ISSUE #15 - October 11, 1998

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The  |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of  |_|_|dventure  \___|ames.

			    ISSUE # 15

	     Edited by Magnus Olsson (zebulon SP@G
			October 11, 1998.

	      SPAG Website:

SPAG supports the 1998 IF Competition (

SPAG #15 is copyright (c) 1998 by Magnus Olsson.
Authors of reviews retain the rights to their contributions.

All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine
with the traditional 'at' sign. 

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE -----------------------------------------------------

The Awakening
BJ Drifter
Knight Orc
A Mind Forever Voyaging
There's a Hole In Your Bucket


OK, you don't have to tell me: it's been a long time since the last
issue, partly because of the intervening summer, of course, but I'd
actually planned to release it a whole month ago, in early September.
Unlike earlier, you won't have to listen to any pathetic excuses
from me this time: I've actually got an explanation. The problem is
only that I'm not at liberty to tell you everything yet, so the
following may sound slightly less than believable. It is the truth,

As I wrote above, I had planned to release this issue in early
September, so I set a deadline in late August. However, some very
interesting contributions had a string attached: I had to promise not
to publish them until given permission.

The problem was only that the permission was delayed, and delayed, and
delayed... I've still not received the go-ahead. Since I feel that the
time for a new issue is long overdue, I've decided to drop the secret
contributions from this issue, and publish now, before angry mobs of
torch-bearing subscribers start turning up at my door.

So, here it is, a somewhat slimmed-down SPAG 15. I still intend to
publish the dropped material, as soon as I'm allowed to do so. I'm
sorry I can't say anything about when this will be - it could be next
week or next year. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, here's a number of excellent reviews of both old and
new games. Enjoy!

NEWS -----------------------------------------------------------------------

The entries in the 1998 IF Competition have been released, and voting
is underway. For more details (and instructions on how to download the
games), see the official competition site at

The games can also be downloaded from


In addition to the "big" Competition, a number of mini- and
micro-competitions have been held on the newsgroups this year. More
details, and all the participating games, are available from


There is now a new official SPAG web site (the old one, at,
was partially lost in a disk crash this spring). The URL is
Thanks to Joe DeRouen at Sparkynet for donating the web space!

SUBMISSION POLICY ----------------------------------------------------------

SPAG is a non-paying fanzine specializing in reviews of text adventure
games, a.k.a. Interactive Fiction. This includes the classic Infocom
games and similar games, but also some graphic adventures where the
primary player-game communication is text based.

Authors retain the rights to use their reviews in other contexts. We
accept submissions that have been previously published elsewhere,
although original reviews are preferred. At the moment, we are
reluctant to accept any more reviews of Infocom games (though
exceptions happen).

KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS----------------------------------------------------

Consider the following review header:

NAME: Cutthroats
AUTHOR: Infocom
EMAIL: ???
DATE: September 1984
PARSER: Infocom Standard
SUPPORTS: Infocom ports
URL: Not available.

When submitting reviews:  Try to fill in as much of this info as you can.
Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send those along.
The scores will be used in the ratings section.  Authors may not rate or
review their own games.

More elaborate descriptions of the rating and scoring systems may be found
in the FAQ and in issue #9 of SPAG, which should be available at:
 and at

REVIEWS 1: NEW GAMES -----------------------------------------------------

From: Chantikell SP@G
NAME: The Awakening
AUTHOR: Dennis Matheson
E-MAIL: Dennis_Matheson SP@G
DATE: 1998
PARSER: Inform
SUPPORTS: all Inform ports
VERSION: Release 1

Considering that "The Awakening" by Dennis Matheson is a rather small
game, I was pleasently surprised by both plot and atmosphere of the

The game starts out with the player finding himself in an old,
decaying churchyard during a thunderstorm, not knowing how he came
there nor who he is. But both the fact that he's originally located in
an earth pit and the name of the adventure lead up to some

Besides, the author mentions to have been inspired by the works of
Lovecraft, so for me the setting of the game was, if not outright
obviously, so at least in all probability, part of the Lovecraftian
Universe, with strange and malovelent forces at work.

During the course of the game I found this to be true, and by and by
learnt more about my surroundings, and the goal I had to achieve,
until I was able to defy these forces and win "freedom".

The atmosphere, especially during the first part of the game, is quite
dense.  Especially, once I was inside the church, I felt like an
intruder, at a place where some tradegy had already occured, trying to
make sense of the remnants.

But the end of the game came as something of an anti-climax to me: I
had no problems to win against my antagonist, and no final explanation
was offered to fill a few gaps I had noticed, just a plain
***You have won*** message.

But, as I said before, "The Awakening" is a short piece of interactive
fiction, and therefore due to lack some fleshing out that a bigger
game perhaps would have had. For its length it's really a fine example
of the art, capturing in its story, and convincing in its atmosphere.

I've totally forgotten to mention the technical side, and that's
probably because I found no flaws there, no bugs or parser problems,
which of course heightened the pleasure of playing "The Awakening".


From: Jarvist Frost (BOBFROST SP@G

NAME: Bloodline, An Interactive Coming-of-age
AUTHOR: Liza Daly
E-MAIL: gecko SP@G
DATE: 1998
PARSER: Slightly below Inform Standard
SUPPORTS: Z code 5 interpreters
VERSION: Release 1

Bloodline is a game based abound its NPC's. The entire game takes
place in the basement of a friend's house. You (female) are playing a
board game called bloodline which involves chasing after the fortune
mentioned in a will, battling with all the other relatives. This
appears to have been a way of fulfilling the criteria for the mini
comp rather than a central game piece. You are playing against the Boy
of Your Dreams (tm) and the ultimate decision is to either use your
special card and win the game or let the boy beat you. Your decision,
either way, ends the game.  There is no movement and interaction with
the NPC's is kept to a bare minimum (you're too distracted by the
boy's eyes to even think of talking to him). I thought that the TV was
an excellent touch, the slasher movies caused me to come back to the
game time after time.

If a Crinkly were to review this then they would complain about the
blunt humour, absence of puzzles, obsession with the boy etc. As a
teenager I found this to be a fun short piece of IF. My only problems
with this game was the way that I had to be female and a few weird
parser problems cropped up. In particular I liked the introduction,
this is the 'reading of the rules' (essential for all board
games). After reading the premise.txt I was expecting a serious game
and the introduction confused me for a moment until I realised it was
a 'tongue in {his} cheek' game.  This game captures the style of
teenage sleep overs, right down to the passing of notes.

As an example of a parser problem I give you this:

>examine randy's game piece
I only understood you as far as wanting to examine Randy's game piece.

Weird or what?

There is no movement and no real manipulation of items. The game will
automatically end in 25 moves if you can't reach a decision. The game
would generally be solved in 20 moves or under. There are no real
actions that you can do, you just have to admire the scenery until you
have to make the Ultimate Decision on which your future teenage
happiness is based. Apart from examining and reading objects, there is
nothing much that you can do. The ending that would appear to bring
the most satisfaction to the girl that you are playing seems to give a
rather un-feminist view of live, you have to let the male win so that
he likes you.

All in all, this game was a fun five minute piece of vagely
interactive fiction.


NAME: Firebird
AUTHOR: Bonnie Montgomery
E-MAIL: firebird SP@G
DATE: 1998
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
VERSION: Release 1.0

PLOT: Charming, appropriately fairy-tale (1.4)  ATMOSPHERE: Appropriate
WRITING: Strong, often amusing (1.6)  GAMEPLAY: Uneven at times (1.1)
PUZZLES: Not too hard, some a bit random (1.2) CHARACTERS: Amusing (1.4)
MISC: Whimsical and very playable (1.5)

Some genres of literature have become common stomping grounds for IF,
but fairy tales are not among them: the dearth of children's stories
in the IF library means that Firebird attempts something distinctly
new, and the Russian themes make it all the more unique. Though many
traditionally fairy-tale tropes are present, including evil wizards,
captured princesses, and a series of marriages at the end, the author
gives the work more than enough humor and creativity to carry it off

For what it's worth, you're the third son of a tsar, and you've been
chosen to bag the Firebird of the title, which has been stealing the
golden fruit from your father's orchard. Once you do catch the bird,
you get sent on a Quest to defeat the Evil Nasty Guy, overcoming scary
obstacles along the way and even getting Useful Social Guidance as
well, namely that you should be kind to animals. (Moreover, everything
seems to come in sets of three, a common number--along with seven--in
these stories.) Russian folk tales are not, it appears, drastically
different from those of Western Europe, such as the Brothers Grimm and
Hans Christian Andersen, certain not in their hallmarks. But there is
also plenty of humor along with the stock scenes and characters,
fortunately: a series of dimwitted guards, even if repetitive (you
defeat all of them with the same ploy), is sufficiently comic to make
the idea feel fresh.  There is plenty of absurdity as well: you get
help from an army of Japanese cooks at one point, who attack with
pepper grinders (really), and kissing a frog turns it axe
murderer. The humorous bits and the small size of the game keep the
game moving along despite the more time-worn elements.

