Orpheus Ltd
Keith A. Parrock
1985
Adventure: Text
£4.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

98
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

The Village Underworld is another Quilled game that offers something special, not in any new or radical feature, but rather in one of the few departments of innovation left to the Quilled game, that is, the storyline. Not only is the story good but it is told over a large 150 locations. The vocabulary listed on the cover is a good start for what turns out to be a rather enjoyable game.

You are sitting at home one day reading the newspaper when a headline catches your eye: 'Great Find of Treasure at Sleepy Village'. Reading down the column you find several items of great value have been discovered at the village whose name is strangely unfamiliar. The next evening you drive there and stop outside the village hall. It is here you start your adventure with the torch from the car, and in good old adventuring tradition, it isn't long before you have to switch on. After getting it on R for Redescribe replaces 'Everything is dark' with the location description for whichever position you have stumbled into. To complete the game you should collect 20 Items of treasure and drop them into the boot of your car.

The most endearing features of this game are those subtle qualities of all well-designed adventures namely, interesting location descriptions set within a fascinating plot laid out upon a credible map. In this case the layout is exceptionally intelligent where you quickly find yourself engrossed in your surroundings because they are so believable, with no dire discrepancies to puncture the plot as in lesser games. Much as' you might expect there is a stage and a small office within the village hall, a large farm on the eastern outskirts of the village complete with fields, barns, farmhouse and meadow, and to the north a dusty track leads to an old mine with a miner's shack close by. Further into the adventure the premises of the Diehard Meat Packing Co. provide a lot of worthy puzzles, and not only is the layout credible with the small of meat leading you into the freezing, processing and grading departments (and the smell of old books and leather to the company lawyer) but it is ever so easy to get around with the ingenious lift - CL calls the lift and the numbers 1 to 6 select a floor for further investigation. This is not the only novel feature as in a hollow you meet the sign 'Danger UXB Follow the arrows 88687757578878' which somehow leads you through without the report 'You have been blown to bits by an unexploded bomb! Next time watch where you stick your big feet)!'

The distribution of items is also commendably sensible and atmosphere-creating with dynamite and a long fuse in the miner's shack, a fur coat at the back of the hall, and a heated brazier in the night-watchman's office (strangely enough, the watchman doesn't catch you - unlike the thief in the cave system). In the north end of the village hall is a small office where you find a gas mask and a filing cabinet.

Here the program shows its friendliness by accepting the first four letters of either CABINET or FILING in the construction OPEN CABINET whereupon R for Redescribe reveals a paper lying in an open filing cabinet. GET PAPER followed by READ PAPER gives a cryptic message which makes little sense but apparently could be helpful later on. In these ways this game climbs above the poorer Quilled games where too often actions are not reflected in the descriptions. These seemingly small points are vital to adventures which purport to be alive and interactive as it is this vibrancy which separates a computer game from an inanimate novel.

The vocabulary is exceptionally friendly for a Quilled game and nothing endears me more to an adventure than a friendly vocabulary. Think of any common words at any juncture and you blink in disbelief as you zip along to the next location such is the conditioning for disappointment after playing so many unfriendly adventures. This game is determined to let you through to solve the puzzles and not to waste time matching words. Super. These points, together with that list of words on the cover, makes this game the tops for friendliness.

Although the game does not have long location descriptions except the first) and its examine command can only be described as inoperative (since it always results in 'Can you be more specific') it seems surprisingly resilient to these drawbacks such is the undoubted strength of its good points. If you are having difficulty early on perhaps you've forgotten to wear some of the items you are carrying. I particularly like the differing, yet similarly cruel, deaths inflicted by the sever cold, and in one instance as in the Diehard Co. buildings. What you will find playing the game is, thankfully, that you are able to play through the branches in any order as much of the adventure is open to investigation right from the start.

Clearly the adventure has been designed with an eye on just how players might go about tackling it.

CRITICISM

COMMENTS
Difficulty: Relatively easy
Graphics: None
Presentation: Black on white with little use of colour. Rather poor.
Input Facility: Verb/Noun as all Quill games
General Rating: Worth exploring, especially for the novice adventurer.

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