Commodore User

Nine Princes In Amber

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

Published in Commodore User #35

Nine Princes In Amber

Based on the books 'Nine Princes in Amber', and 'The Guns of Avalon', by leading American science fiction author Roger Zelazy, this game from Telarium gives you the identity of Corwin. You awake to find yourself with both legs in plaster on a hospital bed; an orderly is about to give you your regular jab of morphine with his hypo.

Despite your records showing both your legs are broken, they seem in remarkably good shape when you manage to get the plaster off - someone has falsely imprisoned you here, and that someone, it seems, is Evelyn.

Your memory has failed, and returning home to the address shown on the chart is not easy. It is made difficult by the rather limited commands understood by this game. Described as a game of politics, negotiation, and alliances, perhaps too much emphasis has been put on words like ALLY, ADMIT, DISAGREE, NOD, SHRUG and not enough on a simple GO NORTH.

Nine Princes In Amber

Leaving the hospital takes you to a street corner where you aimlessly wander about, in whatever direction you choose. You cannot hail a cab, nor find a subway. The answer, it eventually becomes apparent, is to travel by bus, but you must GET BUS rather than CATCH one, only then to be told "...YOU CATCH A BUS.".

For much of the play, you are guided through long stretches of narrative, with many actions assumed from one simple command.

The politics and alliance bit comes when your memory starts to return, along the road at Evelyn's. She's really your sister, name of Flora, and she's sort of threatening you. Perhaps you should humour her? Soon, a brother contacts you, and before long you realise there are eight of you, all vying against one another, for the throne of Amber. And all the time, you seem powerless to do anything much except SMILE or SNARL, NEGOTIATE or PLACATE.

Nine Princes In Amber

If you try to leave the room when the narrative doesn't want you, the text simply makes an excuse, and acts as if the command hadn't been entered. This is occasionally necessary in the best of scripts, to ensure you see an event, but in Amber, your freedom to manipulate events seems decidedly restricted.

Sudden death is awaiting all too frequently, and the characters are over-sensitive. A mere smile in the wrong direction is likely to bring you a quick stab in the back, from a third party who feels offended. It is metaphorically a stab in the back for the poor player too, for he has to go through the painstakingly slow restart procedure, before he can begin to retrieve a saved game.

Well, I have mixed feelings about this one. I suspect it's trying to be just a bit too clever, with a claimed 40,000 different game variations, and 40 distinct endings. A couple of things are for certain. It's abysmally slow to respond, and often disappointing when it does.

It might be described as Interactive Fiction, but it ain't a patch on Infocom!

Keith Campbell

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