The authenticity of the references to actual Russian stories cannot be
verified, but judging from the bibliography and the footnotes
sprinkled here and there, the author seems to have done plenty of
homework along the way, which helps reduce the sense that this is a
generic fairy tale. At one point, you encounter two peasants swapping
jokes which, somehow, feel just bizarre enough to be real Russian
jokes; at another, you encounter "three times nine" knights, which, as
the author explains, really means, in Russian folk tale parlance,
27. There is more than enough of this sort of thing to keep the story
feeling fresh, though it's more the author's wit than the stories
themselves that gives the game its appeal. (My favorite reference of
all, actually, was the Firebird's tendency to "whistle the greatest
hits of Stravinsky.") My one real objection is that women are more
often than not reduced to helpless playthings or decorative objects,
admittedly more the fault of the genre (and, maybe, the culture that
inspired the story) than the author but still a mite irritating. (And
ironic, since the author is one of very few women currently writing

As noted, the puzzles are straightforward enough that they shouldn't
slow the player down much, though there are some slightly unfair
bits--notably, having to wait around for 15-20 turns before someone
comes along and drops an item that turns out to be useful later
on. There are some clues to the possibility of that event, but they're
not particularly strong. There are some other bugs, but not many, and
they don't impede the game all that much, and the end of the story is
appropriately climactic and easy to figure out. Moreover, even the few
moments where puzzle solutions are not entirely obvious are
decipherable on fairy-tale terms; since the genre demands some
suspension of logic anyway, thinking in fairy-story mode is usually
the best way to move things along; though one solution might be better
suggested by the context in that respect, it's certainly not
unfair. The relative ease of the puzzles also makes this an appealing
possibility for younger players, though some of the references--such
as the baba yaga--might require explanation. The real fly in the
ointment is a large maze; it doesn't seem like the game would lose
much if it were cut down or eliminated.

The writing is excellent, though there's rather a lot of it at certain
key points, often several screens' worth, and several descriptions are
a bit on the skimpy side--though most locales are standard enough that
they don't need extensive writing to come across. Appropriately for
the story and the age group, the writing gives more attention to plot
than to drawn-out description: events and action get long chunks of
text, not images. Still, it's worth noting that the author rarely
slips into fairy-tale excess--not every woman is breathtakingly
beautiful, not every obstacle is horribly dangerous, etc.--though one
occasionally wishes for more details than the author
provides. Moreover, as with most good fairy tales, the scale starts
small and then builds--you start out doing menial tasks for your
father--so that, when the author does lay on superlatives, they don't
feel tired.

Though the plot won't exactly throw anyone for a loop, Firebird is a
quick, enjoyable game that might herald something new, namely IF
grounded in a specific cultural tradition; Sound of One Hand Clapping
and Pesach Adventure are the only other examples I can think of. If
Firebird encouraged more research into backgrounds of games, and more
innovative settings, it might lead to more creative games, never a bad
thing. In its own right, it's a worthy effort.


From: "Paul O'Brian" 

NAME: Firebird
AUTHOR: Bonnie Montgomery
DATE: March 1998
PARSER: TADS standard
AVAILABILITY: Freeware/Charityware (GMD)

When Def Leppard's "Pyromania" album came out in 1983, it was a good
album and a big hit, but it never made it to #1 on the American
charts. Why?  Because Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was perched there;
for months the Def Leppard album sat at #2, then sank, never reaching
the top spot. What does this have to do with IF? Hold your horses, I'm
getting to that. In the spring of 1998, Bonnie Montgomery suffered a
similar fate -- she put out an excellent game which never got the
recognition it deserved, because it was overshadowed by a concurrent
release, Andrew Plotkin's masterful "Spider and Web." (Hmmm, perhaps
this comparison isn't so good after all.  I'm not sure how much
Plotkin wants to be the Michael Jackson of IF, let alone how thrilled
Montgomery is to be called its Def Leppard. Plus, now I've outed
myself as a fan of 80s heavy metal, not to mention an incurable
parenthetical rambler. I should probably just delete this whole first
paragraph, but knowing my Piers Anthony-like inability to erase
anything I've written, I probably won't. Magnus, I leave it up to

This review is meant to partly make up for the unwarranted neglect
"Firebird" has suffered. The game is cleverly written and well-coded,
with a number of design and puzzle strengths as well. Not only that,
it includes the command "WEAR THE CLAW"! How could I resist anything
that makes reference (though probably not consciously) to my own
one-game contribution to the world of IF? In fact, oddly enough,
"Firebird" has several resemblances to "Wearing the Claw": both
feature a circular wall with a plaque mounted upon it, each of which
has "hints of honey" inside, and both games have a section where the
parser prevents travel for three attempts. Now, of course I'm not
suggesting that "Wearing the Claw" was somehow the inspiration for
"Firebird" -- I doubt Ms. Montgomery has even played my game -- but I
did find it interesting that our games had so many specifics in
common. I'm inclined to think that these two games, taken together
with some others such as Infocom's "Arthur" and Whizzard's "Lesson of
the Tortoise", are taking steps towards creating a basic vocabulary of
puzzles and devices for folk-tale-oriented IF.

Whether or not this is the case, "Firebird" stands on its own as a
remarkable piece of interactive fiction in its own right. Its clear,
elegant prose is a pleasure to read, and in spots becomes quite clever
indeed. For example, early on in the game our hero Ivan must pass by a
gaggle of overeager female admirers wearing beeswax lipstick (to which
Ivan is allergic). The women are described thus: "They're swarming
everywhere, their constant chattering an irritating drone to your
ears."  However, if Ivan fails to pass, the death message says "You
are swarmed by these eager noble honeys. Much as you feared, their
lipstick-tainted kisses cause hives to cover the entire surface of
your skin. A severe allergic reaction ensues and you succumb." In a
few quick sentences, Montgomery manages to work in "swarm" "drone"
"hive", and "honey"; death by allergy has never been described with
such wordplay and wit! The combination of humor and action is
characteristic of "Firebird," and gives it a lighthearted tone which
works quite well. Though the deeper structure of the game has a number
of fairly serious elements, Montgomery finds a way to inject humor
into most of the scenes, sometimes spilling over into outright
hilarity. That this mix of humor and action creates balance rather
than confusion is a testament to Montgomery's writing skills.

As strong as the writing is, the design is just as good. The game
provides multiple solutions to many of the puzzles, solutions which
often are so well thought-out in themselves that it's rewarding to
play through the puzzle each way, just to see how imaginatively the
game approaches the problems. "Firebird" is flexible enough to handle
lots of different kinds of thinking, and there were many times when I
thought I'd made a game-killing mistake and later found out that
although I had created a problem for myself, the game provided for a
way out of it as well.  Moreover, when critical junctions do come up,
the game gently suggests that you think about "praying to save your
soul." If you acquiesce to this suggestion, the interpreter's "save"
function is invoked, and you now have a bookmark just behind the
critical point. There is only one place in which Montgomery's very
player-friendly design approach breaks down, which is the inclusion of
a fairly large, irritating maze. The maze, as far as I could
determine, is of the bad old variety to which there is no alternative
but slow, tedious mapping. Nonetheless, even if you hate mazes, it's
worth it to slog through this one, just because the last part of the
game is so rewarding. "Firebird" has several excellent climactic
scenes (which one you see depends on what you've done up to that
point) and it handles multiple endings in a number of highly creative

Finally, in addition to the big-picture factors, "Firebird" includes a
number of nicely done, subtle touches. For instance, the author (who
is married to Unkuulian implementor Chris Nebel) manages to sneak in a
very sly reference to that series by naming a nearby tavern "The
Cheese and Pig Inn." Neat coding effects abound as well; at one point
Ivan is given a list of items he'll need in the next portion of the
story. The initial contents of this list vary depending on what Ivan
is holding when he receives it, and as he collects the items
necessary, the corresponding list items are checked. Another example
of clever coding is that the game not only frequently sends Ivan
tumbling to the ground, but it counts the number of falls he's taken,
and responds accordingly: "Just a reminder, this is the third time
today that you and the ground have had an abrupt meeting." Puzzles are
also soundly executed: not too difficult, well-clued, and
strategically dispersed to keep the narrative at a steady pace. At
this writing, the game still has several bugs, one or two of which can
in fact render the game unwinnable. I have forwarded these bugs to the
author, and she assures me that they will be fixed in the next
release. If version 1.0 of "Firebird" was this good, it will be even
better when all the niggling problems are repaired.

"Firebird" proves beyond a doubt that the intersection between folk
tale and IF is a fertile one. At the risk of making an overreaching
generalization, I would contend that folk tales often tend to have a
strong sense of structure, a distinct "best" ending, somewhat "flat"
characters who mainly serve as ciphers for the plot, and frequent
appearances by riddles or somewhat artificial puzzles, all of which
are perfect for adaptation into conventional-form IF. The strengths of
interactive fiction, on the other hand, include exploration of exotic
landscapes, a strong sense of score/progress, and participation in
structured narratives, factors which can combine to give us new ways
to experience very ancient stories. What's more, the global audience
of interactive fiction means that no matter in what tradition an IF
folk tale is written, it will serve to teach at least some of its
players about cultures outside their own. Here's hoping that others
follow in the trail that "Firebird" has blazed.


