Database1st January 1985
Published in Apple User Volume 5 Number 1
You've seen the film, you've read the book, you're played the adventure game... now get your kids involved in it! What Sierra have done is to combine one of their adult adventures with the junior format used for games like Dragon's Keep and Troll's Tale. The result is Gelfling Adventure which, as the title might suggest, is based upon The Dark Crystal.
The graphics look identical to the adult version which we reviewed in the December 1983 issue of Apple User. However, rather than the free-form input allowed in ordinary adventure games. Sierra have adapted the game to use their space bar/return key method of play.
Each picture has two or three alternative courses of action following the description of the location. The space bar is used to cycle through the options and the return key is used to select the highlighted one. The game is slimmed down somewhat, although the story line is the same. It's obviously meant to be completed in a single session though, because there is no save game facility.
The problem with the lack of save is that the most difficult part is towards the end. This means that the child has to go through most of the game each time in order to try a new tactic... that's if they can remember how they got that far in the first place.
Although one of the skills which the game aims to improve is "following map directions", the sepia tint map doesn't have compass points marked on it. The handbook mentions a compass decal which ought to accompany the package, but the review copy didn't contain one. Hence, although the children who tried the game were presented with options like "Go to the south", there was no obvious way to relate this to the map.
The manual also makes great play of the fact that it contains a glossary of Gelfling terms. Using this is supposed to encourage dictionary usage in children, but to be honest the kids were more interested in following the game on the screen. It's not as if it's overly complicated, after all.
If you ignore the educational claims made for Gelfling Adventure, it's a nice game for the younger members of the family. However, it's obvious that it's aimed at the home education market. It is a sign of the times that games have to be wrapped up in this way, rather than being sold simply for the fun they might bring. The trouble is that once you start describing games in these terms, where do you stop?
For example, my kids really enjoy a game which develops their eye-hand coordination, fine motor control, pattern recognition, and strategic skills, while introducing notions of ordinality and familiarity with large numbers. It's called Pac-Man.
Of course, the children who tried Gelfling Adventure were oblivious to its beneficial aspects - they just enjoyed playing it.
It would be nice to see a family pack which contained both the adult and junior games, but at present costs the price of one would be prohibitive.