Only a short while ago, peace returned to the land of Kilver. With the usurping army of General Matcher defeated, and the general himself banished to the distant fortress of Skelvullyn castle, the people returned to their comfortable farms. Nobody quarrelled because everyone drank from the Sun River; its yellow algae exuded a strong but harmless pacifying drug. Then - just as the good times were returning - the river dried up, crops failed and the country's wise man, Tolan, disappeared. The bad times are back to stay.
Nowhere is the sense of national ill-temper more manifest than in the tiny village of Skerrig where the local scapegoat and butt of everyone's displeasure is small-town official, Tam Wold. As village prefect, he has no alternative but to try to find Tolan and restore the flow of the river by himself.
The epic journey from Skerrig to Skelvullyn (and back) is divided into three pans. A separate and excellently illustrated introduction gives an extensive and atmospheric local history complete with sketch map and short resume of Kilver legend. Well-written and packed with imaginative detail it's an unusual and very effective way of setting the scene. If you look closely, you might even find one or two clues in the graphics.
From the relative comfort of the village green, the quest soon takes you through far more hostile territory; treacherous mountain paths, microbe-infested swamps, dangerous forests and precariously positioned ledges are only some of the seemingly insurmountable hazards. By interspersing familiar landscape with occasionally otherworldly detail, the text (there are no graphics in the adventure proper) carefully conjures up a )(liver in which leafy forests are infested by virulent forms of giant fungi and adventurers tread where the jigbucks roam.
Exploration discloses a wealth of unusual objects ranging from humble poppy to a far more exotic plant called pfrump. Knowledge gleaned from the introduction comes in very useful here and the EXAMINE command almost always yields a helpful reply. An immense amount of attention has been paid to making the responses as user-friendly as possible. For every (extremely logical) puzzle there are one or two craftily included clues.
Deprived of their pacifying drug the people of Kilver are a pretty unpleasant bunch. It's best to steer clear of most of them and turn to strangers for help; a little interaction goes a long way. Calatrin, the desert queen proves a mine of information while the best way of getting help from other characters is to give them exactly what they want. How else would you gam co-operation from forest Leaves, Saw Beetles, hedgehogs or Gib the enormously Gross?
Skelvullyn Twine is a Quilled adventure, so it doesn't accept more complex commands than basic verb/noun input. Surprisingly, I had practically no problems finding the correct words, mainly because necessary commands have been kept as general as possible. If, for example, you need to get a dandelion with the sickle and have the right equipment, simply typing GET DANDELION is enough - the program does the rest. There's none of the frustration associated with typing in 20 alternative commands and all the pleasure of getting a problem right almost the first time.
Since the arrival of GAC and the PAW, the Quill has been regarded as a rather primitive prototype. Skelvullyn Twine proves that, with a little thought, you can still produce enjoyable and marketable adventures using an older, less sophisticated utility. Excellent presentation (including some very impressive loading screens) a sensible parser, and plenty of action make for a compelling and polished product.
Eighth Day Software are keen to promote support for the smaller software house. If they continue to produce games as complex and demanding as this one they deserve all the help they can get. Skelvullyn Twine costs £5.50 and is available direct from Eighth Day at 18 Flaxhill, Moreton, Wirral. Merseyside, L46 7UH.
Some magazines yawn when presented with Quill'd adventures, muttering on about how they all look the same, they're all rubbish, blah-blah-blah. My answer to that is a rude word of eight letters (or seven if you only spell it with one 'L'). I take each adventure as it comes, because many a gem has been written using Quill, and I've got one loaded on my Spectrum right now: Skelvullyn Twine.
A very stylish introduction leads into the three-part tale. Seven options on the opening menu allow you to turn pages to read the story of the lands of Kilver, where the adventure is set, your part in the game, how to get started, a map, an option to turn the nice folksy music on or off, and so on. The graphics on these screens and on the loading screens are brilliantly done, and actually made me regret that the game was text-only - mind you, that's very well done too!
The text tells the tale of Tam Wold, a timber merchant who worked in the woods by the village of Skerrig - and who could be male or female, as it never occurred to the people of Kilver to designate anything, whether it be child-rearing or jobs, according to sex. You are also the Prefect of Skerring, though in six years all you've had to do is arrest one drunk monk! But now a draught has come upon the land, the river has dried up, a character called Tolan who has the secret of making rain has gone missing - and it's all your fault! Or so the villagers start saying, anyway. To summarise a vast amount of background storyline, your task in this adventure is to find Tolan, restore the river and return home.
