Commodore User

Mortville Manor

Author: Keith Campbell
Publisher: Lankhor
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #61

Mortville Manor

A desperate telegram pleading for help has you rushing to Mortville Manor to seek out Julia Defranck. Very ill, she expresses fears for the safety of her family.

And so you find yourself in the mountains, the snow-covered manor in front of you gleaming in the morning sun. As you approach, a wolf howls, sending a shiver down your spine, and the bell on the chapel tolls, almost as if in warning.

Entering the great building, you are greeted with the news that Julia has died, and her family has gathered at the manor to sort our her affairs. The detective in you tells you that all is not as it seems, and so you set about investigating what you are convinced is a case of murder.

Mortville Manor is of French origin, and has to be the first adventure that uses digitised sound as an integral part of the game, rather than as an added extra.

All actions are performed using function keys and mouse - there is no text input at all. For example, to move the MOVE option on the menu bar is touched with the mouse, and a drop-down menu lists the available locations. Select it, and you are on your way. Sometimes you are also offered the option of 'choice on screen', and can then point to a place in the picture to which you want to move.

To carry out other actions, ACT on the menu bar displays a long list of selectable verbs. Objects are taken by first discovering where they lay (you may have to open, say, a drawer) and then searching it, using the ACT menu. If there is anything of interest inside, these will be graphically displayed in sequence, allowing each to be taken, or otherwise manipulated.

The crux of the game is interaction with the family of the deceased during your investigation. They all move about the manor and grounds, and sometimes gather in small groups at different times of the day. When you find yourself in the company of someone you wish to question, the DIScuss option on the menu bar produces a list of the characters, with the available ones shown in highlight.

Selecting one of these causes an animated portrait of the person in question to be displayed, followed by a list of questions or subjects for discussion, such as Julia's death, Eva's relationship with Max, and so on. Further subjects are added to the list as you make more discoveries whilst progressing through the game.

Once a subject has been chosen, an animated portrait of the suspect replies in sound only - no text captions are provided. The result is often comic, for the speech has a very distinct French accent superimposed on a robotic intonation. In posing your questions, it pays to be discreet, for asking too many questions tends to produce hostility, and results in the rather monotonous answer, "You are too curious".

The mystery is solved by the process of deduction - from the different answers you get to the same questions, together with other clues your sharp sense of observation provides you with, as you move from room to room. Why, for example, does Bob seem to think Julia died from frostbite, when everyone else tells you she died from a pulmonary embolism?

Altogether a 'different' game, with plenty of atmosphere, and whilst I'm not sure that I would like to play with that format frequently, it does make a refreshing change.

Keith Campbell

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