Only a short while ago, peace returned to the land of Kilver. With the usurping army of General Matcher defeated, and the general himself banished to the distant fortress of Skelvullyn castle, the people returned to their comfortable farms. Nobody quarrelled because everyone drank from the Sun River; its yellow algae exuded a strong but harmless pacifying drug. Then - just as the good times were returning - the river dried up, crops failed and the country's wise man, Tolan, disappeared. The bad times are back to stay.
Nowhere is the sense of national ill-temper more manifest than in the tiny village of Skerrig where the local scapegoat and butt of everyone's displeasure is small-town official, Tam Wold. As village prefect, he has no alternative but to try to find Tolan and restore the flow of the river by himself.
The epic journey from Skerrig to Skelvullyn (and back) is divided into three pans. A separate and excellently illustrated introduction gives an extensive and atmospheric local history complete with sketch map and short resume of Kilver legend. Well-written and packed with imaginative detail it's an unusual and very effective way of setting the scene. If you look closely, you might even find one or two clues in the graphics.
From the relative comfort of the village green, the quest soon takes you through far more hostile territory; treacherous mountain paths, microbe-infested swamps, dangerous forests and precariously positioned ledges are only some of the seemingly insurmountable hazards. By interspersing familiar landscape with occasionally otherworldly detail, the text (there are no graphics in the adventure proper) carefully conjures up a )(liver in which leafy forests are infested by virulent forms of giant fungi and adventurers tread where the jigbucks roam.
Exploration discloses a wealth of unusual objects ranging from humble poppy to a far more exotic plant called pfrump. Knowledge gleaned from the introduction comes in very useful here and the EXAMINE command almost always yields a helpful reply. An immense amount of attention has been paid to making the responses as user-friendly as possible. For every (extremely logical) puzzle there are one or two craftily included clues.
Deprived of their pacifying drug the people of Kilver are a pretty unpleasant bunch. It's best to steer clear of most of them and turn to strangers for help; a little interaction goes a long way. Calatrin, the desert queen proves a mine of information while the best way of getting help from other characters is to give them exactly what they want. How else would you gam co-operation from forest Leaves, Saw Beetles, hedgehogs or Gib the enormously Gross?
Skelvullyn Twine is a Quilled adventure, so it doesn't accept more complex commands than basic verb/noun input. Surprisingly, I had practically no problems finding the correct words, mainly because necessary commands have been kept as general as possible. If, for example, you need to get a dandelion with the sickle and have the right equipment, simply typing GET DANDELION is enough - the program does the rest. There's none of the frustration associated with typing in 20 alternative commands and all the pleasure of getting a problem right almost the first time.
Since the arrival of GAC and the PAW, the Quill has been regarded as a rather primitive prototype. Skelvullyn Twine proves that, with a little thought, you can still produce enjoyable and marketable adventures using an older, less sophisticated utility. Excellent presentation (including some very impressive loading screens) a sensible parser, and plenty of action make for a compelling and polished product.
Eighth Day Software are keen to promote support for the smaller software house. If they continue to produce games as complex and demanding as this one they deserve all the help they can get. Skelvullyn Twine costs £5.50 and is available direct from Eighth Day at 18 Flaxhill, Moreton, Wirral. Merseyside, L46 7UH.
An OS map of the land of Kilver.
Skelvullyn Twine spins a spellbinding yarn...