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US Gold Ltd
1987
Adventure: Text
£8.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Alkatraz Protection System

84
Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

A fighting fantasy adventure? Ian I presume. And quite right, too. With his writing and ideas partner, Livingstone, Steve Jackson, he penned this originally as book 14 in the Penguin Fighting Fantasy series of Gamesbooks, though if Penguin put as many faults into its books as software houses do into their games then it would have gone out of business long ago.

But first the story. Malbordus is the evil one, who "could make plants wither and die simply by snapping his fingers; he could make animals obey him with his piercing gaze." Sounds just like the Ex-Ed. Needless to say, you're the poor sap who's volunteered to do him in (Malbordus, that is), with a bit of help from the old wizard Yaztromo. He gives you a spell book containing four of his greatest hits; the spells of Sleep, Dart. Shrinking and Incendiary (or Incendary as the program spells the spell). Each can be summoned by using the command CAST, and can be used once only.

The screen will look very familiar if you've seen an Adventuresoft game before (and who hasn't?), but after the complexities of Rebel Planet and Kayleth we're back to the more linear type of adventure here. There's the now-familiar instant problem when you're set down at the start by the Catfish River with some pirates in immediate pursuit, but it shouldn't take you more than a few moves to shake them off.

Many of the commands listed on the instructions don't work, such as GET ALL, DROP ALL and even the simple LOOK, or I for inventory. One command that does, though, and it's welcome, is BOM, or Back One Move, which at least gives you more than one go at those problems needing fairly quick solutions.

A few moves into the scrubland and I encountered a Harpy. A Harpy? What's this, one of the Marx Brothers or one of the seven dwarves? "The razor sharp claws of the Harpy slash the air above your head." Maybe not one of the dwarves after all, but straightforward violence saw this creature off, and several of the early encounters are sorted out in this rather unsatisfactory way: one opponent falls to the sword but not the bow and arrow, another to the trident but not the sword, so there's quite a bit of boring guesswork involved.

The first few genuine problems are quite neatly done, though, and drew me into the game... there's a location sneakily hidden in the scrubland, and a burning hut that sheds some light elsewhere, along with a golden eagle rescue service, a battle with a 'terodactyl', a thirst-making desert, a basilisk with a petrifying stare and a meeting with Abjul the nomad who has a whole range of tempting goodies for sale.

The game has more bugs than the insect house at London Zoo, though. The first time I tried to CAST DART I was told both that the spell worked and that I had already used it. There are others, along with spelling mistakes such as a new variation on the it's/its confusion: 'The spear pierces its' flesh' and 'its' nocturnal habits'.

But having said all that, I enjoyed the adventure more than most and it passed the test of "Will I want to go back to it again?" That's why the personal rating's higher than the marks for the adventure's different aspects. But will someone at Adventuresoft please buy a dictionary?

7/10
6/10
6/10
8/10
7/10