The first part of the game, Book One, must be completed to get the code to Book Two and so on into Book Three. In Book One you begin in the village and must explore it and try to ignore the glares of the angry villagers. What you can't ignore are the giant hedgehogs guarding the door to Tolan's house, wherein might be a clue to his disappearance. These hedgehogs, and the behaviour of the china pig money-box in your own home, are typical of the game's rather off-beat approach. I enjoyed playing it because I was never quite sure what I was going to meet next - and what it was going to do to me when I did. But everything fits together nicely, and I like the way that objects can be used for more than one purpose, not always as an essential part of the game but sometimes just to add a bit of extra fun.
Book One is reasonably easy to complete, which gives everyone a chance to see a chunk of the game. But the next two bits do get harder and all three together add up to a very smart and value-for-money adventure.
STOP PRESS: This adventure was originally sent in by author Peter Pointon, a YS reader, who said he was publishing it himself due to lack of response from the commercial software houses he'd submitted it to. I wrote back to let him know I'd be giving it a good review, and this encouraged him to try again. He sent it to 8th Day, who snapped it up for instant publication, leaving me just enough time to alter the fax box. I always knew 8th Day had good taste!
|Value For Money||7/10|
Skelvullyn Twine is a suite of four 48K programs for all Spectrums in 48K mode. An introductory program is included within the package, which has been designed to set the scene, and gives a full outline of the game world and storyline. It's also got graphics.
I bet you're wondering what a 'twine' is aren't you? I must admit, that I had no idea either. To enlighten you: a 'twine' is a combination of objects or conditions which is as bizarre and contradictory as nature itself. I think it's something similar to spellcasting. The background story to this game had me itching to enter its wonderful world. The description is so detailed and atmospheric I won't try to give you the complete story, but rather just give you a little of the history of the game world.
A thaumaturgist (which I interpreted as a spellcaster) was allowed to train only one apprentice during his lifetime, but it was so hard to find pupils who could pass the guild's strongest entrance test that some never trained any, with the result that numbers dwindled down the years.
Eventually, only two thaumaturgists survived, a man and woman of great age named Anis and Tolaw. Their frail figures were last seen climbing painfully up a rock slope to Tow Cop, a group of standing stones in Kilver.
The mountains around Kilver were flaming with a light more brilliant than sunlight during that night, and the following morning, when one of the villagers dared to climb up to the ancient stones, all that he found was a tiny baby lying in the centre of the stone circle...
That should be enough to whet your appetite. I found the storyline fascinating, and very well written.
The second and third parts of the adventure can only be accessed by use of passwords.
STORE and RECALL give you ram save/load facilities which are essential at times as you can get killed off if you're not careful. EXAMINE is the most useful command of all with a logical response to nearly everything you input.
Skelvullyn Twine is available by mail order from Eighth Day Software, 18 Flaxhill, Moreton, Wirral, Merseyside L46 7UH. Written using the Quill, illustrator and Patch, this is undoubtedly the best budget adventure I have seen in a long time.
Label: Eighth Day Software
Author: Peter Pointon
Reviewer: Sandra Sharkey
Spectrum 48K: £5.50
Eighth Day Software, makers of such greats as Quann Tulla (recently revamped, renamed and rereleased as Federation), Faerie and Ice Station Zebra hope to add to their list of successes with the strangely named Skelvullyn Twine.
Described as a suite of four programs for all Spectrums in 48K mode, Skelvullyn Twine offers good value for money. Comprising an introductory database with graphics plus three text-only adventure programs, the whole package was designed as an interactive novel. The introduction presents an outline of the game-world and details the events preceding those depicted in the adventure, together with full instructions on how to play. The three parts of the game involve preparation for the quest, travelling toward the confrontation and finally the meeting with Matcher.
The first part opens with you in the village south of a sickle vendor's shop. The first problem is how to get the sickle: not difficult once you've found the piggy bank. The most illogical puzzle in part one concerns a worm in the hallway and a sleeping hedgehog. I felt there was insufficient information given to solve the problem and it may have players stumped for some time.
Part two involves travelling through the strange landscape in search of Tolan. You come across Jigbugs, Saw Beetles and Pfrumps, all of which have to be sussed out using the extensive examine command and used to your advantage.
Part three - the arrival - is an escape from dungeons, floating under balloons, rescuing Tolan, walking through fire and eventually, right at the end, beginning another quest.
The only drawback with Skelvullyn Twine is the fact that it is written with the now slightly dated Quill, Illustrator, Patch etc. Having said that, the only real restrictions are those of input plus some system commands which modern utilities such as PAW incorporates.
Playing is enjoyable and most instructions have been anticipated by the authors . A good atmosphere is created by both the location and event descriptions and, although some of the inhabitants are a little strange, they are well-suited to the game-world.
Taking into account the restrictions of the utility used to create Skelvullyn Twine, the game is interesting and very playable and includes the all-important incentive to finish the quest.
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