Richard Price dons knotted hanky and samples the low-life of a kwikhol
NOW YOUR SUNBURN has begun to fade you've probably started to get your holiday snaps back through the post. The nostalgia wells up as you share the happy memories with immensely bored relatives and friends.
There it all is - the glorious sunsets over the towering concrete hotels, the trendy beaches packed with tasseled beach umbrellas, topless bathing belles and stout gentlemen in vests and knotted hankies.
By now you've begun to forget the blistered back and nose, the hours of agony pulling out sea-urchin spines or the two days you spent locked in the loo after indulging yourself in those tempting-looking prawns and several gallons of cheap hooch ("OK! I know it's a bit like turpentine but it's only three pesetas a litre and anyway you don't notice the taste after a bit.")
Never fear, folks - all those memories can now be relived, recalled and re-suffered solely with the aid of your trusty micro in Terrormolinos, a fearsome and harrowing saga of the average family on the average package tour. Many of those experiences can be photographed and reviewed during the game, courtesy of the miracle of glorious living Saucivision.
Terrormolinos is the creation of Peter Jones and Trevor Levor, co-authors of Hampstead. Published by Melbourne House, the game is a Quilled text adventure, but this time features the addition of a graphics system.
Like all good holidays your trip begins with the panic-stricken rush to pack and be ready in time for the taxi to the airport. There you are in your semi with Beryl upstairs getting ready, little Ken trailing around after you with his thumb in his mouth and Doreen the daughter immured in the bathroom, as permanent a feature as the avocado toilet suite.
The most essential item to remember is the camera, as winning the game is achieved by taking the correct 10 snaps of the trip. You have only one film and every picture will count.
The taxi hoots outside. Ready or not you had better hurry or the driver will get fed up and leave you stranded. Where are the tickets? Have you got the red hanky? Can you remember the name of your hotel? Those and other things are essential for the journey.
Once you are past the initial time-limited section you can settle down in the plane, ignore little Ken who is using the sick bag as a hat and look forward to Terrormolinos, basking in the lethal Mediterranean sun like some ancient reptile ready to devour unwary innocents.
The Hotel Excrucio is a cool haven from the heat but the excitements of foreign climes beckon seductively. There are the gift shops, the beach with its picturesque little island - what are those black triangles nipping the waves?
Perhaps, you'd like to take an excursion - very cheap - to the bullfight or the wine-tasting. Do your best to avoid Mr Snargsby, the life and soul of the tour group, and mind Beryl doesn't catch you staring at the wonderful Miss Peach ... quick, where's the camera?
Of course, there are hazards. Don't let the kids bury you in hot sand. Be careful of what you eat and of what may eat you. Avoid being gored by irate fighting bulls and take care in the sun - heatstroke could ruin your holiday.
Every holiday disaster you can imagine will come true in Terrormolinos and when the worst happens your embarrassment and suffering will be shown on screen in Saucivision. Each 'correct' snap or fatal error has been drawn in the form of a seaside postcard - you know, the sort with large ladies and double entendres galore. During the game you can review them at any time and also check how many exposures you have left. The screens illustrated here are taken from the Commodore versions, but give you an idea of what to expect!
If you enjoyed Hampstead I have no doubt at all that Terrormolinos will be equally if not more appealing. It is not numbingly difficult but its endless sick humour will draw you from disaster to disaster. Even people who hate the usual type of computer adventure will want to join in - it will make a welcome change from Dallas and Coronation Street. Immensely silly, immense fun!
If the tribulations of the Spanish seaside are just too much, you may decide to immerse yourself in the cool magic of Red Moon, Level 9's new graphic adventure.
Long ago, when the moon was red, Magik was powerful and all embracing. Then the moon grew colder and greyer and the arts of darkness became more difficult and obscure. In time, Magik failed and the warlocks and sorcerers met to remedy their loss. They created the Red Moon Crystal and placed it in the Moon Tower in the land of Baskalos. Thus did Baskalos became the centre and heart of Magik and the other arts of civilisation.
One day, though, the Crystal was stolen and Baskalos nearly collapsed into barbarism and chaos. Then a magician came who recovered it and saved his world from fear and eternal darkness ...
Baskalos is a world of reclusive and dangerous sorcerers who dwell in mist-shrouded castles, unscalable towers or endless networks of caverns beneath the volcano torn landscape. Here were once dragons and may be still and giants beat out runestrong swords in subterranean smithies.
As usual with Level 9 the game is big, with over 200 locations to explore. Many of those have graphic illustrations of the scenes and the descriptions are atmospheric.
The pictures appear relatively fast but will not interfere with your text entry, as you can carry on typing as they draw. They are pretty enough in that impressionistic style Level 9 has adopted. If they do get in your way you can dispose of them simply by asking for 'Words'.
