is friendly, with PUSH and PULL accepted for example, and a list of twenty four handy words provided in the booklet proves to be very useful. Response to input can be random, so don't be fooled into thinking that 'I almost understand' has any significance - it hasn't. More honest are the 'Try again' and 'Try other words' responses.

Since the colourful pictures (which might have been designed on another computer, which would explain the odd colour shadings) take up so much of the memory that it is not only the quantity of text which suffers. Structurally the game is flat. Only useful objects can be examined, thus those which won't stand up to examination do not really exist, and only provide decoration.

The Saga of Erik the Viking is a thoroughly well-presented software package with a distinct and imaginative theme delivered in a competent, attractive manner. Given the peculiar familial relations inversion brought upon by the microcomputer (it is Dad who must wait until after lunch for young Tommy to show him how it's done), it would be unwise to say the instructions are so clear that a child could understand them. Overall, the game brings an endearing story to life both colourfully, through the entertaining graphics and theme, and in a form which is accessible to everyone as the problems it presents are not difficult.


Difficulty: quite easy
Graphics: good, and on alllocations
Input Facility: usually verb/noun
Response: very fast, but graphics are slow
General Rating: Very good.