Countdown to Doom (85%, Issue 52) had you trying to escape from the inhospitable planet Doomwangara before your damaged spaceship corroded away to nothing. You've just settled back into ordinary life, flying the odd routine mission, when an unexpected distress call comes through on your intercom. An ambassador has been kidnapped by a group of renegade robots. Unless you reach her in time, she is Doom ed.
The planet hasn't changed much since you were last here. Its climate is erratic and its terrain encompasses a wide variety of different geographical features. Thick jungles abut treacherous swamps, dark tunnels lead out into a world of poisonous fields, alkaline lakes and acid seas and in the midst of it all is a strange and half-familiar artefact.
Sudden death is a constant possibility in this bizarre and surrealistic land. One false step and you could be dissolving painfully in a shower of acid rain, sinking into quicksand or chomped into a thousand pieces by a set of monstrous granite teeth. As if that wasn't enough, the planet is crawling with ecosaurs, allodiles, pteromorphs. grobblers and montipythons. They're all pretty keen on the odd pound of human flesh and must be treated with the greatest care and respect. If you do end up plummeting, disintegrating, dematerialising or sinking to an unexpected death, the program sometimes gives you the chance to pretend that you haven't. Magically you reappear at the location previous to your nasty accident and continue, a much wiser and (hopefully) better man/woman.
Proceed far enough and you cone across a unique and unusual four-legged friend. Talkative and reasonably helpful, he makes a welcome (and humorous) change from the singularly antagonistic tone of the rest of the planet. As man's best (and only) friend, he comes in particularly useful when solving some of the characteristically fiendish puzzles. Governed by a general, if sometimes implausible, logic they are quite hard to grasp at first, not least because of a confusingly large number of red herrings.
If you've played Countdown to Doom, you're definitely in with an advantage; huge pieces of moving landscape and initially obscure connections between seemingly abstract objects won't seem that unusual. Baffled beginners can always seek help from the inbuilt hint system and keep saving to disk. It's definitely worth persevering; there's immense satisfaction to be gained from solving an offbeat problem that's been bugging you for days.
A no-nonsense parser accepts complex sentences, EXCEPT and ALL but no pronouns, adverbs or EXAMINE commands, and doesn't really merit the inflated price. Unlike the other Topologika games I've reviewed, this one is not a rerelease, yet its only significant difference lies in a slightly less blank response to the EXAMINE command. It's not an improvement that really justifies the extra three pounds.
Minor quibbles aside, Return to Doom has enough material to fuel hours and hours of intriguing play. It recreates the atmosphere of the original Doomwangara game without overlapping too much in terms of content and its unusual puzzles provide an interesting change from some of the more main-stream adventures around. If you're after a challenge, have plenty of time and a bit of cash to spare, contact Topologika at FREEPOST, PO Box 39, Stilton, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE7 3BR.