64 adventure market, so how have the boys from Bridlington
measured up? Well, one thing's for sure, they're not
going to give level 9 any sleepless nights. Not unless
their next game is streets ahead of this one, anyway.
I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a BAD game, just
that it's distinctly awkward, occasionally far too obscure
and limited in scope. Since it's a first product, though,
it deserves a closer look so here goes . . .
plot, for starters, isn't exactly as fresh as new-mown
hay. The planet Megron has fallen into the grip of the
infamous Darkon and . . . OK, you-know-who's got the
job of putting things right. You wander round the planet
with a loyal Komputa droid hovering nearby, and must
indulge in various technological and mystical enterprises
in order to crack the game. Let me say right here and
now that I haven't got very far with Darkon.
I've been playing it for some time now and what little
progress I've made has been with the help of a friend
-- and SHE only knew the answers because (after much
frustration) she phoned Taskset and asked for help.
Us Wizards are made of sterner stuff, which in this
case means we make no progress whatsoever.
first sight, Darkon looks quite attractive. I
don't know how many locations there are, but each one
has an illustration, displayed in rather off-putting
green shades to one side of the screen. The character
set has been redesigned and the whole effect is, well,
DIFFERENT, if not exactly beautiful.
problems come when you start to move around and tackle
the various puzzles that present themselves. Although
the program claims to accept complex inputs like 'Attack
the droid with the visor', in practice it tends either
to reject most of your inputs or else, to respond in
a particularly uninspiring or unhelpful manner. For
example, on attempting to 'Examine Komputa', who is
'hovering nearby', you're told it's not here. It is,
though -- at least it is in the location description.
Even when you do manage to get some sort of dialogue
going with the program, it tends to he rather lifeless.
'Examine monolith', you type, and 'Huge stone monolith'
the program replies. Scintillating stuff . . . However,
the real problem with Darkon is the way the program
has been designed. It's difficult to put into words,
but the While Wizard reckons that all adventurers have
an inbuilt sense of logic which they develop in their
encounters with other worlds and the inhabitants thereof.
For example, if you found yourself confronted with a
man-eating canary, you would first examine it and then,
perhaps, give it something (or rather someone) to eat.
However, if (after repeated attempts) you gave up and
phoned the software house, only to he told that the
way past the canary was to ask it if it liked Mars Bars,
you would, I think, be entitled to feel a bit miffed.
This may sound a bit off the point, but in fact it's
exactly this sense of 'adventure logic' that's missing
from Darkon. As a result, although you will make
some progress in the end, you may find (as I did) that
on solving a puzzle your feelings are more along the
lines of 'How silly that puzzle was' rather than 'How
clever I am for solving it'.
part of the problem with Darkon is that although
the plot itself is a bit uninspired, a lot of the puzzles
are almost too original. What's that? I hear you say
. . . TOO original?? What I mean is that they don't
conform to that sense of 'adventure logic' that us wizards
share between us. And that means the game is tough going.
It's also pretty limited with regard to the vocab. There's
a command to list the available verbs, of which there
are forty-five. In the days of programs with 1000$ vocabularies,
this really isn't enough, especially when the game is
going to set you back £8.90.
like to be nice about Darkon, because I like
Taskset and I think they've produced some great games
in the past. But I think they should either stick to
arcade games or else be prepared to sink a lot more
time and development into their next adventure. It is
1986, after all, and adventures are no longer those
rather silly little games that don't understand anything
except LOOK and GO. Nowadays it's good graphics, interactive
characters and large vocabularies we want -- not quirky
green pics, off-beat puzzles and unexaminable Komputas.
Next please . . .