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Alan Davis
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

The Journey is a real-time text adventure with only a few graphics in which your quest is to seek out the legendary White Ship of the Elves and obtain passage to a distant land where your destiny as an adventurer may be fulfilled (don't ask me what this last bit means, I got it straight off the inlay). As you make your way over the lands of the Black Warlock, and beyond, you will meet many creatures. These, apart from the guardians who keep a constant watch over important routes and treasures, lead lives of their own and are free to roam as they wish. They may appear friendly, indifferent or decidedly hostile, and this will depend on how you conduct yourself. Some may have Powers you don't possess but will only help once you've won their respect. Similarly, they will only talk to you, perhaps imparting useful information, if they like you.

After about twenty seconds the 'What Now?' prompt is withdrawn briefly from the bottom of the screen while the other characters are given the option of performing some function. To take a breather from the relentless onslaught of real-time, type in any letter in response to the prompt and do not enter. However, if this letter is subsequently inappropriate and you must delete it, the obsessive real-time element leaps straight back in slowing up your next input. So although The Journey is indeed a realtime game, this element is more obtrusive than in, say, The Hobbit, as WAIT, for example, does not speed up time but is simply there as an option to sit out the next twenty seconds, quite literally.

This is not such a bad thing as the game has quite a strategy aspect to it and this provides time to think. Where the real-time really does intrude is when the computer insists on taking its turn every twenty seconds no matter what. You can be typing in a command only to find the program isn't accepting it since it is too busy with its own, rather slow and laborious, computations. When you finally get your input in, a delay of four seconds is almost standard.

For the seasoned adventurer the vocabulary shows many anomalies, so reading the inflated instructions, alas, is a necessity. Communicating with the characters is non-standard but easy to come to terms with. 'Say to' is dropped in favour of TELL ELF OPEN DOOR, or TELL ELF TAKE SWORD, which neatly keeps input to a four word maximum. If you should decide to get the dagger from the elf, and if TELL ELF DROP DAGGER is successful you are told that the elf has given you the dagger, yet you must still GET DAGGER.

When verb/noun couplings are used, the verb, sadly, must be typed out in full, so the almost universally friendly EXAM is expanded to EXAMINE. If a character in a nearby location is needed you can CALL him to you but the calls will go unheeded unless you have taken the time to befriend him in the first place. Friendly characters, once called, will prove more useful if you make use of the LIST command where LIST ELF will produce a rundown on what the elf is carrying. I like the command LIST ELF but why LIST instead of INVENTORY when you want to know what you are carrying?

There is no sane reason why the letter I should not give your own inventory in every adventure - just like any other industry standard. Each character in The Journey, including your own, possesses three attributes: intelligence, strength and experience. The command STATUS will give your own current attributes. You can determine the status of other characters by typing STATUS ELF etc. Your attributes will change as the adventure progresses. Solving certain problems may cause your intelligence to increase while eating increases your strength to a maximum which, quite rightly, does not just decrease with time but with combat and exertion. Interestingly, wounds are healed by eating in that you become strong once more. Your effectiveness in combat is governed primarily by the sum total of your attributes compared to those of your opponent, together with a small luck factor. You may engage a character in combat by typing FIGHT THE WARLOCK in which case it will be assumed you wish to fight with your bare hands.

Possession of weapons may be used to advantage by typing FIGHT WARLOCK WITH SWORD. All weapons give you an increased advantage but you must guess which weapons are the more powerful. You need not specify a weapon when asking others to fight on your behalf (TELL ELF FIGHT GIANT). If the elf is carrying a weapon he will automatically use it and if he is carrying more than one, he will choose the most powerful. Others may take the initiative and attack you first and if wounded your strength is reduced.

The Journey is an adventure where selecting the most fruitful avenues and taking them at the appropriate times is more important than the linear progression characteristic of many adventures with a long line of problems. After studying the solution two thoughts cross my mind. Firstly, the game is very complicated and has the wherewithal to keep an avid adventurer engrossed for some time. Secondly, unravelling could prove rather difficult if the adventurer must discover for himself which weapons are the most lethal and which characters' friendships offer the most gains. Much work has gone into creating an impressive depth in the game which is very different from the run-of-the-mill adventures and offers a further advance in character interaction. Well worth a look at.


Difficulty: moderate-difficult
Graphics: very few
Presentation: black on white with no use of colour
Input facility: verb/noun except when using TELL
Response: average about 4 seconds
General Rating: Different and worth a look at.