Souls Of Darkon (Taskset) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing

Zzap


Souls Of Darkon
By Taskset
Commodore 64

 
Published in Zzap #11

Souls Of Darkon

First, let's take a gander at this new release from Taskset, the software company that brought you Super Pipeline, Jammin', and a host of other notable arcade games. It's always a pleasure (and a somewhat rare one these days) to see someone new entering the C64 adventure market, so how have the boys from Bridlington measured up? Well, one thing's for sure, they're not going to give level 9 any sleepless nights. Not unless their next game is streets ahead of this one, anyway. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a bad game, just that it's distinctly awkward, occasionally far too obscure and limited in scope. Since it's a first product, though, it deserves a closer look so here goes...

The plot, for starters, isn't exactly as fresh as new-mown hay. The planet Megron has fallen into the grip of the infamous Darkon and... OK, you-know-who's got the job of putting things right. You wander round the planet with a loyal Komputa droid hovering nearby, and must indulge in various technological and mystical enterprises in order to crack the game. Let me say right here and now that I haven't got very far with Darkon. I've been playing it for some time now and what little progress I've made has been with the help of a friend - and she only knew the answers because (after much frustration) she phoned Taskset and asked for help. Us Wizards are made of sterner stuff, which in this case means we make no progress whatsoever.

At first sight, Darkon looks quite attractive. I don't know how many locations there are, but each one has an illustration, displayed in rather off-putting green shades to one side of the screen. The character set has been redesigned and the whole effect is, well, "different", if not exactly beautiful.

The problems come when you start to move around and tackle the various puzzles that present themselves. Although the program claims to accept complex inputs like 'Attack the droid with the visor', in practice it tends either to reject most of your inputs or else, to respond in a particularly uninspiring or unhelpful manner. For example, on attempting to 'Examine Komputa', who is 'hovering nearby', you're told it's not here. It is, though - at least it is in the location description. Even when you do manage to get some sort of dialogue going with the program, it tends to he rather lifeless. 'Examine monolith', you type, and 'Huge stone monolith' the program replies. Scintillating stuff... However, the real problem with Darkon is the way the program has been designed. It's difficult to put into words, but the While Wizard reckons that all adventurers have an inbuilt sense of logic which they develop in their encounters with other worlds and the inhabitants thereof. For example, if you found yourself confronted with a man-eating canary, you would first examine it and then, perhaps, give it something (or rather someone) to eat. However, if (after repeated attempts) you gave up and phoned the software house, only to he told that the way past the canary was to ask it if it liked Mars Bars, you would, I think, be entitled to feel a bit miffed. This may sound a bit off the point, but in fact it's exactly this sense of 'adventure logic' that's missing from Darkon. As a result, although you will make some progress in the end, you may find (as I did) that on solving a puzzle your feelings are more along the lines of 'How silly that puzzle was' rather than 'How clever I am for solving it'.

Perhaps part of the problem with Darkon is that although the plot itself is a bit uninspired, a lot of the puzzles are almost too original. What's that? I hear you say... too original?? What I mean is that they don't conform to that sense of 'adventure logic' that us wizards share between us. And that means the game is tough going. It's also pretty limited with regard to the vocab. There's a command to list the available verbs, of which there are forty-five. In the days of programs with 1000+ vocabularies, this really isn't enough, especially when the game is going to set you back £8.90.

I'd like to be nice about Darkon, because I like Taskset and I think they've produced some great games in the past. But I think they should either stick to arcade games or else be prepared to sink a lot more time and development into their next adventure. It is 1986, after all, and adventures are no longer those rather silly little games that don't understand anything except LOOK and GO. Nowadays it's good graphics, interactive characters and large vocabularies we want - not quirky green pics, off-beat puzzles and unexaminable Komputas. Next please...

The White Wizard

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