From: Jarvist Frost (BOBFROST SP@G

NAME: Saied
AUTHOR: Robb Sherwin
E-MAIL: robb_sherwin SP@G
DATE: 6/8/98
PARSER: Slightly below Inform Standard
SUPPORTS: ZCODE interpreters
VERSION: Release 1

{ Editor's note: this was one of the entries of the 1998 Chicken Comp
(see the NEWS section above), hence the reference to chickens crossing
the road. The file contains not only this game, but the
other entries as well. }

In this game you play the role of the spurned lover (male). Your Ex
has left you for someone else 18 months ago (while you were standing
there at 3am waiting for her in the freezing cold). Now, she has
phoned you and asked you to come round and comfort her since she has
just been arguing with her new lover, your replacement. You start this
game in your bed, and have to get up and decide whether you are going
to respond to your Ex's call for help.

This game has more bugs than a tropical swamp. Instead of typing
'stand' or 'get out of bed' you have to type 'pump it up' to get out
of bed. The direction of your door (the only exit from your apartment)
is not actually mentioned in the room description and so you have to
guess wildly by typing in directions at random until you realise that
it is towards the east. This game hardly recognises any of the items
mentioned in the room description. The main way that the story
progresses is through people phoning you up. After you finely decide
to get out of bed and exit the house you find yourself faced with a
decision (which will, either way, end the game). Should you go to your
Ex lover's house you should you cross to the other Saied to see your
close (female) friend?

This game had some _very_ infuriating parser problems. The two items
(of which only 1 can be picked up) served no purpose other than to be
looked at. Only the second of the 2 locations contains any information
about the exits from it. The telephone calls are hard wired in, where
ether you are, you still get the telephone calls (which occur at 'so
many turns').

>From the last two paragraphs of complaints you would expect the
writing to be terrible and the game to be boring, frustrating and
excessively hard to understand. It wasn't. The writing was of a very
high standard throughout and both endings seemed very fitting, in
particular I liked the joke about why the chicken crossed the road
(and no it isn't "to get to the other side"(TM) but it is something

As a whole, this game was good fun and I would heartily recommend it
to anyone with experience with bad parsers (i.e. all you Speccy Ifers
out there). Once the parser bugs have been navigated, this game turns
into a fun, short game and I found it well worth the download time. I
will certainly look forward to the 1998 i.f. competition entry from
Robb Sherwin.


From:  Audrey De Lisle , 

NAME:	  There's a Hole In Your Bucket
AUTHOR:	Karen Tyers
DATE:	  1998
PARSER:	PAW (Professional Adventure Writer)
SUPPORTS:      Spectrum and emulators
AVAILABILITY:  Adventure Workshop, 36 Grasmere Road, Royton, Oldham,
	       Lancs, OL2 6SR, England
Also: Adventure Probe Magazine,
      52 Burford Road, Liverpool, L16 6AQ, England
Other games may be had for C64 and Amiga, inquire of author.
Price:  A small fee for postage and handling to the Workshop
or an optional donation to Adventure Probe magazine if emailed by Karen.

Adventure Probe is a small, hand assembled magazine published by Karen
Tyers.  It contains reviews, hints and a walk-through each month.
Most of the games are for the C64 or Amiga, but some are pc.  Its
listed price is two pounds sterling (in England).  There is no
provision for foreign money.  The February issue has 50 pages, 6"x
8.5".  For those in UK, there is a telephone help line and solutions
can be downloaded.

BUCKET is a charming small game based on a folk song, "I've Got A Hole In
My Bucket, Dear Liza".  The player first learns that his wife, Liza, wants
some water to wash the windows and there is none.  During his search for
a water source and a bucket, he finds the duck pond is empty and the ducks
are miserable.  Blossom, the sow, is most unco-operative and the chickens
are hungry.  By frequent use of the LOOK command coupled with BEHIND, IN,
or UNDER, the player's search is rewarded with objects leading to success
in achieving this goal.  Besides the farm area, there is a five room house.
Liza does not contribute much, but is an npc.  The only HELP is a reminder
to follow the words in the song.

Emulators: the Lunter Z80 emulator (registered) is used by the author
with Win 95 and she reports that it works fine.  OTOH, I use DOS and
found that the Lunter emulator (shareware) did not work well with the
pentium/60MHz, but does work well with a 486/30MHz.  I downloaded the
other pc emulator and it does work with the pentium, but not .z80
files.  Of course, that may just be my pentium.  I was playing with
the PAW .z80 file and not with a .sna file.  The author now has a
proper .sna file ready.  At some future time, she hopes to have pc
versions written with Inform or TADS.

The song: There's a hole in my bucket dear Liza, dear Liza.
	  There's a hole im my bucket, dear Liza.
	      Well, mend it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry.
	      Well, mend it dear Henry, mend it.
	  With what shall I mend it, dear Liza? (etc).
	      With some straw, dear Henry (etc)
	  But the straw is too long, dear Liza, (etc)
	      Well, cut it, dear Henry (etc)
	  With what shall I cut it, dear Liza? (etc)
	      With an axe, dear Henry (etc)
	  But the axe is too blunt, dear Liza (etc)
	      Well, sharpen it, dear Henry (etc)
	  With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza? (etc)
	      With a stone, dear Henry (etc)
	  But the stone is too dry, dear Liza (etc)
	      Well, wet it, dear Henry (etc)
	  With what shall I wet it, dear Liza? (etc)
	      Try water, dear Henry (etc)
	  In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza? (etc)
	      In a bucket, dear Henry (etc)

I prefer not to rate games.  I enjoyed playing this one or would not
offer a review.  There were two 'hunt the verb' problems; one easily
resolved, but the other could be a sticker.  However, this could be a
difference in culture, so Americans might have more trouble than
others.  I am not sure younger players with no experience with C64, RS
Color Computers, Spectrum, etc, would be interested.  These games do
not resemble MYST, et al, but are great for older players.

REVIEWS 2: OLD GAMES -----------------------------------------------------

From: Gerhard Peterz (peterz SP@G

NAME: A Mind Forever Voyaging (AMFV)
Author:Steve Meretzky
DATE: 1985
PARSER: Infocom Standard
SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
SUPPORTS:Infocom ports
PUZZLES: Good, ranging from easy to hard.
ATMOSPHERE: Very well done.
DIFFICULTY: Medium - Hard

You are PRISM. A super computer able to "live" in simulations in the
future. RIght now, the world were you were created is slowly being
pushed into chaos. Schools are becoming violent. Suicides are up.
Overpopulation and food shortage threaten the world. A Senator Richard
Ryder has proposed a plan that everyone is willing to follow. But
there is one thing that stands between the plan's finishing stage.
You. It is your mission to simulate the future of the plan and hurl
yourself far into the future. A land of wonders and peace, or one of
cruelty and death? Only you can decide if the plan shall fall through.

Overall, AMFV is a great game. The plot is really intriguing and
Rockville, the city that the simulations take place, is a vast area of
exploration throughout the time periods. The writing is good quality
and excellent. It draws you into the game.  The best points of this
game are: 1) The writing is just superb.  2) The ability to visit and
compare the same city in 10 year intervals.  3) The amount to explore
and see.

A few weak points:

1) The library feature doesn't really need to be used.
2) You have to wait a bit, but sleep mode takes care of most of the time.


From: Second April 

NAME: Enchanter
AUTHOR: Marc Blank
E-MAIL: Beats me
DATE: 1983
PARSER: Infocom Standard
SUPPORTS: Infocom ports
VERSION: Release 29

Enchanter, as most Infocom fans know, is the first in a fantasy series
intended to complement the Zork trilogy, a set of games where success
depends both on wits and on judicious use of magic. (By implication,
the adventurer in the Zork trilogy is a sort of grunt by contrast,
using combat skills as opposed to spell-casting, which isn't really
true--but the blend of the two in Beyond Zork lends credence to the
idea that it was supposed to be a resolution to both trilogies.) The
player's use of magic in this series is based on a simple system of
copying spells into a book and then memorizing the spell each time it
is cast, an approach that has earned much criticism over the years but
which I still enjoy and find realistic (well, realistic on
fantasy-game terms, anyway). It feels more natural to have known
spells in a book than floating around in one's head constantly,
somehow, even though it can become a form of inventory
management. Part of the fun of this magic system, moreover, is the
humor value inherent in casting certain spells on inappropriate
objects (and the funny responses Infocom provided, of course).

