Two down, one to go...

The Third Courier logo

LAST November history was made when the East Germans destroyed part of the Beril Wall which had separated the city since 1961. I only mention this because the wall (as in Berlin, not Pink Floyd) plays quite a part in this new game from Accolade. In their version it's still there.

The briefing is this: Three couriers were on route to a secret meeting in Brussels. Each had a vital component relating to NATO's nuclear defence plans. Two have been assassinated, one remains. He was last seen in West Berlin.

As a CIA agent you make selections as to your cover and past history. These directly effect the playing characteristics of your agent as he moves through the rather violent backstreets of the erstwhile German capital.

You are not completely on your own. A computer in your apartment building will keep you up to date on the latest developments. An answering machine will play silly messages to anyone who rings while you were out and a fax machine is always handy for relaying photos of suspects back to HQ for an identity check.

There is also a mission support centre in the middle of the city to provide you with weapons, money and useful items of equipment such as bomb-sniffers, bugs and lock-picks.

The streets tend to get a bit monotonous what with all the trudging up and down and what have you. Not every shop front has a shop behind it, though there are plenty of locations. Most of them are one of four things, an office block - a hotel - ditto, a bar - difficult to get out of - or a shop which never seems to have anything you might want to buy.

The game is very realistic in that there is an awful lot of boring, humdrum legwork to be done before you uncover anything. The streets are slightly more dangerous than you might believe, with well armed muggers and drunks everywhere. Good job there's a doctor at mission support.

Money isn't much of a problem. You get a daily allowance of 1000 DM plus whatever you can get out of your cashpoint account. Some things are expensive, like a false set of East German papers, but the commodity you are most short of is time. You have only a few days before the info will inevitably fall into the hands of the Russians.

Another completely menu-driven adventure, the front end feels a bit constricting at times but plays OK. The sense of paranoia in the old city is wonderful. Good luck. Oh, and watch your back...

The Third Courier logo

Ein Game der etwas anderen Art: Während es üblicherweise bei Rollenspielen darum geht, Monster zu erlegen, Zaubersprüche zu erlernen und feuchtkalte Dungeons so erforschen, darf man hier in heruntergekommenen Hotels nach Geheimagenten suchen. In einer Stadt namens Berlin.

Der Spieler übernimmt die Rolle eines Bond-Verschnitts mit dem Codenamen "Moondancer". Er muß für seinen Arbeitsgeber (den CIA) drei wichtige Dokumente auftreiben, die von drei verschiedenen Kurieren nach Brüssel geschmuggelt werden sollten. Zwei von den dreien hat der böse Feind schon eliminiert; es ist also durchaus Eile geboten, bevor der letzte auch noch auf Nimmerwiedersehen verschwindet!

Stürzen wir uns also ins pralle Agentenleben: Da es ein Solo-Rollenspiel ist, brauchen wir vorher auch keine Party zusammenstellen, sondern unserem Mann nur ein paar Tarnexistenzen verpassen, Cover genannt.

Allerdings sollte man hier schon ein bißchen Umsicht walten lassen, da die festgelegten Fähigkeiten den späteren Spielverlauf beeinflussen (vier sehr unterschiedliche Tarnungen bewähren sich in der Praxis am besten).

Anschließend finden wir uns in seinem Arbeitszimmer in Westberlin wieder, wo wir uns als erstes mit Geld, einem amerikanischen Paß, sowie einer handlichen Wumme versorgen. Dann noch den Use-Befehl auf Moondancers Computer und Anrufbeantworter angewendet; schon stehen etliche Erfahrungspunkte auf dem Konto!

Dabei ist dies erst der Anfang eines laaangen Weges. Und dieser Weg wird uns noch oft, viel zu oft, an einem Polizisten mit riesiger Knarre und unverwüstlicher Gesundheit vorbeifuhren.

Der Zufallsgesteuerte Unsympath ist der große Schwachpunkt dieses Games: Wie soll man nur vorwärtskommen, wenn manche Ort Bloß zu Fuß erreichbar sind, man aber ganz unvermeidlich an jeder zweiten Ecke von dem Kerl aufgehalten wird? Entweder man läßt sich von ihm umnieten, oder man flieht.

Das Problem ist, daß Fliehen unseren Agenten überall hinbringt, nur nicht dahin, wo er eigentlich hinwollte. Es erfordert schon ein großes Maß an Geduld und Durchhaltevermögen, hier immer wieder von letzten Speicherstand aus zu starten!

