THIS PACKAGE from Global Software features three Quilled text adventures and a re-release of Mizar's Out of the Shadows - a complicated Dungeons and Dragons simulation.
THE best of the Quilled games is Microman, a souped-up revamp of Project X - The Microman written byJohn Lemmon and Tim Kemp in 1984. That was before the Illustrator and Patch utilities were available, and they've now been used to good effect to add half-screen faster graphics which don't interfere with the rest of the game.
We've reviewed the adventure before and, standing alone, it rated four stars. The plot will be familiar to any fan of the Incredible Shrinking Man, and stars Professor Neil Richards as the scientist who accidentally irradiates himself whilst running an experiment on miniaturisation.
Knowing he has little time before the rays take effect, he leaps into his motor and speeds off to his colleague's nearby lab for help. Alas, before he can get to the antidote he blacks out. Waking, he finds himself shrunk to the size of Action Man and stuck in his car.
A little lateral thinking about the uses of seat belts will soon see you out of the car, but if you want to get back to normal size you're going to have to run the gauntlet not only of Com 2, your friend's sophisticated security system, but also of the ravenous flora and fauna in the grounds around the house.
Everyday objects take on unexpected significance and weapons can be fashioned from a needle and button. These are soon necessary in a tight to the death against a giant mole.
You'll need to work out how to cut your way through the glass of the greenhouse, and find an air supply to take you into the depths of the fishpond. The problems then become more scientific as you attempt to overcome Com 2 and its protection devices. Beyond lies safety and normality - perhaps.
The intriguingly original storyline and intricate problems generate an absorbing atmosphere. There's little that's superfluous to the action and, despite the addition of the bright graphics, the game remains large - the original text-only game had 150 locations and there are still more than 120 in this version.
Microman is yet another example of the Quill's versatility. It sold for £3.95, 18 months ago, and its inclusion in a package retailing at £7.95 for four games makes for excellent value and satisfaction.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
THIS isn't a standard adventure. It's a real-time implementation of the D&D format, offering a choice of quests, regular and difficult combat sequences and plenty of spells and treasure. There are the usual hit point ratings and you can develop your character by gaining experience and wealth.
Once you've loaded up you must choose your race - elf, dwarf or human, each with different characteristics - and then decide whether you want to play through one of the six prepared quests or create your own. The screen displays a map of the visible area around you as well as a scrolling commentary of your actions.
There is a large command vocabulary which will allow you to move, fight, trade and perform magic. Because of the speed of the game and the viciousness of your opponents, it is wise to be familiar with those commands before you start - any dithering will end in death.
There's a large element of surprise in the monsters' attacks. Because your screen map only shows what you could actually see in 'real' life you never know what may be lurking around the corner. You also start at a low skill level, either unarmed or perhaps with an ineffectual dagger. Fortunately, there is a merchant who can sell you survival equipment - in fact he is the only definitely friendly character in the game, so you're going to need his help and a fair amount of treasure to acquire the items you'll need.
You begin in the safety of your home base and the first task is to find the merchant. Step outside and you're immediately into hostile territory. Monsters, animals and traps abound and even the journey across to the merchant's house can get you severely damaged. Treasure is secreted in containers scattered around the countryside and in other buildings, but is almost invariably guarded. If you have weapons make sure you've 'prepared' them for use.
The quests are fairly typical of the genre - find Elessar in the Labyrinth, steal the Orb from the Rusters, deprive the Demons of the Sceptre. To start with it may be wise to choose a questless option - that will help you to get accustomed to the game format and to learn exactly what is treasure and what is dangerous. Once you've done that you may feel more confident about taking on a quest or two. Simple they're not!
The magic is limited. You can cast sleep, slow and blast spells, teleport up and down or apply healing ointments to your inevitably numerous wounds. There are also magic rings, wands and staves to smite with and the occasional potion to restore your vitality. A full inventory can give you a rundown on your possessions, armour, wealth and spells.
All told this is a fast, action-packed and complex game with a variety of scenarios. The interpreter has a good response time and, though the map graphics are a little spindly and occasionally difficult to understand, especially on a small screen, they are adequate for the gameplay. Fighting your way Out of the Shadows will be demanding, so gird your loins, ye D & D freaks.
Written by Fergus McNeil of Bored of the Rings fame, Galaxias is no relative of the arcade Galaxians, save for the fact that it's set in space. Cast as a space pirate in command of a fancy spacecruiser, you must discover a fabled crystal - further detail is not given and you'll have to piece information together as you explore. The game has a number of location graphics, mainly to set the scene at landing points.
The action commences at Zagro Spaceport. Exploration reveals the usual down-at-heel bars and dirty landing bays. Except for food and drink there is little to find here beyond a laser probe which you can expect to come in handy later on. Having exhausted the dubious pleasures of Zagro you climb into your cruiser.
On board there's the bridge with its command computer and also engine-room, walkways and living quarters. As befits a fierce space pirate, there's a smuggler's cache down in the engine-room, kitted out with a handy bar of gold. The teleport will beam you down to the planets and there's also an escape ship, its presence ominously suggesting that you're likely to run into trouble somewhere in deep space.
Navigation is simple. Type 'list' into your command computer and the planets within range will be listed. Type in the name of the planet or space station and you'll be transported there with the minimum of fuss.
On each planet you'll face particular problems, most of which will require equipment from other worlds to get you through. So, if you want to get the laser rifle embedded in a wall on the ice-age world of Akrol, you'll need to search Space Station One carefully - a thermal lance is hidden and only this will melt the cave's ice wall.
As you wander this freezing world, a little like Crawley in the depths of December, you'll come across a grumpy alien called Jekra. He says he wants some covalium. You may think this to be some sort of tranquiliser to take his mind off being in a place like Akrol, but it seems to be a mineral of some kind. Could it be found in the mines on the hi-tech planet you've just been to? Beam up and zoom back to Septule to have another go at getting into the mine.
There's a good Trekkie feel to the game with the various pieces of sci-fi machinery helping to build up the atmosphere. I could have done with a bit more creature interaction but this is always hard to achieve with the Quill system. At first you feel a bit lost in the usually empty cities and ports you visit, but you'll start to get more hooked once you've made a few connections and got used to the flying around.
Galaxias is a fairly serious adventure, written before Bored, so don't expect any loony humour. And don't press the red button in the defence bunker on Terminan - you'll end up as a space age Robinson Crusoe without Friday.
Finally there's The Mural, which certainly does have a loony element tied in with an excellently off-colour plot. As you stroll along the high street, minding your own business, you're hurled into a cave on another world by two creatures clad in suspender belts. As if this wasn't enough you discover that your quest is to paint over a naughty mural. Suffice it to say that it involves 11 nubile maids and a gorilla in a tutu.
Yes, this is a zany one, fellow travellers, set in a bizarre little land where, on entering a cottage you'll be told, 'there is.. a well worn but comfortable arm-chair and a copy of the New Orc Times on a table. Also a C5 order form smoulders in the grate and there is a Lithuanian horror movie (with subtitles) on the TV. You can also see a carved wooden cuckoo."
Such scenes are commonplace in the world of The Mural and I must confess to falling about when, after examining a bucket stuck down a well, beeps came forth to the tune of, "There's a hole in my bucket, dear Lisa." After the tune has finished, the simple message, "Good, huh?" appears on screen.
It's a pleasantly daft, rude and appealing game which is bound to tempt addicts of games like Bored. It's not by McNeil but by Nic Ford. I shall be ever in his debt if he tells me just how I can snuff the giant sandwich-eating penguin which stops me escaping from the cave with the mothballs in it. Good fun.
Publisher: Global Software
Out of the Shadows