Good, I thought, when the first screen appeared, a Mastertronic adventure that looks promising after a few disappointments. But the promise didn't last long... no longer than the second crash inside 20 minutes, which had me pulling the plug on what might have been an enjoyable game.
The tale is set in Armosin, a world of magic and danger, the danger coming from Traklan, the proverbial evil one who keeps the realm in perpetual fear. The good guy is naturally you, Rikka, though you'll need the help of Arrel who is Ruler of the Lost Realm. Venom is described as an icon-driven adventure, which it isn't. Can we clear this up once and for all, adventure authors and software houses? An icon is an image that you click on with a mouse or joystick to save you typing in words. An adventure like this one that presents you with a list of words to move your cursor along and choose from is not an icon-driven adventure. Words are just words, not icons, understood?
Right, having got that off my chest, the screen layout of the game is very nice indeed. You get a decent graphic in the top-left quarter, or where there's no piccie you get part of a pocket history of the land of Armosin, sometimes containing useful clues. The text's a bit flowery, but I can live with that.
What I couldn't live with were the responses I was getting from the game when combining the available verbs at top-right of screen with the words in the location description beneath. As I was mounted on a horse at the start, with a tie-rail beneath and an inn to the north, I naturally tried TIE HORSE. I was told I needed a thong. EXAMINE RAIL. Good, there's a thong there, which seemed to have been added to my inventory. TIE HORSE. 'You'll tie yourself into a knot,' I was told. NORTH. 'What, on a horse?' So I entered EAST instead and the game promptly crashed.
I re-loaded, and going EAST was OK this time, so I wandered around on my horse for a while, saw an interesting monastery, avoided falling into a river, then back to the start and the tie-rail. I went through the same routine, but this time remembered to dismount. In the inn there was, naturally, an innkeeper. 'Full character interaction,' the cassette cover promises, telling you that to talk to a character you first select the TALK verb from the list, then highlight the name of one of the characters present. As the only people present were me and the innkeeper, and I wasn't (quite) talking to myself yet, I chose TALK and highlighted INNKEEPER. 'That makes no sense,' was the response. Two inputs later as I tried to examine a locked door, the game crashed again.
Now this wasn't a pre-production review copy, this was a finished game! The first crash came using the keyboard inputs, the second with a Kempston joystick attached, which the game allegedly supports. After the recent fatal bugs in Kentilla, and in the Amstrad version of Rigel's Revenge (which is fine on the Spectrum), Mastertronic really ought to get their play-testing sorted out or adventure fans will desert them.