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Players Software
Mark Gipson, ROB
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

Other Links

Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

Shrewsbury Key is a reasonable graphic adventure with a novel storyline. The game has you start at York Railway Station and it's up to you to navigate your way to Shrewsbury, making use of the train 'The Shrewsbury Key ' to start your journey. The reason for going to Shrewsbury is to find the fabled, diamond encrusted Golden Key which lies there.

There are two things I'd like to point out straight away about this game, in order to save a lot of frustration. In the instructions the game warns that it is verb/noun only, and you'd better believe it. At one stage when I was told to catch a lift, I tried CATCH A LIFT with no success, but CATCH LIFT did the trick. The second thing to be aware of is the exacting requirements set on input. You can get away with EXAM for EXAMINE, but words like TICKET must be spelt out in full, although thankfully, words such as WHEELBARROW can be shortened to WHEEL.

If an awkwardness in language wasn't enough, then the plot can be pretty confusing too. At the rough wooden fence outside York station. Examining the fence gives 'The fence has a small hole which could easily be made bigger', and on KICKing the fence, ' The fence has a hole big enough to squeeze through'. But try as you might there is no way the program is going to let you through it, even after all that encouragement.

It is in fact possible to complete the game without going this way, and if this is true then I take a very dim view of the tease which had me almost smashing my computer in frustration. Of the two bins in the story, the first bin can be SEARCHed, but the second cannot for some unknown reason. On this occasion, as in so many others, the replies are less than helpful.

The logic of gamesplay is not good either, what with a storekeeper accepting a sneaker in exchange for a trowel. Or how about the Wheelbarrow which you buy for £30, which should leave a £20 cheque for the store (a curious way of receiving change from a store in the first place). But on checking your inventory the cheque is £30 - with no explanation as to why it should have suddenly increased in value. There are many examples of where the plot isn't quite zany enough to be amusing, but it is annoyingly quirksome enough to get you irritated.

Shrewsbury Key isn't too bad for the asking price, although the pictures are simple, they are at least colourful, and the character set has been redesigned. Slightly annoying is the program's insistence on the first key entry being used as a signal for the rest of the location description to scroll up, therefore you sometimes look up to the screen to see the first letter of your input missing. Even when you learn to avoid this the program still runs more slowly because of it. The story is a bit thin, as is gamesplay.


Difficulty: easy
Graphics: cheap but colourful
Presentation: alright
Input facility: verb/noun
Response: average
General Rating: Cheap.