Once upon a time, as all of us adventurers know, two heroes called Crowther and Woods delved into the mysteries of the vast mainframes, way back in the far-off seventies.
Out they came, brushing cobwebby diodes and valves out of their hair and clutching the skeleton of what was to become the original adventure game, a tale of derring-do and treasure tucked away in the very bowels of the earth.
Or so they said . .. but, over a glass or 15 of Jamesons with one of my Irish contacts, I picked up a very different version. "Well, Dicky," he confided, "What they really found was so crazed, so bizarre that they had to expurgate it before they published it. No one then was ready for stuff as odd 3S that."
Now it seems one of the St Brides team has stumbled on a secret US database which held the original game, miraculously down-loaded it and decided to turn it loose on the world.
I'm sure lots of you will have played some version or other of the Crowther and Woods program - call it Colossal Caves, Classic Adventure or what have you.
The gels at St Brides have decided to call a spade a spade and have given their deranged program the title of The Very Big Cave Adventure.
Once you load up you'll get an immediate feeling of deja vu. Yes, there's the forest, the hill and the little house in the clearing.
There's even the famous metal grating that gives you access to the cave system and its treasure. Hang on, though ... surely the little house you know and love wasn't quite like this: "The door of the small brick building is closed. You see a brass mechanism attached to the door, bearing the legend 'Vacant'..." Naturally you'll need a penny to get in, readily obtainable from the ferocious bull who guards it nearby - provided you're prepared to lie and deceive the beast first. As the gels tell you "...after all, it is a gully-bull, you know." Groan factor eight at warp speed.
By this time you've probably got some idea of what VBCA is going to be like. When you then get locked into the little public lavatory on the prairie you'll realise it's going to be even odder. Examining the spring there will get you shot out of the house like Quaker Oats ... yes, it's that sort of spring.
Once down the grating you're into the famous cave system, complete with Debris Room, Y2 Cavern and the Hall of the Mountain King - scattered with equally famous objects like the Black Rod (with a rusty star on the end) or the Gilded Cage, snake-scaring birds for the use of.
Huh, said I to myself, I know what these things are for. Try using them in the way the original Adventure worked though and you rapidly find all is not quite as it seems. The cheerful little songbird refuses to enter the cage - though you can if you're that way inclined. And the Black Rod, when used with the appropriate crystal, makes a bridge okay. But what sort of bridge? T***y Bridge, that's who.
The deeper you get into the cave system, the more hysterical you're likely to become and the odder become the tasks. You may feel the need to swear by this point - take care, 'cos Trixie Trinian and the other prefects at St Brides don't hold with that sort of nonsense.
VBCA is a send-up of one of the classics of games computing and fits the same sort of niche as productions like Bored of the Rings. There's the zany approach to a familiar theme, and the kind of humour that will either have you groaning in pleasure or beating your head against the wallpaper.
Like other St Brides's games it's written on The Quill, with Patched-in half-screen location graphics and the occasional sound effect. Naturally it's considerably more abbreviated than the original untainted game, but that is more than made up for by having two parts - the second half is... wait for it... Moron's Quest.
As with Bored, you'll probably enjoy the gameplay more if you know the source program but it's not essential, as the daft humour and twisted logic will quickly engage you. The descriptions are pretty reasonable, given the fact this is a Quilled game, and the responses are snappy and droll: "Exam bottle: green, originally one of a set of ten."
The general presentation and feel are more polished than previous St Brides' productions and the problems, both old and new, entail plenty of brain-straining.
Author: St Brides
Reviewer: Richard Price
Spoof version of the original colossal caves. Quilled, but if you like programming jokes this is for you.
Inside the brick house you'll find the spring is more like an ejector seat than a bottle of Perrier. The bomb? Ah, that's for an a-bomb- in-a-bull purpose. I bet you're groaning aleady.
Player 1 vanquishes the mean greenies with some well spelled manoeuvres. Somewhere among the UDGs is the mother-ship. Complete with her crystalline cargo.
Philosophy won't get you anywhere in this room. And nor will Plug. just beyond lies the spartan Habitat Room and the lush Laura Ashley cave. Trixie, have you no mercy?