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ELECTRONIC ZOO * £29.99 * 1 Meg * Mouse * Out now

As you have probably surmised from the screenshots, Abandoned Places is very Dungeon Mastery indeed. There, I've said it, the obligatory comparison that always arises when this type of game is released. Now I refuse to do it any more.
So just how Does Abandoned Places shape up to all the other contenders? Well, it shapes up rather nicely indeedy.

Apparently, the world of Kalynthia is a bit of a bower. The Prince of Evil, Bronagh, has escaped from his enchanted imprisonment within a volcano and is intent on spreading evil throughout the land again. These Usurper types never learn, do they?
However, Bronah's return was foreseen at the time of his demise and the 12 heroes who were instrumental in messing up his plans of chaos were cast in stone to preserve their powers, ready to do battle with Bronagh once again. I don't know about you, but if I had just spent long, perilous years of my life clearing the world of evil, being cast in stone would not be high on my first of rewards!

As might be expected, you control four characters from a choice of the 12 heroes, but your party must consist of two Warriors, a Cleric and a Mage. Once chosen, you find yourself beneath the temple of Heaven's Light and your first task is to reach the surface, picking up weapons on your way.

This part of the game is in the familiar, 3D first-person perspective, as found in DM (aaargghh! I've done it again! I must control this comparison urge. I know I'll get a drink from the office coffee machine, put the cup in front of me, then every time I make a comparison, I'll force myself to drink it. Now that's what I call the ultimate deterrent!). Now, where was I? Oh yes, the 3D first-person perspective (glances nervously at alien substance trying to eat its way out of a nearby cup).
This display consists of the actual view of your surroundings, and four portraits - one of each character.

These portraits show strength points, spell/action points, the character's direction of attack, what the character's direction of attack, what the character is holding, a spell selection window, movement icons, a message window and a detailed display of a selected character and his/her possessions.

As you explore, you will come across all manner of monstrous manifestations, and you will have to do battle with them sooner or later. This is where the spells come into their own.

The two magic users, Cleric and Mage, have a maximum of 21 spells to choose from. Each character has a unique list of spells within the game. My favourite spell is Death Breath, or Vindaloo Vengeance, as I like to call it.
The two Warriors, having no spellcasting abilities, must rely on weapons found or bought during the game to fend off the fiend's during their travels.

Unlike Dungeon Mas... Gulp! I nearly slipped up again there (glances at the worrying sight of a mutated beyond-recognition coffee cup). What I meant to say was... once you reach the surface, the perspective changes to an overhead view of the land with the party position displayed as a marker icon.

The view is quite detailed, showing various cities, villages, snowcaped mountains, swamps, rivers, roads, deserts and vegetation. The different types of terrain also affect your speed of travel and the likelihood of being attacked, so keeping to a trail is safer and quicker, while wandering through the woods is downright dangerous.

This is not your average static view either. There is a lot of animation onscreen, ranging from storm clouds to passing ships and flowing rivers. The actual map is larger than the screen and as you travel, the screen will scroll to reveal more of the land. You'll find a colour map in the game package which shows the whole of Kalynthia.

You can also travel over this land, in a number of ways - by foot, horse, ship or air. Not all of the travel modes are available at the start, however, and as you travel the time of day comes from morning to afternoon and eventually to evening. At this point you may elect to make camp or continue on through the dark, bearing in mind that travelling through the nights can be dead dodgy - the emphasis being on dead.

There are lots of places to visit in Kalynthia. There's Sandmarc, a city in the middle of the desert known as the Sands of Fire and the capital city, Kal Kalon, ruled by the wise ones.
Each town and city has varying facilities for the party ranging from Blacksmiths, where you can purchase weapons and armour, to Apothecaries (try saying that with a mouthful of shortbread as I've just one. Oh crumbs!) where you can buy magical potions to aid your journey through the dungeons.

At Churches you can heal or resurrect characters who are particularly wimpy You may even be given a quest to complete by certain people within a town, which will take you to further underground areas full of foul creatures to kill.

In fact it all boils down to the fact that Abandoned Places is a stonking game. The gameplay is there, the atmosphere is there (especially if you read the included tome The 23rd Chronicles of Kalynthia). There are also oodles of spells to cast, lots more than Dungeon Master had... Gulp!
'No, please! You can't make me drink that stuff. Aaarghh, gerroff me. Glubg! Glug! Gasp! Splutter! Cough! (comatose-body-hitting-the-floor sound as the diabolical dispenser claims yet another victim)'.

