Written by Mike Woodroffe and Brian Howarth, and based on the Fighting Fantasy series of books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, this is the first of a new adventure series on the Fighting Fantasy Software label, from Adventure International.
AI's Adventure System, using split-screen text and in-memory graphics, is now familiar to many adventurers. It was used to create Gremlins and Robin Of Sherwood, as well as the UK conversions of Scott Adams' games. It is slick and fast, providing an attractive framework upon which to build an adventure story, and stands up well in this new series.
You are the captain of the pirate vessel Banshee, and for a successful voyage you must return 20 treasures to the top of a mountain at the southern end of the Inland Sea. The sea is a 7 x 30 grid, and the ship can be sailed by the commands SAIL (direction).
You can leave the ship to go pillaging on land - should you sight it! Mind you, on land you may not find the plundering too straightforward, for as well as some typical adventure problems, you are likely to meet some stubborn resistance from natives, ghoulies and ghosties. Some of these attack, rather to my disappointment, zapped me right out of the game without warning. I suppose I should have known better than to annoy them!
During a fight, the program enters a combat mode in which the lower half of the screen depicts two dice and displays and updates the relative skill and stamina of the opponents, giving a commentary on the details of the battle. When on land the adventurer can chicken out and run, by hitting X, but at sea the fight must go on to the bitter end. During the many times I played the game luck was nearly always on my side. I am told there is worse to come, so perhaps it wasn't luck, but intended. However, I have never found computer 'fights' based on random numbers particularly credible, so I looked upon a fight as a somewhat risky way to obtain a treasure or find a hidden exit.
Sailing the seas can be interesting, for as well as finding land to explore, there are wrecks to be plundered and respectable ships to be burned and looted, not to mention skirmishes with other ships.
But all is not looting, pillaging and plundering - there are some real problems as well! What do the sea Sprites want? What's the best way to defeat a zombie? Aha, and there's 'the traditional red herring in there somewhere, too' Mike Woodroffe told me!
All this combines with excellent graphics to make a very good adventure, easy enough to get into - but it's not so simple to tie things up on the mountain top!