I've said it before and I'll say it again - gnomes taste extremely good in a steaming, slime-topped pie. Schlurp! Miss Bottomlow would make a particularly welcome addition to my favourite savoury - I like it extra-specially fat and greasy...
Anyway, Amiga-owning Chuck Vomit fans (no requests for autographs please - I'm far too busy!) will know all about that version of Ingrid's back... er... side (snigger, snigger) but I reckon all those mega-important C64 owners out there deserve a review of their own.
If you've played Gnome Ranger, you'll know how Ingrid got back from the wilderness they'd arranged to send her to by means of a cleverly sabotaged transportation scroll. Her family and the rest of Little Moaning had just begun to breathe a sigh of relief (no more Mistress Bossyboots telling them when to fart and pick their noses) when everybody's favourite Bottomlow returned. Aaargh!
Worse still, a certain Jasper Quickbuck made his appearance at exactly the same time and he doesn't just want to reorganise Little Moaning - he wants to pull it down. Ingrid sweeps into action straight away - a three part mega-epic details her attempts to save the Gnome Counties. Da daaaa!
Episode One is a bit of a Level 9 tickler designed to give you a gentle introduction to the game instead of a belt in the stomach (which is what I would do). Bottomlow, accompanied by her ever-faithful hound, Flopsy, has to collect as many signatures as possible to fill a petition - easier said than done because the inhabitants of Little Moaning don't like her all that much (and not surprising, if you ask me).
Jasper Quickbuck, of course, fails to take the blindest bit of notice, so Episode Two has Ingrid trying to stop his steam-roller before he flattens Little Moan Farm. I can't emphasise strongly enough how much I disapprove of Ingrid's behaviour towards trolls here, but rest assured, Miss Bottomlow, if I have anything to do with it, you'll get exactly what you deserve.
By the time she's reached Part Three, Ingrid's had to become a proficient hole-digger, diplomat, turnip reorganiser, and order-abouter (well, she always been good at that!). Infiltrating Quickbuck's mansion should be a piece of cake!
Puzzles depend largely on interaction, but unlike Gnome Ranger, where you could get stuck for hours wandering about with nothing to do, they're extremely well-structured and the locations are full of hints. The design of the game as a whole is extremely tight (more than you can say about some of Level 9's previous efforts) and, even better than that, unusually original. Not only that, constantly on-going background activities (you know, ordinary little gnomes getting on with their ordinary gnome sort of lives - selling garden-people, throwing darts, fishing and all that) make the interaction even more amusing.
The graphics (only the disk version has them) are among the best I've ever seen on the Commodore - brilliant pictures of Little Moaning, windmills, Quickbuck's mansion, which are definitely worth seeing. In both cassette and disk versions, each part (they can be played in any order) loads singly so there's no messing about with multi-loads or mind-numbing disk access and response time is pretty quick.
The parser, as per usual, has more mod-cons and abbreviations than I can eat billygoats in one go (a lot!) and generally reflects the sort of sophistication we've come to expect from top class adventure houses nowadays.
I've noticed though that if you don't start typing immediately after the prompt arrow (i.e. on the next line because you've pressed shift twice), it doesn't always recognise speech. Bit messy that. Still, trolls like a good stinking, intestinal mess - especially on Fridays.
Every now and again you can feel a bit let-down because the C64 version of a mega-hyped adventure turns out to be a graphically inferior long-winded bore. Well, don't get your leather knickers in a twist because Ingrid's Back definitely isn't one of those. In fact, I'll throw caution to the winds (my own!) and say that it's the most creative and compelling of the recent crop of Level 9 adventures yet.
The interactive element is really starting to come together, the game design is excellent and there's enough humour (anti-troll excepted) to keep the most sour-faced slime-bag party popper guffawing for... er... well... for a bit (and I mean a big bit). If you've got a disk drive, the brilliant graphics come as an extra bonus - if you haven't, the gameplay is worth it anyway.
Level 9 have such a good reputation that any new release, hot or not, is bound to do pretty well. This one actually deserves to. Pity it's about gnomes, though.