In fact, the minimal instructions are a subtle hint
about the quality of the game. We've become accustomed
these days to wading through pages of blurb on how to
communicate with the latest whizz-bang parsers from
Level 9, Melbourne House, Infocom and others, but Duckworth
are still in the verb-noun era, so there really isn't
much to say, apart from telling you to hit the SHIFT/RUN
STOP keys to load the game, and how to SAVE a game.
Odyssey is divided into two parts. The story has
been adapted by Mike Gerrard from the very stuff of
myth and legend, and has you taking the role of Odysseus,
sauntering off into the sunset after having a good old
sack of Troy. You beetle home across the foam to be
united with your faithful wife Penelope in far-off Ithaca,
only to discover that everyone else wants to be united
with her as well, whereupon you must show your true
colours and send the dogs running.
there's no shortage of plot here, my magical friends.
What's more, on the way home you are confronted by all
the usual Homeric horrors, from the lotus eaters (a
bit of a yawn, really) to Scylla and Charybdis (monster
and whirlpool respectively). The blurb on the packaging
claims that there's 80K of text here, which sounds good
and indeed the location descriptions are certainly longer
and more detailed than previous Duckworth offerings.
However, I wasn't able to finish the game in the time
provided, so I can't be absolutely certain whether the
aforesaid 80K means 80K of compressed text (ie, a lot)
or just 80K of ASCII code (not a lot, by todays standards).
Knowing Pete Gerrard's programming techniques, I suspect
that it may be ASCII -- ah well . . .
the subject of programming and game design, the news
is both good and bad. First the good news -- there's
no doubt that this program is streets ahead Duckworth's
other efforts. Although it's rather slow in operation,
the text is convincing and the presentation on screen
is neat and tidy. Unfortunately there are no graphics,
but that doesn't matter as much as it might because
of the strong story line.
and here's the bad news, this, adventure is still unacceptably
old-fashioned in its basic structure. The market has
grown out of verb/noun games that don't tell you which
words they can't understand, and restrict a player to
only, essentially, examining and using objects. What
we need are more routines garnered from artificial intelligence
(as in Suspect) and better coding to speed the
whole thing up, combined with efficient text compression
to give us not just twenty words, but two hundred for
a location description (if it's a text-only game). Come
on Gerrards! This subject could have been meat for a
real humdinger of an adventure -- Mike's got the penmanship,
so tell Pete to sharpen up his programming practice
a bit for next time.
it's not a BAD game, this one. After I played Mountain
Palace Adventure I really thought I'd never pick
up a Duckworth game again, but Odyssey has persuaded
me that there's life in Gloucester Crescent, NW1 after
all. But £9.95 . . . Phew! Even if you do get two cassettes,
I can't help but feel that I'd rather fork out an extra
quid or two for a copy of Zork I, II,
or III on disk from Commodore . . .