This game represents the second saga of Erik the Viking, following the book by Terry Jones, and details the adventures of the famous warrior who lived by the North Sea with his family and servants in Norway one thousand years ago.
One day Erik went to check his land and make sure all the sheep were in for shearing. Following the river which flowed past his home he soon reached the snow-capped mountains where he sat for a rest. Dozing beneath the fir-trees he had a vision whereupon strange creatures swarmed over the farm dragging everyone, including his wife, away. You play the freshly awakened Erik who must travel in search of these evil Dogfighters to rescue his family. Over two hundred locations reveal authentic viking settlements with wizards, dragons and giants populating these strange lands.
Playing the game you quickly see just how easy it is to move around and it follows that this adventure will have a strong appeal for a young audience or those who find the idea of prolonged mental anguish curiously unrewarding. Objects are easy to find where they stand or on a brief search of the locality. Finding uses for them is a little more testing, but it won't be long before that super feeling of having cracked a puzzle will egg you ever onwards. As you might expect from a commercially viable package and concept, there are no silly clangers to jar the sensibilities, no North Sea Oil Rigs looming out of the mists, only fully authentic stone saunas, viking ships and Scandinavian farm holdings with backdrops of tall mountains and deep fjords.
Not wishing to be thought a spoilsport, and to absorb myself in the role of Viking marauder, I didn't shave, or comb my hair, for a day; donned a thick woolly jumper, and leered at the landlady. Needless to say, the part came naturally enough (must be that easterly wind straight off the North Sea… brrr!)
Included in the large, colourful packaging is a small, glossy booklet with details on playing the game along with some extracts from the hair-raising adventures taken from the book by Terry Jones including 'Erik and the Storm', 'Erik and the Sea Dragon' and 'Erik and the Dogfighters'. Dogfighters, in case you aren't already in the know, are peculiar dogheaded creatures who instill such fear in their foes that they win most of their fights straightaway: their opponents throw down their swords and cower on their knees, ready to be slaughtered by the hideous beasts.
Every location has a full, well-designed picture which often adds immensely to your enjoyment of the adventure as they are really colourful and attractive. For efficiency in drawing, and to give the screen a fine layout, the picture is flanked on either side by a character who must be none other than Erik himself- he looks fearsome enough. Despite the reduced canvas, the graphics are still slow, but an option is provided through the words PICTURES and WORDS. With only WORDS, action is very fast and given there are so few barriers to overcome, you can really zip along. The character set used to display the text has been tastefully redesigned, and is both attractive and highly legible. However, owing to the constraints placed on available memory by all those detailed pictures, the quantity of text is always limited. Vocabulary is friendly, with PUSH and PULL accepted for example, and a list of twenty four handy words provided in the booklet proves to be very useful. Response to input can be random, so don't be fooled into thinking that 'I almost understand' has any significance - it hasn't. More honest are the 'Try again' and 'Try other words' responses.
Since the colourful pictures (which might have been designed on another computer, which would explain the odd colour shadings) take up so much of the memory that it is not only the quantity of text which suffers. Structurally the game is flat. Only useful objects can be examined, thus those which won't stand up to examination do not really exist, and only provide decoration.
The Saga of Erik the Viking is a thoroughly well-presented software package with a distinct and imaginative theme delivered in a competent, attractive manner. Given the peculiar familial relations inversion brought upon by the microcomputer (it is Dad who must wait until after lunch for young Tommy to show him how it's done), it would be unwise to say the instructions are so clear that a child could understand them. Overall, the game brings an endearing story to life both colourfully, through the entertaining graphics and theme, and in a form which is accessible to everyone as the problems it presents are not difficult.
Difficulty: quite easy
Graphics: good, and on alllocations
Input Facility: usually verb/noun
Response: very fast, but graphics are slow
THE TALES OF VIKING ERIC
BASED on the book by Terry Jones, Erik the Viking, although published by Mosaic, has been programmed by Level 9. The adventure does not simply rehash the original but uses extracts from it to provide background and clues for a new saga.
