Personal Computer News


Murphy's Law

Author: Mike Gerrard
Publisher: Trillium
Machine: Commodore 64

 
Published in Personal Computer News #105

Mike Gerrard's flickering torchlight falls on two very different games this week. One has fancy packaging and a price-tag to match, the other makes a humbler claim to fame. Which does the Dungeon Master open his doors to?

Murphy's Law

Mike Gerrard's flickering torchlight falls on two very different games this week. Amazon has fancy packaging and a price-tag to match, while Time Search makes a humbler claim to fame. Which does the Dungeon Master open his doors to?

I made the mistake of thinking I could get this week's Commodore column planned before even looking at the adventures concerned. Pride of place was to go to Amazon from Trillium, a graphics adventure of two double-sided disks, with handsome packaging that seemed to justify the high asking price of £19.95. After that, I thought, a few paragraphs on a more humble offering from Duckworth, Time Search, a tape-only game at the comparatively bargain price of £7.95. But then I looked at the adventures themselves. I'll still begin with Amazon - but it certainly doesn't get pride of place.

Up The River

Amazon was written by author Michael Crichton, perhaps best-known for the books Coma and The Andromeda Strain. It begins by putting you in the Communications Control Room of the NSRT, the National Satellite Resource Technology consulting firm. A field team has been sent out to the Amazon basin, and you're awaiting a transmission from them.

Amazon

The top half of the screen is given over to graphics, with a fuzzy screen where the transmission is due. The instructions tell you your first command after loading should be NEW DATA, but this is ineffective and you must type in the exciting WAIT, whereupon transmission begins and you're iinvited to tune it in with your joystick.

The field team has been wiped out, it transpires, and a native peers at you through the screen before transmission is also wiped out. You are summoned to Murphy's office. GO TO THE OFFICE, I typed, thinking I wasn't very adventurous. "Improper Command" was the response, as it was to GO TO OFFICE and GO TO MURPHY. I tried WAIT again, only to be told ungrammatically "You better go to the office." GO TO THE OFFICE, then "Improper Command." So much for the game's sophisticated vocabulary recognition!! I persisted in trying to go to Murphy's office and found success at last.

Murphy asked me my name, and kept me waiting while he pretended to search for a file, then gave me a couple of screens of information, occasionally allowing me to participate in the adventure by typing yes or okay now and then (though experimenting showed you can type anything in those places.)

Amazon

A tedious few minutes later, Murphy told me to go to the airport and catch a flight for South America. There you see a flight leaving, but when you go to the appropriate gate you're reminded you haven't got a ticket. All you have is a sealed envelope.

You can't go north, south, east, west, up, down, in or out, or to a ticket office, nor can you even open the envelope. I tried tearing and unsealing it, and all the words on the word-list you're given (and some that weren't) but to no avail. The flight left, the game was over and I had to reload from scratch.

I sat through the same opening sequence, but this time when Murphy dismissed me I tried to ask for a ticket. I was dismissed, but knowing how fussy the program was about commands I tried again with ASK MURPHY FOR A TICKET. At that point I was told I'd disobeyed orders, the game was over, and I had to reload again.

Amazon

By now a few hours had gone by because I had some loading problems, not helped by the instructions telling me to load side three first, instead of side one. What graphics I did see looked impressive, as do those on the packaging, but I'm afraid it's now been consigned to the shelves as more of an obstacle course than an adventure.

Time Machine

Thankfully Time Search restored my faith in the fun of adventure playing, and this is one I will be going back to again and again, as I try to hunt down a time machine. The advenure has been written by someone who plays adventures, who knows how people play adventures, and what they want from them - like funny response to four-letter words, and the ability to do silly things, as well as real problems to solve rather than ones set you by poor programming.

You leave your front door, to head off and explore the town, past the post office and straight into the pub. Yes, this is what we want. Whether Neville the part-time barman has any use remains to be seen, but his tankard of beer was delicious, and came in handy.

Amazon

It seems that whichever way you go, you're eventually plunged into darkness. Right, where's the torch? Ah-ha, here it is, but the wretched thing won't light. It nearly did... then it nearly did again... then it nearly did again... hang on, something fishy here. The torch was left here by a previous adventurer and is now useless. This is the kind of game where you can't believe everything you read, however, so let's leave the torch for the moment.

Magic plays its part, and you'll need a little to find a source of light. One of your rewards for doing so is to plunge into a devious maze of underground burrows. Mapping this out was a mix of fun and frustration, but I emerged at the other end clutching a couple of new items.

Going in the other direction led me to a dead-end, near which was a whiff of wild animal, though nothing emerged from the bushes, thank goodness. What does emerge with regularity is the evil Groark, whom you must outwit constantly by a means which has become rather too familiar.

So far, I've uncovered 50 or 60 locations, and will no doubt be uncovering more if I can manage to cross this raging torrent of a stream. CROSS STREAM? "Yes! Furious in fact!" comes the answer - but even with a bow, arrow and coil of rope I haven't yet managed to haul myself over.

This week's two titles show there are no rules about adventures, except that most people want a good one. Time Search is one, and I reckon you should search it out yourselves.

Mike Gerrard

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