Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

Everyone in modern civilisation is vulnerable to the consumerist kick a strong desire to buy something (anything) before heading home convinced the trip was worthwhile. In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World it was a crime not to consume and indeed, despite media warnings of the credit boom, modern society would collapse were we all to decide to stop consuming tomorrow (that would give the chancellor something to think about next budget).

Some companies choose to prey on our susceptibilities by offering goods at knock down (or knock about) prices, but the truth is such purchases often only delay the consumerist craving. On the other hand, if you are struggling to get to grips with a more pricey complex strategy game, you'd be far too busy to make it to the shops in any case (even for food)! Don't get me wrong, some cheap games are indeed good value for money, but most, alas, prove the notion behind the saying 'you gets what you pays for' (explaining the universal unpopularity of poverty). This game is one of the many, and what you get is worth approximately £1.99.

Enough of modern society and back to noddy land (my favourite tourist destination).

According to the ancient books of the great monks, an evil force shall devour the land, 'before you the earth will open and from within an evil power shall erupt' . Now this prophesy has been fulfilled and the land is gradually wasting. As the last remaining Knight of the Round Table it is your duty to King and country to escape from your ambushed castle, find the legendary Excalibur, and destroy the source of all evil, Goroth the Serpent of Hell.

As if one program for a pittance wasn't enough, this game has two parts, one on either side of the tape. On the cassette cover six helpful hints leg ' remember your manners' and 'don't be greedy'!) follow a short list of useful words.

You find yourself trapped within a banquet hall in the first frame but it looks and feels far more like a prison cell and it's hard not to think of it as such. The picture is very simple a locked door stands in front of you. The colours are particularly awful. Graphics, when as poor and simple as they are here, are responsible for the view that graphics add nothing to adventures and worse, actually min what little atmosphere has been built up by the text.

The vocabulary it uses is awkward and unfriendly, made worse by the dumb computer; the program literally ignores all commands except those it chooses as necessary for your progress. And we are back to old nuts when a program only accepts TAKE and not GET. Abbreviations are too sophisticated for this one everything must be spelled out with no I or even INV options on INVENTORY. EXAMINE KEY in the first frame brings no reply, quite a surprise after seeing the replies invoked by examine in Emerald Isle.

Whenever you try something the program does not accept, the picture is redrawn, even if it's just a case of picking up an object as objects are depicted in the location picture. Text is printed slowly across the screen in a manner, and with a sound, similar to the labouring sportsnews teleprinter. Just to prove the program's obstinacy, there is no DROP. This all takes us back through three years of adventuring, but even that long back many adventures had much more sophistication than this one.

Serpent from Hell follows Ruby Runaround as another very cheap adventure from Scorpio. The response is reasonably fast and the input routine solid with an accompanying bleep. The game offers minimal graphics and a confused scenario. Where it really falls short is in the area of communicating with the computer you are often left wondering where the program has gone.


Difficulty: difficult due to lack of response and awful vocabulary
Graphics: yes, but lacking in detail and colour
Presentation: printing of text is slow
Input facility: verb/noun, I think the instructions do not concern themselves with such trivia
Response: most of the time it doesn't have one and simply ignores you
General Rating: Not recommended, even at £1.99.