Anyway, the plot of Enchanter is a fairly standard save-the-world
deal, wherein you, the novice enchanter, are sent into Krill's castle
because your powers are minimal enough that he won't bother to get rid
of you.  (Why it wouldn't be worth his while to smush someone prowling
around his castle isn't wholly clear to me, but oh well.) The layout
of the plot is rather "wide," in design parlance, meaning that almost
the entire territory and most of the puzzles are available early in
the game; it's up to you to figure out what can be solved at any given
time. Wide games can be irritating if the puzzles must be solved in
one particular order, but 'tisn't so in "Enchanter", fortunately;
quite a few of the puzzles are solvable very near the beginning of the

The puzzles themselves are mostly good, and not especially difficult,
with one exception--one vital action is without motivation and relies
on a somewhat obscure hint. There is another instance of a verb I
didn't expect the game to recognize and spent hours upon hours
devising alternative solutions to the puzzle--and no, my copy was not
pirated; I just didn't think to look at the verb list, I guess. There
are a few other mildly unfair elements--the effects of a spell expire
after a small number of moves, but there's no way of knowing that (and
no sign when it happens) and it might seem at first like that spell
doesn't have the desired effect. Another puzzle, while the idea is
fairly obvious, requires considerable trial and error for success--and
there are some incorrect solutions, for which the game gives a fairly
obvious warning. As an introduction to the use of magic in puzzles,
Enchanter succeeds admirably; you use almost all of your spells at
least once, often in creative ways.  If there's a weakness here, it's
that virtually everything you do turns on magic; whereas the other two
installments in the series called for more puzzle-solving and less
trying spells, Enchanter is largely solvable by pulling out a spell
for every occasion. It's not a major drawback, but it's not optimal

Enchanter's plot, as noted, is not especially innovative, and is beset
by contradictions, primary among them that Krill would not bother to
notice when you acquire the means to defeat him (and that said means
is sitting around in his own castle). That said, though, the
atmosphere and the setting are quite well done--the abandoned village,
the view of the castle from the Lonely Mountain, and the spread of the
effect of Krill's spell, characterized thus: "Everything you see is
gray and lifeless, as though covered with a veil of ash. Sound is
muted and there is a faint acrid odor." Room descriptions change as
well as the spell spreads, deteriorating from reasonably tidy
abandoned castle to something altogether more sinister; it reminded me
of the Nothing from Neverending Story. The effect is to lend some
urgency to the plot, even though the time allotted to accomplish the
mission is far more than needed, and to make the game something more
than a collection of puzzles. There is humor as well, though: possibly
the high point of the game is the arrival of the "adventurer," who
seems to be you in the Zork trilogy (though it does, sadly, assume
that said adventurer is male), and who plays on all the sillinesses of
Zork and its genre, from illogical "wonder what happens if I do this"
actions and their snappy responses ("The adventurer attempts to eat
his sword. I don't think it would agree with him.") to classic
vacuum-cleaner adventurer behavior--put the adventurer in a room and
watch him pick everything up. In that and in a few select instances--a
ludicrously overguarded door, for instance, and the arrival on the
scene of the Implementors, meaning the game authors--Infocom manages
to get in a few digs at the swords-and-sorcery universe, even while it
invokes many of its cliches.

It's interesting, though, that as a fantasy game, Enchanter plays
everything much more conventionally than the Zork series did. The
parody elements largely address adventure games themselves, not of the
fantasy world; the evil warlock, the good sorcerer, the friendly
animals are all reliable fantasy elements, and Enchanter doesn't do
much with them--whereas the Zork trilogy derived its humor value from
making fun of fantasy itself. The feel, moreover, is less lighthearted
than the Zork trilogy (at least, less than I and II; III was a
departure in that respect); the adventurer's pratfalls aside, the
onset of the "veil of ash" and the way it takes over the game has a
sinister quality that doesn't fit well with the humorous
aspect. Krill's sidekicks are more menacing than any enemies from the
Zork series, since they're not given foibles or funny lines (no lines
at all, actually); even when the thief in Zork I was intent on killing
you, it was hard to actually be afraid of him because the game took
pains to play up the "gentlemanly" aspect. Here, though, when
"guttural voices seem to be coming in your direction," there's a
genuinely ominous feeling. An early description sets the tone:

    To the east, far away, can be seen a great castle at the edge of
    the Sea.  Three turrets it has; two, old and still majestic, lie
    on either side of a third, cold, black as night and squat as a
    toad. An evil smoke seems to emanate from this tower, shrouding
    the others in a darkening fog. A small mountain trail leaves the
    peak and descends to the south into a small village far below.

Obviously, there isn't a lot that's new here; the ideas and images
could have come directly from Tolkien or from one of his
imitators. But the writing is restrained enough that these and other
atmosphere moments work well--the game builds up to your final
encounter with Krill by giving more and more space to the
looming-menace aspect. It's hard to explain why it works well, but it
does--though you start in a bucolic natural setting, as the game
progresses, your discoveries bring you closer to the heart of the
castle, and the atmospheric changes are calculated to reflect that
progress. Likewise, your accomplishments as an enchanter build on each
other: you move from minor triumphs in the beginning to more
significant or daring uses of magic later in the game. The point is
that Enchanter does quite a lot with a sparely written plot and its
few puzzles, and the cliched aspect doesn't prevent the story from
being effective.

On the whole, Enchanter works, and while there are problems--I wish
the authors had rethought the insistence on hunger, thirst and sleep,
for example--this is an example of one of Infocom's more solid early
efforts.  Though it takes a very different approach to its fantasy
element than does Zork I, it's no less entertaining for that.


From: Second April 

NAME: Sorcerer
AUTHOR: Steve Meretzky
E-MAIL: Good question
DATE: 1984
PARSER: Infocom standard
SUPPORTS: Infocom ports
VERSION: Release 15

ATMOSPHERE: A bit inconsistent (1.2)    GAMEPLAY: Very strong (1.7)
WRITING: At times too jokey (1.5)       PLOT: Save-the-world (1.3)
CHARACTERS: Few, not central (1.1)      PUZZLES: Good, two excellent (1.8)
MISC: Style doesn't work as well as it might, but entertaining and
satisfying, with lots of very funny Easter eggs (1.3)

Sorcerer, the second entry in the Enchanter trilogy, begins
arrestingly enough...

    You are in a strange logation, but you cannot remember how you got
    here.  Everything is hazy, as though viewed through a gauze...

    Twisted Forest

    You are on a path through a blighted forest. The trees are sickly,
    and there is no undergrowth at all. . One tree here looks
    climbable. The path, which ends here, continues to the northeast.

    A hellhound is racing straight toward you, its open jaws
    displaying rows of razor-sharp teeth.

That may be the best hook of any of Infocom's games--no desultory
"west of a white house" here. Escaping from the hellhound leads to a
attack of locusts, a crumbling riverbank, a pit of snakes, a rotted
drawbridge...the danger comes thick and fast. Unfortunately, it soon
turns out that the landscape in question is a dream--a dream that
exactly predicts the middle of the game, true, but still just a dream
and unrelated to one's performance in the game. I spent quite a while
trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to be doing in that
dream, and only grudgingly concluded that it was a long, elaborate red

Steve Meretzky is among Sorcerer's authors, and his influence is
clear: his earlier Planetfall was crammed with red herrings, and the
jokey approach to NPCs (distinctly different from the other two
entries in the series) also echoes the earlier game. The role of red
herrings in a game is a matter of taste--though this reviewer doesn't
care for it, he can't unequivocally declare that a large percentage of
irrelevant objects and locations makes for a bad game. He can,
however, warn the potential Sorcerer player to set aside the "anything
this complex must be useful somehow" assumption and not to spend too
long on any given problem or object, since chances are good that
Meretzky is up to his old tricks.  (Lord knows, I spent hours in some
of those areas that proved irrelevant, trying to figure out why they
were in the game.)

Also notable in Sorcerer is the introduction of magic potions, absent
in Enchanter and Spellbreaker--though, typically, only some of the
potions that you find are relevant. Some of the potions have effects
that are limited in duration, and one is permanent (it still seems to
be in effect in Spellbreaker, in fact)...and Meretzky's goofball side
is evident in the responses when you drink one potion while the
effects of another are still ongoing--e.g., "Uh oh. Your left ear
turned into a poisonous toad and ate your brain." Still, even if not
especially innovative, the addition of magic potions give the magic
another dimension.

Meretzky's forte as a writer is humor, and Sorcerer's genre is
wizardry/fantasy, not humor--and though the writing is far from
disappointing, the atmosphere hardly approaches that of Dave Lebling's
or Brian Moriarty's games. Too often, Meretzky is content to tell
rather than show the player what to think--for example, in reading
Belboz's journal at the beginning of the game:

"The last three entries are strange and frightening, written in a hand
quite different from that of Belboz, and in a language totally
unfamiliar to you."

Yes, fine, we can understand what has happened--but how more
skillfully might the sense of unease have been heightened by dropping
the "unfamiliar" part and actually reading bits from the journal, bits
that imply something sinister! Compare the discovery of the
alterations to your paper at the beginning of Lurking Horror; Lebling
gives us all sorts of suggestive little tidbits ("there is something
about a 'summoning,' or a 'visitor'...") in order to let our
imagination roam. On the whole, there is little mood to Sorcerer; the
dangers are so often vaguely ludicrous that it is hard to generate
much in the way of tension. (Killer vines? A slot machine that crushes
you with coins?) There are many, many locations like this:


    This is a wide road winding away to the east and west, perhaps a
    relic of the Great Underground Empire you read about in history
    class. A passage leads up to the north.

