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Tartan Software
Tom D. Frost
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

You may have thought Gordello had been well and truly demised at the end of Tartan Software's last adventure, The Gordello Incident, but it doesn't do to jump the gun, or even the haggis. Programmer Tom Frost always seems to have a trick or two up his kilt, and it now turns out that Part 3 of the first Gordello was all a dream and you have to do the whole thing over again. McRats! GardeIto's Demise takes place in the same set of locations as you had in Part 3, and with the same problems and a similar cast of characters... but the solutions are now different. Well, some of them are (just to keep you guessing).

But what, you ask, if I haven't seen The Gordello Incident? Fear not, oh trembling ones, as it doesn't matter too much. Obviously you get more fun out of it if you've played it and enjoyed it once already, but you can still start this one from scratch and just treat it as a brand-new game. When you load up Demise you get 3 options - a) if you've solved the previous game, b) if you've played it but not solved it, and c) if you haven't played it at all. These all give you different intros to the game, and the third option allows you to actually play the third part of The Gordello incident first if you wish, as the program is generously included on the tape, along with a solution to it if you get really stuck.

Assuming you go straight into Demise, it takes as long to load as it does to make a cup of coffee and raid the biscuit tin (I test these things thoroughly). Then you see the by-now familiar split-crotch... oops, sorry, split-screen technique of the last few Tartan games. On the left is you, or rather your clone (for reasons explained in the storyline, which is too complicated to go into here). Your clone is outside the closed door of the Clonetron exit, and can see a rustic gardener. Which means, surprise surprise, that a rustic gardener is what you see on the right-hand side of the screen. He's also outside the closed door of the Clonetron exit and able to see a proud stranger (that's you, you clot).

As a clone you can do certain things, but you can also switch to controlling any of the other characters, as some of them have different skills. You use the command CALL to do that,so that CALL GARDENER switches you to the gardener. You get back to yourself by typing AA. It helps if you map the small set of locations first, and then make a note of the other characters wandering around. Also do an Inventory for each of them to see if they're carrying any useful objects, but remember that they sometimes drop 'em (pardon?) and someone else may wander in and pick 'em up again.

The random way in which this happens is a bit primitive, and the game itself does creak a bit with signs of age. For example, "The scientist lets fall here the box with the aerial." Lets fall here?? This is immediately followed by "The scientist takes the box with the aerial," followed by him letting it fall again and picking it up once more. It doesn't say much for the IQ of the scientist if he stands around dropping things and picking them up again. Maybe he's just got slippy fingers, but AI techniques have moved on a bit recently, even in humble Speccy text adventures, so it might also be that the Tartan system simply hasn't moved on with them.

That aside, there's still a lot of fun to be had as you switch from being a clown to a magician to a locksmith to a strongman - which gives you some idea of how you'll be using the various other characters in the game. If you can't open a door then send in the clones! One of them's sure to be strong enough to do it.

Gordello's Demise should have a lot of appeal to new players, as it's easy to get to grips with despite the fact that it sounds so complicated. Anyone can get the principles of adventure-playing with some of the early problems, like that door which you can't open but the strongman can. (Mind you, no-one seems keen to approach the receptionist who's standing behind it - but that's a whole other problem!) it'll also appeal to Tartan fans, but won't convert anyone who doesn't care for their games. I think it's time Tom Frost left his split-screen games behind and concentrated on writing a strong new storyline, rather than just twiddling with old ideas.


Screenshot Text

What did you say, Tom? Part 3 of the first Gordello was just a dream? (Well, here's a man who's been watching a series too many of Dallas.)