There were six people in all, seated at arms length from each other around the circular covered table. The room was dark, save for a small red lamp sat in the exact centre of the table. Stranger eyed them all, not sure of just why he was there. Was it just that his friend John had badgered him into it, or was it the keen sense of adventure in the Stranger that pushed him into it? It was indeed a curious mixture of characters, and as the Stranger warily looked around again he focused his eyes on the turban covered head of his host, The Adept Karmi. There was no mistaking the menace in the sharp dark eyes, the slight scowl of his lips nestled just under the trim beard. Next to him sat a rather plump lady dripping with jewellery, and next to her was John. Behind John stood Yasmin, the maid, whose very presence the Stranger thought was odd. Seated next to John was a rather bookish young man who constantly put on then took off his glasses. It was time. The Adept Karmi began his ritual for the start of the seance. The Stranger, a worldly gent naturally saw right through the whole charade, even rightly choosing the plump woman as the obvious target for the Turban man's tricks. But it all went rather wrong from that point on, as halfway through his imitation of her dead husband, the Adept Karmi stiffened visibly, began to sweat profusely, and with his eyes bulging out of their sockets, turned to John and rasped in a voice that was neither human nor beast 'THE HOUND OF SHADOW IS UPON YOU AND YOU BEAR HIS MARK!'.
Something was obviously amiss, as collapsing in a heap, the Adept Karmi was in a bad way, and it was left to Jasmin to usher the guests out into the night. What could it all mean. One thing was sure, the Stranger was now involved in a true mystery that smelt of the occult, and that it was time to go to work to uncover the Hound of Shadow. So it begins. A story so vile that it chills the very soul. A true horror tale.
THE HOUND OF SHADOW is an adventure that has been heavily marketed by Electronic Arts, who have used the time before its release to send out countless reminders of its coming. I have received a paperback of HP Lovecrafts' gothic tales (and many other things). Each posted with a note which read 'The Hound of Shadow is upon you and you bear his mark'. The main engine room of the adventure is the 'Timeline' system which allows the user to create a character that not only has the usual skills and strengths, but also a detailed background, including date of birth, sex, religion and knowledge. What this means is that this and any future Timeline adventure, will recognise this character and adapt itself to it, making the character as real as possible. After all in real life, people know whether you are a man or a woman, and they use your name if they know it. Your characters profession and skills are very important to how you progress in the game, as for instance, two characters may find out the same thing in different ways, and what comes easily to one may be hard for the other.
The writers are quick to point out that HOUND is not a conventional computer adventure, where gameplay relies heavily on collecting objects, and solving puzzles, rather, it is a role playing game set in the London of the 1920's and runs in real time.
On loading you have to generate your character, and after choosing which sex you are, you get to choose a profession, which ranges from reporter, to socialite. Your skills are next. Once your character is created you save it to disk, and then plunge into the murky world of the occult. You need to talk to a lot of the characters in HOUND, and at last, you do not need to type in 'say to Fred....' and you do not enclose the sentence in quotes. What you do is just ask in plain English what you want like Excuse me, does
John work here? Simple huh? Another nice feature is that you can around very easily, no more west, west, south, south, east to go back home, just type 'go home' and you will automatically be there. The beauty of the adventure is not making you find each 'room' but rather how you manipulate the story using the information that you learn. Just like in real life, you cannot act on knowledge that your character does not have. The user friendliness even stretches to a listing in alphabetical order, of the main verbs used in the game, and on that point the authors get a clap on the back from me.
The only let down for me was the pictures. The sepia type presentation was fine, but the actual drawings themselves were poor. They reminded me a little of the painter Lowry using 'little matchstick men' and served no purpose for me, other than to destroy my own mental image of the proceedings. That apart, a thoroughly playable text adventure that like its' predecessor Infocom's WITNESS relies heavily on times and dates for things to happen. So be in the right place at the right time, and you will not go wrong. It will look great in your Amiga collection. Highly recommended.
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