reading a computer magazine in recent months, must have been aware of
the stir caused by an adventure game called The Pawn.
It first appeared for the Atari ST and has since been converted for several machines. A few months ago the first Amstrad version appeared for the PCW 8256. Soon after we had the pleasure of playing The Pawn for the Amstrad CPC 6128.
The Pawn is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it was produced by Magnetic Scrolls, a new name in the adventure field. Secondly, it showed a high degree of technical competence.
Many good adventure games have been written using adventure creation programs. Not so The Pawn. It shows what clever and original programming can achieve - given the funds, dedication and support of a major software house.
Most experienced adventurers tend to keep their inputs down to the bare minimum verb/noun combination for two reasons. Firstly, because early games could only accept such inputs and secondly, because this format makes for the least typing and quickest method of keeping up the rapid flow of the game.
The programmers of The Pawn set out to create an operating system that should allow the rawest of newcomers to enter whatever command comes into their heads.
Anita Sinclair of Magnetic Scrolls said she wanted a game her mother could play. Obviously the inputs have to have some relevance to the situation, but having accepted that minor limitation almost anything goes.
Although such sentences as DROP ALL EXCEPT THE VIOLIN CASE THEN KILL THE MAN EATING SHREW WITH THE CONTENTS OF THE VIOLIN CASE are quite possible, few players would wish to get involved with such tortuous phrases. More to the point is the general freedom of action and "speech" given to the player.
The first version (Atari ST) also had a selection of excellent graphics. The 6128 cannot produce such hi-resolution pictures. Even so, those it has, are equal to any adventure game on this machine. They are drawn quickly and fill most of the screen.
The cursor control keys will scroll the pictures up or down allowing space for the copious amounts of text that gives the game its true character.
The story behind The Pawn is described in a glossy 55 page booklet. Although there are very few clues to the game, it makes entertaining reading and sets the stage for the adventure.
There is a blend about the game which mixes modern parody with classic fantasy. A missing princess, an evil sorcerer and fantastic castles mingle with a nuclear device, sunglasses and royal photographers. All are mentioned but whether or not any of this is of any significance must be left to the player to discover.
You start knowing nothing, having been transported to the edge of a great forest in Kerovnia. You must talk to those you meet and solve a variety of puzzles to expand your knowledge of both Kerovnia and your quest. Draw your maps carefully and read the text thoroughly.
You must also exercise your powers of observation - not everything is immediately obvious at each location. There are a number of editing commands which make life easier for poor typists. A simple spelling mistake can even call back that input for re-editing.
There are several hints which can be accessed by typing in the relevant code for that problem. This can be laborious as some of them are quite long. Some clues are more funny than helpful (try listening to the Wall - Ed). This can be a little frustrating. Several groups of code are given for each problem - persevere, almost certainly one will be useful.
The Pawn should remain a classic of its type, not cheap, but worth having. Rainbird are making a name for only distributing good quality software and this is no exception. Magnetic Scrolls are now working on several new adventures. Let's hope that Amstrad users do not have to wait too long for The Guild of Thieves, Mag Rolls next epic.