This could be in any game; the "history class" reference is typical of
Meretzky in the way it shatters the description. That approach works
brilliantly in Leather Goddesses and in other humorous games, but
Sorcerer is not as free for humor in that respect, and contrasted with
the skillful atmosphere in the rest of the series, the writing in
Sorcerer feels a bit flat. (The lack of atmosphere is illustrated by
the inclusion of the amusement park--how strange and inappropriate
would that have felt in Enchanter or Spellbreaker?) Though the
abandoned equipment and empty rooms in Planetfall became wearying,
they did create a world of sorts; the world of Sorcerer feels
thoroughly incoherent.

All that said, though, there is much in Sorcerer to enjoy, including
two of the better puzzles in the Infocom library. I enjoyed the glass
maze immensely, even if it required considerable trial and error (and
I never thought to take the easier solution); the idea felt so
innovative that I was willing to put up with the aggravation. And the
coal mine/time paradox puzzle is justly famous, and well worth the
effort required to reach it; though I've knocked Meretzky's writing, I
must admit that the tension I felt when trying to get through the mine
in time was considerable. I don't particularly approve of the
inclusion of the maze in the coal mine--it felt like an artificial way
to make the puzzle more difficult--but the nature of the puzzle itself
was so absorbing that I could forgive that.  (And there's something
vastly entertaining about being told "You cease to exist!...If you had
continued to exist, your score would have been..."  when you violate
the confines of the loop.) As a mind-bender, the coal mine puzzle is
one of the best--consider sometime where the knowledge of the
combination originated--and the feel of ultimately getting through is
indeed rewarding. (I always felt like the character's need for sleep
once that puzzle is completed is intended to mirror one's own relief
at being out of danger at last.) Minor annoyances--the maze,
Meretzky's insistence on "Wheeeee!" in the coal chute--aside, this
puzzle is clearly the highlight of the game (it makes the final few
puzzles--fairly "duh"-worthy puzzles--feel wildly anticlimactic,
though). Sorcerer is not especially hard--it was rated "advanced"
under the rating system at the time, but there are few if any
genuinely difficult puzzles (though figuring out what to solve takes a
good deal of energy, of course).

For fans of Enchanter, Sorcerer is worth playing; it continues the
inventive use of magic to solve puzzles, and there is a genuine sense
of accomplishment at the end. Though, particularly in the writing, it
doesn't quite equal the standard set by Enchanter, it is well worth
the time of any fantasy-game enthusiast.


From: Second April 

NAME: Spellbreaker
AUTHOR: Dave Lebling
E-MAIL: I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you
DATE: 1985
PARSER: Infocom standard
SUPPORTS: Infocom ports
VERSION: Release 87

ATMOSPHERE: Rich, surreal (1.8)	 GAMEPLAY: Outstanding (1.8)
WRITING: Excellent (1.9)		PLOT: Absorbing (1.9)
CHARACTERS: Few, strange (1.6)	  PUZZLES: Good, but very hard (1.9)
MISC: Absorbing in way that belies plot, humorous, diverse settings,
slightly disappointing ending (1.8)

The culmination of Infocom's Enchanter trilogy came in 1985 with
Spellbreaker, and quite a culmination it was; the final installment in
the trilogy was far harder than the previous two, and far more
satisfying as a game. Authored by Dave Lebling (who chose to leave his
personal insignia in a thoroughly unlikely -- and slightly macabre --
place in the game), Spellbreaker puts the player at the head of the
Circle of Enchanters at a moment when magic itself appears to be on
the wane -- a plot borrowed from Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy, to
be sure, but no less compelling for that. Gone is the semi-slapstick
feel of Sorcerer -- the humor is subtler here -- but the mood here is
also darker and lonelier; you encounter some humans along the way, but
many sections of the game feel deserted -- at least, no longer
populated by humans -- and Lebling's talent for atmosphere is
evident. One room description begins this way:

    This is a ruined temple to a forgotten god. Black basalt
    pillars reach to the ceiling, but some are broken and lie in
    huge fragments on the ground.  The air is stale and filled
    with the odor of decay. Bats roost in the rafters, the only
    remaining worshippers.

Though the plot of the game amounts to, as with the first two entries,
"save the world from an evil force through your use of magic", there
is far more going on here -- and the plot is much more integrated into
the game as a whole. The initial development/hook, though very
different from the device in Sorcerer, has considerable shock value --
and, incidentally, serves to draw the player into the story rather
than sounding a false alarm. Learning the "rules" of the game takes
some time, and there are numerous opportunities to make the game
unwinnable, many more than in Enchanter or Sorcerer (including one
juxtaposition early in the game that seems like a "pull-my-finger"
joke of sorts) -- but the unconventional nature of the story makes
every new development a new discovery in a way that cannot be said of
your average collect-the-treasure cave quest.

Spellbreaker was given an "Expert" difficulty rating under the system
at the time, a label only somewhat accurate. The bulk of the game's
puzzles are fairly standard use-the-proper-spell affairs, though some,
naturally, rely on wits rather than magic -- but up until nearly the
end, Spellbreaker could just as well be an "Advanced" game. The last
few puzzles, though -- certainly two of the last three, and a few
others from near the end as well -- are vastly more difficult; I will
candidly admit that I needed a substantial push. (In fact, I didn't
even get the premise of one of them without assistance -- one that
amounts to a variation on a mathematical problem -- and I suspect I
was not alone in that respect.) That factor increases the frustration
level of Spellbreaker considerably; intuitive leaps are needed at the
end that were simply not necessary earlier, and the unwary player
might well assume he or she has missed something that would make the
last few puzzles less baffling.

It should also be said that, considering the intricacy of the
puzzle-solving required to get there, the great climactic ending is
something of a letdown -- one short paragraph, in effect, hardly
longer or more resounding than any of the many deaths one can die. The
nature of the ultimate ending does, in a way, explain that -- but it
still feels like a letdown (I wondered for a while whether there was
another, "better" ending).Despite frustration, though, there is an
elegance to many of Spellbreaker's puzzles that the player can only
admire; Lebling manages to shake the feel of "put the octagonal key in
the octagonal hole" or "give the food to the animal blocking the door"
that plagues many games. (The implications of one puzzle in particular
are either completely absurd or supremely logical -- either way, they
might give you a headache trying to sort it out.)

In a sense, the puzzles reflect the plot -- on occasions, magic ceases
to help the player at all; there are areas and situations where no
amount of spellcasting will set things right, a subversion of the
"spell for every occasion" feel of the first two games. In other
instances, though, the player's magical powers circumvent the rules of
the game's universe in ways that the first two games (in the temple
and the coal mine, respectively) had only hinted at. The effect is
occasionally a bit dizzying -- in that the geography is largely
non-contiguous, the player jumps between realms and situations, and
types of dilemmas, rather abruptly -- but the final confrontation ties
things together, for the most part.

Spellbreaker's plot has been described, and criticized, as "narrow"
and "linear," which usually means that the amount of exploration
possible before the player is confronted with another puzzle is small
-- and hence that only one or two puzzles are available at a given
time. Critics of such an approach claim that it makes a game too easy
-- but Spellbreaker should give the lie to that; even though the
difficulty increases toward the end, as noted, there are few puzzles
that could be considered obvious.  Moreover, after the first few
puzzles are solved, the game opens up considerably, to the extent that
it is often possible to have five or six unsolved puzzles at
hand. (And there are also a few dummy puzzles, or what seemed so to
me, and a few that require specific tools that don't come until well
after the problems are first encountered.)

Granted, the freedom of the player is limited; the amount of variation
in a winning game of Spellbreaker is minimal (as in, there are only a
few puzzles or tasks whose order of solving or accomplishment can move
around -- and not very far, at that -- whereas very few of the puzzles
in Sorcerer, say, were in sequence) -- but that is part of why the
game was, in fact, rated "Expert"; of the several puzzles available
for head-scratching over at any given moment in Spellbreaker, it is
likely that only one will be solvable. The feel of the game lends to
the sense of narrowness, true -- for the uninitiated, the player
follows a trail of sorts of mysterious cubes that transport him/her
between a series of apparently disconnected locations, and the surface
area that each cube provides to explore is limited to one or two rooms
in a few cases. But it is possible to have several cubes whose
possibilities are not fully explored at any given time -- one cube, by
my count, has six distinct puzzles associated with it. The point is
that Spellbreaker avoids the usual problems associated with linearity
(in a way that, say, the recent "Time: all things..." does not), and
provides one important advantage inherent in narrow games -- the sense
of a storyline that the player discovers/is drawn into, rather than a
bunch of problems to solve. (The cubes, suffice it to say, have a
significance beyond their ability to transport you hither and yon --
and once you realize that significance, the plot of the game becomes
much more intriguing.)

