If you cast your mind back some time to when a curious little item ended the news about some school in Donegal where grown women could return to their idyllic school days then you might quickly get the idea of what this game is all about. Well, the erudite mistresses of that noble establishment, St. Bride's School for Young Ladies, have begun a foray into the world of adventuring starting with this game, which gives some feel of what a stay at the school might entail. The feel of the game is reminiscent of those faintly Victorian Boy's Own stories I read when young. Presumably, when I was reading all about Jennings and Derbyshire all them giggly girls were absorbed in their own feminine versions, a taste of which can be sampled here.
On the front of the Prospectus is the Latin inscription Semper Ad Lucem which is very apt as I haven't the foggiest as to what it might mean. Perhaps playing this game might sharpen my intellect and rekindle that desire to learn and retain irrelevant facts. Anyway, the gist of the thing is that St. Bride's is a small private boarding school for girls between the ages of 13 and 18, set in two acres of grounds on the edge of the little fishing village of Burtonport in the heart of the Rosses on the west coast of Ireland. The area is one of outstanding natural beauty containing over a hundred lakes. The house commands views of the Atlantic to the west, while to the east the rugged countryside sweeps away to the distant Derryveagh Mountains. If you still don't know the area I'm on about then clearly you must have been educated in a crummy comprehensive and could do with a bit of the character, poise, health, and happiness from which the girls benefit at this school. There again, opening something called an atlas wouldn't do much harm either.
In an editorial a few months back I commented on how it might be a good idea to centre an adventure on somewhere that really exists and it looks like this is what we have here. This game explores the imposing Victorian building which now houses St. Bride 's. Studying the curriculum I see that not much has changed since Victorian times as we are told that while Elementary Latin and Grammar are high on the curriculum, science, apart from Botany is not so well served. There again, maybe schools have got it right when did studying science ever earn anyone any money in the headlong dash for the material goodies? You'll be relieved to note that although the school day officially begins at 7.30 with the rising bell, rising is not obligatory until breakfast at 8.15. Nice of those mistresses, eh?
So what part do you play in this adventure? Well you play Trixie Trinian, a girl just out of school whose come to St. Bride's for a school holiday (!?). You soon learn that this school is how it would be were it fifty years ago. All the staff are convinced it's the late twenties (although there is some confusion over the exact date), as are your fellow pupils. Much of your early explorations are simple enough but there comes a stage, after about 12 locations when a bit of thought is required. The authors give some clues to the complexity of this game when they concede that many will no doubt find the word which finishes the game but few will uncover the remaining 50% which leads to the coveted amulet. A St. Bride's certificate of merit awaits the player who can uncover the word but the discovery of the amulet entitles the owner to an A Level in Adventuring and a free copy of every game St. Bride's produces.
The nuts and bolts of the adventure are assembled around Gilsoft's Illustrator and Quill and entail rather slow full screen graphics which, rather disappointingly, are redrawn with every R for redescribe, This, not unexpectedly, tends to slow things down. (If you are not into adventures and you're wondering what the heck I 'm on about REDESCRIBE sticks up on the screen the location description ie, where you are at, and is necessary because often it scrolls up and off screen as you input your commands). Another niggle is the almost totally inactive EXAMINE.
Niggles apart, this isn't such a bad adventure and creates a lot of atmosphere. I just wish I'd gone to public school, learning Latin for a few years is a small price to pay if it buys a cushy job in the Civil Service. That reminds me I haven't had a cup of tea for quite awhile it's not Darjeeling, it must be Victorian Tea.
Difficulty: easy to begin with, then more difficult
Presentation: highlights etc
Input Facility: v/n
Oh, I say girls, this is a wizard wheeze! Even the boys might fancy a bash at this one.
If the thought of Quilled games sends your knees a quiver, and I admit there've been some shockers, then think again. St. Brides has quite a whacky atmosphere to it, and if you can forgive the occasional Quill-like quirk - like waiting an age before replying to your commands, you should find these antics give you quite a kick.
