From the depths of CharIton, south-east London, comes a game from the PAW of Larry Horsfield, Magnetic Moon, which has already been successfully received on the Electron and BBC. There are 48K and 128K versions, with the same price for both - it might seem a bit high for the bog-standard 48K game, although it does come in three parts, but it's not at all bad for the bigger machine. This has longer text, more EXAMINE commands and a few,extra locations and characters. It also means that all the locations from each of the three 48K parts are accessible in each of the 128K parts - if you see what I mean. And if you don't... too bad. It's the 48K version I concentrated on for review.
It's a text-only tale, and I didn't care for the sci-fi font when I started, even if it is in keeping with the story. Never mind, the author's provided three alternative fonts so you should find one that suits you. He's also provided a plot that sounds like every other sci-fi plot you've ever read. Your spaceship, the Stellar Queen, has bumped down on a planet in order to search for another ship you lost contact with a few hours earlier. There's a large magnetic field on this planet, and your Cap'n puts your ship on red alert. He's about to organise a search party, but when you volunteer he tells you to stay on board. What? Deprive an adventurer of his fun? No way! So you decide to sneak off the ship at the first opportunity. The plot might be a bit rusty but the author's made a pretty good adventure from it. The first part, Search for the Source of the Power, requires you to get off the ship when no-one's looking (and they always are!) and explore the planet's surface, where you discover the wrecked freighter ship. More exploration here, then across the vast plains of the planet till you discover... whatever it is you discover.
It's a vast game, as you might expect from a three-patter. The problems, like the plot, might be nothing new but they're well thought out and kept me coming back for more. Apart from the old chestnut about having to choose which objects you're going to take with you off the ship - you can only carry so many, even with the help of a backpack, and there are umpteen to choose from. I hate those guessing games, even when the author tries to be kind, like here, and gives you some clues if you examine the objects.
The game had a few too many irritating responses (and non-responses) for me, it was merely okay rather than good. There's a good opening description of the main control room of your ship, complete with view screen, controls, consoles, Captain's chair and all, so it's disappointing to find that "you see nothing special" when of course you try to examine everything.
You only have a certain number of moves in which to get off the ship, before the Captain collars you and brings you back, so it was really annoying when it kept happening due to the program's limitations, and not mine! Beside the inevitable airlock is a red button. PRESS BUTTON, I typed. "Which colour button?" I was asked. I didn't even have time to swear and explain there was only one button there before the Captain turned up and tufted me out of the game. One move from freedom! Of course there was another colour button on the other side of the airlock when I got there, but it's bad programming to insist on PRESS RED BUTTON when there's only one button anyway. You can tell PAW to accept the PRESS BUTTON input and act on it by simply checking the location number.
There were several similar faults, but I have to say that in spite of those I kept wanting to play the game as there was also a hell of a lot to enjoy about it. Some nice humour, good character interaction and plenty to explore. I certainly look forward to the follow-up, Starship Ouest, which is on the way. In fact if you solve Magnetic Moon you can win one of ten copies the author will be giving away. Not a Megagame, by any means, but I don't think anyone who buys it will be disappointed.
|Value For Money||5/10|
Larry's first two games, Magnetic Moon and Starship Quest focused on a character called Mike Erlin. In Magnetic Moon you were the assistant astro-navigation officer on board the survey and exploration corps spaceship the Stellar Queen. As you trundled through space at a leisurely pace a tractor beam dragged your vessel towards an unknown planet. Once on the surface, the captain decided to form an assault party to seek out and destroy the source of the tractor beam so you could blast off and resume your journey through the Big Empty. The twist in the tale comes early as you are not picked to join the assault team and it would be a dull game if you only had to sit around and wait 'til they returned, so part of the game involves actually proving your worth as a useful crew member.
Spectrum (48K or 128K) £2.50 each, £4.50 both
In Magnetic Moon, you play Mike Erlin, part of the crew of the spaceship Stellar Queen. Your task is to try to free the ship from the tractor beam originating from an alien moon. In the sequel, Starship Quest you must find the secret of the Keys to the Universe given to you by a priestess.
Both adventures impressed me by the very high standard of design. In addition, there is a handy Vocab command listing recognised words. The standard of the puzzles in Moon are high yet the plot, which injects a welcome vein of humour, moves at a brisk pace. The game gives you handy prods and pushes to aid you in case you become stuck.
The 128K versions of both contain extra locations and messages which increase the atmosphere and improve gameplay. I thoroughly recommend both adventures and can't wait to get my hands on The Axe of Koll, Larry's next release.
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