While casually flicking through an old YS (like you do) I came across a review of Ice Station Zero by 8th Day software. The rights to that, and all the other 8th day titles, have been acquired by GI Games which means that they are available once more. I'd only tried a couple of the titles myself when they first did the rounds, and it was Mike Gerrard's less than glowing review that made me give this particular title a miss.
Three years ago Mike said it looked 'dated'. It still does a bit, though if you're prepared to put in some hard mental work then you may be surprised to learn that beneath the modest exterior lies a neat little game.
The adventure gets underway with a nifty split screen graphic showing a tent surrounded by glacial peaks and ice floes. A harrying blizzard obscures much of your view, though you see that the way North leads to the edge of the camp and you can also go 'In' to a tent. Getting out of the blizzard is a good idea and once under canvas you'll discover a couple of handy items. When you feel ready, you can brave the outside world and venture forth into the whiteness of the arctic.
There are only a few locations to explore before things start getting difficult so just remember that, as far as I could see, STORE and CALL work as RAMSAVE and LOAD (you'll be using them a lot) and EXAMINE and SEARCH do two totally different things. Before long you'll come across a sledge complete with Huskies. Try out search and examine and you'll see what I mean. The use of those two commands are commonplace in most adventures, though in this game you do end up feeling that you have to methodically search and examine everything. A much better idea would have been to use search as a general command and reserve examine for examining items that the search command had uncovered.
Even from the early locations it seems that the author has been a bit stingy when it comes to the vocabulary. One example comes early on when you locate the dog team who are tied up and obviously need to be set loose, but try as I might I only found one command that would accomplish that task, and it took me over half an hour! Then there's the pesky wolves to be faced. They appear with tiresome frequency and, while they are easy to scare off they add absolutely nothing of worth to the proceedings and are just a pain in the bum!
As you continue to play you'll find that, problem-wise, the game itself is really rather good. Unfortunately, you can't get away from the fact that the lack of vocabulary and the way that certain things 'must' be tackled lets it down. A few sudden-ish deaths are also lurking in the background, which isn't something I find endearing.
The game is nice enough, there are a few graphics that appear quickly and are neatly executed and, unlike my predecessor way back in 1989, I didn't give up on the game. It's possibly a little bit dated nowadays, though if you're the kind of adventurer who can methodically work out how to accomplish tasks by systematically going though every verb/noun command combination you'll probably enjoy it. Then, when it's all over and you've finished the game, you'll look back on it and feel pleased as Punch for being such a clever clogs! Without having to search for the words to overcome most problems I think the game would be more suited to a beginner, though given all that I've said about the vocabulary it is, as it stands, a much more formidable challenge than it should have been.
Ice Station Zero first appeared several years ago, and following 8th Day's policy of tarting up its old releases and putting them out again, here's the new improved version. But is it improved? Sadly the answer would seem to be no. It's now got graphics, and more text thanks to compression techniques (such as The Press), plus a RAM save/load feature, but the basic game is still the same and that now looks very dated and not worth the rather high asking price of £2.99.
The adventure begins with you outside a small snow-covered tent, with a blizzard obscuring your view except for a high ridge of towering glacial ice to the east. (I think we can safely assume that it's cold.) Inside the tent there are some objects, very few of which you can examine, while outside to the north are some huskies tied to a sledge (Mush, mush!). EXAMINE SLEDGE. "It does seem a shame to leave them tied up." It also seems a shame that after a response like this you have to SEARCH SLEDGE in order to survive the first few moves.
If you do survive the peril of the wolves, you might be able to make it across the ice floes. This is trickier than it should be because, after jumping to the first floe, if you try to JUMP EAST again you're returned to the previous location, whereas if you just type EAST you make it across to the next ice floe.
As usual with any 8th Day game, there is a heck of a lot of adventure in there, but I for one wasn't encouraged to seek it out because the whole thing really did look very dated indeed. It needed PAW and a complete re-write to make this one worth digging out of the archives, and it in no way compares to the shot in the arm that Smart Egg gave to Quann Tulla/Federation. A rare failure for 8th Day.
|Value For Money||4/10|
BY ANYONE'S reckoning £1.75 is a good price to pay for a text adventure provided there has been no skimping on quality. 8th Day Software have introduced a suite of six games at that price, all written with the Quill.
