Zacaron Mystery is another budget adventure from Players - the budget arm of Interceptor.
Interceptor itself has some very good full-price adventures and it's good to see that the company can come up with some decent budget games as well.
The plot is, admittedly, a bit hackneyed. It's the year 3065, and man is still alive: but it's close. The Earth's fuel reserves will only last a few more months. The only things which can save humanity are two Zacaron crystals. And guess who's volunteered to fly off in his spaceship and find them? Right in one.
The crystals, you are told, are located on two distant planets, Prutor and Myra. Unfortunately, you don't know exactly where on each planet. Prutor seems to be a rather rural world. Incidentally, it's well supplied with fuel. Why the population of the earth doesn't just move to Prutor, I don't know ...
As to what Myra is like, I can't tell you. To get there, you need to solve the first half of the adventure, pick up the crystal and a password which lets you into the second half.
The cassette blurb says you have to beware the acid-filled rivers and the burning sun. So it sounds a lot like Norway - obviously our contribution to the acid rain problem is on rather a larger scale than Mrs Thatcher would have us believe.
Fine, enough preamble - let's get to the meat of the matter.
You communicate with the program with standard verb-noun format. Explore and you don't find a great deal. There's a rather nifty lever you can pull, but if you do it too soon you die. Don't worry, if you're in the right time at the right place you'll know when to pull it.
Right. The ship has landed, you've worked out how to get out of it. and you're standing on Prutor.
Nobody seems to have taken much interest in your arrival, so you'll have to boldly go and find them. While you're at it, it's a good idea to search every location you come across, especially if it seems to be nothing more than a space between one interesting place and another.
I've managed to find about 15 locations so far, and have met two of the inhabitants of the planet. I have the suspicion that I'm not going to get any further until I do certain things with certain objects. But what I have to do, I haven't the faintest idea.
I've managed to find what the old man wants, and got his message - but I can't see the castle he refers to anywhere and I can't get into the hut because whoever lives there just throws me out all the time. Maybe I should climb a tree? There's a nice big fire, but I don't seem to be able to get a torch. What am I supposed to do with the copper coins, the penknife, the silver ring...?
One nice touch is that the Spectrum Beeps when you type - and just so you don't get sick of the same idiot Beep, it changes every so often from a low pitched sound to a high pitched one.
Zacaron Mystery is a really quite nice budget adventure, with clipped but serviceable location descriptions and vary little of the sudden death syndrome that many game authors use when they can't be bothered to set up a decent challenge.
Two little criticisms: firstly, it keeps on printing More at the bottom of the screen, so you think something exciting is about to happen - but all the program is telling you is that it's about to repeat the room description because it's scrolled off-screen. Secondly, if it has to play a silly little tune before the game begins, why did it have to be the First Noel?
Author: Ben Hall, Jon Nicholson
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Budget adventures can be very variable. And this is one of the better efforts - quite a challenge and well worth the dosh.
Seems too idyllic to be true. And you'd be right.
Here's the lever. I have a nasty feeling this was the wrong moment to pull it.