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Radar Games
1985
Adventure: Text
£6.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

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93,94
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

Confidential is undoubtedly from a small software concern, but the effort expended in making this an interesting game to play is evidenced in the extensive literature which accompanies the cassette. As well as the super (and accurate) map and notebook which every player receives, I had a good read of the Confidential File hints list, without which I would have found the going rather difficult to say the least.

The supporting literature makes much of this game finding its setting in the real world with real streets, bank, shops, nightclubs and a taxi office. Of course they aren't actually real in that they exist in the fictitious town of Fox Bay, but considering this game was written some time before last month's editorial it's certainly a welcome change to wander about a town which at least has a street map provided.

Confidential is the story of the disappearance of a Mr Richards, a property developer, from the small coastal town of Fox Bay, and the subsequent investigation carried out by the local private detective, Craig Adams. With suitable deference to one or two notables in this area, the game attempts to bring something akin to Cluedo to the adventure world.

You find yourself in the Craig Adams Detective Agency and faced with the immediate scourge of any office worker -the ringing telephone. But you are no sedentary 9 to 5 type and this call is a real humdinger, dropping a juicy pomegranate of intrigue right into your trench-coated lap. A Mrs Richards of Dale End, a western suburb of Fox Bay, is worried about her husband who has been missing for 5 days. All she knows is that he left for work as usual at 8.30 am on Monday morning and was to collect a special present for his son's birthday. Your mission is quite simple - find out what has happened to her husband.

The game which builds up from around this conversation involves you travelling around (by car when out of town) collecting snippets of information which domino you around the circuitous route followed by the missing man. Your chief allies in this search are a keen ear for those salient facts which point toward the ultimate truths, and the passport discarded in Mr Richard's car which affords the very necessary identification when quizzing store assistants and other suspects who haven't got the foggiest who this Mr Richard is, or was, for that matter. I never did quite play enough to find out what exactly did happen to the guy, though I did begin to fear the worst.

Some aspects of the plot are quite complex, and to be honest, I would have found much of it a struggle were it not for the hint sheet kindly supplied by Radar. The vocabulary is not restricted to verb/noun to the extent that phrases like GIVE THE PASSPORT TO THE WOMAN must be entered to do the simplest of things. Since I tend to keep to verb/noun in the interests of time I entered PASSPORT WOMAN a seemingly illogical statement. On the whole the game is not a friendly one. Which part of a name is accepted? For example, the Club part of Club Tropicana and the Store part of Department Store, but the Richard part of Richard & Ellis Developments, is annoyingly inconsistent - where only one pan of a noun is accepted it helps if the program keeps to one approach throughout.

There are one or two onerous tasks every player will meet during play. One is the constant need to UNLOCK then ENTER the car when any distance is to be travelled. Another is the task of dropping an item before another can be picked up, made all the more essential by the program's devious construction which ensures there is little option but to do this every time. One curious one-off hitch is the inability to leave the maintenance bay with LEAVE MAINTENANCE. LEAVE GARAGE is needed and so to leave the garage LEAVE GARAGE must be repeated twice, once to leave the bay and the second time to leave the garage proper. Another (one-off!) is the necessity of opening a door in the taxi office which is described as being already open. Incidentally, I very much doubt if I could have got past the taxi office were it not for the hint sheet.

A more fundamental irritant is the need to interview suspects in the correct preset order otherwise certain crucial events, like the opening of banks and stores, will simply not occur. Interviewing Mr Ellis, a partner in the missing man's firm, is a particularly crucial stage; missing it could leave you thrashing around the garage or high street to no avail. This interview also marks the time when the local constabulary decide your car would be safer in their car pound.

Because of this fundamental constraint on your actions, and the order in which you may carry them out, the adventure takes on that distinctive linear look, where before a problem can be tackled the one before it in the line must be laid to rest.

Confidential is a well-presented, attractive, Quilled, text-only adventure. In terms of storyline and plot it is significantly above average and clearly represents a considerable amount of work on the part of the programmer.

CRITICISM

COMMENTS
Difficulty: quite difficult
Graphics: none
Presentation: quite good
Input facility: basically verb/noun
Response: instantaneous
General Rating: Original plot, definitely worth exploring.

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