Pawn, it cannot have escaped your attention, has had some
pretty good reviews. Actually on every one of its editions from
the QL original, through the Amiga and Atari ST to the Commodore
64 it's had the sort of reactions that caused the prefix mega
to be invented.
is it? Well, it's a graphics adventure except that on the Spectrum
128K it doesn't have any graphics.
is a shame because the graphics on ST were staggering, even
the graphics on the C64 were good. Blame the fact that the 128
doesn't have a disc.
are you left with when you take away the graphics from The
Pawn? Probably the only adventure to seriously compete with
the best Infocom offerings in terms of sentence analysis (all
that 'put the small frog in my pocket under the tree trunk then
insert the gold key, open the box and keep all except the cuddly
toy' stuff) and, let us not forget, wit. That's all.
see there are serious adventures and there are funny adventures.
adventures seriously depict serious battles between good and
evil and have characters, places and objects with names that
are either a) stolen from very bad fantasy novels or b) apparently
based on names of kitchen cleaning materials.
adventures, with the exception of most (but not all) of Fergus
McNeil's stuff aren't funny. Funny adventures that aren't funny
are even worse than serious adventures.
Pawn, however, with is serious and funny at the same time.
That is, it maintains a constant balance between being an adventure
that you can play as a serious challenge and also being an adventure
that is aware of the pitfalls and clichés and avoids
and/or twists them.
the Princesses for example. Princesses are for rescuing (being
poor weak women and all that, facing fates worse than death).
There is a Princess in The Pawn but . . . well . . .
she's a bit of a pain actually.
A W N
plot. Well there isn't actually a plot - there's
more of an overall concept. Kerovnia (as names
for mystic lands go this is not too bad since
it merely sounds like some Slavic state currently
under Soviet control) is politically wobbly and
King Erik looks to be on the way out (who can
respect a king called Erik) partly because of
his having made the Roobikyoub dwarfs persona
dwarfs are notoriously unsound but brew excellent
whisky and . . . well . . . I think you get the
idea. You arrive in time to steer events a number
of different ways, it's just that
actions will result in your death.
Pawn, is obviously considerably more sophisticated
than the usual Go North, Eat Frog stuff. I remember
Anita Sinclair (Magnetic Scrolls' quazi-femme
fatale) demonstrating the various ways of referring
to different keys that could be either in her
pocket or a tree trunk. Her enthusiasm was not
so much contagious was exhausting. What it all
means and why it matters is simply that you can
come that little bit closer with The Pawn
to actually typing normal English
essential purchase for anyone into adventures who has
just upgraded to a 128 - it doesn't run on a 48K
* * * *
You are also less likely to get idiotic responses to perfectly
reasonably (if incorrect) instructions.
are a lot of ways of playing The Pawn. It is possible
to wander around quite a wide area not having solved much
but just enjoying the text comments and ludicrous set
pieces. Try having a sensible conversation with the guru
to kick off with. It can get pretty unsettling. You could
go straight for the serious problem solving, or you could
just opt for some of the offers you get to take on minor
quests from assorted dubious characters you meet on your
travels. Some of these quests sound simple (delivering
the odd sealed letter), although usually there is a problem
that means it isn't as simple as it seems.
else? The Pawn has an in-built clue system where,
by entering codes from the back of the manual, you can
get hints on particular problems.
very expensive but worth it. And it is also one of the
very few programs which will only work on the 128K machine,
so it's a nice treat if you've just invested in a 128K
atmospheric location des-criptions are a key feature of
The Pawn. That and what is probably the most sophisticated
text parser this side of Infocom (or even the other side
for that matter!). Sad though that the fabulous graphics
from the ST version could not be included.