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A.J. Wright
1987
Adventure: Text
£6.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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87
Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

Yet another adventure with a scenario that's had a lot of work put into it, and yet the game itself doesn't quite live up to the promise, mainly because of some niggling little faults. The first in a trilogy of adventures, you might be prepared to put up with those faults when you know there's a £500 prize for the first to complete all three.

You are John Blake, seemingly an obscure government employee, who's true role as a troubleshooter is known only by the boss Charles Jenson, alias CJ, and the Prime Minister, alias PM. Your job involves you in activities on the fringes of legality on behalf of the government, but there's one drawback - you have a brain implant that allows CJ or the PM to take you out at any time.

Operation Stallion is a complex two-part tale of heroin smuggling, and your aim is to terminate a character called Kwok inside 24 hours. In the first part you start in your office, the description of which is as lengthy as you'll get in an Infocom game, though naturally you shouldn't expect the same kind of detailed interaction. After a few moves your phone rings, and CJ (I didn't get where I am today by...) summons you to the briefing room. There you're given your mission, and invited to choose from the 24 items of equipment made available to you. I think this feature, which crops up in adventures now and again, is totally out of place. You have no way of knowing at the outset what equipment you're likely to need, and the completion of part two is likely to be tedious as you continually realise you're going to have to go back to the start and choose a different item to take with you. It's not just a case of quickly loading up an earlier saved game and playing it through again, but of loading up part one in its entirety, then loading a saved game or playing through to the briefing room, then saving your game, then reloading part two, then loading the newly saved game from part one, then playing it through from the start to where you'd left off. Phew! I'd suggest you make a careful note of all 24 items from part one, and continually refer to it as well as to your inventory when you come up against problems in part two.

A great deal of effort has been put into the text and graphics (Quill/Illustrator), so it's a shame the thoroughness doesn't extend throughout the program itself. Early on in part two, for instance, you need to get past a bull to get into Kwok's mansion. Despite the fact that I was carrying a machine gun, a stun grenade, nitroglycerine, plastic explosives and a canister of KO gas, none of them seemed to be the solution called for and so the bull kept seeing me off. A bit unrealistic, I reckon. They've also spelt 'canister' incorrectly with two n's as an object, but you must spell it correctly to get or drop it. A few other text mistakes crop up too.

At about half price or less, I'd say it was worth buying, but at £6.95 I think it's priced too highly, even with the potential appeal of that prize. A pity.

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