Erik has settled down to become a prosperous farmer. While his sons go a-viking in the summers he prefers to sit by his hall fire and hear their tales. His contentment is short-lived and one day, as he snoozes under a tree out on his pastures, his farm is raided by strange creatures from the outlands. He wakes to find his family and wealth have been taken.
The game begins at this point and Erik's task is to get his ship and crew together and then head down the fjord to the open sea. Appalling danger and powerful magic await him.
The program is attractively presented and the location graphics are well made, giving a fair flavour of the period. They take a little time to draw but can be removed by entering 'words'. The scenario is imaginative and full of event. There are enchanters, goddesses, sea monsters and vicious enemies.
The puzzles appear to be quite complex, as we might expect from Level 9, and Erik's journey is full of choice and decision. Even setting off requires a lot of forward planning.
The interpreter does not seem to have suffered too badly from the space given over to graphics though there were times when it could have been more helpful. In general, though, Erik the Viking is entertaining, complex and very good to look at. Even with a few minor criticisms Level 9 games are well above the normal standard of most adventures and this one is no exception, a blend of heroic adventure and detective story.
WHERE'S THE SPAM?
OTHER: BBC, CBM 64
Last Christmas the outstanding, best-selling and prize-winning children's book was Erik The Viking by Terry Jones, with illustrations by Michael Foreman. The Yule Mosaic, who are almost alone in the extremely intriguing, and potentially explosive middle-ground between book and software publishing, are hoping that the full graphic computer game of the book will be as successful. The pedigree is certainly there, with the programming done by Level 9 of text adventure fame, here embarking on their first ever graphics project.
Your task is the same as Erik The Book's was - to rescue your kidnapped family from the evil Dogfighters.
You wake on a mountaintop and must recover the various items left behind or hidden during the fracas at the farm, assemble your friends, launch your ship, the Golden Dragon, and set sail into the unknown. The game has your usual adventure game vocabulary and style, immediately recognisable to Level 9 fans, with a useful guide in the accompanying booklet. The sketch and paint graphics are excellent (on the Spectrum at least) and, under the circs, do a reasonably good job of approximating Foreman's beautiful artwork in the book.
My only query is whether it might not be a bit hard for the age group which the book was aimed at, but then I'm probably underestimating the precocious little horrors, and anyway there's always the hint sheet.
ADVENTUROUS ERIK EXITS NORSE
Mosaic bring Terry Jones' Erik the Viking to your micro - John Fraser reports from the fjords.
When I first heard that The Saga of Erik the Viking was based on the highly praised childrens' book by Monty Python star Terry Jones, I half expected Erik himself to be a sort of Nordic John Cleese, strutting about the screen dressed in furs and a Viking helmet.
In fact the game is a faithful adaptation of the book which vividly recounts the Second Saga of Erik, a viking warrior who lived around a thousand years ago. The Saga tells of Erik's search for the evil Dogfighters who have kidnapped his family. On his travels he meets numerous mythical beings such as the evil Enchantress of the Fjord and the Old Man of the Sea, as well as the ever popular wizards, dragons and giants.
Yet despite the legendary nature of his exploits, the historical setting is absolutely genuine. In the game you can explore around 200 locations, many of which are illustrated with what are arguably the most impressive and authentic scenes to have appeared in a Spectrum adventure.
Mosaic's interpretation has become firmly established with several games based on science fiction stories and novels by well known writers. With Erik, however, you don't get the book with the game which is a shame.
One other significant departure from Mosaic's book-based adventures is that Erik is primarily a graphic adventure and was programmed by Level 9, a name more usually associated with long and challenging text adventures.
The cassette comes in a large, strong box, with one of the book's fine illustrations on the cover. The accompanying 22 page instruction booklet is mostly comprised of extracts from the book, while the instructions themselves occupy a total of eight pages, six of which relate to loading on the BBC, Spectrum and Commodore machines. The playing hints are briefly covered in two pages and provide you with just sufficient information to get you started. Unless you cannot wait to play the game it would be more beneficial to read through the booklet first so that you have some idea of what is involved in the quest.