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The only major game from eastern Europe was the addictive Tetris. But this post-perestroika RPG enterprise could well be about to put its western counterparts to shame.

It's refreshing to have preconceptions shattered, for first impressions to be wrong, to see prejudice overcome by fact. When Abandoned Places was first announced the omens seemed bad: Electronic Zoo had never published a full blooded RPG before and the programmers lived in Hungary, of all places. Yet, despite the portents of doom the finished game is refreshingly good.

Trials of life
A journey takes four resurrected heroes on an artefact trail. They have to track down the component parts of ancient weapons, find masters in the arts of war and magic, visit cities in search of clues and then take on the world's big nasty - who as you might imagine, is plotting to take over the place. The game in three main sections: dungeon exploration, roaming the countryside and searching towns. Linked by sequential quests this is the world of Abandoned Places - which is a bit of a daft name as the towns are teeming with people.

The meat of the game is in the dungeons, castles and towers are explored in a Dungeon Master style. These are packed with monsters to kill, treasure to collect and artifacts to help for the showdown with the end-of-game bad guy. Twelve different graphic styles add variety, masses of monsters keep you on your toes and there are so many different dungeons littering the countryside it's a wonder the world doesn't subside into the sea.

Going underground
The underground exploriation is solid stuff with a few extra frills thrown in to push the genre forward. The controls are clearly laid out with all information accessible on the main game screen. Spells, weapons and objects can all be used swiftly in combat, set off by a click of the mouse. Movement's are either driven by icon controls or some oddly placed - but easily learned - keyboard commands. You can control everything visible in the game window. Fighters can now push, pull or climb as well as waling and hacking: while the effects of spells on the surrounding area have been spectacularly implemented.

Within a dungeon there are a few key goals. You enter each set of tunnels with a specific aim, a quest. This can take the form of a genocidal "kill all the monsters" or a more specific object location test. On top of this are the pressures of keeping your folks kicking, they need food and sleep like the rest of us! If you run low on munch, then the hit points start to fall, and if you become exhausted then magic points never regenerate quickly enough.

Surviving combat is a primary concern. The first few dungeons are easily beaten, with weak foes for you to sharpen your sword skills on. Later, the monsters get tougher and hit in larger groups. If that wasn't enough to keep any adventurer happy, then they have to start mapping. You have to know where you are, to know where you want to go and what hasn't been explored yet.

The dungeons are the main focus but the inclusion of other sections beyond the cavern walls means it does not live or die by them. It allows the difficulty factor to increase slowly - maybe too slowly. The emphasis is on exploration, solving the puzzles and finding the keys, more than powering through by brute force.

Magic carpet ride
Exploration is the key to the world above the dungeons. You are told directly where to go next, you have to visit towns and ask wise men for advice. Tey will give you a broad hint, or maybe even a diversionary quest, that gradually pieces together into an overall crusade against evil. As you traverse the countryside on horseback, on boat, on foot, or flying via magic, wandering monsters randomly attack, to make sure you're paying attention and maintain the game's pace.

The location of some dungeons is known, i.e. in the mountains above a certain town, but only footwork and scouting will reveal the exact entrance. Seen from afar with a party icon wandering the map, the wilderness is not deeply involved but is a considerable part of the game. If you can't find the right dungeon you're stuffed, if you miss a town (and the clue) further play is difficult. But it provides a neat change of pace from the 'in your face' dungeoneering and broadens the game.

Towns are not essentially part of the game, they are the one place you can't actually die. They do however provide the information, the training and equipment that fuels the game. They provide a neat human edge to remind you, as a player, of what you're fighting to protect.

Abandoned Places is the first project for Electronic Zoo's east European adventure prodigies and it is an outstanding debut. It adds enough to the usual mix to achieve an identity separate from the games which inspired it: Dungeon Master, Chaos Strikes Back and Eye of the Beholder, and it improves on them in significant areas. The auto-map function, a reward for completing a difficult dungeon, is a significant bonus and gameplay improvement. The inclusion of an outer world and a broader plot give the game a sense of geographical solidity. As a game, it works well, as a first project it's stunning.

