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A.J. Wright
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

You may remember Operation Stallion, also from Wrightchoice, reviewed in the April issue... on the other hand you may not, see if I care. If you do, however, you'll recall it was the first in a planned trilogy with a prize of 500 smackers to the adventurer who was first past the post in solving all three. The same applies to The Crown, and I think it's better than its predecessor - which is this month's big word. The Ed allows me one per issue, you know.

The programmer has had the cheek to set The Crown in that place beloved of adventure reviewers who like to send up silly names: the lands of Tharg. The hero has an even sillier name, Yed Prior, who sounds like he ought to be running a monastery instead of trying to reclaim his rightful place on the Throne of Tharg. Yes, your friends might think of you as a poor peasant but you know who your father was - nice of your mother to tell you, really, and also to give you his ring to help you on your quest.

You also have a broadsword, and you're going to need it as this is a combative adventure. You seem to be able to attack almost any other character you meet on the way, from innocent shopkeepers to nasty guards beating up old ladies, and if you engage them in combat you go into a little routine that allows you to choose your form of attack (lunge, swing or hack) and then defence (retreat, dodge and duck) before you sit back and let battle commence. The author says the combat sequences are unique in not relying on randomly generated numbers, and I thought at one point I'd cracked the system, till a guard turned round and cracked me on the skull to prove me wrong.

I find combat sequences tedious, because even if the numbers aren't randomly generated, it's still a random choice that you make each time, and I believe luck should play no part in the solving of an adventure. But I'm just an old stick-in-the-mud, and I know lots of adventurers have an insatiable thirst for this kind of bloodthirsty bashing. At least there's a RAMSAVE which means a very quick resurrection should you die - which you frequently do. And you can always RAMSAVE again when you've beaten each opponent.

The rest of the adventure is well above average and very enjoyable, though I think it's a bit unfair to rely on using the word CAREFULLY in solving the first problem, when we're dealing with a Quill'd game where the vast majority of inputs are verb-noun. There are plenty of other human characters in the game, and nice use has been made of some of The Quill's features - you enter a pub as the Harbour Master drinks up and leaves, and if you follow him out you find him sitting in his office on the harbour front. He'll allow you to join a galleon if you have your papers, but when he's given these the once-over he'll point out that you need a sextant as well, so off you go again to try and equip yourself further. Other characters lend an air of reality to the adventure as well, and my only frustration was so many combat sequences when I really wanted to get on with trying to solve the problems. A mite over-priced, but for those of you who like this kind of thing, this is definitely the kind of thing you'll like.