The writing, as in most Lebling games, is controlled and skillful, all
the more so considering the nature of the game's world -- the sheer
surreality of your surroundings as the game progresses. (Try to
picture this scene, for example:

    This place is odd indeed. Nothing that you look at is what it
    seems. If you look at something carefully enough it turns out to
    be something entirely different. The room is cluttered with
    objects and obviously hasn't been cleaned in a long time. The
    floor is overgrown with grass and weeds, and rabbits have chewed
    them. There are bird nests around the ceiling and droppings here
    and there. A very untidy and unsettling place.  Much of the walls,
    ceiling and floor is covered in mirrors. There are empty,
    mirrorless square areas at north and south and a round black
    emptiness to the east.

If you can visualize that scene at all, your imagination is better
than mine.) There are, of course, defensible reasons why Lebling chose
to have that particular room appear that particular way -- but it is
also true that the atmosphere is sometimes more baffling than
evocative of anything in particular. But though the nature of your
travels allows Lebling to give you scenes like this...

    Light Room

    This place is bright and glaring. The very materials of which it
    is made blaze with light so bright that their forms are
    obscured. There are glowing archways to the west and south.

...or this...

    No Place

    There is nothing here. You are here, but there is no here where
    you are.  You see nothing. Your senses are vainly trying to find
    something, anything to work on. You can know your body is there,
    but you can't truly sense it to confirm the suspicion. Your mind
    is alternately drawn in three "directions" (or at least what seem
    like directions): east, west and south. There is something
    slightly different about the nothing in those directions.

...the sense that the author is Telling You A Big Cosmic Important
Tale is mostly absent, thankfully, and the game manages to take you
into realms several degrees removed from the average landscape without
losing the feel of the adventure-game romp, no small feat. Those who
have finished the game might do well to consider the nature of what
Spellbreaker was purporting to describe, and the restraint with which
Lebling carries it out; that much of the game seems prosaic is, in a
way, high praise. The humor in the game is essential to its
enjoyability, in that respect -- in the plain scene, notably, in the
merchant's patter, and in the very nature of the idol puzzle -- and
the absurdities (and acknowledgment of same) help keep the game from
becoming portentous.

Spellbreaker and Trinity have been mentioned in the same breath, and
for good reason -- their plots have much in common, and there is a
deft interaction between puzzles and story in each game that makes
them just as absorbing for the narrative as for the challenge of the
puzzles. A resounding conclusion to a somewhat uneven series,
Spellbreaker deserves to be considered one of Infocom's very best.


From: Robb Sherwin (robb_sherwin SP@G

NAME: Knight Orc
AUTHOR: Level 9 Computing
DATE: 1987
PARSER: name unknown, excellent
SUPPORTS: DOS, , Amiga, ST, C64, Apple, Amstrad
URL: N/A (

Level 9 released "Knight Orc" in July of 1987 and soon thereafter
changed what I felt entertainment software could be. While Knight Orc
falls short of becoming a classic on the merits of pure art through
this medium (unlike, say, "Sentinel" or "The Space Under The Window")
it nonetheless does hold up eleven years later due to the strength of
its atmosphere, gameplay and sheer indifference it shows to the

Knight Orc was one of the first games to give a voice to a "villain."
The player assumes the role of an orc named Grindleguts, abandoned by
his buddies after a night of hard drinking. The orcs, caught in an
inebriated stupor by a pack of foppish human knights, arrange for a
"Contest of Champions" to take place in the morning. Which is all well
and good, as they have no plans on sticking around for it. The orcs
tie Grindleguts (completely passed out and in no position to argue) to
a horse and give him a lance. The knights, bound by their code can do
nothing but watch as the roving evil horde skulks off into the
darkness. Much like the Baltimore Colts leaving for Indianapolis,
really.  The orcs then destroy the bridge and make good on their

(The backstory is related in a novella that accompanies the game
entitled _The Sign of the Orc_ by Peter McBride. Having purchased
hundreds of computer games throughout my life I maintain to this day
that the story is the finest ever to accompany a piece of computer
software. It's very clever and funny and somehow manages to convey
warmth and stunning brutality all within paragraphs of one another.)

The interface to Knight Orc is much like that of the typical Magnetic
Scrolls wares. Text dominates the bottom of the display, while painted
visuals (that unfortunately lost quite a bit in digitization on my IBM
version) are displayed on top. While the PC version did not allow
manipulation of the image size, much more text is present than on the
default settings for the Magnetic Scrolls games. Knight Orc's parser
is excellent -- objects can be located using a FIND command --
regardless of whether or not you have seen them (this does not work
for special items you will learn about, and the command will not do
any problem solving for you). It will understand virtually anything
you throw at it, or give you helpful reasons why it doesn't.

So, then. You're an orc trapped in human country. While attempting to
apick up some rope to cross the river you will encounter the first bit
of magic the game has to offer: the characters. I have never witnessed
a greater collection of thugs, losers, egomaniacs and self-important
motos than I have in this game.  The descriptions offered by the
parser as to the wandering characters are cruel --

The gripper: "he is a squinty, rat-like youth, with an orcish squint."

Kris the ant-warrior: "she is a muscle-bound champion, armoured with
plates of giant ant cuticle and wearing a strange ant-head helm. She
looks a lot like an ogre-sized fried roach."

Denzyl: "he is a right gullible and stupid-looking person."

Fungus the boggit-man: "he is a lanky, twitchy-fingered,

-- but a riot. Efffing genius.

Furthermore, there are plenty of hapless denizens just waiting to have
horrible things happen to them. I offer the following story as to why
this game works so well: During one stretch on the first episode I was
being identified as an orc rather easily. When a character recognizes
an orc, her or she will attack. While getting thumped by the Green
Knight (arguably the most powerful character in the episode till you
solve his puzzle), a do-nothing slacker named "Sam the Grey Earl"
jumps into the fray for a bit. After dying, I restored the game. I
take a different route around, and Sam follows me for a little bit
when I happen upon a cemetery. For whatever reason, Sam is lapping
along like a puppy. I find the vampire for the first time, who offers
me a spell in return for a victim. And guess who just happens to walk
into the tomb?  Sam is sucked down just for being in the wrong place
at the wrong time and because the little bastard couldn't leave me
alone he is slain. And I get the spell.  Justice. Absolute justice.

(Such an event is completely impossible to reproduce. The denizens in
the game seem to have some "goals," like picking up treasure and
killing orcs, but while Sam never followed me again I can not say that
the characters in the game really move in completely random patterns.
Somehow, Level 9 were able to create an environment filled with rich
characters leading their own lives all while not creating an
impression of headless chickens running around in a maze. )

The last two episodes of Knight Orc are interchangeable -- without
giving away too much, the end game involves a story of revenge and
escape against those that tormented you -- and yet, reading the
novella and playing the first episode does not begin to prepare
you. (I should note that it ties into Level 9's earlier "Silicon
Dreams" trilogy. Very, very nice.)

The puzzles, jokes, characters and parser are all up to par with the
best that Infocom had to offer. I suspect that this game did not
receive the props that it should have due to its subject manner --
playing the "bad guy" didn't really become in style until "Syndicate."
While Grindleguts is a greedy, violent, angry little pit he is also a
character worthy of our respect. Especially among the piles of spods
he's running around with. I suspect that the background characters in
Knight Orc are set to mirror the kind of individuals we (the gaming
community) can't -- in theory -- stand or relate to in real
life. Jocks, Girls, urchins, soldiers... one can make the argument
that when they are in our world (a game) they should be the
outsiders. Knight Orc describes them with as much distaste as we
normally get in "their" environments. Bloody fabulous.

If you take the time to enjoy this game -- to smell the roses --
Knight Orc will return your attention with an incredible amount of
pleasure. If Knight Orc were a woman, it would be the very cute, very
sarcastic, yet seemingly shallow girl who melts like butter for you
when you steer the pillow talk completely in her direction... and you
then fall in love with her depth.

REVIEWS 3: RISQUE GAMES --------------------------------------------------

{ Editor's note: The following review is of a game which will possibly
be rather offensive to many people. As with all SPAG reviews, the views
expressed in the review are those of the reviewer. }

From: Joe DeRouen (jderouen SP@G

Name: Blow Job Drifter
Author: Big Al
Email: al_biggone SP@G
Date: 1998
Parser: Inform
Availability: Freeware (GMD)
Version: Release 3.0

Plot: Who needs plot?  (1.0)
Atmosphere:  Cinemax soft porn  (1.0)
Writing: Better than most in the genre  (1.2)
Game play: Way too much "guess the verb"  (0.6)
Characters: Typical Penthouse Forum fare  (1.0)
Puzzles: A good mix  (1.2)
Overall: Cheesy, but fun nevertheless  (1.1)

Blow Job Drifter.  The name doesn't automatically conjure up great
images of Interactive Fiction, does it?  This is definitely an "adult"
text adventure, but just because it falls into that category doesn't
necessarily make it a bad or sloppily done game.

