How many adventures can you think of where the hero's a physics teacher? Well that's what you are in this version of Dick Francis's thriller. Jonathan Derry teaches at East Middlesex Comprehensive, but how he comes to be involved in the world of horse racing is not immediately obvious - unless you've read the book, of course. All you know is that somewhere in the game you gain possession of a set of cassette tapes, something to do with a lucrative betting system. Sort the rest out for yourself. Don't expect any help from your wife, either. When you start the game the phone's ringing, and when you go to answer it she snatches it off you and insists on taking the call herself. If you try to speak she tells you to button your lip, then when the call's finished she says, "We must go immediately to the Keithly's in Norwich. Donna has stolen someone's baby. They need our help." And off she goes. I thought she said" We must go"? Very impulsive these women. Mention a baby and they take leave of their senses, not to mention the room. (Sexist beast! T'zer). Oh well, maybe we can get on with the adventure in peace.
THE ADVENTURE GAME
After the hysterical departure of your wife, you examine the living room of your home in Northolt, and note the dust on the mantelpiece, not to mention the Enfield rifle. There are dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, and upstairs someone's forgotten to drain the bathwater. What a pair of sluts you both are. Lying somewhere in the house is a cheque made out to cash for £150. You're going to need it as your dusty old Peugeot outside the front door is prone to breakdowns and eats up the petrol as if it were a Rolls.
The game is divided into areas you can walk round, and areas you must drive around. ENTER CAR and START CAR to get it going (I'll give you those commands for free) and STOP CAR to switch off the engine and get out again. A bit tedious when constantly repeated, especially if you've only driven two locations to find yourself outside the bank where you cash your cheque.
As you drive around Northolt, watch out for the deceptive road signs, and don't leave without polishing up your shooting skills at Bisley Rifle Range. Be sure you've got a tank full of petrol before setting off up the M25. Here you encounter the dubious joys of the M25/M11 interchange, and it was also about here I began to get fed up with the adventure's content - irritating problems rather than interesting ones. The programmers (The Ramjammers) see to it that you frequently run out of petrol which leaves you high and dry waiting for an AA man to turn up and tow you back to the garage. Then you have to SAY TO GARAGE HAND "FILL HER UP" and wait some more while he fills her up, or possibly ignores you if he's in that kind of mood. I suppose this is what's called Artificial Intelligence, though all it means is that you repeat your request till he agrees. Then off you go up the M25 again.
Tedious eh? Try this... The interchange is obviously meant to be a maze of routes. Except that it isn't. It's a single location, as you can see if you drop an object. Any movement N, S, E or W and you stay in the same place. Wait long enough (using up petrol all the time) and "You suddenly find a sign you recognise" and you're heading south on the M11. By this time you've discovered that if you're heading in a particular direction on the motorway, and you enter any other direction as a command, you crash the car for trying to drive in the wrong direction. And you know what that means. (Yep. AA man again, back to garage...) If you see the sign and are heading south, you crash if you enter WEST or NORTH, while SOUTH takes you back to the interchange location (I know because I left my canvas bag there), and EAST puts you on the M25 heading west back to Northolt. I won't reveal how you get out of this seemingly impossibly maze, except to say that you must take the risk of crashing occasionally and experiment with all the directions. Given luck you'll find yourself heading towards Norwich, and maybe even outside the Keithly's home, whereupon you'll probably run out of petrol again and have to be taken back to your Northolt garage to fill up. A bit silly of the AA man when you're in Norwich, but it's at this point I began to think the whole game was a bit silly and wondered why I was wasting my time playing it. The graphics are quite nice, though.
Twice Shy's got one of the poorest parsers I've seen in a long time. At the start when your wife answers the phone she tells you to "Be Quiet". If you then respond to the "Well?" prompt by typing BE QUIET you get "What do you mean by that?" I tried WAIT and got "Huh?" Then I tried LISTEN and was told "You have nothing at all." Not the best of starts.
The REDESCRIBE command is rather redundant as the location description is a permanent fixture anyway. Having found a canvas bag I typed PUT ALL IN BAG and this produced no response, but the prompt reappeared so I tried PUT PILLS IN BAG, and was told "OK." So then I laboriously typed the individual commands to put all the items in the bag, only to discover a few locations later that I was carrying nothing - PUT PILLS IN BAG is treated by this parser as DROP PILLS. In the kitchen there's a knife-rack, and examining it shows you a blunt knife. Having got his, I tried EXAMINE RACK again to see if anything else had appeared. There was a knife on it. GET KNIFE was rewarded with "It's not available" and I realised this was the knife I was actually carrying. If you ENTER CAR, you're told "You climb into your car" but type REDESCRIBE and you're outside your car again. And this is just the first half-dozen locations. Need I go on? (A question you might well ask yourself about Twice Sky.)
THE RACING GAME
Side two of the cassette contains a racing simulation, which you can either play independently or as a part of the adventure. If the latter, you load up the simulation and take into it whatever cash you happen to have accumulated in the adventure in the hope that you can pick a winner or two and boost your balance a wee bit to pay for all your repair and petrol bills. You can play the gee-gees for as long as you like, and whenever you're ready you load up the adventure again with the new improved (or more likely reduced) balance at your disposal.
How long you're likely to want to play the racing game remains to be seen, as it's a pretty tedious effort. There are six races, four horses per race, and with odds like 23/10 the accuracy of the simulation is pretty dubious. There's a guide to each horse, with useful bits of information like the going it prefers and its recent form. After looking at the distance of the race, the state of the course and so on, you simply place your bet or bets. Now sit back and watch while four horses move silently across the screen from right to left, and the winner's given. And that's it. Unfortunately you can't switch channels and watch the rugby league, so it's back to the adventure. Boring!