Crash1st July 1986
Published in Crash #30
Human Torch & The Thing
Questprobe 3: Fantastic Four, Chapter One is the full title of this me which follows those superheroes, Spiderman and The Hulk. These games represent a link up between the inventive genius of the Marvel Comics Group, with its curious assortment of weird and wonderful characters, and the cunning and puzzle-minded deviousness of the Scott Adams intellect.
Whatever might be said of the adventure, one thing is certain: the theme of the game is totally absorbing. Within every young-at-heart person is a desire to know and learn all about superheroes. To be a superhero you must possess some extraordinary powers. With Spiderman it was the ability to cast webs and climb along walls and ceilings. With Human Torch it is the ability to throw flame and fly. The detail with which we are told of the superheroes' powers is part of the style of Questprobe, with comments like 'possesses the mental ability to control ambient heat energy' leading into a detailed synopsis of food-to-energy conversion via Adenosine Triphos hate (or ATP for short).
The Thing is aptly described because not only does he have an orange, rocky-textured hide, but also he has no apparent neck or outer ears. As all other superhero creatures, The Thing derives its strange powers from a blast of radiation whose mutagenic affects bestowed superhuman strength to the point where Thing can lift 85 tons. The Thing's body is able to withstand extremes of temperature from -75 to 800 degrees F for up to an hour, and can withstand the explosive effects of armour piercing bazooka shells against his skin without sustaining injury. It is with some relief that the player finds The Thing's intelligence has remained unaffected by the radiation it would be worrying in the extreme to have such awesome powers in the hands of a moron!The adventure begins in the Chief Examiner's office, a character who 'appears to be a foreground, real-time, high priority task running on an unattended Master Computer located somewhere in an ancient, forbidden museum of science on Durgan's planet'. So now you know! If you get stuck on this first location I would strongly recommend a good think on how well prepared you are for this adventure because it doesn't get any easier. It is the sort of adventure which would be difficult even with the solution sheet!
To get over the first hurdle you simply have to do the polite thing which gets the Examiner talking thus: 'In this test you must free Alicia Masters from Dr Doom. You'll have to master the powers of two Marvel Superheroes. You'll be able to switch your point of view at any time'. The two characters he refers to are, of course, Human Torch and The Thing. Switching between characters involves finishing the line 'THING I want you to...' with the word CHANGE which then gives you the line HUMAN TORCH I want you to...' at the bottom of the screen. In this way you can switch between one and the other at will.
I'm afraid it doesn't take long playing this game before you realise how clumsily it has been put together. The glaring white background of the Questprobe series is still there, along with poor vocabulary and a linear set of puzzles to be solved. But what makes this game a little worse than its predecessors is its confusing responses and untidy display. The response of 'OK' to everything you input is simply nonsense. Early on in the game, in the tar pit, I decided to swim. The program responds to this with 'OK', so naturally I assume I am swimming out of the pit. But no, I'm being sucked down and the truth is the program has not acknowledged my swim instruction. When changing from one character to the other say, Thing to Torch in the first frame, the program does not clear the screen and so 'I'm being sucked down' remains when it is clear Human Torch is outside the tar pit and is not being sucked down. Clearing the screen would have saved confusion here.
This is a very unfriendly and unresponsive adventure. Meeting the Blob provides as good an example as any of how the game fails to perform. EXAM BLOB gives 'OK, I see nothing special' while SMASH BLOB gives' OK, it's clobbering time. I smashed my way through the machinery'. This curious stock answer refers to the machinery of one of the first problems in the tar pit. This reply is either a joke or a bug and I tend to think it's the latter. Questprobe has never had the reputation of friendliness, featuring challenging puzzles and stunning graphics instead. Here the pictures are only modest and the puzzles are more involved and bewildering than clever. I can't help thinking Spiderman was less difficult and had more going for it. This third release shows little care for what the British adventure market wants and I think it unlikely that people are that interested in mind-bogglingly difficult games constructed in such an uncaring fashion.
Difficulty: extremely difficult
Graphics: quite good but nothing to shout about
Presentation: very average
Input facility: verb/noun