Dick Francis is said to be the Queen Mother's favourite author - she reads every one of his racing thrillers, which is a heck of a lot of words. He's written well over 20 by now.
Does this mean that Mosaic, by publishing an adventure game based on the Francis novel Twice Shy, could become software publishers by appointment to the Royal Family? Somehow, the image of Britain's favourite grandmother hunched over a Spectrum is rather appealing.
In Twice Shy, the adventure game, you are Jonathan Derry, a lowly physics teacher at East Middlesex Comprehensive. At some point during the game, you will find a set of cassette tapes. Certain other less than scrupulous people are going to try to take them off you. Who are they? What does it mean? Who's trying to stop you finding out? What's running in the 3.30? Why is the AA man so mercenary? And how come you can wander around for hours carrying a loaded Enfield rifle and not get arrested? These questions, and more, will be answered - if you're clever enough.
The adventure. Begins, as so many adventure games do, in your living room. With you is Sarah. As I haven't read the book, I haven't the faintest idea who she is, but since your aren't allowed to answer the phone and she is, she's very useful.
She leaves almost instantly, to go and offer to succour some friend of yours who seems to be stealing babies (not your usual adventure game, this one), suggesting as she flies out the door that you should meet her in Norwich. Why she didn't wait for you I can't work out.
Searching the flat turns up an interesting collection of items including a gun, a cheque, pills, exercise books and a pink towel. H you don't look on the mantlepiece, you won't even get out of the house.
Outside you'll find your car, a battered grey Peugeot. You can use this to drive around - you're advised to forget about walking if you try to get away from your house on foot.
Incidentally, this is one thing I did find a bit annoying: you get told the exits from a location, but not whether they are exits for motorised transport or for Shank's pony.
Location wise, Twice Shy seems to be big. I've been to well over 30 places and I hardly seem to have got anywhere. At first, you find yourself driving round beautiful downtown Northolt, but you can soon find yourself on the M25 on the way to Welwyn Garden City. Unfortunately, I keep on getting lost on an intersection, running out of petrol, and having to be rescued by my friendly AA man, who demands £15 quid to tow me to the nearest garage.
There are rather too many mazes for my liking, including a caravan park that you don't seem to be able to find your way out of. I tried dropping something to mark where I'd been, but the item dropped - a pile of exercise books - just kept moving with me. The shopping centre is another maze, which I managed to get out of by going in a direction not listed on screen.
The screen, by the way, is divided into two main sections. The top half contains graphics showing your present location and a window containing a description of that location: the bottom half is for communication with the program, and is also where it tells you about items you have found. The graphics are excellent, and the program has an impressive vocabulary.
Incidentally, on the reverse of the tape, there's a bonus - a racing simulation game which can either be played separately or in conjunction with the adventure.
You are at the races for the day, and there are six events on the card. In each race, four horses are running. You get told the odds, the weather conditions, the going, and can examine the form book on each of the horses. If you're playing for fun, then you can just keep on piling up the money - assuming you've got half a brain and the sense to study the form book properly, along with a reasonable idea of how to cover your bets.
If you're at the races as part of the adventure game, then you'll be allowed to take up to £250 back into the adventure.
Twice Shy - despite the fact I haven't got an awful lot further in the adventure - looks like a very good game.
The programming is excellent and the graphics add a lot to the feel. There should be enough meat here to keep any adventure buff going for a good few hours - and the race game's fun too.
I found it difficult and, though, a bit disappointing that nothing dramatic happened in the first 30 locations - nobody shot at me, no murders, no car chases.
Author: Ram Jam
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Big adventure, good atmosphere and useful graphics. Could have done with more insto excitement.