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Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Tony Bridge
Chris Bourne

The Big Sleaze is the whacky Fergus McNeils' latest adventure.

It's got to be said. I wasn't too happy with his last one. Murder off Miami which, apart from an awful bug in the first batch of tapes which made it impossible for the player to get out of the first location, could have made a lot of the original Dennis Wheatley packaging which was only hinted at in the final release.

Anyway, on to the new one. As you'll know from the ads, this puts you into the soft shoes of one Mike Spillade in a hectic romp across the Big Apple, the Big Sleaze, New York New York.

And you're on a case, working for one Miss Jane Doe whose had some photos of hers stolen. The pieces are now scattered around the city and she wants you to get them back for her. Anyone who has managed to stay awake through one of those black-and-white private eye movies of the '40s that Channel 4 is always showing (usually with Kirk Douglas or Robert Michum) will recognise the kind of plot. That means automatic mode with lots of old cliches gleaned from dozens of Spillane/Chandler/Hammett pulp paperbacks.

The difference is that McNeill can't handle this sort of parody with anything like the success of his fantasy pastiches such as The Boggit and Bored of the Rings - Mickey Spillane himself was the supreme parodist of the private eye novel, and his premier position is completely safe from such as Delta 4. But what's the adventure like? Well, McNeill has always been better on atmosphere, scene-setting and humour than on the sheer intellectual content and brain-twisting of his puzzles (although these can be quite frustrating in their own way).

I'm afraid to say that here you won't find much atmosphere, while the humour is sub-three year old, relying in large part on rib-nudging 'jokes' concerning pink piggy safes with keyholes in very strange places and yawn-inducing routines about the deeper meaning of 'private dick'. I shouldn't think even Delta 4 managed to raise a smile at this lot!

Starting off in your office, you must find a way to break into your own safe (crazy as it seems), then hang about waiting for someone to come in and drop a note, and then wander out into the street and to your heap of a car. In this you can drive around the Big Apple to other locations (though Delta 4's New York doesn't coincide too closely with the real world - who would get to Queens, about a mile to the east of New York via Jersey City, some 10 to 15 miles to the south-west?)

The adventure puzzles are pretty abysmal, particularly by Delta 4's usual high standard, most of them consisting of such routines as "Go North/The door is locked/Unlock door/OK/Open door/OK/Exit/OK" and so on.

Surely we deserve more than this after all these years?

The illustrations are OK, and the layout is easy on the eye. though like Miami, the layout shouts Quill. Colour of Magic saw Delta 4 pioneering a more imaginative approach, which it seems to have lost in all departments.

Ram Save and Load are available as well as all the usual facilities we expect from a top-flight Quill'd/PAWd adventure (probably the first incidentally), and this is only to be expected with Gilsoft adding its weight to that of Delta 4.

Help is dynamic, in that the response to the command changes as circumstances dictate. The adventure doesn't, however, recognise such a wide range of commands as usual, and certainly doesn't exhibit the usual special brand of weirdness that we've come to know and love from previous Delta 4 stories.

Even though its big - there are three parts to this story in true Delta 4 fashion - and even though there is the third Sceptical (the first program designed as a Worker's Party T-shirt) as a bonus, £9.95 is just too much for this latest McNeill offering.

I fully expect to see Delta 4 recover from it's recent loss and come back to deliver something more like their usual brilliance. Fergus is a pretty resilient chap and capable of great things. Big Sleaze, however, isn't one of them.

Label: Piranha
Author: Delta 4
Price: £9.95
Memory: 48K (multiload)/128K
Reviewer: Tony Bridge

Fergus McNeil meets Chandler and gets badly mauled. Lacks his main trademark - it's not very funny.