Abandoned Places isn't without its problems. The gentle opening pace helps players get to grips with both the game and the system. Yet the pace doesn't really start to increase until much later in the game. For beginners this should make it an ideal trainer, but for folks who've been round Dungeon Master twice, life may seem a little dull. The inclusion of the outside world helps the game trespass into different genres, but not enough is made of the problems of travelling to bring the advantage home. It's interesting but rarely exciting.

The first project for Electronic Zoo's east European prodigies is an outstanding debut

Not graphic enough
The range of graphic styles used is admirable in scope, but while certain wall sections look pretty they are hard to read. The cave areas are particularly bad; it's vital you know if the corridor continues or goes into a cross roads, but it's almost impossible to tell what shape the next 10 foot of wall will be. Once you're there it's easy to check, but it's no fun exposing a weakened party to a side attack by accident.

Abandoned Places is a fresh blast in the dungeon world. Many of the more nonsensical conventions have been ignored, like slamming doors on monsters, and new ideas have taken their place: push, pull and climb. The opening out of the game from one insular dungeon to a full world works, but lowers the pace of the bash. New monsters and a new system of magic add to the fresh feel, introducing different parameters to the battles and spell effects.

There are a few rough edges that occasionally irritate, such as the indistinct wall sections, but the lower threat level balances this. The pacing may be suspect with the game not getting dangerous or fast enough, but your opinion on this depends on whether you play for the thrill of combat of the challenge of puzzles and traps. The outside world section can feel remote, failing to reflect its importance within the game, but it is an ambitious attempt at taking RPGs further than ever before.

Abandoned Places is an outstanding first attempt by any standards, and it's an impressive first foray into the role-play domain for Electronic Zoo. It's not the toughest dungeon romp on the streets but it is the biggest. It's not the most thrilling, but it does have the extra depth of the towns and wilderness sections.

What it does do is re-focus the Dungeon Master perspective away from combat and more towards true adventuring - where one of the biggest dangers is losing your way, not your life! The control system has been radically minimalised, so one screen carries all the information that parties need and yet still offers more control options than normal. Abandoned Places is a solid dungeon romp, and has frilly bits too! Its blend of styles and pace will not be to all RPGer's taste, but those who are willing to play a game for its own sake will be rewarded with a playable schedule that will take months to complete.

Dungeon Master set the benchmark for this style of 'First Person Perspective' adventure. While a far from perfect form for RPGs (how can you play four different characters at once?) this is the most dominant form.
Last year's Eye of the Beholder rekindled interest in the format and now a whole batch of new titles are in the offing using this approach.
Until EOTB it was thought that DM had both created and killed the genre by being so good!

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Bei Electronic Zoo schmort derzeit ein "Rollbraten" nach ungarischen Rezept in der Pfanne - sowas lockt natürlich automatisch ausgehungerte Joker-Redakteure an!
Wie die Wölfe haben wir uns über das neue Rollenspiel hergemacht und herzhaft zugebissen...

Die Leute von Kalynthia leben seit Generationen friedlich vor sich hin, da sieht man es natürlich gar nicht gerne, wenn plötlich allerlei Monster die Gegend unsicher machen. Also wird ein Magier-Kongress eingerufen, wo man überein kommt, dass ein paar Helden die Sache schon wieder ins Lot bringen werden. Gesagt, getan?

Wow, eine derart originelle Hintergrundgeschichte will erstmal verdaut sein! Was soll's, suchen wir uns halt vier Spellcaster und Haudraufs aus der gebotenen Zwölfergruppe aus. Damit die "Fantastischen Vier" auch Rückendeckung haben, versichert man sich der Unterstützung einflussreicher Kreise, etwa der Priester. Je nachdem, wie die Wahl ausfällt, verläuft das Game anders, denn ehe es ans Eingemachte geht, muss unser Helden-Quartett für die Sponsoren allerlei Klein-Quests erledigen. Auch auf die Unterhaltungen (per Multiple Choice) haben die Hintermänner Einfluss, falls der Ansprechpartner nämlich ein Hünchen mit dem betreffenden Verein zu rupfen hat, wirkt sich das negativ auf seine Gesprächsbereitschaft aus. Irgendwie verständlich...

