Personal Computer News

Tropical Tangle

Author: Bob Chappell
Publisher: Level 9 Computing
Machine: Amstrad CPC464

Published in Personal Computer News #110

Bob Chappell, forced to bail out in the Bermuda Triangle, finds himself lost in paradise - and the king hates tourists!

Tropical Tangle

Bob Chappell, forced to bail out in the Bermuda Triangle, finds himself lost in paradise - and the king hates tourists!

PCN Bermuda Triangle

I've started in some weird and wonderful places but never before have I begun an adventure stuck up a tree is a mangrove swamp. The Austen clan from Level 9 Computing had struck again.

Their latest text and graphics adventure, Emerald Isle, is available for a wide number of home computers. If you've got an Amstrad, Commodore 64, MSX or Spectrum, the game includes some 240 pictures and about 30K of text. BBC owners should rejoice - their version also has the same number of pictures but a sacrifice comes in the form of reduced text. Atari, Enterprise and Memotech owners get a plain text only version. All versions cost £6.95.

The price is lower than other Level 9 games because Emerald Isle is somewhat simpler and easier to solve than the rest of their range. But don't get the idea it's a walkover, because it isn't.

Up A Gum Tree

So what was I doing perched in a tree?

Well, a few minutes earlier I had been piloting a light aircraft over a tropical island paradise. But, as adventurer's luck would have it, not only had Level 9 set this emerald island in the middle of an azure sea, they had also placed it slap bang in the middle of the dreaded Bermuda Triangle. The parachute tangled round the branches before me made it clear that I had just bailed out.

The objective of the adventure is not just to find the usual cartload of treasures but to try and escapoe from the island. My immediate problem was to untangle myself from the chute and then climb down. Having managed to get my feet safely back on terra firma, I was instantly on the move - straight round in circles, as it happened.

Lay a trail, thought I. Hah! - Level 9 had anticipated that old trick. Persistence paid off and ere long I was in the centre of a strange city, set high among the trees.

The motto of any seasoned adventurer must ever be 'Lay thy mitts on everything thou canst - thou never knowest when it's going to come in handy, like'.

Just like Del Boy and Rodney, I followed this illiterate aphorism to the letter and was soon controlling enough objects to start a jumble sale.

Among the bric-a-brac I had amassed within a very short time were an ermine robe, a piece of silk, a pot of glue, coins of all values, a railway ticket and an instruction manual (not about opening junk shops). A stopped clock, an invisible barrier and some locked doors were but a few of the first puzzles to give me pause for thought. And where was that darn lamp?

Characters appearing quite early in the game included a gullible guard, a sad seamstress and a sniffy butler. I especially liked the testy king: "Tourists! Will I never get any peace?"

Emerald Isle has fast if simple graphics which can be switched on and off by a command. As with all Level 9 adventures, you get an immediate response to all text input. It is an enjoyable, fast-moving adventure with plenty to keep the fans happy until the next Level 9 fantasy appears.

Golden Oldie

One of the all-time great adventures makes a welcome re-appearance on the Commodore 64. Colossal Cave Adventure (Duckworth, £7.95) is the original Crowther and Woods mainframe adventure and follows the original layout quite faithfully.

To be fair, other companies have had versions of this favourite available for some time now. Level 9 (Colossal Adventure - unquestionably the best of all the adaptations) and Melbourne House (Classic Adventure) are but two.

The adventure is supplied on cassette and the entire program loads into memory. Since no compression techniques seem to have been used, there has been come curtailment of the fulsome text in order to squeeze the game into memory. Colossal Cave Adventure was programmed for the Commodore 64 by Peter Gerrard who is already well-known for his series of books on exploring adventures.

Past and present owners of the aged Commodore Pet micro will have fond memories of this adventure. It was originally produced for the Pet, on disk, by Commodore guru Jim Butterfield.

The famous plot involves a trip around a massive cave complex and appears to have the familiar classic puzzles, traps and mazes. Adventure buffs are likely to come over all nostalgic when I mention such beloved features as the axe-throwing dwarves, the black rod, the nervous bird, Plugh and Xyzzy.

Every adventurer worthy of the name should have at least one version of the Crowther and Woods masterpiece in their collection. This one is a competent translation and should certainly provide a good deal of pleasure.


Thinking to curry favour by gleefully reporting the misfortunes of others, an apprentice bat has whispered in the Dungeon Master's ear that many wretches are unable to progress beyond the first half of Castle of Terror (Melbourne House). To them comes the Dungeon Master's benevolent helping hand while to the malodorous bat has come intimate knowledge of a more culinary meaning of the word curry.

  1. Old man not very talkative?
  2. Can't wedge open the drawbridge?

Bob ChappellMike Gerrard