The object of the game, if you haven't already guessed, is to "score"
orally (and we're not talking about giving speeches here, buddy) with
as many different women as you can.

The game starts out in your apartment.  You're naked and, for some
reason that I've yet to fathom, you have absolutely nothing in your
home to wear.  Your first mission, then, is to find some clothes.
After you've managed that fairly simple task, the whole city (and
beyond) awaits your lecherous advances. There are over a dozen
different female targets in BJ Drifter.  Because the game is fairly
linear, however, you'll have to go through most of them one by one.

Despite way, way, way too many instances of "guess the verb", the game
is a fun play.  BJ Drifter doesn't take itself too seriously and thus
serves as a parody of sorts to the more "serious" adult IF out there.
The writing is surprisingly well done, the puzzles clever if a bit
off- the-wall (when you get to the fish stuck in the woman's mouth,
you'll know what I mean,) and the sex scenes . . . well, those you'll
have to judge for yourself.  But aside from being obviously misogynist
(the game is from a male point of view, after all) they're pretty
darned good.

This is the first adult IF game I've played in years.  In fact, I
think my last such game was something called "Farmer's Daughter",
which I played on the Commodore 128 way back in the mid-eighties.  BJ
Drifter is heads (and, dare I say it, tails) above that one, and
manages to be fun and "adult" without being too offensive.  Of course,
if you're easily offended, you're probably better off staying away
from BJ Drifter.  For the rest of us, though, it's a great Sunday
afternoon diversion that just may (bad pun alert!) keep you up all

READER'S SCOREBOARD ---------------------------------------------------------

As mentioned before, the scoreboard is now up to date! More ratings
are welcome, especially for the games with a small number in the
"#Sc." column.


	A   - Runs on Amigas.
	AP  - Runs on Apple IIs.
	GS  - Runs on Apple IIGS.
	AR  - Runs on Acorn Archimedes.
	C   - Commercial, no fixed price.
	C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30.
	F   - Freeware.
	GMD - Available on
	I   - Runs on IBM compatibles.
	M   - Runs on Macs.
	S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20.
	64  - Runs on Commodore 64s.
	ST  - Runs on Atari STs.
	TAD - Written with TADS.  This means it can run on:
		AmigaDOS, NeXT and PC, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, DECstation
		(MIPS) Unix Patchlevel 1 and 2, IBM, IBM RT, Linux, Apple
		Macintosh, SGI Iris/Indigo running Irix, Sun 4 (Sparc)
		running SunOS or Solaris 2, Sun 3, OS/2, and even a 386+
		protected mode version.
	AGT - Available for IBM, Mac, Amiga, and Atari ST.  This does not
		include games made with the Master's edition.
	ADVSYS - Available for PC and Macintosh only, or so my sources tell
		 me.  (Source code available as well.  So it can be ported
		 to other computers.)
	HUG - Written with Hugo.  Runs on MS-DOS, Linux, and Amigas.
	INF - Infocom or Inform game.  These games will run on:
		Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Macintosh, IBM, Unix, VMS, Apple II,
		Apple IIGS, C64, TSR-80, and Acorn Archimedes.  There may be
		other computers on which it runs as well.

