Amstrad Action1st October 1991
Published in Amstrad Action #73
The Smirking Horror
Not being very academic [I know the feeling! - Balg], you just couldn't believe the news that you'd been accepted by the best college in America - PUE Tech! With the grades you received, you would have been lucky to get in at Leeds University but, with all the disappearances, suicides and other bizarre occurrences that have recently been happening at PUE Tech, they were a bit short on applications and you get lucky!
The first term has flown by and suicides have increased. The locals are reporting more strange disturbances and in recent weeks the atmosphere has been very tense. This doesn't really trouble you much - you spend little time at the college at night anyway, and even less in the day so you don't think about it.
Unfortunately, you have spent all term partying and it's finally caught up with you. You've got to get an assignment written by tomorrow or else you're in real trouble! To make matters worse, there's a raging blizzard outside...
Don't worry, folks! I haven't lost my sanity to Cthulhu and started reviewing old Infocom games again! Smirking Horror, by Jason Davis, is a parody of one of my favourite adventures, Lurking Horror. Whilst Jason's previous game, Yarkon Blues, was amusing and received a good review in AA70, I have reservations about Smirking - how could GAC possibly hope to imitate an Infocom? However, although nowhere near as large or technically impressive as Lurking, Smirking has its own attractions.
The map, in places, is very similar to the original - there's the eternal corridor, great dome, alchemy department (complete with requisite pentagram) and the good old terminal labs. Many of the puzzles initially appear the same as in Lurking - the creature still lives in the dome, and the floor cleaner (Arthur) still won't let you pass. (But at least they are solved differently.) In fact, parts of the game are so similar to the original that it's a good job that Infocom is no longer around, else WoW might have found itself in legal trouble!
Amusing in places and atmospheric in others, the game is well thought out with logical puzzles. As with many GAC games, it suffers from minor parser problems in some locations (you have to stab something and wedge something else but the verbs "hit" and "jam" are not accepted. This can lead to a misleading response), but I didn't have too many troubles.
Overall, Smirking is a good game, well worth the asking price. You'll be disappointed if you expect it to be on a par with Lurking Horror, but it's actually quite good... Just watch out for Cthulhu!