Commodore User

The Pawn

Author: Keith Campbell
Publisher: Rainbird
Machine: Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #38

The Pawn

It's here - The Pawn (on the C64) has arrived! It is the same game as on other machines, yet its presentation is somewhat different. The graphics system has the same basic features as the upmarket versions, with variations. There is a greater difference between C64 Pawn and Amiga Pawn, than between say, Amiga and Atari ST Pawn. On the whole, though, the pluses balance the minuses.

In are the roller blind graphics, but out is the mouse, the pics are controlled through the function keys. F1 turns them off, F5 rolls them up, and F7 pulls them down. In graphics ON mode they will slide up and down of their own accord, as you move from place to place. The function keys scroll them out of the way manually and each key depression moves the picture up or down two lines of text at a time. As there is no auto-repeat on the keys, a few taps is necessary to roll the picture right off the screen.

As the program responds with text, so the system detects where the base line of the picture is positioned. Only as much text as can be seen below the picture is displayed, with a MORE prompt to hit a key for the next instalment.

The Pawn

A bonus on the C64 is the 'cameo'. In providing this, Magnetic Scrolls have shown their true understanding of the text Adventure player's psychology. We moan about graphics, yet feel we're missing something if we turn them off! The reason for this, is, subconsciously we use the picture to confirm our location, rather than wade through the same text each time we return to a place previously visited. Thus, there is a conflict between graphics loading/drawing time, and time and effort required to read the location description.

Cameos get over this by providing a tiny replica of the full-sized picture, taking virtually no time to display, whilst affording instant recognition of the location. They slide in diagonally from the top right-hand corner of the screen, and are controlled with the F3 key.

The only downgrading of the pictures, compared with the Amiga version, is a reduction, in the colour content, and a slight loss of detail. Otherwise, they are as faithful a copy of the originals as you could hope for. Even then, some pictures, like the gloomy forest, for example, lose virtually nothing in their C64 rendering.

The Pawn

Typing a complex sentence is often a necessity in The Pawn, as in TIE THE YELLOW HAT TO THE WHEELBARROW WITH THE JEANS. If you make a simple typing error in entering a command like that, a nudge of the left-arrow key will instantly redisplay it, and put it in edit mode. It can then be edited just as if it were a line in a Basic program. A tap on RETURN sends it back for re-input.

The 1541 drive is a notoriously slow beast, and there is no getting away from the fact that the response is anything better than about twice as long as on an ST - I checked it out with the two computers running side by side. However, it is fast for a 1541, and comes out well ahead of the abysmal response of Infocom's recent Leather Goddesses, excellent game though that is.

A feature to set a player's mind at rest is the fact that not only is it possible to copy the two disks on which the game comes, a copy program is actually provided! So there's no excuse for a failed disk - take a backup copy before you start. But be warned - this isn't licence for pirates! To complete the game, you will need the Novella that comes with the package, as with the Amiga version. You will need your wits about you too, for this is not an easy adventure.

The Pawn

Set in the land of Kerovnia, you find yourself wearing a wristband which cannot be removed (easily!) though, naturally, you want to! At the start Kronos, the evil magician, asks you to undertake a simple delivery job. But he doesn't seem to be around to bestow the reward, once you have done his dirty work.

Kronos is just one of many characters you meet up with. Along the way you will come across an enigmatic Guru, who, when he has stopped laughing at you, will ask you a favour. If you manage that problem, chances are you'll soon be in the company of a bunch of Alchemists, who promise the earth for a lump of lead.

This is a complex game, in which you must often solve one problem to stumble across the next one. For example, it's no good worrying about not having found the dragon (well, there had to be one, didn't there?) if you haven't struggled past the alchemists. In turn, you won't see them until after you have sorted the Guru out, and discovered the secret properties of the reward he bestows upon you. And then, when you do find the dragon, you'll probably wish you hadn't! But not to worry, he's an unobservant beast, so you'll soon be pointing in the right direction!

The Pawn

The Pawn is nothing if not a humorous game, and one of my favourite parts is an inviting door labelled 'Gone to lunch'. After much struggling to unlock it, open it, break it down and generally kick it in, I resorted to the type-in coded clue, and found it was simply a matter of knocking!

However, the story doesn't end there, for a voice explains that only persons wearing a wristband are allowed in, and am I? "Yes," I reply in disappointment, to be told to come back when I'd got rid of it! With a sudden flash of inspiration I knocked again, and this time answered "No".

"Liar! Liar!" came the response.

There has been a change of plan regarding the C128 version of The Pawn, and contrary to what I reported in the September Into The Valley article, the C128 will not be on the same set of disks as the C64 package, but will be released separately.

So how does the game live up to its enormous hype? The Pawn has got to be The Adventure Of The Year for the C64 - it's as complex and texty as an Infocom game, with the bonus of graphics, the like of which have not been seen before in any C64 Adventure. It comes beautifully packaged in a sturdy box, complete with playing guide, poster, and high-quality 60-odd page novella. No Adventurer will feel complete without one!

Keith Campbell

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