Wer also in solchen Fällen zu spontanen Wutausbrüchen neigt, sollte besser die Finger von Third Courier lassen. Alle anderen bekommen ein Rollenspiel mit dichter Atmosphäre und tollem Komfort; besonders die Handhabung überzeugt - einfacher kann man eine Maus/Menüsteuerung nicht mehr gestalten!

Die animierte Grafik im "Bard's Tale"-Stil ist auch nicht übel, ebenso wie der (wenige) Sound. Und vor allem ist es mal eine wirklich neue Spielidee, die sich wohltuend vom üblichen Monsterschlachten abhebt. (Hans-Werner Raabe)

The Third Courier logo

Accolade/£24.99/Out now

Amiga reviewPaul: The scenario of this adventure game is a bit like one of those 60s Michael Caine spy films, involving a hunt round Berlin for missing NATO documents. After selecting the background and fairly traditional role playing characteristics for your agent, you control him as he crisscrosses Berlin in search of the missing papers and the elusive Third Courier.

It's a nice (if slightly outdated) idea for a game and there's plenty of scope for adventure and puzzle solving. Unfortunately, neither the graphics nor the gameplay do the idea justice. Like so many adventure games, Third Courier started life on the PC and it shows. The graphics look like a straight port and pretty weak they are too.

Interaction with other characters is limited to chat, fight, threaten or run. All chatting is one sided, you can't control what you ask. Fighting is simply a matter of clicking the Fight option and awaiting the outcome. When in an attempt to liven things up. I tried to gun down an aggressive tramp I was told "Your gun is no use here". I mean what's the use of carrying a Smith and Wesson .44 when you can't gun down the occasional vagrant?

There's quite a lot to do but since so many of the characters look the same and it's tricky to get going, the game doesn't really sustain your interest. Stop

The Third Courier logo

Accolade, Amiga £24.99

Hey! I could be really corny (what's new?) and say that The Third Courier is out of date because there's no longer much of a wall left in Berlin to divide East and West Germany, so all this spying stuff is no longer necessary(?)... but I won't.

You're a top spy, a Moondancer, one of the best in the West but even so your latest assignment is daunting: Three couriers, each carrying a crucial component of NATO's non-nuclear defence plans, are missing. Two are known to be dead while the third was last seen in Berlin. It's your job to find the three components before they fall into the wrong hands.

You're on your own in this mission, but that's the way you like it and, with your superior's advice - 'Trust no one' - echoing in your mind, you fly to Berlin to await further instructions.

Before play begins you need to create an agent. Choose name, sex, age, cover occupation, favourite leisure activity and where you spent most of your life. From your selection, character (health, intelligence, knowledge and so on) and personality traits (such innovation skills, hearing imperfection and unattractive appearance) are created. Your personality traits may help or hinder you as play progresses and your experience grows.

A CIA apartment in West Berlin is where your sleuthing commences but before you take to the streets it's a good idea to access your computer and telephone answering machine to check for messages. Then pick up everything that isn't nailed down.

From this point I took a cab to Mission Support to stock up with some spy equipment: Bug Hunters, Bug Killers, Lock Picks and a Photo-Fax (very useful for taking snaps of persons encountered, so you can check 'em out). Once fully laden with equipment (there must be mega pockets in your suit) it's time to cruise Berlin in an effort to find the three components.

Most exploration is done on foot (taxis cost!) but the Berlin underground is useful if you're in a hurry - you have to be quick though, trains don't hang about in stations.

Fully icon driven, the game is divided into four main windows: Message, location description, location/encountered character graphic and trait/options. Other options such as action and inventory exist as pull-down menus.

Everything in The Third Courier works well and looks good, graphics are nicely detailed (although animation is limited) and screen layout is neat and easy to read. Unfortunately, gameplay involves trudging through Berlin, in the hope of coming across an interesting or important location; decidedly dull.

A small icon appears in the location description window when you're near an accessible building but don't get excited! Most of the time you stand in the room (whether it be a shop or restaurant) like a lemon wondering what to do next before eventually leaving to look for something more interesting to do.

There also appear to be only three types of person on the streets of Berlin: policemen (carrying a gun around is a good way to get to see the inside of one of their cells), drunks and panhandlers. These characters become particularly tiresome when met for the tenth time.

Good sound effects enhance the smart graphics. However, during the inappropriate title music I fully expected to see a clown dance across the otherwise atmospheric screen - I was disappointed when it didn't.

If exploring Berlin, talking to drunks and visiting every accessible establishment on every street in an effort to find the odd clue sounds like fun to you, well, I recommend this sleuthing RPG. Otherwise forget it.