First, the facts. The Hermitage is the first release by the Pegasus Developments team. It's got full text 'n' pix on the +3 (which is being reviewed), with a lengthy text-only version for 128K machines and your basic bog-standard text-only job in 48K. The +3 disk uses the 'B' side to store and call up the graphics, and these are beautifully done in full-colour, putting Level 9's recent Lancelot attempts to shame. Take a bow, Peter Collins. There's even a bonus adventure on the disk, Teacher Trouble, and, despite being set in a school like hundreds of others, it's better than most and won me over at the point where the hero is wandering down a corridor and "Emir is confronted by an enormous green thing covered in scabs! But enough of my problems and back to the game..."
The Hermitage is a gothic tale set in the Middle Ages in which you play the part of a monk named Ambrose. Your Archbishop gives you the task of going on a pilgrimage to the mountains of Vainmiomen to destroy an evil hermit, said by some to be an incarnation of the devil himself. You don't really feel up to it but the 'bish won't take "No" for an answer and off you go. This is a brief summary of a longer background nicely presented in an optional introduction.
The game's got a good professional look all round, except for spelling mistakes like 'existance', 'monotanous', 'uneasyily' and others too numerous to mention. Pegasus will have to sort this problem out if it's going to develop. Which it will, judging by this effort. The screen's well presented, the text is good, if a little gory in places, and the whole thing moves along briskly.
For once it pays to retrace your footsteps at the start, to discover that nasty things have been happening at the monastery. Several bodies are now lying around, with grizzly things having been done to them. There's a good gothic atmosphere, added to if you examine the statues in the chapel or read the bible you find in the pulpit. Off on your travels you get half-way over a rope bridge when a man appears at the other side and threatens to cut the rope if you don't cough up some cash. Result? One dead monk. Elsewhere there's a village where all hell's let loose, with drunken riotings, flaming huts and women being burnt at the stake. A good deed or two are needed here if you're to progress.
Conversation with other characters is a bit limited, in that you can usually say what you like to them and get the necessary response, and the vocabulary could be wider. A woman asks you to help her, but HELP WOMAN doesn't work, nor does RESCUE WOMAN (despite RESCUE being in the game's vocabulary according to the VOCAB command). You have to FREE WOMAN.
When a game has a few faults, as this one does, it often puts me off but the strong story and atmosphere of The Hermitage make it stand out from the crowd. Anyone taking the trouble to produce a special graphics version just for the +3 at under a tenner deserves a pat on the back too. Well worth buying.