Name		  Avg Sc     Chr     Puz    # Sc   Issue Notes:
====		  ======     ===     ===    ====   ==============
Aayela		   8.6     1.6     1.7       1	F_TAD_GMD
Adventure (all variants) 6.6     0.7     1.0       7      8 F_INF_TAD_ETC_GMD
Adventureland	    4.0     0.5     1.5       1	F_GMD
Adv. of Elizabeth Highe  3.1     0.5     0.3       2      5 F_AGT
Afternoon Visit	  4.1     1.0     0.8       1
Alien Abduction?	 7.9     1.7     1.7       1
All Quiet...Library      4.7     0.8     0.7       4      7 F_INF_GMD
Amnesia		  7.8     1.5     1.7       2      9 C_AP_I_64
Another...No Beer	2.4     0.2     0.8       2      4 S10_IBM_GMD
Arthur: Excalibur	8.0     1.3     1.6       4    4,14C_INF
Awakened		 7.7     1.7     1.6       1
Awe-Chasm		2.4     0.3     0.6       1      8 S?_IBM_ST
Babel		    8.2     1.8     1.6       1
Balances		 6.5     0.9     1.4       4      6 F_INF_GMD
Ballyhoo		 7.7     1.8     1.5       4      4 C_INF
Beyond the Tesseract     3.7     0.1     0.6       1      6 F_I_GMD
Beyond Zork	      8.1     1.6     1.9       4      5 C_INF
BJ Drifter	       7.3     1.5     1.5       1
Border Zone	      7.3     1.4     1.4       6      4 C_INF
Broken String	    3.1     0.5     0.6       1      x F_TADS_GMD
BSE		      6.6     1.0     1.0       1
Bunny		    6.6     1.0     1.4       1
Bureaucracy	      7.5     1.6     1.3       6      5 C_INF
Busted		   5.2     1.0     1.1       1	F_INF_GMD
Castaway		 1.1     0.0     0.4       1      5 F_IBM_GMD
Castle Elsinore	  5.3     1.0     1.2       1
Change in the Weather    7.2     0.9     1.4       6  7, 14 F_INF_GMD
Chicken under Window     6.9     0.0     0.0       1
Christminster	    8.4     1.7     1.6       5	F_INF_GMD
Corruption	       7.8     1.6     1.1       3      x C_I
Cosmoserve	       8.7     1.3     1.4       2      5 F_AGT_GMD
Crypt v2.0	       5.0     1.0     1.5       1      3 S12_IBM_GMD
Curses		   8.4     1.3     1.7       9      2 F_INF_GMD
Cutthroats	       6.4     1.4     1.2       5      1 C_INF
Dampcamp		 6.0     1.0     1.4       1
Deadline		 6.9     1.2     1.3       6      x C_INF
Delusions		8.4     1.8     1.6       1
Deep Space Drifter       5.5	     1.4       1      3 S15_TAD_GMD
Delusions		7.4     1.3     1.5       2      14F_INF_GMD
Demon's Tomb	     7.4     1.2     1.1       2      9 C_I
Detective		1.0     0.0     0.0       5    4,5 F_AGT_GMD
Detective-MST3K	  6.1     0.8     0.1       4    7,8 F_INF_GMD
Ditch Day Drifter	7.1     1.2     1.6       1      2 F_TAD_GMD
Dungeon		  7.4     1.5     1.6       1	F_GMD
Dungeon Adventure	6.8     1.3     1.6       1      4 F_SEE REVIEW
Dungeon of Dunjin	5.8     0.7     1.4       3  3, 14 S20_IBM_MAC_GMD
Edifice		  7.7     1.6     1.7       2
Electrabot	       0.7     0.0     0.0       1      5 F_AGT_GMD
Emy Discovers Life       4.1     1.0     1.0       1
Enchanter		7.1     0.9     1.4       6      2 C_INF
Enhanced		 5.0     1.3     1.3       1      2 S10_TAD_GMD
Eric the Unready	 6.9     1.5     1.5       2      x C_I
Everybody Loves a Parade 7.3     1.2     1.3       1
Fable		    2.0     0.2     0.1       1      6 F_AGT_GMD
Fear		     7.6     1.5     1.6       1	F_GMD
Firebird		 8.1     1.7     1.6       1
Fish		     7.6     1.2     1.7       3      x C_I
Foggywood Hijinx	 7.6     1.7     1.7       1
Forbidden Castle	 4.8     0.6     0.5       1      x C_AP
Frenetic Five	    5.1     1.2     0.2       1
Friday Afternoon	 6.3     1.4     1.2       1     13 F_INF_GMD
Frobozz Magic Support    8.0     1.6     1.7       1
Gateway		  7.5     1.6     1.5       1      x C_I
Glowgrass		7.4     1.6     1.5       2     13 F_INF_GMD
Great Archaelog. Race    6.5     1.0     1.5       1      3 S20_TAD_GMD
Guardians of Infinity    8.5	     1.3       1      9 C_I
Guild of Thieves	 7.3     1.2     1.6       3      x C_I
Gumshoe		  6.3     1.3     1.1       2      9 F_INF_GMD
Hitchhiker's Guide       7.6     1.4     1.5       8      5 C_INF
Hollywood Hijinx	 6.4     0.9     1.6       7      x C_INF	     3.7     0.3     0.7       2      3 S20_IBM_GMD
Horror of Rylvania       7.7		       1      1 F_TAD_GMD
Humbug		   7.0     1.7     1.5       2      x F_GMD
Ice Princess	     6.2     1.1     1.6       1
Infidel		  6.9     0.0     1.4       9    1,2 C_INF
Inhumane		 3.6     0.2     0.7       1      9 F_INF_GMD
I-0: Jailbait...	 8.0     1.7     1.3       4	F_INF_GMD
Jacaranda Jim	    7.0		       1      x F_GMD
Jeweled Arena	    8.0     1.5     1.5       1      x ?
Jigsaw		   7.7     1.3     1.4       6    8,9 F_INF_GMD
Jinxter		  6.4     1.1     1.3       2      x C_I
John's Fire Witch	7.1     1.1     1.6       6      4 S6_TADS_GMD
Journey		  7.8     1.6     1.3       3      5 C_INF
Jouney Into Xanth	5.0     1.3     1.2       1      8 F_AGT_GMD
Kissing the Buddha's...  8.1     2.0     1.2       1
Klaustrophobia	   6.7     1.2     1.3       5      1 S15_AGT_GMD
Leather Goddesses	7.1     1.3     1.5       8      4 C_INF
Legend Lives!	    8.9     0.9     1.6       2      5 F_TADS_GMD
Lessen of the Tortoise   8.1     1.6     1.6       1	F_TADS_GMD
Lethe Flow Phoenix       6.8     1.4     1.5       3      9 F_TADS_GMD
Light: Shelby's Addendum 8.3     1.8     0.9       2      9 S?_TADS_GMD
Lists and Lists	  7.5     1.5     1.8       1
Losing Your Grip	 8.2     1.3     1.4       2      14S_TADS_GMD
Lost New York	    8.2     1.6     1.6       1
Lurking Horror	   7.3     1.4     1.4      10    1,3 C_INF
MacWesleyan / PC Univ    5.6     0.7     1.0       1      x F_TADS_GMD		4.5     0.5     0.5       1      3 S20_IBM_GMD
Magic Toyshop	    4.3     0.7     1.1       2	F_INF_GMD
Matter of Time	   1.4     0.3     1.4       1      14F_ALAN_GMD
Meteor...Sherbet	 8.5     1.6     1.9       1	F_INF_GMD
Mind Electric	    5.1     0.6     0.8       3    7,8 F_INF_GMD
Mind Forever Voyaging    8.4     1.3     0.8       7      5 C_INF
Moist		    8.4     1.7     1.6       1
Moonmist		 5.7     1.2     1.0      10      1 C_INF
Mop & Murder	     5.0     0.9     1.0       2    4,5 F_AGT_GMD
Multidimen. Thief	5.6     0.4     1.0       3    2,9 S15_AGT_GMD
Mystery House	    4.1     0.3     0.7       1      x F_AP_GMD
New Day		  5.5     1.3     0.9       1     13 F_INF_GMD
Night at Museum Forev    4.2     0.3     1.0       4    7,8 F_TAD_GMD
Nord and Bert	    6.1     0.8     1.3       4      4 C_INF
Odieus...Flingshot       3.3     0.4     0.7       2      5 F_INF_GMD
One Hand Clapping	6.9     1.2     1.4       3      5 F_ADVSYS_GMD
One That Got Away	6.7     1.3     1.2       3    7,8 F_TAD_GMD
Oo-Topos		 5.7     0.2     1.0       1      x C_AP_I_64
Path to Fortune	  6.8     1.4     0.8       1      9 S_INF_GMD
Pawn		     6.5     1.0     1.2       1      x C_I_AP_64
PC University: See MacWesleyan
Perseus & Andromeda      3.4     0.3     1.0       1      x ?
Phred Phontious...Pizza  5.2     0.8     1.3       1     19 F_INF_GMD
Planetfall	       7.4     1.6     1.5       9      4 C_INF
Plundered Hearts	 7.2     1.3     1.1       5      4 C_INF
Pyramids of Mars	 6.0     1.2     1.2       1
Quarterstaff	     6.1     1.3     0.6       1      9 C_M
Ralph		    7.3     1.7     1.5       1
Reruns		   5.2     1.2     1.2       1
Sanity Claus	     9.0		       1      1 S10_AGT_GMD
Save Princeton	   5.8     1.2     1.3       2      8 S10_TAD_GMD
Seastalker	       5.5     1.2     0.9       6      4 C_INF
Shades of Grey	   8.0     1.3     1.4       4    1,2 F_AGT_GMD
Sherlock		 7.3     1.4     1.4       3      4 C_INF
She's Got a Thing...     7.8     1.8     1.8       2     13 F_INF
Shogun		   7.1     1.5     0.5       1      4 C_INF
Sins against Mimesis     7.7     1.7     1.6       1
Sir Ramic Hobbs	  5.0     1.0     1.5       1      6 F_AGT_GMD
Small World	      5.9     1.4     0.9       1
So Far		   8.6     1.5     1.8       2	F_INF_GMD
Sorcerer		 7.3     0.6     1.6       5      2 C_INF
South American Trek      0.9     0.2     0.5       1      5 ?_IBM_GMD
Space Aliens...Cardigan  1.6     0.4     0.3       5      3 S60_AGT_GMD
Space under Window       7.3     0.0     0.0       1
Spellbreaker	     8.3     1.2     1.8       5      2 C_INF
Spellcasting 101	 7.0     1.0     1.2       1      x C_I
Spellcasting 201	 7.8     1.5     1.6       1      x C_I
Spellcasting 301	 7.5     1.4     1.5       1      x C_I
Spider and Web	   8.3     1.7     1.6       2      14F_INF_GMD
SpiritWrak	       6.7     1.3     1.1       2      9 F_INF_GMD
Spur		     7.2     1.4     1.2       1      9 F_HUG_GMD
Starcross		7.0     1.1     1.3       5      1 C_INF
Stationfall	      7.6     1.6     1.6       5      5 C_INF
Stiffy - MiSTing	 4.2     0.1     0.1       1
Sunset Over Savannah     8.3     1.3     1.5       1     13 F_INF_GMD
Suspect		  5.8     1.2     1.0       3      4 C_INF
Suspended		7.2     1.3     1.3       5      8 C_INF
Tapestry		 6.9     1.2     0.7       2      14F_INF_GMD
Tempest		  5.6     1.0     0.6       1     13 F_INF_GMD
Theatre		  7.0     1.1     1.3       5      6 F_INF_GMD
TimeQuest		8.6     1.5     1.8       1      x C_I
TimeSquared	      4.3     1.1     1.1       1      x F_AGT_GMD
Toonesia		 6.4     1.2     1.3       4      7 F_TAD_GMD
Tossed into Space	3.9     0.2     0.6       1      4 F_AGT_GMD
Travels in Land of Erden 6.2     1.5     1.5       1				       0      3 S20_IBM_GMD
Trinity		  8.6     1.4     1.7      10    1,2 C_INF
Tryst of Fate	    7.1     1.4     1.3       1
Tube Trouble	     3.3     0.5     0.4       1	F_INF_GMD
Uncle Zebulon's Will     7.0     0.8     1.3       7      7 F_TAD_GMD
Undertow		 5.2     1.0     0.8       1	F_TAD_GMD
Undo		     1.9     0.1     0.4       2      7 F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian One-Half       7.0     1.2     1.6       7      1 F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 1    7.1     1.2     1.6       6    1,2 F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 2    7.2     1.4     1.5       4      1 F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Zero	   9.0		       1      1 F_TAD_GMD
Veritas		  7.9     1.6     1.7       1
Waystation	       5.7     0.7     0.9       2      9 F_TAD_GMD
Wearing the Claw	 6.8     1.1     1.1       2	F_INF_GMD
Wedding		  8.0     1.7     1.6       1
Wishbringer	      7.4     1.4     1.3       7    5,6 C_INF
Witness		  6.9     1.6     1.2       7  1,3,9 C_INF
Wonderland	       7.5     1.3     1.4       1      x C_I
World		    6.5     0.6     1.3       2      4 F_SEE REVIEW
Zanfar		   2.6     0.2     0.4       1      8 F_AGT_GMD
Zero Sum Game	    7.5     1.7     1.2       1     13 F_INF_GMD
Zork 0		   6.3     1.1     1.4       5      14C_INF
Zork 1		   6.3     0.8     1.5      12    1,2 C_INF
Zork 2		   6.5     0.8     1.5       8    1,2 C_INF
Zork 3		   6.1     0.7     1.4       6    1,2 C_INF
Zork Undisc. Undergr.    6.5     1.0     1.2       1      14F_INF


The Top Five:

A game is not eligible for the Top Five unless it has received at
least three ratings from different readers. This is to ensure a more
democratic and accurate depiction of the best games.

Since the last issue, "Trinity" has taken back its first place, and
the previous number 1, "Christminster" has been passed by one more game: Graham Nelson's "Curses".

 1.   Trinity	     8.6    10 votes
 2.   Curses	      8.4     9 votes
 3.   Christminster       8.4     5 votes
 4.   Mind Fvr Voyaging   8.4     7 votes
 5.   Spellbreaker	8.3     5 votes

CLOSING REMARKS -------------------------------------------------------------

Following the tradition, I plan to devote an entire issue of SPAG to
this year's Competition entries. So reviews of the Competition games
are very welcome indeed!

Another thing that would be welcome is game ratings for some of the
games which I know are very popular, but which have only been rated
once or twice (or not at all) on the Readers' Scoreboard. Please
remember that a game is only eligible for a place on the Top Five if
it's been rated by at least three persons...

Until the next issue: happy adventuring!


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