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Sterling Software
Brian James
1984
Strategy: Management
£5.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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186,187
Chris Bourne

This is a charming strategy game for two players which brings a whiff of the countryside to your screen. The abject is to buy country cottages on a bank overdraft and make money from them by renting them out to a stream of oddball characters.

Each player starts off with an overdraft facility of £100, 000, and each player takes it in turn, with a turn representing a month. The screen display shows your bank balance, value of assets, increase in assets (as land prices rise) and interest owed to the bank. It also shows what properties (if any) the players own, what tennants are in and what they are paying in rent.

With each turn a player may opt to have a look at offered properties, advertise for a tennant, raise the rent or sell an empty property. Opting to look at something, the screen cuts to a rapidly drawn graphic of the cottage in question. There are several types in a wide price range. If the player

can afford it, it goes to auction and there is a scramble between the players to secure it, with the steps going up in £200 between bids. Once a cottage is owned, it may be advertised, with the rent wanted being input. If the asking price is not too steep a tennant may arrive, usually with some other impedmenta like monkeys or cats. During a turn the rent may be raised or lowered, although putting it up too often or too much may well result in the tennant pushing off in disgust.

If a property is sold, the player receives its original asking price plus the appreciation factor per month of ownership.

Afters year's play, if a year's bank balance is satisfactory, the bank manager may increase the overdraft facility to £200, 000 and so on. The winner is the first player whose total assets first reach the pre-set target figure for a short or long game.

CRITICISM

'It seems quite a while since we have had one of these property buying/selling strategy games in to review. Instructions seemed to make the game quite complex, and involving to play, something which I like. Initially the game was playable, and choosing beautiful cottages seemed to be quite a task within a £100,000 budget, given by my kind bank manager (mean, isn't he)? With my £100,000 I was able to buy two country cottages in reasonable condition. My next task was to find tennants to occupy them - couldn't be easier, put an advert up in the local paper and suddenly two tennants came forward. What do I do now? Well, nothing really, just slowly increase the rent, and wart - yawn, boring. Ah! My kind manager has now given me £200, 000! Instantly I sprang back to life from the darkest depths of sleep and bought two more cottages, found tennants, sat and waited. Is life really so easy and uncomplicated in the buying, renting and selling market as this game portrays? I've heard about making games uncomplicated and easy to play, but Sterling Software have seemingly gone over the top and totally spoiled the playability of this one. I don't realty think there's enough to keep anybody interested for any amount of time, and besides, being a two player game is already a major drawback. Lack of achievement and encouragement really does stop me from telling people to go out and buy this game.'

'The nicest thing about Country Cottages is the graphics of the stately residences themselves. From mean, broken down hovels to four window lakeside bungalows, they are all neatly and colourfully drawn. The random elements which make up the names and characters of the tennants who come to view them are also at work on the cottages, because although the price always matches the condition and appearance. the fine print often gives rise to mild hysteria and the feeling that an accomplished estate agent wrote it Who, after all, would put burglar proof locks on a cottage so run down the burglar could climb through the holes in the walls!? In fact the humour and the graphics are about it, because otherwise Country Cottages is rather 6'mited in content and action, even with two players. I get the feeling that there's a much better game to come from Sterling along these lines and using (rare in such games) these lovely graphics.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: 8 keys for input with one for each player at auction time
Joystick: N/A
Keyboard play: input routine uses ENTER or Y and is very fast
Use of colour: very good on the cottages, sensible on the balance sheets
Graphics: excellent, and drawn very quickly
Sound: used usefully
Skill levels: 9, increasing hazards to property
Lives: N/A
Screens: random landscape creation
Special features:
General Rating: Delightful to watch, but lacking in content.

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