When ready, the screen depicts the mountain scenery of your homeland. In the narrow window at the bottom of the screen you read: 'Welcome to the Saga of Erik the Viking from Level 9 computing. What now?' When you type Look you get a basic description of your location and visible exits, which scrolls independently while the graphics remain on the screen.
Although it is possible to switch the graphics off the booklet doesn't tell you how. In any case, it's difficult to see why anyone should want to do this as you would lose a good deal. The text is generally uninspiring and lacks atmosphere: 'Erik is on the mountainside. The only exit is down to a path.' Still, the facility is quite a useful one when you've just retraced your steps for the umpteenth time and want to move on quickly. It's not that the graphics take long to be drawn, they don't, but you can't type in any instructions until they have been completed.
The game has a wide vocabulary and a small selection of words are listed in the booklet. To save you having to type in the name of each object you wish to pick up, you can follow 'Take' or 'Drop' with 'everything', although it would have been more convenient to have had the shorter 'Take all'. Another point regarding taking or dropping things is that the program doesn't tell you when the action has been performed. Instead of the usual 'OK' message you get 'What now?', but type 'Inventory' and you'll see the object is in your possession.
With Level 9's careful mapping it's possible to go back to previous locations and explore Viking settlements with considerable freedom of movement. Around 20 or so locations may be visited before you finally set sail in your Viking longship The Golden Dragon and journey to strange new lands. Your immediate objective is to collect whatever you will need for the voyage. To do this you'll need to examine everything you find thoroughly as many objects are concealed within other objects. Next, it's vital to ensure that the ship is seaworthy before you drag it down to the beach, a feat which cannot be accomplished alone.
As I've no wish to spoil your enjoyment of the game, I don't propose to enlighten you further except to suggest you write to Mosaic for a clue sheet, which is all you are told to do when you type Help. Should you accept this offer Mosaic will supply (on receipt of a sae) an alphabetical list of objects, creatures and places together with what virtually amounts to the complete solution.
Now a word of warning. On my review copy the text sometimes filled the communication window and ran onto the cursor line so that I couldn't enter any instructions until I pressed caps shift. Once, the text refused to scroll and after stabbing at the Spectrum keyboard for a while, the program crashed.
Despite any problems which may have been encountered, the game achieved almost instant fame. Just two weeks after its launch in autumn 1984 it reached WH Smiths' Spectrum Games Top Ten list and has already been reprinted to meet demand. Smiths' also hosted their very first signing session for software with Terry Jones.
While the game owes much to the splendid childrens' book on which it is based, it is also (as Terry Jones has remarked himself) an extension of the book rather than simply a retelling of the story. What's more, Erik is one of the few adventure games I've seen which not only entertains but educates as well, as it's very likely to stimulate further interest in the Vikings.
By the time you read this Christmas will be over, so why not spend the extra cash you were given on Erik. All the family will probably want to play it too, even those people with a natural aversion for graphic adventures. Although you don't get the book included in the package (that costs another £6.95) the game has a fascination all of its own and will take some time to solve.
I can't think of a better way to spend these long dark nights than journeying to Scandinavia.
GAME TYPE: Adventure
Level 9 are well-known for their excellent adventure games for the 48K Spectrum. Erik the Viking represents a new departure for them, from the world of text-only adventure, into that of graphics adventure.
The graphics are very well presented. The lower portion of the screen is left free for text, while at the top, flanked by representations of vikings, are shown pictures of the locations. The pictures are clear and detailed, although they do take some time to draw and are repeated each time you visit a location.
You play the part of Erik the Viking. Erik's ship, the Golden Dragon is in the boathouse, waiting to set sail. Before you can do so, there is the farm, including ice house and sauna to be searched, weapons to be found, and a crew to be summoned.
As usual in a Level 9 adventure there are almost too many clues to be found, and locations to visit although the vocabulary appears to be more restricted than usual.
Published for Level 9 by Mosaic Publishing Ltd., 187 Upper Street, London N1.
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