I have been waiting for some considerable amount of time for a new Level 9 adventure. Their constantly admirable games always have me puzzling late until the early hours and consequently when news of Red Moon reached my ears I was thoroughly pleased; unfortunately it arrived just too late to be able to include it in last month's column. The adventure itself lives up to the usual high standard set by previous Level 9 games, with over 200 pictures, a large vocabulary and an involving scenario.
First, I must comment on the graphics. These are very controversial; true adventurers reckon that if an adventure is good then you don't need pictures to help you conjure up the scenario and, in fact, pictures can even ruin an adventure. The graphics in this one can only be said to be fair, lacking something in the colour, although boasting some nice detail. The program also takes quite a while to draw them, making the going rather slow if you are the sort of explorer who likes to whizz from one location to another.
Red Moon comes with a nice story that fills out the background of the game and proves to be practically informative in as much as it provides a few clues and tells you exactly what you should be aiming for.
Unusually for Level 9, the game itself has a bias towards combat, with weapons and armour playing a very important part. 'Majik' too is another important aspect, with many spells for you to use during the game.
When you play you will find that the keyboard buffer has not been removed - this is quite a good idea, for it allows such swift Wizards like myself to type ahead and consequently move fast through the adventure, and to some degree, this makes up for the slow drawing. The other nice feature is that you only need to type in the first three letters of a word, saving hours of finger wear! This (typical also of Quilled programs) is a friendly feature strangely missed still by so many adventure games.
As you would expect from this software house, the copious location descriptions are detailed, atmospheric and provide a good mental picture of your surroundings.
The combat scoring used during the game is presented in the form of hit points that are reduced during fighting. This method gives you an idea of your survival chances, although the game does give you several lives that allow you to progress further. The majik, on the other hand, is gained by picking up certain objects that let you 'focus', a situation that might seem hocus-pocus to you but to me, dear reader, is quite simple and logical. Once you have collected the correct objects, you are able to CAST certain spells which allow you special privileges; if, for instance, you find yourself stuck in the castle, try ESCAPE CASTLE.
The only major setback is the nasty habit most Level 9 adventures have of not responding to things that don't have much to do with the game as far as the program is concerned (even if you think otherwise). For example, I found myself in a large field full of red flowers. When I typed EXAMINE FLOWERS I was told I couldn't see them, even when I was standing in a field full of them! This can be irritating because it is clearly illogical, and the best that can be said is that when the adventure does not respond logically, at least the player knows that he is on the wrong track.
But despite my few niggles Red Moon is yet another brilliantly original adventure from the programmers of what must be THE best cassette adventures. Highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable.