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(c) 2000 James Burrows

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!
1983 Infocom/Commodore
Programmed by Dave Lebling
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the seventh issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (November 1985).
Commodore, 11.99 disk only

tarcross is Infocom's first hardcore science fiction adventure and is set some two hundred years from now. You play the part of an asteroid miner, down on his luck and in control of a one-man spaceship. During a rest period, your mass detector starts signalling that it has found something in the ship's vicinity. So, what else can one do hut investigate . . .?

Unlike versions available for other machines, Commodore actually manufacture Infocom games under licence in the UK, and this enables them to keep the price down. You pay considerably less than you would otherwise, you get less fancy packaging for your disk, and the map necessary for play is printed in black and white as opposed to colour. Not a bad compromise for economy's sake, and something to set an old wizard's wallet at rest! The packaging of Infocom games is normally very important, as certain miscellaneous items that come with the game contain information necessary for successful play. This is an interesting and viable way of protecting a game, as a back-up copy can still he made to protect your investment from the dreaded cold starts from which the 1541 sometimes suffers. Anyway, back to game itself.

Once you have been given a description of a particular 'unknown mass' and you have cross-referenced it with the map, you are on your way.

The game seems to have been inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, a novel which describes the discovery of a derelict alien vessel by inquisitive human explorers. The vessel was cylindrical in form and rotated about its axis to provide an internal gravity via centripetal force. Of course a company of Infocom's integrity don't copy other peoples material, and the only idea of Clarke's they do actually use is that of the design and nature of the ship itself (and even then a few small details are changed). The rest of the game is pure, first rate adventuring.

The vessel is vast, as are the problems set before you, but then this is supposed to be the hardest of all Infocom adventures! The ship is in a terrible state and what's left of the crew has degenerated into barbarism on the apparently centuries-long voyage. Initially there is a time limit set by the fact that the vessel's atmosphere is running out. Once that has been solved there are many more difficult puzzles awaiting your attention. Some of these require interaction with various aliens (native and otherwise) and ardent fans of the Zork trilogy may well meet up with old adversaries.

The degree of imagination necessary to solve the game's almost incomprehensible tasks does justice to Infocom's hard-earned reputation as the ultimate adventure game designers. However, there is one factor about the game which seems a little unfair. One of the major repairs cannot be successfully done without either repeated trial and error or an active interest in chemistry. (A clue: the dot-pictures in the repair bay represent atomic structures). The overall impression is of pure science fiction with some humour as light relief, but to have included a problem which required specific academic knowledge was just going a bit too far. One other very minor complaint is that with this being one of the company's earlier games, it does not understand some of the abbreviations used in later versions of Infologic. This will only cause bother if you are used to Infocom, anyway, and interaction with the computer is still a million miles above anybody else's games.

The ending is really excellent however. After repairing the ship and finding out how to reach this ship's equivalent of a pilot's console, you have to set a course back to Earth. Fine if you know what you're doing, but you only get one chance . . .

There are times when you think you are incredibly close to finishing the game but don't be lured into a false sense of security. Some of the most deceptive adventure techniques outside The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy are used to good effect in this game. One piece of advice: save the game frequently. You will be surprised at how far you are allowed to get even though you may (and most probably will) be on me wrong track. This really is the best example of a superlative science fiction game for the C64.

Atmosphere 92%
Interaction 90%
Lasting Interest 95%

Value for Money




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

The later re-release of Starcross under the more advanced 'gray' interpreter, (c) 1984 Infocom, is also worthy of your attention.

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (25 Jul 2003)
There were no screenshots in the original review.

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