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Adventure: RPG
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

Other Links

Richard Price
Chris Bourne

RIGHT, are there any doers-in of demons, monster-bashers, snappy swordspersons or subterranean sorcerers out there? If you prefer Rambo-style dungeon exploration to the vaguer joys and subtleties of text adventure then Swords and Sorcery may well appeal to you.

The aim is to develop an increasingly powerful character who, by combat and theft, is able to travel deeper into the dungeon to take on ever-stronger creatures and better treasures. Spells can be cast and magical items abound in the catacombs of Zob, whose armour you seek.

This is almost entirely a graphic game and definitely not a text adventure - text is displayed to show the results of actions which are chosen from a set of menus and sub-menus. Using three keys for left, right and enter you whizz through different categories of action, line up the chosen word at the left hand side of the buffer and punch in the action.

So, if you wanted to get something from a locked chest you would first choose the Act menu, then select 'Smash' - if you haven't got a key. From there you would 'Open' it on the same menu and then shift to the Handle menu to 'Take Out' and finally 'Pick Up'.

Above this menu-wandering is the text display and two graphics windows. On the left is an animated picture of the corridor, or room, you're in. Here you will see monsters approaching in the tunnels or spot the occasional item on the floor or walls.

The righthand window is the map of the Quandrant of the level you're in, with all rooms and doors shown. There are also moving white blobs to represent you and the monsters you've seen. Once you've been into a room and scurried out hastily any monsters there will show up on the map to remind you of how difficult life can be when you're 60 feet under.

As this game claims to be Level One and says there are four quadrants to a level, I presume, using my rudimentary arithmetic, that there are four screens in this game. I suspect this means that you will have to undergo a lot of reincarnation and falls down deep pits - not shown on the map - before you can progress fast.

You need not necessarily lash out at every monster you meet. There is a Talk menu which allows you to trade breathtaking insults such as 'Beware O dragon bottom biter or I will curse you' and 'Death to the zit headed smelly piece of rag'. Such profanity may well overawe some less heroic creatures and persuade them to evaluate an item you've found or give you some useful information. On the other hand they may take umbrage and chop your legs off... such is life.

When you start a game you can choose either to play with the default character Flubbit the Dull or choose to create a new character who can be 'trained' and armed to enhance specific skills, whether physical or magical. This sequence uses menu routines too and you can make many different named characters if you like to vary your role. Each one can be saved to tape for future catacomb crawling. Make sure you spend some time with Yama, a master who can provide the secret of living more than once - absolutely essential hereabouts.

Once you've trained - a fairly swift process involving a couple of minutes menu handling - you can buy some weapons and you're ready for the off. You can then move your white blob around the maze, again using only three keys for left, right and forward.

The first thing to remember is to make sure you're actually holding your weapon and wearing your shield if you've got one. There are monsters in almost every room and there are about 20 types made up of interchangeable graphic components.

The combat routine allows a series of attacks and defences - you will have chosen your preferred moves from the Hit menu. Hit points, stamina and magical strength are shown on a status screen. You may choose to enter into negotiations before you fight but although this is quite amusing there are not that many creatures who appreciate the finer arts of debate. Many monsters are walkovers but you are bound to lose stamina as you travel and finding food is a necessity.

The instruction booklet is comprehensive and gives detailed help for most situations. When you get to the back you'll find that this game is meant to be the first part of a series of modules. By the time you read this you should be able to get hold of Level 2, costing £1.00, and subsequent levels at £4.95 each. There is also supposed to be a village scenario where you can trade or buy new items.

If this game was in text format it would probably be deadly dull but the mixture of presentations is lively if nothing else. The graphics are not staggering but they serve their purpose and the game has constant action which will probably appeal strongly to aficionados of D&D.

I began playing Swords and Sorcery after a long stint with a text adventure and at first didn't have much motivation. However, after I'd mastered the menu handling and created my own character - Flubbit the Dull is not particularly resourceful - I got into the swing of it. It became remarkably compelling in time and I found myself, near dawn, still struggling to build up power to get past a particularly tough and vicious creature in the second quadrant. Intellectual it's not but there is plenty to do.

Publisher: PSS
Price: £9.95
Memory: 48K