Yes, fellow Magicians, 'tis still there. And in this
case, the Wiz is better qualified than most to judge,
for not only has he dallied awhile with many an adventure,
but his Cavern is also located in Cornwall, where the
action of Moonmist takes place. There was therefore
a special interest for the Bearded One in reviewing
this game -- and he was not disappointed.
is set in Tresyllian Castle, which could be based
on St Michaels Mount near Penzance were it not for the
fact that Infocom state quite clearly that the nearest
conurbation is Frobzance. I don't actually know Frobzance
myself, but reckon it can't be far from St Belboz.
have been summoned from Yankee-land by your friend Tamara
-- a typical stereotyped American soap-opera beauty
who after college got a job as secretary to Lord Jack
Tresyllian. Within seconds of her arrival they were
engaged to be married, but since then things have been
somewhat spoiled by the appearance of the White Lady,
a ghost who bears a distressing resemblance to Jack's
you find out that Jack's ex-lover disappeared without
trace (presumed drowned down a well), you immediately
suspect the obvious. Your task it to find out what's
really going on and set young Tammy's mind at rest.
despite its title, has nothing whatsoever to do with
Cornish mysticism, Lyonnesse, King Arthur or anything
like that. Nor is it in line with Infocom's other fantasy
titles like Wishbringer, Zork or Sorcerer.
Instead it presents itself as a clear-cut who-dunnit
and reminded me particularly of Suspect.
main feature of both these games is the interaction
with the other characters. In fact, chatting to them,
following them about, listening to them, eating with
them, and even flirting with them is essential to success.
The sort of character interaction we're talking about
here is way more advanced than what we see in English
games, with the possible exception of the much-bugged
Sherlock from Melbourne House.
the other hand, Moonmist isn't as clever as Suspect
in the way it handles its characters. First, there
aren't as many -- about seven significant ones, with
fewer supporting roles than in the earlier title. Secondly,
they don't have as much to say. They all seem very fond
of statements like 'I have no secrets -- anyone can
see what I am' or 'It's really not my place to say'
etc. This contrasts strongly with Suspect where
some of the characters are most verbose.
there doesn't seem to be quite the same range of possible
conversation as there was in Suspect. However,
I didn't have the game booklet with the copy I received
from ZZAP!, so I may have missed out here -- but for
the most part the only really useful interaction was
the 'Tell me About . . . ' structure, whereas in Suspect
you can get along fine with thing like 'Who Is .
. .' and 'Where Is . . .' as well.
the other hand, the map of the game in Moonmist is
a satisfying blend of detail and size. There aren't
more than about 40 locations (though I haven't visited
them all yet), but each one is beautifully described.
It's nice to come back to a game in the real world for
once -- after a while the Wiz gets a bit tired of the
Zorks and Middle Earths, and yearns for a good
ol' fashioned sitting room, complete with fireplace
and comfy chair. You can certainly get that here, and
if you want you can spend the whole game in your bedroom
(advisable to begin with, by the way).
nice thing about the game is that the combination of
interaction and map size/detail means that you can really
do some adventuring -- by which I mean wandering around
and exploring -- without constantly having to wrestle
with tricky puzzles. Like Suspect, the puzzles
in Moonmist are better solved by questioning
and keeping your eyes and ears open -- rather than,
as in many English adventures, endlessly typing variants
of 'Put plastic card into slot in red door' and getting
'I don't understand' for your pains.
course, 'I don't understand' is one thing you will never
get from an Infocom game. At the worst, it will tell
you which word it can't understand, and usually it will
explain why it couldn't accept your input -- for example,
if there are too many nouns in it. You might think this
is very clever, but in fact it's easy to do and the
reason UK companies don't bother is that for the most
part they are criminally lazy when it comes to programming
that's why Silicon Dreams comes second this month,
and Moonmist comes first. Pricey it may be, but
it deserves to join the other Infocom titles in your
collection. And whatever UK companies may say about
the importance of graphics, provided you can read I
wager that you'll never -- after finishing an Infocom
game -- say 'But it would be so much better with pictures'.
If you do, then the Wiz reckons you've as much imagination
as a half-digested plate of porridge and shouldn't be