version, Amstrad Action, issue 19 (April 1987), p.76-77 - reviewed by
Magnetic Scrolls/Rainbird, £19.95 disk - 6128 only
doncha just luv that Rainbird packaging! First in the glossy boxes came
the Level 9 collections, Jewels of Darkness and Silicon Dreams, now comes
The Pawn - and this has to be the hottest property yet.
all, I had my doubts about The Pawn. Everybody has been going on about
it, but until recently it had only been available on 16-bit machines so
the Pilg had to reserve his judgment. Of course I'd seen the pictures.
Stunning. But then they should be on a 68000 machine. And I'd heard about
the parser. Brilliant. But of course it could be on a 68000 machine with
256K to play with. So what do you get on the Amstrad for your pennies,
with only 8 bits and 128K? Here's the complete picture...
Pawn is a disk-based adventure for the 6128 - sorry, lads and lasses,
there had to be a catch somewhere, and I'm afraid that there are unlikely
to be any 464 versions for a while. It runs in 80-column mode and features
some extremely beautiful graphics - about 30 in all. Not only are the
pics beautiful to look at, but they are also implemented in the game most
effectively. In relevant locations a picture will load from disk when
you enter and scroll smoothly down over the screen, leaving the location
description uncovered at the bottom.
you've checked out the graphics, you can use the up and down cursors to
scroll the pictures up off the screen again, revealing your old inputs
and responses underneath, and then down again later if you want to have
another look. Checking out the pictures, incidentally, is important -
they back up the text well and can sometimes suggest, for example, places
to look or items to search.
text is quite normal, except that there are some useful editing controls,
with which, for example, you can delete whole words at a time rather than
letter by letter. Furthermore, pressing Escape will recall your previous
input for editing if you made a spelling mistake.
game itself revolves around the characters and politics of a country called
Kerovnia. A 55-page booklet detailing the background to the adventure
comes with the game, but you don't really need to read it to play. You
do, however, need to keep it handy - the program has a protection system
that occasionally requires you to refer to the booklet and enter a particular
word chosen at random from the book.
characters in Kerovnia are King Erik, who has upset the Dwarves; Kronos
the Wizard, who upsets almost everybody; a Guru; an adventurer; and various
others, all of whom you can converse with to a limited extent. The characters
lead reasonably independent lives and proper interaction with them is
essential to completing the game.
aim of the game is somewhat diffuse. You receive different objectives
as you play and are set different tasks by different characters. Some
of them seem to be a little harsh - for example there's a polite adventurer
who rides a legless horse - you've got to kill him, however strong the
bonds of comradeship!
the final event, however, you must remove a silver wristband which has
appeared on your arm. Trying to do this will lead you in and out of many
situations and almost certainly result in loss of life at various points!
Numerous saves will be required, but since this is a disk-based game,
that's relatively painless. The only problem here is that you save by
filename, so it would have been nice to have a directory option within
the game that you could use to check your "save" disk to see
what filenames you've used and what's available.
The Pawn is extremely absorbing - in fact it's almost up to the standard
of the later Infocom releases, and certainly a step ahead of anything
like Zork. The parser is excellent, allowing most constructs and complex
commands. You can use pronouns, all, except and other words to build up
very intricate commands. For the most part, however, I didn't find it
necessary to be complex in my inputs - most of the puzzles require logic
or intuition to solve them, not wordplay. Thumbs up for The Pawn in that
you do get stuck, there's an inbuilt hint facility - you type hint and
then enter a series of codes that appear in the back of the booklet in
answer to particular problems. Some of the hints are rather ambiguous,
but as your score increases you get access to more straightforward solutions.
However, this is one game where I found myself prepared to do battle without
hints - the puzzles have an engaging quality that tempts one to solve
them, not to bypass them with easy solutions.
that factor with the vivid atmosphere of the program, generated partly
by the graphics and partly by the text descriptions, which are reasonably
long and very well written - and you've got a pretty addictive experience
ahead of you.
more, the characters obviously make a big difference. The Pilg is always
going on about the need for interaction between player and game characters,
and in The Pawn you can ask someone about something; say to someone, something;
say something; or just, someone, something. In each case you'll get a
reasonably coherent reply.
was, however, slightly disappointed by the scope of responses and intelligence
of the characters I met. Most of them are confined to replying Definitely
not! to most questions or commands, but there are enough sensible replies
to be had to maintain one's interest in the gentle art of conversation.
Certainly better than most other UK games - but perhaps I've been spoiled
by Infocom's Suspect.
Pawn is an excellent and inventive game. It must now command a far larger
audience than when it first appeared on the QL three years ago, and it
deserves it. If Magnetic Scrolls' next game, Guild of Thieves, due out
later this year from Rainbird, can improve on this then we're in for some
real UK-sourced adventuring that will give Infocom a very tough time indeed.