LOTHLORIEN is mainly renowned for its strategy and war games, so it was with some surprise that I looked over Time Sanctuary in its Adventuremaster series.
The packaging calls it an all graphic, non-violent adventure game with landscaping - the last, a description which brings to mind games like Lords of Midnight. In reality it strongly resembles trading games and relies on the same skills.
The plot is relatively simple. You have become stranded in a time warp after your time machine has malfunctioned, and need to explore the countryside around to find the chosen number of fuel units to get your machine working again. Your time in the Sanctuary is limited to 5,000 game 'minutes' - if you fail to locate your machine or find enough fuel you die.
The landscape contains three villages, each populated. There are lakes, forests, a maze, temples and houses. The graphics are cheerful, blocky and rather abstract but don't have the same naturalistic strength as in games like Midnight. They do advance and recede though, and you can take views of the compass points before deciding in which direction to move.
To enter houses you need to point yourself directly at them and move in. When the picture of the house vanishes you are there. Press a key and you are presented with a shot of the interior - all of which are pretty much the same except for the furniture.
Once inside you get the same choice - searching, resting or leaving. If you're lucky the place may contain some useful trade items like hides, papyrus, wine and the like. With goods like this you can attempt to deal with some of the characters in the game.
You locate those characters in much the same way as the houses, and then press a key to get a status screen which tells you how much they will buy and sell things for, whether they're friendly, hostile or whatever. There's also a small text window where you can run through a preset menu of questions about a preset range of options - buying, selling, scaring or asking where other characters are.
Scaring folk may make them give you goods or information, so may befriending, bribing or trading - you have to work out the best approach. Every action costs game time and you must not squander your valuable minutes - it costs 15 game minutes to act friendly, 30 to rest.
There is no text input from the player and every action is by single keypress. I don't find this dull in a game like Midnight, where there is plenty of action and a solid storyline, but Time Sanctuary is essentially a seek-and-find game.
Though the graphics allow fast movement the game format becomes quickly repetitive. Identification with the scenario is difficult and, however much you buy, sell and scare, you are still going through similar motions all the time.
I began to feel I was playing an illustrated land management program. Fair enough if you're into that sort of thing but I'm not sure I'd call it adventure.
Programmers: Peter and George Carmpouloni