This is a review covering a game from ST/Amiga Format Issue 2 – the August 1988 issue (so actually out in July).
I’ve never played a text adventure. Well, a brief bit of fiddling with Hitchhiker’s Guide, but that’s about it. Indeed my adventure gaming expertise mostly consists of lots of Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry 1, a bit of Technobabylon more recently, Day Of The Tentacle, etc. As you can see, I gravitate towards the funny, and the graphical. This will be a test of patience, but a large part of the point of this is to try things I’ve not done before, so here I go.
This one benefits least of all from screenshots, after all it’s just text. And while Captain Blood has a gameplay loop that can be represented in a fairly short write-up as seen, and Sentinel repeats the same gameplay loop for 10,000 islands, a text adventure is a story and in a way it’s hard to review it without playing the whole thing. I’m conscious that in describing my experience I’m basically taking some decent writing and replacing it with my own shittier writing. We’ll see how this goes as I’m not 100% sure of the best way to approach this write-up.
So I arrive at the start of the game, apparently at work, having just been promoted and finding myself disappointed at the quality of my new office. A surprising thing is that each new location must be loaded from disk. Given the text nature of the game means it likely uses very little RAM (admittedly less will be available owing to the baffling decision to start from GEM [it uses the mouse but doesn’t use the menus so why???] instead of autobooting – meaning a 512k ST probably has about 360k to work with – that still means you can get half a disk in memory, which should allow it to be loaded in 2 or maybe 3 parts.
Now the first thing I am going to do, like any sensible person, is try to type some rude stuff. Sadly the game does not oblige. I can’t ask Margaret for sex, nor can I fuck anyone, nor can I shit on the floor. All this is an immense disappointment. Having left my office and arrived at the apparently sturdy and unfriendly Margaret’s adjoining office I am unclear about exactly what I can do. I have a stack of trades to be completed this morning however so I should probably get that done.
I head out of the office, into the corridor and into the bathroom. Surely there must be opportunities for rudeness here, right? Before doing that however it occurs to me that I should probably check my clothes for any potential inventory items. Ah, a credit card and key. Excellent, they’ll be useful at some point I’m sure. Why items in my clothes aren’t already in my inventory I have no idea but I had a vague memory of something similar in Hitchhiker’s guide so I thought I’d check. So, back to rudeness. I try to piss in the sink, and thankfully it recognises the command, but sadly won’t allow me to do so, insisting that I must restrain myself. So be it. Onwards. I move towards the cubicle which apparently smells terrible, and it seems I’m allowed to piss in that. Excellent.
Time to leave the fun of the bathroom aside and head to the dealing room. Perhaps we can play midget bowling? On entering the room I’m told the serious fraud office want to talk to my boss. I should probably go let him know. There’s a surprising amount of freedom and the text parser is pretty solid. I can for instance upon realising my pocket has a credit card and key just say “take credit card and key”, instead of having to type get for each item. Asking people about things also seems fairly robust, so the company lawyer was able to tell me about the serious fraud office – too underfunded to tackle the big things apparently. Most people seem to know there’s something shady going on. I need to dig deeper, but first I have to figure out how the buggering hell to get to the boss to let him know about the serious fraud office. He’s on the floor below and there’s a lift, but I can’t seem to get to it. Ah, fire exit. That’s it. I find out as someone uses the fire exit. Interestingly, characters move around, from place to place. I expected it to be more static, but they’re not. It’s a surprisingly sophisticated game in that regard.
It doesn’t spare the cliches, with the boss’s secretary described as a dumb blonde, stupid and easy to take advantage of. I attempt some naughtiness but she says she’ll report me for sexual harassment. I didn’t realise that was a thing in 1988!
Figuring out exits seems a challenge. Some are hidden behind doors the game doesn’t tell you about, and you only get them listed among exits (type “exits”) when they’ve been opened. Thankfully the game has enough sense not to make you “open door” then “go north”, instead recognising that you probably want to open the door and use the exit if you say “go north”.
Continuing my sexual harassment quest I catch up with the boss and let him know about the serious fraud office before going in for the kiss. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with being gay, but my character isn’t. I try licking him and he gives me a funny look.
Time to go to the car park. I examined my key earlier and discovered that I own a BMW. I want to find out more about it. I get a screwdriver from the glove compartment. My attempt at driving the car is however thwarted by traffic and I drive back to my parking space, not something I have a choice in. So, I’m stuck here. And now I can’t get out of the fucking car. I can open the door but there are no exits, I can’t leave.. what do I have to do to get out of this fucking car? Finally my misery is ended as a copper comes and arrests me. At least I’m out of the fucking car. So what have I done and is this the end of the game? After a long description of the trial in which I play no interactive part, I am sentenced to two years in prison and my game ends with a score of 200.
All in all, a fun time and maybe I’ll do better next time. Next up ST/Amiga Format Issue 3.