You might remember me reviewing Lumpsoft's The Key to Time a little while back. Well, here we have their follow up marketed by Sentient Software and, whereas the first game borrowed much from a BBC television program with a time machine and a Doctor, so this borrows from an ITV program featuring Mother and Steed (giving any more makes it too easy!). Mother has decided that all new agents need a good work out on a training assignment before joining the team.
Reading a letter from Steed given you at the start, you learn that your man in the Zndrovian Embassy has been murdered and the object of the training exercise is to bring back the name of the murderer and the weapon used. A card has some questions in Zndrovian on it, a necessity, as no-one in the embassy speaks English. The embassy turns out to be a manor house and the murderer to be one of five surviving occupants. Examining the body of Count Drezisird, the murdered agent, does not prove conclusive as this excerpt from the game shows: 'He's been stabbed, strangled, poisoned, shot and hit with a blunt instrument.' This humorous aspect to the game can be more subtle as in this earlier description, 'I am standing on an immaculate lawn. The drive is to the north. I can also see: A shrubbery. Another shrubbery, only not as tall as the first, giving a sort of two level effect. A rose garden. A rabbit burrow. The rabbit must be about six feet tall, if the size of the hole is anything to go by!' Later, GET PLAQUE plays on words to give the following reply: 'You should try not brushing your teeth'.
Central to the run of things, as you might expect from the title, are some pretty weird goings on. In particular there is a strange mirror. Look into it and characters start appearing in the dining room beside you, the marble staircase cannot be surmounted with UP as previously but now requires GO STAIRS, and what's more, they don't lead to the same place they used to! Looking into the mirror again reverses all these changes.
Something I never quite managed to work out during all this is how or where to play the mysterious game called wom with the womball found in the first few frames. There again, I didn't get anywhere near finding out who committed the crime - every suspect interviewed accuses someone else. Things aren't made any easier by characters turning up in locations only after some time playing the game, like the time I played for ages before the gardener suddenly turned up in the garden.
Malice in Wonderland is an interesting adventure with some good prompts (eg I SHOW CARD TO BUTLER and the program prom is me to SHOW BUTLER THE CARD) along with some fine touches of humour. I couldn't find out who did it and I think you might find it quite a challenge also.
Difficulty: becomes more difficult the further you play
Presentation: white on blue
Input facility: verb/noun
The Quill boom goes on and there are no less than four adventures written on it this month. The first, Malice in Wonderland, comes from Sentient Software who now market former Lumpsoft products including a Doctor Who adventure, The Key to Time, reviewed a while back.
The game sticks to TV and casts you loosely as Steed, from The Avengers. That series was renowned for its odd plots and Sentient has obliged by linking a detective-cum-spy story with bits of Alice.
Your aim is to uncover the murderer of a high ranking diplomat at the embassy of an unpronounceable Central European country. Since you do not speak the obscure tongue you are armed with a phrase book which can be used to interrogate the usual suspects - butler, chauffeur, mad chef and so on.
The embassy is curiously like the Queen of Heart's palace, with rose garden, maze, gardener and even a large rabbit burrow - which I still cannot get into, snarl, snarl. There are mirrors which seem to alter space and time and bizarre sporting objects - womballs - reminiscent of the queen's croquet balls.
The program uses the Quill's resources well and is friendly and responsive. There is a good dose of tongue-in-cheek humour too - type 'Wait' and you will be treated not only to a series of observations on the nature of time but also adverts for Lumpsoft.
That quirky approach lifts Malice in Wonderland well above run-of-the-mill Quilled games. You do not need to follow a single line of play either and can go off at chaotic tangents if you like. Good design, great quality, grand fun.
The other three Quilled games are part of a series from Sentient Software. Those are 'back to back' tapes and feature Spectrum and CBM64 versions on either side of the cassette.
They are all pure text games.
Publisher: Sentient Software
Offering good value for money, Malice in Wonderland is a traditional-style text adventure.
You take the role of a secret agent whose job is to investigate the murder of a contact. The action takes place around and inside a manor house. One interesting thing about the adventure is that the program randomly picks the murderer from the five possible suspects at the start.
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