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  Preview and
Review by
Steve Cooke
(The White Wizard)

 

 
Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Rebel Planet
1986 Adventuresoft UK
By Stefan Ufnowski
 
Most text of the present article comes from the preview published in the sixteenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: July 10th, 1986) and the review published in the eighteenth issue (street date: September 11th, 1986).
 

 

REBEL PLANET
US Gold, 9.95 cassette
 

his is something of a preview, since the Wiz was sent a tape that turned out so be for the Spectrum. However I braved those infuriating rubber keys just to bring you a quick low-down on this latest Adventuresoft (ie Adventure International) product.


Of course Adventure International have long gone down the tubes, but Brian Howarth and his merry men are still churning out the goods, now distributed by US Gold. Rebel Planet is based on one of the books from the Fighting Fantasy series by Ian Livingston/Steve Jackson.

Once loaded, the screen takes on that familiar Brian Howarth/Gremlins format of graphics on top, text beneath, with a pleasingly redesigned character set and clear display. The pics on the Spectrum version are really very attractive indeed and there seems every reason to expect as good, if not better on the Commodore.

The plot and the gameplay are quite extensive and involved, unlike some previous Adventure International titles that just gave you a few locations and some tricky puzzles to solve. The alien Arcadian Empire is overrunning the Galaxy and is controlling its armies using a 'queen computer' which must be located and destroyed. You are disguised as a merchant trader and, in your good ship Caydia, you tour the universe picking up clues and objects that will help you in your mission.

During the game you visit three planets according to a pre-planned flight plan. In order to avoid being left behind by your ship when it takes off again, you have to keep an eye on your progress and, if necessary, delay the takeoff (which you can only do once). On the planets you must interact with other characters, some of whom are your allies and can give you valuable information. Your ultimate goal is to work out a nine-digit code that will give you access, to the 'queen computer building' and then destroy the machine itself.

The parser on Rebel Planet seems to be one up on previous Adventure International titles. It claims to have about 400 words, and although that isn't much by todays standards, it's still perfectly adequate to stave off feelings of frustration when you're entering commands. It understands some reasonably complex commands, including PUT (object) IN (other object) and accepts THEN and AND. What it doesn't do is help you much over vocab problems -- 'QWERTY THE TREWQ' gets you the response 'Sorry, not possible' when 'I don't understand (word)' would of course be preferable.

My other niggle is that there isn't a RAM SAVE option -- fast becoming standard in adventures (and about time too). Saving to cassette or disk is really too arduous, especially if you're picking up and dropping lots of objects and wish to do regular SAVES to fall back on. It's time that programmers of full-price adventures, included this feature automatically -- it should be a standard option, not a luxury.

Rebel Planet will undoubtedly be a popular program. The Wiz reckons it's something of an improvement on earlier AI productions, some of which I was rather rude about. However, I'm afraid that there's still rather too much marketing and rather too little programming going into these products. I feel a bit mean saying that, but the flashy packaging and mega-sales approach leaves one expecting (and hoping for) something special. This one's an improvement, but that's about all I can say . . .

 

REBEL PLANET
US Gold (Adventuresoft), 9.95 cassette
 

he Wiz first gave you a glimpse of this game a couple of months ago and promptly got a slapped wrist from Adventuresoft, who didn't like being associated with the now defunct Adventure International. They especially disliked the references to Brian Howarth when he had nothing to do with the game. Even Wizards make mistakes. Anyway, they have invited me to pay them a visit soon to see how their games are designed, so stay tuned . . .


And on to the game. The first thing I noticed about the Commodore version (having had a Spectrum copy for the review) was the increase in graphic quality and the speed of response. The former aspect is to be expected, but the previous version had taken some time to respond to commands, whereas interaction was almost instantaneous on this one (as indeed it should be).

For those of you who missed out on the plot last month, you play the role of an agent for the Earth based organisation SAROS (Search And Research Of Space), which is trying to break free of the grip of the expanding Arcadian Empire. You are on a mission to the planet Arcadian itself, disguised as a merchant. Once there, you must destroy the central computer controlling the minds of the enemy troops. First you must travel to two other worlds to mislead the Arcadians. Then, on arrival at the homeworld, seek out allied spies who have information on how to access the computer with a series of number codes. Simple eh? Still, it's better than average.

As mentioned in the preview, the game is based on a book by Robin Waterfield which forms part of Ian Livingstone's and Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy series. Whether reading the book will help you with the game, I don't know; I doubt it would be much use after previous experience. The game is neatly packed in a double cassette case with a decently sized instruction leaflet.

Games like this never seem to have a reasonable vocabulary or parser. When the computer gave me a yes or no prompt and I typed in 'N', it said 'You cannot go that way.' It understood 'laser' and 'sword' for laser sword, but only understood 'ampoule' for analgesic ampoule. Some of the responses were a bit non-sensical as well.

Ah well. It takes some time and a very precise course of action to stock up with supplies and tools before you land on the first planet. After that you have to keep track of your personal status (energy tablets may be carried to sustain this) and the scheduled take off time for your vessel. If you're really stuck you can retard take off time, but this feature may only be used once, so be careful.

Rebel Planet is a fairly standard effort and though I mentioned the parser before, at least now has AND, THEN and IN usage (which does prove useful). The graphics are pleasantly drawn as well, so those who don't have the necessary imagination to view their surroundings in adventure games should not be disappointed. Those who are more interested in the flexibility of the plot and interactive capability of the game may be.

There are some good points. Using a time limit works well; it adds a bit of pace to the setting from which the adventure benefits greatly. The location descriptions are always visible on the screen, which cuts out the necessity to retype 'look' every time you want to inspect the surroundings, and the screen display itself is very neat. There's very little atmosphere though; the game relies too heavily on its graphics for my liking. All this comes down to taste. Yer pays yer Zorkmids and takes yer choice. I can think of plenty of other games I'd rather spend my hard earned Zorkmids on.

 
Atmosphere 52%
Interaction 54%
Lasting Interest 49%

Value for Money

53%

Overall

52%
 


If you want a walkthrough, visit
Jacob Gunness
' Classic Adventures Solution Archive or
Martin Brunner's C64 Adventure Game Solutions Site

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (28 Nov 2004)
While trying to grab the screenshots from this game, I wrote a walkthrough. Visit the above sites to get it. In the course I also discovered that the screenshots in the review were not from the C64 version -- or were from an early unfinished copy (the screenshots in the preview were of course from the Spectrum version).

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