I have to admit that this cassette has been lying on my desk neglected and un-loaded for at least a couple of months. Who wants yet another version of Colossal Cave Adventure, I thought, that being essentially what this is. Never mind, the wait has enabled the original independent publishers, Adventure Software, to sell the game to Players for wider distribution. It's also changed its own name to Smart Egg Software.
So who does want yet another version of Colossal Cave? Well, anybody who's at all interested in adventures, I reckon. As I read through the background notes, I was very dubious to see that the programmers had taken it upon themselves to increase the number of locations by a third, including a completely new 30-location introduction to the adventure. He who tampers with an old favourite is running a grave danger of getting a very loud raspberry if it isn't well done. Fortunately The Serf's Tale is very well done indeed. A storyline has been created to explain just why you find yourself standing one day outside a small brick building, and the extra locations mean that the game isn't simply a case of going in, getting everything and then getting on with it. You'll need to find coins and a map, for starters, and the provisions are hidden away as well. The text for this storyline and in the location descriptions is perfectly done to complement the original, and it all adds a great deal to the atmosphere when you enter the familiar underground network of caves - and they must be familiar to people by now.
This isn't all, though, as the program itself has some great features. Commands available include RAM SAVE/LOAD, GET/DROP ALL, FULL/BRIEF for location descriptions, pockets in adventurers' clothing in which you can PUT and RETRIEVE things and a fully used EXAMINE command. The text has been redesigned and looks a treat, and I reckon it'll sell thousands.
|Value For Money||9/10|
SUPPLIER: Players/Smart Software
MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
It was the review copy of yet another version of Colossal Cave landing on my desk, that prompted me to investigate what Nigel Brooks and Said Hassan, who are Smart Egg Software, were up to. Of particular interest is the fact that a new source of adventure games is not using a commercially available utility like the Quill, as is so often the case, but their own effective and superior system.
I loaded Serf's Tale into the Spectrum, and found an almost completely different game from the 'standard' Colossal. The text is enhanced and completely rewritten.
In fact this is Colossal Cave in a very different guise, and it stands playing even if you have played the original, since many of the problems have been reworked.
The text system achieves better than 50% compression, and as extras there are GET ALL, and DROP ALL commands, plus FULL and BRIEF to control the amount of location text displayed. However, you will not find a multi-word parser. Nigel Brooks and Said Hassan believe the problems in the original adventure were constructed with two work input in mind, and have stuck to the same format.
A new concept in marking progress in the game is the STATUS command, which tells you have many locations you have visited, as well as number of treasures stored. And as it does so, the existing screen is cleared with a rather neat dissolving routine.
Just one black mark to Interceptor, for naming this game Serf's Tale on their Players label. There is no indication for unsuspecting customers, that this is really Colossal. But for such a smart program, £1.99 must be the best value Colossal ever!
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