Adventures have seen something of a revival recently - but not, perhaps, in the way that many old adventure die-hards might have hoped for. The text adventure seems to have finally died a death (at least in the sense that none of the larger commercial software houses cater tor this format any more). When a company like Level 9 (having already made a concession to graphics fans), packs its bags and moves on from a genre it has been renowned for, then you know that change is in the air.
There has been a noticeable move towards more complex graphics, and simpler, though more sophisticated, ways of interacting with the machine than was afforded by some of the early adventure classics. This is, perhaps, not surprising, given the widespread availability of machines like the ST and Amiga which both boast a powerful processor, large amounts of memory and easily accessed graphical front ends.
Companies like Sierra-Online have lead the way forward with celebrated titles such as Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, and Space Quest. These are all distinguished by their heavy reliance on detailed background graphics, animated sequences, and the use of the mouse for movement and selection of many of the commonly used functions like saving and loading games. The Sierra games never completely divorced themselves from text input however, and although they all use an extremely advanced parser, which does make things easier, you still have to make the machine understand what you want to do through typed phrases.
At first sight, this new graphic adventure from French developers Delphine Software looks quite a bit like the Sierra adventurers. But the resemblance is only superficial. An immediately noticeable difference is the superior quality of both the graphics and sound effects. They are not just good, they're first class. Much the same goes for the animated sequences which occur at particular points throughout the game. Attention to detail, especially in the presentation, is found throughout.
For example, rather than captions, text boxes, and menus blocking out huge areas of the screen, they are presented as white text on a translucent grey background, a la Channel 4. This way, you can still see the graphics beneath them.
Movement is achieved by moving the pointer to your planned destination and clicking the mouse button. The hero, an office window cleaner, then attempts to walk towards the spot you have indicated. When you come to give him other instructions you discover the beauty and economy of the Cinematique system that has been used to create the game -no text entry!
By clicking the left mouse button you call up a menu of standard adventure commands: EXAMINE, TAKE, INVENTORY, USE, OPERATE, and SPEAK. Once you have selected the option you require, you move the pointer to the person or object you wish to apply the command to. For instance - if, in a standard text adventure, you would type 'OPEN BLUE DOOR', with Cinematique you would select OPERATE, then move the pointer over the blue door and click.
There are several advantages to this system. Firstly, there is no fiddling about trying to find just the right word to use, secondly, unless you're a touch typist, this method is much quicker. Another benefit that is probably not immediately apparent is that there are a limited number of combinations of commands and objects/people, so even if you cannot solve a problem logically, you can probably do it eventually through trial and error. (I can see purists turning the page in disgust!) This does mean that this adventure is likely to prove a lot less frustrating than most, especially for novice adventurers.
The actual plot concerns the thwarting of alien plans to disrupt history making their conquest of Earth in the 43rd Century inevitable. You have been unwittingly drawn into this rather messy state of affairs. You find yourself being dragged through several time zones in an attempt to put a stop to the diabolical machinations of the aliens. This provides plenty of opportunity for for varied graphical locations and problems, that should be enough to keep most people happy for some time.
Although I can see that Future Wars might not appeal to adventure purists, it does succeed in making the genre accessible to a lot more people. It is certainly an enjoyable, well-presented product with a lot of depth, and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you fancy an adventure that is a little different.
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