There's something about the names of these two programs, sold by mail order on one cassette, which suggests a certain familiarity even before you load up. To borrow a Monty Pythonism, they're good 'woody' words in the sphere of adventure game names. As it turns out, it isn't just the names that have a familiar ring to them - the programs have a look similar to Subsunk, or Seabase Delta, or both!
Given the success of those programs, and the ever-popularity of the themes of shipwreck and eerie castles, I could quite go along with those who think these programs are rather good. The graphics, as ever, are simple, but they aren't so crude as to be irritating (in fact they are very similar in style to Seabase Delta). The character set is distinctive and chunky and rates very highly on the readability scale. The beep which accompanies ENTER is also particularly reminiscent of Seabase Delta.
The story sets you up on the ship (you're taking a well-earned holiday) and dumps you off on an island (there is a fire down below and you are forced to abandon ship). Wandering around the ship is much as you'd expect, with the port on your left and the sherry on your right, and all things shipshape and nautical. There's a certain symmetry to this shipshapedness, with parallel decks running the length of the vessel separated by distractions such as a shop, writing room, cardroom, bar and bathing pool. A lifeboat and lifebelts are an early insight into your predicament, but for now you concern yourself with getting past the steward who bars the way to the lounge, gaining access to the bridge (for which you need a permit), and how to buy things in the shop and elsewhere when your character doesn't seem to have any spending money.
One aspect of this game which worries me a little is its insistence on rather specific solutions to certain problems. Most especially in the tight spots, I think the program could have allowed a greater number of word options without which many of the problems are going to have people really stumped. Anyway, on to the flip side to see if it is as much fun.
As with Shipwreck, Castle Eerie puts up the instructions on screen first, with a timely siren to warn you to stop the tape. In this game you play Charlie hones, an extra-special agent working for a secret government department dealing with unsolved mysteries. You are certified, to carry a gun that is, and your assignment has you travelling to investigate a mysterious castle on the north Scottish coast. The castle should have been empty ever since the owner died in an odd manner some years ago, but dimly-lit figures have been seen at the windows at night, and strange sounds have been heard coming from the castle. Any who have been foolish enough to investigate in the past have never returned, so it is with some trepidation that you try to round up those responsible for this mystery.
Following a rather good loading screen, you begin with a torch, a gun, but only one bullet as you have absent-mindedly left your ammunition behind. The opening picture has some atmosphere about it, showing the gateway to the castle with the shading used to enforce the image of light thrown from one side. Trying to enter the castle reveals the obvious ('The door's closed!'), so the only direction left open to you is west to a rather broken-down hut. This then leads onto quite a number of locations which have one or two items apiece, once again very similar to Shipwreck. Some items are immediately accessible, while others can't even be examined.
Once settled into the run of things you discover some nice touches. Picking up the ladder, you quite rightly find out you can ' t just cart it everywhere, whilst on a more frivolous theme, flashing lights and creaking door sounds keep the senses amused. As with Shipwreck, there are times when the vocabulary needs to be very specific, but given that the solutions, once found, are logical, this isn't such a damning criticism.
Shipwreck and Castle Eerie are rather entertaining adventures. They look smart and have engaging themes. I particularly liked Castle Eerie, whose problems are especially fun to solve. Programs for both amateur and wizened adventurers alike. Tartan Software can be contacted at 61 Bailif Norrif Crescent, Montrose, Angus DD10 9DT.
Difficulty: no brick walls, but the vocabulary can be exacting
Graphics: vary, but some aren't too bad at all
Presentation: very attractive, clean cut look
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: Quill (very fast), graphics slower