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  Review by
Nik Wild
(The Harlequin)


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!

1987 Incentive Software
By ?

The Search for the Secret of Life
1987 Incentive Software
By Mark Jennings

Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the thirty second issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: November 12th, 1987).

(Do you have a version of The Search of the Secret of Life that displays a loading screen? If so, pls mail us!)


Incentive Double Pack, 7.95 cassette


he secret of life (apart from being a number) is apparently kept in a far off land, the whereabouts of which lies within the walls of two different houses. The player has been given the address of one of these buildings by a kindly benefactor, and in no time finds himself amid its walls, exploring like mad.

The first problem is to find an exit. However, this is not enough -- a password is also required to guarantee passage to the next house, and indeed the second part of the adventure.

At the start, a brown and yellow picture is presented, supposedly depicting a corridor. However, my first perceptions were proved incorrect by the text beneath this graphic illustration which read. 'You are at the southern end of the hall. To your south and east there are doors". It was at this point that my heart sank and I buried my head in my hands . . .

A little while later I attempted to face the screen again and decided to give this new adventure from Incentive the old once over, it surely couldn't gel any worse.

I went south and was told (in yellow) that I was in the cloakroom. SEARCH CLOAKROOM says I: 'You can't' is the response, try LEAVE CLOAKROOM: 'You can't' it says again. HELP says I: 'You can't' says it! Remaining totally calm I input 'N' to escape this less than friendly location. Exploring the house revealed many more juicy descriptions such as: 'You are on a flight of stairs', 'You are in a Hall' and 'You are on the landing facing east'. The atmosphere created by this prose is nil.

One particular location almost caused me to destroy my Commodore with a quick zap from my blaster: the empty panel-walled bedroom. I tried EXAMINEing the walls, SEARCHing the bedroom, OPENing the walls, OPENing the panels and even KICKing them, to no avail. Of course, the answer seems obvious now: PUSH the panels, but to fully appreciate the frustration of having to deal with a pathetic parser you had to be there. Oh, by the way -- PUSHing the panels is a task which can be repeated over and over again, regardless of whether the secret door has opened or not.

I persevered and gained access to part two, which was no better and no worse. I don't understand games of this type which, for example, displays 'You are in a secret room known as a priest hole. There are footprints in the dust.' when the parser doesn't understand footprint (or even prints). The excuse that it creates atmosphere just doesn't wash, it only adds to the frustration.

This adventure comes in three parts: The House, The Eighth Sea and The Secret, all of which are basic to say the least. For me, the secret of life is certainly not plodding my way through a dreary game trying to guess which verbs and nouns the author has managed in include in the database.

Zodiac, is better. The story tells of Ramus, an evil Wizard who is intent on destroying you and your ancient tribe of warriors. He must be stopped of course, but the only clue is written in the Scriptures of Barenola, which state that Ramus' weakness lies in the stars. Judarez, the wise man of the tribe, has studied these scriptures and knows exactly how to destroy the wizard. However, he is now old and frail and certainly not up to the fight. This is where the player comes in.

The mission is to find the twelve signs of the Zodiac and return with them to the encampment so that Judarez may utilise them and rid the tribe of this evil threat. The quest begins with the player on the open road. Again, sparse descriptions are used, but at least the parser database is better. 'HELP' is recognised (even if the reply is of no great assistance) and the EXAMINE command is well catered for. The annoying 'sudden death' syndrome is present, and frequent saving is recommended to avoid such abrupt endings as sinking in the swamp due to a lack of wellies being worn.

A number of the problems require a little brainstorming: A scorpion lurks on the desert plain but there is no warning of it being there. However, once the player has died a few times from the creature's sting it may dawn on him to carry an antidote when entering these sandy wastes. While on the subject of obscurity, those who can get rid of the Giant without any help should put a feather in their cap.

The pictures which appear to accompany every location are not very good and, I feel a corny phrase coming on, the memory used on the graphics could have been better spent enhancing the text. Accepting the fact that Zodiac was written using the GAC, and comparing it to The Secret of Life, what we have here is an acceptable little adventure which should keep a player quietly amused for some time.

As a package, this latest offering from Incentive seems to represent reasonable value for money. Unfortunately, the actual games themselves are decidedly uninspiring. A price of 7.95 may appear fair to pay for four adventures, but I feel that the depth and content is so disappointing that this is not the case.

Atmosphere 38%   Atmosphere 22%
Interaction 47%   Interaction 32%
Challenge 45%   Challenge 38%


46%   Overall 29%

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

The password for part 2 of Secret of Life is LIVE LIFE and the password for part 3 is FREEWAY.

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (28 Jan 2006)
Only the last of the above screenshots existed in the original review.

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