Personal Computer News


Ruling Class

Author: Mike Gerrard
Publisher: Melbourne House
Machine: Spectrum 48K

 
Published in Personal Computer News #085

Mike Gerrard tries his hand at a little social climbing but finds he prefers to stick to battling ghosts, rather than trying to meet the right people and wear the right clothes.

Ruling Class

Mike Gerrard tries his hand at a little social climbing but finds he prefers to stick to battling ghosts, rather than trying to meet the right people and wear the right clothes

Anyone can write an adventure these days, or rather anyone has the means to write an adventure. Whether they also have the necessary imagination and determination is another matter. The range of material that is possible can be illustrated by three adventures all written with a little help - two using Gilsoft's The Quill and one with the aid of a book, Exploring Adventures on the Commodore 64 by Peter Gerrard... a name I seem to have seen before somewhere.

Pride of place belongs to Hampstead from Melbourne House (9.95 for 48K Spectrum version, BBC, Electron and Commodore 64 versions due soon), if only because there will be numerous glossy colour adverts for it. If you had any doubts about The Quill's usefulness, when Hampstead's authors finished the game using Gilsoft's utility, about half a dozen software houses were all ready to bid for it, and the authors had the luxury of choosing which company should publish their adventure.

Buffer Adventure

> The reason for that interest is that Hampstead is different - possibly too different for most adventurers. Whether you like it or not depends entirely on your sense of humour, as it's an adventure about the pretensions of social climbing. From your smelly council flat, you aspire to the dizzy heights of Hampstead, that prestigious address in London NW3. Your first task (apart from switching off the tV which is showing 3-2-1, a wise move) is to find your UB40 so you can claim some dole money. The booklet that comes with the game explains what "on the dole" means for those who may have already attained Hampstead and therefore do not understand such terms.

Note that you must "attain Hampstead", and not merely get there. After all, finding the location is easy enough, as anyone can get there on the tube or even on a bike (and you won't go anywhere without your favourite bike clips). But to "attain Hampstead" you must meet the right people, do the right things, wear the right clothes, and of course have pots of money. If you go to Hampstead without the trappings, you're given a percentage score and must start again, or resume a saved game.

The first few tasks are too difficult and bear more than a passing resemblance to Urban Upstart (muggings, indecent exposure, dingy streets). But then they get harder and it's the kind of adventure where you can reach a place and only then discover you should have brought a particular object with you, rather than the one that initially seemed more useful... though what use a banana and cod sandwich is to anyone, I don't know. There's the obligatory maze, an industrial estate, which I've managed to get into, but am as yet unable to leave despite trying to mark my place with bike clips, and banana and cod sandwiches.

> The humour raised a smile or two, though never exactly had me rolling on the floor, and it's hard to see Hampstead taking off with the majority of adventurers who want to kill at least sixteen dragons before their lamp goes out. Denis Through The Drinking Glass was another attempt to do something different (again using The Quill), and although it was a personal favourite of mine it could have sold better. Perhaps Hampstead will be the exception, with the weight of Melbourne House behind it.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, so to speak, is Buffer Adventure, another The Quill adventure set in The Buffer Shop in Streatham, a Sinclair specialist. Once in the shop, your aim is simply to get out again, and to do this you must travel through the various departments and deal with the shop staff. Fine as an in-joke, and the kind of thing that uses The Quill quite well, but the terrible jokes and comments about the staff hardly recommend it to someone looking for a challenging adventure.

More in the traditional style is Mountain Palace Adventure by John Ryan for the Commodore 64 (7.95, Duckworth). It's hard to recommend a book written by your own brother without being accused of favouritism, but its effectiveness is illustrated by the fact that John Ryan hadn't even seen a home computer 12 months ago, and simply by following the techniques from one book he now has his first adventure published, with a second on the way. p> You can tell from the title that we're back in familiar adventure territory, as the program itself acknowledges: "Another tale of danger, excitement and greed." You must infiltrate the Palace to nab all the treasure you can, and store it somewhere safe. Though it draws rather heavily on Colossal Cave Adventure (a headless ghost continually throws an axe at you, and a thief takes your treasure to deposit it in a maze) there's nevertheless enough originality in the writing to recommend it. EAT GHOST produces an interesting response, and as you wander the cloisters and corridors you must deal with a blacksmith, a watchdog, piles of rubble blocking the way, a maze of mystical chambers, a pit to cross, a dragon and our old favourite the lamp and tinderbox.

There are a few irritating bugs. You can find a shovel, but if you dig in the wrong place you get a variety of responses such as "What's a rod?" or "What's a n?". In one place there there's Magic Dust, GET DUST produces "What's a dust?" Note of these are fatal bugs, however, unlike some programs where they cause it to crash, and if you're looking for an old-fashioned adventure with doors to find and guards to bribe, you could do worse than Mountain Palace Adventure.

Three very different end results then, from using other people's programming knowledge, but make no mistake about the amount of effort involved in writing an adventure. Having written one myself using The Quill, I know it takes time, but once mastered it is a joy to work with. Using a book takes even longer, because you're learning programming techniques, not just how to find your way around The Quill. Whichever you choose, there's no excuse for not producing the goods if you feel you have an adventure inside you. Just don't ask me to solve them all...

Mike Gerrard

Other Spectrum 48K Game Reviews By Mike Gerrard


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  • Time And Magik Front Cover
    Time And Magik
  • Scapeghost Front Cover
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  • Galilee Front Cover
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  • Boiler House Front Cover
    Boiler House
  • Sabre Wulf Front Cover
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  • 3D Starstrike Front Cover
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