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Code Masters Ltd
1989
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
None

60
Mike Gerrard
Chris Bourne

"You have beamed yourself down onto the Sea of Stones and as you survey this drab, lifeless expanse, you wonder what life forms, if any, still exist in this forgotten world." Is this the Trick Or Treat office then? No, it's Karakata, and the game is The Bounty Hunter. This isn't a quest for the holy chocolate bar, or even for nubile women in skimpy bathing cossies (what a shame) - only the new release from the ever-reliable River Software. The marks don't really reflect the game - so maybe I'd better change the marking system, as it's excellent stuff! There aren't any graphics, the text is adequate rather than special, and it's maybe a teensy bit over-priced at £3.50 (considering it hasn't the usual bonus game on the reverse). But what a terrific adventure all the same!

PAW is really coming into its own these days as a programming utility, as clever-bod programmers do things that make you stutter with admiration. Just how have they squeezed 1,500 locations into this game? Some of the text repeats itself in adjacent locations, so methinks there's a smart use of flags and counters somewhere along the line.

The game is very different. You are placed on the surface of the planet Karakata. Your mission - to exterminate all the Viroids you find. You're equipped with a 35,000 volt Pulser, which should come in handy, as well as a micro-compass, a WATCH and 40 Pacs. What on earth, or even on Karakata, is a Pac?? I dunno, go out and find me a PacMan at once! And how is a WATCH different from a watch? Well, this one is a Wrist Analogued Teleport and Communications Hardware. Which is all very well but does it keep good time?

Along with the game you get an authorisation document and a map of the area on Karakata where you've been beamed down. It looks a very friendly landscape - the Haunted Hills, Fell Beast Cliff, the Tarpits, the Deadlands... just the place for your summer hols! And that's precisely the time you'll need if you're to have any hope of getting places in this game. It's a toughie.

Each location has two co-ordinates, a N/S and an E/W, and you can either walk around the place as per normal, or, to speed things up, insert a Pac into your WATCH, enter the required co-ordinates and be beamed there instantly. Unless there's a problem in the way, of course, as I very soon found out when I tried to teleport myself up a cliff when the conventional path was full of falling rocks. You only have a limited supply of Pacs, however, so best first to explore a little on foot and get your bearings. You're told at the start that as long as you have at least one Pac at your disposal, the game can be completed.

At the top of the screen is your location description, and at the bottom is room for inputs and program responses. Between the two is a strip of information giving you your current co-ordinates, number of Pacs left, number of Viroids still to be caught and range display. This flashes mauve when a Viroid's been detected close by, and red when it's within range of your Pulser.

There's good use of random messages to brighten the game up. These can get a bit boring though because there's a lot of repetitive landscape to move yourself around until you find where everything is and start to come across the first few problems. But once you begin to find a few objects, plus some other characters, situations and nasty creatures, the game really starts to intrigue you. It might seem strange that a text-only adventure reminds me of the classic Lords Of Midnight, but the map is familiar and an equally convincing and varied world has been created - not the easiest of things to do in an adventure game.

River Software says this is the hardest adventure it's yet released, which I can believe! No solutions will be handed out, although River will be giving clues if you need them. And you will, you will! I said that I thought the game was a little overpriced, but there's a lot of work gone into it and I reckon you'll be playing it for yonks - three yonks, at least, is my guess, and that's about a pound per yonk. Not bad at all. This is definitely the best adventure I've seen since... oh, since the last best adventure I saw. Cancel all spending on choccies at once and buy The Bounty Hunter instead.

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