Lords Of Time (Level 9 Computing) Review | ZX Computing - Everygamegoing

ZX Computing

Lords Of Time
By Level 9 Computing
Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in ZX Computing #13

Greg Turnbull, regular contributor and adventure fanatic, begins a regular feature for non-arcade fans


Level 9 are well known for their adventure programs. Their latest offering, Lords Of Time, follows hot on the heels of the Middle Earth Trilogy (Colossal Adventure, Adventure Quest and Dungeon Adventure) and the Silicon Dreams Trilogy (Snowball, Return To Eden and The Worm In Paradise). Lords Of Time is written in what is called "a super-compact adventure language: a-code". This gives fast response times with long text messages, but doesn't occupy much memory.

The tape comes in an attractive (if superfluous) large package and has a brief ten-page pamphlet (like Dark Crystal) which contains highly cryptic clues in the form of an introduction and poem. The tape appears to be well duplicated and loads first time. Although it only occupies 32K of memory, the program is very wide in scope, having some 300 locations, 750 messages, and about 80 objects. The objective is to score points by collecting each of nine ingredients and 18 treasures.

Bonus points are awarded for certain actions and for completing the game; points are lost if you get killed! The central location point is the clock, from which nine time-zones can be reached. These must be completed in numerical order, as objects from previous zones are required to solve problems in subsequent ones. The ultimate aim of the adventure is to defeat the evil Timelords.

The program recognises most of the usual adventure words such as: EXAMINE, INV(ENTORY), SCORE (out of 1,000), DROP, LOOK, GIVE, TAKE, N, S, SE, NW, U, D, FORWARD, BACKWARD, ENTER, GET EVE(RYTHING), SEARCH, OPEN, WEAR, IT, etc. AGAIN repeats the last command, but there is no HELP routine. The vocabulary understands some 200 words and will accept short sentences, e.g. SEARCH THE BEDROOM, EXAMINE THE CLOCK, etc. However, you may need to rephrase some requests that it doesn't understand.

The usual quit/save game features are available - the word RESTORE will load a previously saved situation. This feature is always welcome if you get stuck and want to go away and think about a problem over a cup of tea. The speed of reply is excellent and the scenes described are very detailed. However, no graphics are available as this is an old-style adventure without character interaction and not in 'real-time'. Hence it suffers badly in comparison to the likes of The Hobbit and Valhalla - perhaps the closest equivalent would be Artic's series of text-only adventures.

Some of the problems are very perplexing; one of the earliest being how to get to each of the time-zones, and later how to get the maddeningly-elusive keys under the door of the garden shed! Each of the time-zones contains various locations and problems for you to solve. Numerous objects are provided to help you in these tasks, e.g. a rope, spear, tin of catfood, metronome, a pick, matchbox, candle, mirror, tin opener, planks of wood, valerian (a plant), a lodestone, keys, a rucksack (to carry extra items), coins, mushrooms, a petrol can, etc.

In each zone you collect one of the nine ingredients: olive branch, dragon's wing, ivory tusk, diamond teardrop, evil eye, dinosaur's egg, jester's cap, silicon chip (the program has some nice humorous touches!) and a gold buckle. There are also two treasures per zone, an hourglass, jewellery box, etc. All are needed to increase your point score (so you can see how you are progressing as you complete more and more of the adventure) and for the final confrontation with the Timelords.

I have only explored the first time-zone which contains such locations as a road-works, a two-storey cottage with garden, shed, a garage (containing a Porsche!) and a nearby stream, so I cannot comment on the content of the other eight sections of the program. However, this early section is very absorbing and will easily hold your interest for some time. Once you've solved these puzzles, you can go on to tax your brain on the other zones.

Should you really get stuck, the program box contains an envelope and a hint card for you to send to Level 9, and ask them any specific question(s) you may have about the adventure. This is a nice touch, but could be your one and only chance as Level 9 do not promise to answer any further questions without the special card. So make good use of it, and only when you definitely can't get any further!

In conclusion, this is a well-packaged adventure program for the Spectrum with fast response times to avoid tedium, good descriptions of each location, many difficult puzzles to solve which keeps you interested, and lots of different (and unusual) areas to explore. The situations range from dinosaurs to knights to computers which adds to the time-travel feel of the program. The small pamphlet doesn't actually tell you much about the program, so previous adventuring experience is an advantage (but not essential). The lack of graphics to accompany the good descriptions of each location is a shame, but I suppose it could be said that you can get bored with looking at the same picture many times (especially if it takes some time to draw it!) and it does help to save on the amount of memory used.

Overall, Lords Of Time is an enjoyable, if somewhat old-style, package from Level 9 and although rather expensive, can be recommended for hours of problem-solving fun for new and hardened adventurers alike. If you like this program, you could then go back and try some of the excellent earlier Level 9 adventures. Especially the first, Colossal Adventure.

Greg Turnbull