The programs are graded from beginners standard to advanced difficulty and cover a range of subjects from science fiction to thrillers. It would have been useful to be able to look at the full set but regrettably only two of the games would load and only then after persistent attempts.
The two that loaded are quite adequate adventures. Faerie is set in a magical world of demons, eccentric wizards and changeling children. The game is of the advanced type and progress can only be made after a solid bout of clear lateral thinking. Both the setting and the puzzles are imaginative and intricate and you can expect long hours of perplexed entertainment from it.
Ice Station Zero, a beginner's adventure, is loosely based on the plot of a film with a similar title. A mad terrorist has taken over a polar research station and you must cross the lethal ice-pack to reach the installation before the maniac destroys New York.
It may well be for beginners but it certainly is not a doddle by any means.
Gilbert Factor: 5
In this one, you are cast as a secret service agent who must defeat the evil genius Stirling. Stirling, it seems, has planted a nuclear bomb somewhere near the south pole. Setting off, you find yourself standing in the freezing snow, from where you move on to discover ice floes, yetis etc., which must be overcome before killing the maniacal Stirling.
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?
MICRO: Spectrum 48K
SUPPLIER: 8th Day Software, 18 Flaxhill, Moreton, Wirral, L46 7UH
An adventure game for just £1.75 sounded too good to be true, so I was naturally sceptical when I read 8th Day's catalogue which described their batch of six quill-designed adventures as "presenting a unique standard of quality rarely found in adventure games."
The games have been graded in difficulty ranging from beginner to advanced levels. Ice Station Zero was rated as a beginners game, so I loaded this one first, thinking it wouldn't take very long to review. As it turned out, I met with one maddening problem almost immediately and despite following the hints sheet to the letter, I couldn't make any further progress.
The scenario is clearly derived from Alistair Maclean's thriller Ice Station Zebra and like a thriller grabs your attention right from the beginning. Your mission is to prevent a mad terrorist attempting to destroy New York from a remote Arctic research station. You have to cross the vast Arctic wastes in order to reach the station and kill the terrorist before he detonates the bomb. Along the way you have to deal with snow drifts, crevasses, hungry wolves and bears, and even a Yeti.
My difficulties began when trying to cross the ice floe, only a few moves away from the start location. At the outset of the game you can hear wolves howling across the ice, so you know you must get away as soon as possible. I found a gun hidden on a sledge and took it with me, expecting to be able to defend myself against them.
It was when I reached the edge of the icefield that the wolves prevented me from travelling any further. According to the hints sheet you must jump across the icebergs after firing the gun to disperse the wolves, which seemed simple enough. But then I discovered that every time I fired they disappeared only to return a fraction of a second later, with the result that I was killed off every time the bullets ran out.
I did once manage to escape the wolves but for some reason decided to quit and start again. Since then I've been kicking myself for not continuing while I still had a chance.
I had hoped to say that if you were new to adventures and didn't want to spend a lot of money, Ice Station Zero would be a good one to sample first. This assumes, however, that you don't find yourself in the same predicament as me - in which case you could be in for several hours of frustration.
Eight Day Software
Now to what must the adventurer's bargain of the year. Eighth Day Software have released a series of Ouilled text adventures for the 48K Spectrum, and each of them only costs £1.75. You'd be forgiven for thinking that they can't be much cop for that sort of money but you'd be dead wrong. The adventures are good quality with interesting themes.
For example Cuddles has you as a precocious baby trapped in a playpen, guarded by a nanny and with nothing but a bowl of sloppy food and a building block to experiment with. In Ice Station Zero you're on the trail of an international terrorist who is holed out in a polar research station yet holding New York to ransom.
Other titles in the collection are Quann Tulla and, the two most difficult, Faerie and Four Minutes to Midnight. Available only by mail order from Eighth Day, 18 Flaxhill, Moreton, Wirral, these adventures are excellent value for money.
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