It's always debatable as to whether the sheer volume of graphics affects the text interpreter and there were occasions when I felt that the Examine function could have been more informative about objects or locations. The detail in the descriptions does balance that, though.
As befits a world where Magik is all, you have the opportunity of casting up to a dozen different spells to deal with many threatening situations. To cast a particular spell you must be in possession of an object which acts as its focussing point.
If, for instance, you own a certain pearl you can 'Cast Snoop North' to look into a room to your north. A dagger will allow you to 'Cast Zap' and magically attack an enemy, and a dulcimer will help you to teleport to and from the start point, thus escaping some fatal peril.
Combat also can be undertaken - but make sure you have some sort of weapon and armour first. At the beginning you have 50 'hit points' which will be depleted by battle. Hit points are also used up when you cast spells, so be sparing with Magik and fight only when you really have to. Special objects, such as rune swords, appear to increase your ration of points but they may be costly to acquire.
One other cautionary note - iron has always been known as a specific against magic and its presence in a location will reduce or totally nullify the effect of your spell-casting. When I was underground in the lair of Ziix the Magician I found it impossible to cast proper spells despite dropping every iron object I had collected. Are the caverns iron-ore bearing? Only time and yet more effort will tell.
Be sure of one thing; the solution to Red Moon is no easy linear progression from task to task. You will have to work hard to discover the significance of many objects.
Red Moon comes at the same price as the earlier Emerald Isle which Level 9 claimed was easier than their higher priced adventures. I suppose it all depends what you mean by easy!
Continuing in the magical vein we come to Warlord a text and graphic game from Interceptor Micros.
The scene is the Celtic upland of Britain in the early Roman period of its history. The imperial legions of the Emperor Vespasian have cut and burned their way up through the land, destroying hillforts and settlements in their progress.
As the red-crested cohorts reach what is now the Scottish border their advance is stopped by a powerful tribe led by a tough and resourceful warlord - that's you.
Even the gods join in to try and influence the struggle until finally the two sides agree on a form of single combat. By divine means, the warlord and a selected centurion are transported to a Celtic otherworld. The first to travel through time and space back to the 'real' world will be the victor. Strange puzzles and creatures will confront you and the gods themselves may intervene at times.
There are about a hundred locations for your £5.50 although most have very brief descriptions. There are excellent location graphics, some of which show that the author or graphics designer had done some research into the history of the period. I was particularly impressed by the picture of the chieftain's hut in the hillfort. The pictures are few and far between, though, and the large number of one-line descriptions tend to reduce the atmosphere.
Examining things will bring little result except for important objects. I expected to be able to do more in locations than I was allowed to.
Nevertheless the game has a good feel of its period and the interpreter will allow more than the usual verb/noun combinations - 'throw meat to bear' is allowed, for instance. The vocabulary is rather bereft at times despite that, and it was very odd to find that the program would not understand 'tie' when you have a piece of rope in your hands - I expect a bit more verbal versatility than that.
Warlord, then, is pretty much in the middle ground of adventuring. More detail would have improved on a reasonably interesting plot and setting.
Timesearch from Millenium Software suffers from similar problems and a few more besides. It is a Quilled game, text only, and is set in a ruinous world locked in a 'time bubble' because of a fault in the ultimate weapon - a Time Stabilizer.
Whilst that powerful weapon was being tested a fault developed which hurled all the occupants of the bubble into a time void. You are cast as the sole survivor.
The aim is to locate and de-activate the Stabilizer. To assist you in this task you must locate a Crystal of Mirrors - an object which will allow you to use past events to influence the present and force Time to give away the secrets of the Stabilizer.
I found all this a little incomprehensible at first. Most of the many locations were briefly described as villages or road junctions and very little could be made to happen in them.
The first score or so of moves is governed by the need to find food quickly. Once you have sorted out the rations you will then naturally want to explore a bit. Big problem here: the game turns out to have a move limitation and any extra wandering means that you cannot win.
Operation Nightingale from Softly Softly is yet another Quill and Illustrator package.
This is a spy story set in London. Jameson, your predecessor, has been rubbed out by the hit-men of a drugs syndicate and you are under orders to capture the head of the syndicate. Your nom de guerre is Nightingale.
The action covers London, the suburbs and other parts of the country. You must first raise cash to buy a travel pass to get around town.
Once mobile you can then begin to hunt for the syndicate. There are secret safes, planes you can fly, odd little shops where you can buy things like vests and overalls, with a few location graphics.
The story-line is not particularly original but the program is competently put together. There are a good number of locations and enough detail and events to hold your interest.
I'd rate it above Timesearch and Warlord for that reason but none of them are a patch on Terrormolinos or Red Moon.