ZX Computing

The Pawn
By Rainbird
Spectrum 128K

Published in ZX Computing #38

Gordon Hamlott takes his 128K into the mystical land of Kerovnia

The Pawn

Gordon Hamlott takes his 128 into the mystical land of Kerovnia

Owners of 128K Spectrums (Spectra?) must be beginning to wonder if software houses actually take them seriously. The best games that they have had so far are reworkings of old 48K standards, perhaps with some extra rooms or better music to keep them happy.

Fear not! All that has now changed with the release of The Pawn - a superb adventure written by Magnetic Scrolls and released by Rainbird. Even so, you are not getting all the game I am afraid, as even with all the extra memory available, there is still no room for the pictures that made ths game famous on machines like the ST and Amiga.

The Pawn

The Pawn has had a somewhat strange development. Originally written as a text only game for the QL. It was then instantly forgotten about, like most QL software. It next appeared on the Atari ST complete with some stunning graphics - the best ever seen in an adventure by several orders of magnitude. Conversions were then written for most disk-based systems as the illustrations could be loaded in separately where necessary. But there is simply not enough room in the 128, so it's back to text only.

This is not necessarily a cause for gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair, for even in this form, the game knocks spots off any other Spectrum adventure.


The game is set in the magical land of Kerovnia. The old King, Erik, is losing his grip on the country. There have been assassination plots and rumours of insider trading within the Farthington Real Ale Company. This is an attempt to stop a takeover by the Roobikyoub Dwarfs who are distillers of the finest whisky around. On top of all that, there is a general election in the offing with one of the main candidates being Gringo Baconburger, a dwarf violently opposed to the royal family. Into the middle of this political turmoil comes you.

Your first problem is that you are wearing a wristband which, try as you may, you cannot remove. This is unfortunate since it prevents you from crossing a thin red line that surrounds Kerovnia. You haven't got the slightest idea at this stage what on earth is going on or what you are supposed to be trying to do. As you travel about, so you get a message to deliver, meet a guru who falls about laughing whenever he sees you, find a snowman standing guard outside a tower, some alchemists arguing about whose turn it is to get the supper and of course you have the chance to vote.

Location descriptions are long and vivid, so much so that the lack of illustrations doesn't seem to matter too much. The probems are both original and difficult - don't expect to complete this one in one sitting.

The main thing that sets The Pawn apart from other adventures is its parser, which can quite justifiably claim to be state of the art - even better than the legendary Infocom parser. This may seem like a small point to pay so much attention to but it soon becomes apparent that playing the game is a lot easier than most adventures. Not because the problems are easy but because you can enter commands as you would say them naturally. There is no need to go searching for exactly the right combination of words.

One example taken from the instruction booklet, and not I hasten, to add part of the game, shows how powerful commands can be strung together. "Get all escape the cases but not the violin case then kill the man eating shrew with the contents of the violin case. Remove the shrew's tail and use it to tie the pole and the noose together."

Pretty impressive stuff even if the command is a load of gibberish.

The game comes beautifully packaged - a box containing two booklets, a map and a 64 page novella written with the tongue never once leaving the cheek. This serves two purposes. Firstly, as an anti-piracy device, as you need to look up certain words and secondly as a help section. A number of clues are available to you but only if you are prepared to type in a lengthy cipher. Even then, you may not be allowed access to the clue if you have not solved enough of the game and the answers that you get can be downright misleading at times. You have been warned.

It's a pity about the pictures but you can't have everything! Perhaps if Alan Sugar does get round to launching his Spectrum disk system they will eventually materialise, but don't let that thought stop you buying a copy of the game now. If you enjoy adventures, then The Pawn is a must for your collection. Even if you are not a fan, buy a copy and see what state of the art adventuring is all about.

A Monster Hit.

Gordon Hamlott