As Trixie Trinian you'll find yourself in the heart of St. Brides School where all the young school girls seem to have the idea that it's not 1985 but about fifty years back in time! Even worse, those mysterious mistresses seem to be dab hands at hypnosis and... (like a good school goer I mustn't give the secrets of St. Brides away, must I?) Pssst! I mustn't say a whisper about that amulet either or I'll get a jolly good ticking off... it's all jolly hockeysticks what!
Regular readers of this column will know that I have a distinct partiality for odd storylines and original plots.
The Secret of St Bride's falls smack dab into that category. St Bride's is a real school in Ireland but its set up is like a girls' boarding school fifty years ago. The, er, more mature lady may enjoy spending a week or so there to see what a private school was like in that remote era.
This Quilled adventure, with location graphics, is set in that abode of learning and begins as Trixie Trinian arrives there for her hols. Having donned your gymslip you start to wonder just what on earth this odd place is about, with its ancient wirelesses and copies of newspapers from the 1920s.
Your main task is to find out what the secret of the school is and then return it to present day normality. Built into the game is a search for a mysterious amulet - almost a game in itself. Anyone discovering the Secret will be awarded a St Bride's Certificate of Merit by the Games Mistresses who direct this bizarre school. I kid you not... It really exists!
Play commences in the dorm where your chums Fiona and Cynthia join in your hunt. An exploration of the school shows that all exits are blocked. Only the Forbidden Door offers a way out. Escape from here can be managed through a special Use command built into the game which helps to get round the two word input system of the Quill. By using a pencil and then placing it in the keyhole you'll get the key... there's slightly more to it than that but I shan't spoil your fun - write to the Fat One next door if you're stuck.
The Secret of St Bride's is humorous, well written and full of odd connections. It is a tongue in cheek romp through the realms of Angela Brazil - if you like the sound of it you should send your £6.95 to St Bride's School, Burtonport, County Donegal, Ireland. The Games Mistresses tell me they may have a distributor soon - keep an eye out for it.
Publisher: St Bridge's, Burtonport, County Donegal, Ireland
St. Bride's is a real school for young ladies, says the prospectus. It is situated on the west coast of Ireland and offers short courses for women wishing to live the way a girl used to live at boarding school some 50 years ago.
Thai means wearing gymslips and if you're lucky you'll get a bottle of sarsparilla from the Tuck Shop and a chance to play the gramophone in the common room (providing you don't overwind it).
The Secret of St. Brides is an adventure game set in the infamous school. You play the part of Trixie Trinian and must unravel some strange goings on there.
Finish the game and send the WORD that ended it to St. Brides and you'll receive a "genuine St. Bride's certificate of merit." Finding the hidden Amulet will win you a coveted A-level in Adventuring from the St. Bride's Examining Board.
After a warning about cribbing, you are up with the lark and probably disturb your dorm-mates Fiona and Cynthia.
Strange things are indeed afoot, since you soon discover that although the mistresses claim the year is 1931, everything else points to it being 1929. Other strange things are the north exits apparently going south and an adventure map so illogical in its directions that it is almost impossible to draw. Or is that a bug?
Some of the problems fit nicely in the historic setting - i.e. they are well-loved problems of yesteryear. The newspaper under the door gets you the key (Asylum and Zork II) and the elephant doesn't like mice (Sphinx).
What makes at least the key problem hard to crack is the wording: USE NEWSPAPER followed by UNDER DOOR . USE PENCIL and ON KEY. The solution is easy but you tend to have to grope endlessly for the right words - is that what adventure is all about?
The game is written using the Quill and Illustrator. The graphics are fairly mundane and slow to draw. There are a lot of variations of rooms and corridors with windows and doors, in what can only be described as "monochrome in colour".
Time and patience prevented me from getting very far, battling against words and a peculiar bug concerning relighting and retaking the lamp, which made me want to QUIT but I had, instead, to EXEAT. Rather a nice touch, I thought!
Lovely idea, not too sure about the game! The Secret of St. Bride's is available for the Spectrum and Commodore 64 from St. Bride's School, Burtonport, Co. Donegal, Ireland.
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