Anco Software Ltd
Steven Screech
1987
Adventure: Graphic
£9.95
English
ZX Spectrum 128K
None

53,54
Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

I stuck this one into the cassette recorder, noticed it wasn't loading, then referred to the cover to find out that it ' s 128 only. So, after a trip downtown, I am now a proud owner of that new (angle Amstrad Spectrum thingie. Yes, this program is for the Spectrum 128K only (or so I assume, as it came all by itself with no info), a fact which I can only respect as the work of a true devotee, as any program only on the 128 format rules out the sales possible on the 48. Needless to say, a 128 program such as this takes a long time to load, so I wouldn't recommend sitting there watching it; sit down instead, and have a good read of the cover to get to know all the icons used, as this is very much an icon-driven affair.

Now, before I get all enthusiastic, let's just run over one or two drawbacks. The program appears to consist mostly of BASIC - the only explanation I can think of to account for the games slow, plodding pace. The proceedings aren't helped along any by the need to constantly press ENTER to confirm moves or to finish a sequence. This ensures you never miss anything, but often there's nothing to miss in any case. The other question mark over this game is the convoluted over-use of icons. Icons are surety meant as an easy option over text input. Unfortunately, in this case, getting to know the icons (which often lead to sets of sub-icons) takes some effort and, again, slows things down to a ponderous plod. At the start of the adventure you can pick up a sling, and it strikes me that simply typing TAKE SUNG would be an awful lot easier than coursing your way through the Russian doll sets of icons.

The landscape over which the game develops isn't altogether convincing, even though the pictures are good. There are too many locations stuck in to make up the number; they don't further the story, and your memories are of an adventure filled with location descriptions which have useless go-nowhere statements such as there are 'no notable features' (spelled 'noteable' in the adventure).

I'm not totally enamoured with the 'barren grassy plains ' either. Having given this review a less-than-flattering start, this game can come up trumps if you put these drawbacks to one side and just get stuck in.

Time for the story-and it's quite a sound one, so pay attention. Back in the misty past, a kingdom in a remote part of Britain had one strange custom. When the young men of the realm reached their eighteenth birthday, custom declared that they spent a day in the wilderness. If they survived, they were welcomed back as men worthy to take their place in society. Well, guess what, you've just turned eighteen, and there you stand on the edge of the wilderness, ready to be sent off by your friends, family and elders. Beyond sketches a bleak, mysterious, forbidding landscape. The last thing you can remember is your father proposing a toast to your future and safe return. When you regain consciousness, the crowd is gone and you are alone in the vast wilderness known as the Kingdom of Krell.

Something which you will soon realise about the land of Krell is your view of it differs from the location description, as it is the adjacent location that you see in the direction you are currently looking. This is somewhat similar to Lords of Midnight in style, but I don't think it works quite as well here - there is too much sudden variation in topography to mimic the feeling of genuine travel over a real land. Hence a barren grassy plain will be accompanied by the picture of a river and trees, and as often as not, will be followed by the picture of a plain when you are now by a river. In another area you have entered the mouth of a cave with damp walls, and the picture is of a green plain! I'd admit that it would be hard to eliminate this problem, given the game's design, without copying the system used in Midnight. The game design is again found to be weak when fighting the skeleton, where hitting the creature causes a deep gash which for my liking sounds too much like a flesh-wound, and describing a skeleton as either 'dead', or as a 'carcass', doesn't quite ring true.

This game very much finds its roots in Dungeons and Dragons, with an unfaltering loyalty to that world's terminology. Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma are all here. As with many role-playing games, amusing ratings are in evidence such as the far from complimentary Dung-Dweller.

The Kingdom of Krell is a vast, real-time adventure with a multitude of independent characters. The main menu allows the player to Move, Sleep, select Weapons, cast Spells, Take and Drop, as well as Talk to characters. Taking the Talk option to illustrate the sub menus, in this case Pleasantly, Normal, and Nastily represent the different sorts of speech possible. If a nasty creature is encountered it is possible simply to give it the slip by moving on, otherwise Attack can be evoked.

Although I had reservations during the early stages of play (including annoyance at only one arrow key to return to the main menu rather than the two together outlined in the instructions), I must say that after a while the effort that has gone into producing this game does begin to make itself apparent. Once the icon system is mastered time can be taken noticing just how well the adventure is served up, and how good the graphics really are - both pictures and icons.

CRITICISM

COMMENTS
Difficulty: you can play straight away but completion is another matter
Graphics: very good
Presentation: very smart
Input facility: icons
Response: adequate
General Rating: Very interesting.

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