Personal Computer News7th July 1983
Published in Personal Computer News #018
Safaris are dangerous enterprises, and A. J. Rushton's Spectrum Safari is no exception.
The game's appeal lies mainly in its perverse (and sometimes irritating) wit. While many other computer games revel in violence and death, there's enough of an element of black humour in Spectrum Safari to make it a healthy exercise in pure fun.
The objective of Spectrum Safari sounds simple enough. You and two other intrepid explorers must reach the southeast corner of an island on which you are trapped, starting at the northwest corner of said island. On the way you and your fellow worthies must trade with members of various native villages for food and the boat you need to leave the place. Only one of the villages has the boat, however.
Sounds easy, right? Wrong. This island has more tricks up its figurative sleeve than Mandrake the Magician.
The game's real challenge lies in trying to outwit a variety of nasty creatures that pop up on screen with alarming regularity. Unless you perform the tasks outlined by those beasties you're dead meat.
You must also be able to make canny deals with the natives for food. Otherwise you can lose members of your party through starvation.
This is a game with any number of possible courses of action. But at the same time Spectrum Safari's opening set of instructions are clear, concise and relatively free of mumbo-jumbo - a pleasant relief.
The game's witty style is apparent from the beginning as the instruction flash on to a decidedly off-beat musical accompaniment.
The cassette sleeve gives no indication of Spectrum Safari's high quality. Rushton and friends should have been a little more market-conscious, perhaps, and designed a more visually appealing package.
You move your exploration party north, south, east, or west by hitting, logically enough, one of the N, S, E or W keys. But there's not a lot of moving about in Spectrum Safari. Before you've moved more than two or three steps in any direction you're likely to meet one of the animal challengers.
Before moving anywhere it's important to remember that each time you move, each man uses up one food pack. So it's best to try to walk in a straight line towards your goal, the southeast corner of the island.
The island is divided into open country, with a lake surrounded by a swamp in the centre. As the game's instructions make clear, it's wise to avoid the swamp as much as possible, despite the fact that native villages are located just inside its boundaries. It was my bad luck to fall victim to the dreaded swamp, and I found my party had been reduced by one man even without the intervention of an animal.
About those animals. The difficulties posted by these critters vary widely. For example there's a lion whose purpose in life is to try to get you to remember his name.
This he does by flashing his name on the screen ever so briefly. If you type his correct name into the computer good for you. If not, you become Leo's (or Herbert's or Chris's) dinner.
It should be mentioned that the lion announces his presence with a tasteful electronic version of the opening bars of The Lion Sleeps Tonight.Similarly, animal challenger Bruce the Koala's arrival on the scene is heralded by a brief rendition of Waltzing Matilda.
Unfortunately, cute little Brucie is quite likely to bring tears to the eyes of the unsuspecting Spectrum Safari player who must guess which of 100 eucalyptus trees Bruce is hiding behind. You've six changes, and should you fail, another explorer bites the dust.
Bruce is rather sporting, though, and gives you clues like "Pretty Good For A Pommy" when you're hot on his trail.
Less wonderful is the arcade-style Maze of Crocodiles, which is much more a test of skill than friendly Bruce amid the trees. Negotiating this takes some quick thinking and a fair degree of manual dexterity. Should you fail, that awful Funeral March comes on again.
Other animals the intrepid Spectrum Safari player will encounter include the Mathematical Marmosets, who are displayed in alarming profusion on screen in just a few brief seconds. If your estimate of their number is off, then it's goodbye to you.
There is also the snake shoot, in which you have a set amount of time to shoot off a series of arrows at the dreaded snakes, who will reduce ou to so much adder fodder should you fail to kill enough.
But the award for Spectrum Safari's most frustrating foe goes to the Kicking Sheep. Here you've got to guess which of the sheep's legs will kick next. If you don't obtain a score of at least five correct guesses in the ten chances you have you're out. This is one of the few weak areas of the game, as it's well-nigh impossible to guess correctly.
Should you be skilful - and lucky - enough to get past all the other animal menaces you'll eventually reach the edge of the sea and make your escape.
But since that's rather hard to do, Rushton has thoughtfully provided a practice mode that enables you to hone your skills against any of the various animal challengers.
An excellent game, well thought out and beautifully executed. Spectrum Safari has great sound effects and graphics that are neither gimmicky nor confusing.