This is one of the easiest of the series and is based upon Ian Fleming's early novels. You are cast as a rather poor man's version of James Bond and you find a dead CIA agent floating face-down in the Thames. From there you progress around the world trying to stop an organisation known as "The Company" from taking over.
MAKER: 8th Day Software
PRICE: £1.99 each
Pure text adventures seem to be becoming a threatened species of late. There seems to be a general feeling that to sell, a program has to contain graphics. Doesn't matter how tacky, how irrelevant to the plot line, how much memory is wasted, we gotta have them pictures. A good counter to what I, for one, see as a pernicious trend is this collection of six pocket-money programs from 8th Day, a new Merseyside outfit.
The packaging is understandably minimal, a plain black wrapper in every case, although you do get a natty plastic rack if you purchase all six. There's nothing cut-price about the quality however. as far as I could see, each of these is a well-thought out, properly plotted adventure. Better still, every one is on a different theme. The nearest to the hackneyed old Sword-and-Sorcery schlock is Faerie, but this rests more on Celtic whimsy than conquering barbarians. The vital thing is to keep the fairies happy, one way being to swap a human baby for their changeling, a bit naughty this.
Four Minutes to Midnight seems to be the most advanced program, and pits you against a post-catastrophe world. The object is to rebuild civilisation from the ruins by assembling a team of capable and technically-skilled people. To my mind this goes one better than The Hobbit in terms of human interaction, and displays genuine originality. Cuddles is a bit on the cute side - you are a bored toddler and you have to escape from your cot and get past nanny to sample the delights of the outside world.
Ice Station Zero owes something to the dreadful Alistair Maclean story - for Zero read Zebra - it's a thriller set on the Arctic Icepack. The obligatory space adventure is represented in the form of Quann Tulla in which you have to get a crippled starship working again. In Search of Angels is a Fleming-style spy story full of the obligatory souped-up sportsters full of gadgetry.
A lot of ground has been covered here, all six packages taken together cost the same as two normally-priced Spectrum programs, but represent months of playing time. This is the first time I've encountered software at a reasonable price which sacrifices nothing in the way of quality. Surely this, and not peculiar security devices, is the answer to piracy?
Mastertronics haven't got the budget end of the market all to themselves, however. A company called 8th Day Software are currently bringing out a range of adventures at the very attractive price of £1.75 each.
The company currently have around six games in their catalogue, labelled from 'beginner's game' up to 'advanced difficulty'. I haven't had time to try them all, but I did enjoy In Search of Angels. Like the rest of the 8th Day range, this is a Quilled adventure, text-only, and with some original touches.
I'm sorry to see that 8th Day haven't given Gilsoft much credit for their use of the Quill. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any mention of it at all on the cassettes or in the programs. Naughty, naughty - you may be selling your games for £1.75, but the only reason you can afford to do so, I suspect, is because Gilsoft have done most of the hard work, so why not give them a bit more credit?
Back to In Search of Angels, which sends you on an international chase after enemy agents. Original sequences include a 'car chase', where entering the wrong tactics will send you and your specially-equipped auto to the graveyard. You will also have to keep on the right side of your secret service boss, not to mention the members of the 'other side'.
Despite a certain similarity of appearance due to the use of the Quill and the limitations of the Gilsoft interpreter, these games are really excellent value. In fact, the White Wizard reckons that they're substantially better value than the Mastervision offering reviewed above, but they are, of course, text-only.
Still, in these hard times it has to be hats off to both Mastertronics and 8th Day for lowering software prices.
MICRO: Spectrum 48K
SUPPLIER: Eighth Day Software, 18 Flaxhill, Moreton, Wirral, L46 7UH
In Search of Angels is a spy thriller set in the near future of 1986. It begins, like all good thrillers, with a mysterious and potentially catastrophic incident: "You are in a communication centre somewhere in London. A panel suddenly lights up indicating that an early attack warning satellite has been destroyed."
You are secret agent Cobol, who rapidly becomes involved in a life-and-death drama of international espionage, car chases, assassinations and so on. The discovery of a body in the Thames leads you to the headquarters of British intelligence and from there to Brazil, Berlin, Casablanca and Tokyo. While on your travels you gradually uncover evidence of an evil organisation which is intent on world domination.
I spent several afternoons engrossed in this game, trying to deal with enemies who invariably proved to be smarter than I was. In three particular incidents I was killed off repeatedly.
When I left Rio airport in my 007 style Ferrari I was pursued by two other cars and careered off the road several times until I discovered an omission in the hints sheet. Then when I stopped in the city to take a look around, as soon as I returned to my car and got inside, it blew up and the game was over. Later, in Casablanca, I whispered the password to the girl with the spider web necklace but was promptly grabbed from behind and thrown down a hole. Groping about in the dark, I was stung by a tarantula that had slipped down my shirt.
In marked contrast, some locations are far too easy to explore. You can steal the secret dossier from the bank without anyone apparently noticing anything suspicious, which strikes me as being a little unrealistic.
The text is often extremely detailed, with full screens of conversations, the contents of a KGB report and so on. To add to the atmosphere, whenever you are killed off the Spectrum launches into the 007 theme music as the 'end of game' message appears.
Although described as a moderately difficult game, that is really an exaggeration. It should, however, appeal to the beginner who wants something different from the usual fantasy or science fiction scenarios but doesn't want to spend very much. At least it's as cheap as many paperback thrillers and has the added bonus of putting you in full charge.
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