TEXT adventures may soon become a thing of the past if Beyond Software has its way.
Shadowfire is an icon-driven strategic adventure - the first ever on the Spectrum - where commands are issued through pictures and text is obsolete.
You join Enigma - a fierce and independent fighting force - whose mission is to storm the planet Zoff V and free Ambassador Kryxix. Once on Zoff V, Enigma has to search through the maze of corridors, fighting General Zoffs guards, locate the ambassador and transport him to safety.
Each member of the team is controlled individually - Zark, Syylk, Sevrina, Torik, Maul and Manto and each has its own skills, strengths and weak- nesses. Those will need to be coordinated and decisions made accordingly. Sevrina is a lock picker and her skills will be needed on Zoff V - therefore she should be given a tool kit from the weapons screen.
You start with a screen depicting all six characters, each portrayed in a different colour to help identification - although on this first screen the graphics are so clear that each is instantly recognisable. Having selected the character you want to move with a cursor, you then switch to the weapons screen to equip each with some mind blowing secret weapon.
The icons are many and varied. Each has a separate function and is selected with a scrolling cursor. Move the cursor to the function you want a character to perform - pick up - then along to a laser gun; press enter and that character will receive that weapon.
Each order is performed in a similar manner throughout the game. Some confusion may arise as certain pictures are not clear. However, referring to the comprehensive illustrated booklet should solve any such problems.
The graphics deserve a mention. For the most part, they are clearly depicted and colourful though, unfortunately, their small size tends to make definition hard. Each screen is divided into a number of boxes, all containing control icons. The screen showing Zoff V and your route to Kryxix is almost lost in the top middle section. It is a pity that this space has been sacrificed to give more attention to the controls.
You are given 100 minutes to complete Shadowfire and a real time clock ticks away the seconds. However it will take considerably longer to learn the game, especially if you keep breaking out of it by mistake. It is very easy to exit by accident. Accidental pressure on Enter when you go back to choose another character will take you straight back to the menu. It always seems to happen at some vital point of the game and is enough to turn you to drink.
Shadowfire is excellent value considering the programming expertise which has gone into the game. If you want a quick load-it-up and shoot-it-down then don't waste your money. However, if you want a fast and innovative game which may well take weeks to complete - buy it.
Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston, Protek