In die Städten reist man dann à la "Legend of Faerghail" per Mausklick von Location zu Location, in der Wilderness über eine hübsche Landkarte (Vogelperspektive), und in den Dungeons per pedes durch 3D-Kavernen. Von verschlammten Labyrinthen bis hin zur durchgestylten Nobel-Umgebung hat das Spiel zwölf verschiedene Outfits im Angebot, allesamt nicht umwerfend, aber immerhin. Rundum gelungen hingegen die Heldenporträts: Wenn die Hitpoints mal sinken, schauen die Jungs ziemlich ramponiert aus der Wäsche. Und das kann leicht passieren, schleichen doch gleich 80 animierte und schon aus der Ferne sichtbare Monstertypen durch's Spiel. Wie gut, dass die Iconsteuerung und das stark an "Eye of the Beholder" orientierte Kampfsystem über jeden Zweifel erhaben sind! Spells muss man bei Magiern lernen oder in den Kellern finden, gecastet werden sie durch simplen Klick von einer Scroll-Liste.

Bei den Rätseln hat erneut "Dungeon Master" Pate gestanden - ein verschachteltes System geschlossener Türen erlaubt nur dann weitere Fortschritte, wenn zuvor der passende Schlüssel, hebel oder Druckknopf gefunden wurde. Gänzlich eigenständig kommt schliesslich der Sound daher: vielfältige und wunderschöne Musikstücke, wohin man auch lauscht.

OK, die ungarischen Programmierer haben sich kräftig bei der Konkurrenz bedient, aber gut geklaut ist ja bekanntlich schon halb gewonnen. Wir sehen also keinen Grund, warum Ihr Euch nicht auch in Abandoned Places verbeissen solltet - guten Appetit! (jn)

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From Hungary - of all places - comes maybe the biggest role-player ever seen. But is it any good?

It says here on the box that "Abandoned Places is the new standard in role playing". Such a statement, considering the successes of Mirrorsoft's Dungeon Master and SSI's Eye Of The Beholder, necessarily heralds something pretty damn special if it's to mean anything more than mere hype. A quick look at the game reveals many similarities to its forebears - cell movement, party formation et al - but you rapidly get the feeling that there's more going on than meets the eye.

The game's five disks give a hint of the hugeness - a quick glance at the world map shows we're looking at more than just a quick wander down some paltry dragon-filled pit here.

The story goes that we are plunged into the troubled world of Kalynthia where, as one would expect from a D&D-alike scenario, an ancient evil is thought to be re-awakening. And, as is the norm with insomniac ancient evils, terrible creatures are once more abroad and creating a damn good excuse for a posse of adventurers to wander about the place slaughtering them.

Luckily for the Kalynthians, a bunch of heroes were frozen in stone a few hundred years back and are now just itching for another pop at arch magi Bronagh, the chap causing all the bother. There are eight heroes to choose from but, because the local wizards have been a little too laid back of late, there's only enough sorcery spare to resurrect four of them - a damn peculiar coincidence considering the fantasy game designer's usual predilection for four-member parties.

Character generation is a simple affair, you can rename each member chosen and, er, that's it. The manual advises that each character has particular abilities that will unfold as the game progresses but you're left completely in the dark as to what they are until it's too late and your happy band has already sallied forth. Oh well, at least you've got time to sit back and appraise them once the game proper starts.

Actually, that last sentence was a complete lie - it's no messing and straight into the action, as a bunch of fire-breathing nasties appear immediately the party is free of the crypt. Bereft of all weaponry, armour and provisions, the heroes literally have to slap the monsters up with their bare hands to escape.

This being the case, you have to become pretty adept with the control panel very quickly - not an easy thing to do. The characters, their statistics, magic capabilities, positioning relative to other party members and their possessions are all accessed from the main screen, which makes for some frantic mouse manipulation as you try to move them about and get them slapping. It's been said that the multiple screens of EOTB and Dungeon Master are a hindrance when trying to get your party organised, but whopping the whole lot - statistics, inventories, the works - around the main viewscreen, as here makes the interface far too complex.

So, burned, bruised and bleeding - and that's not just my mouse hand - our battered bunch eventually emerge from the catacombs beneath the castle of Heaven's Light and into the outside world, having picked up a few useful oddments that will help them fare in wider Kalynthia. And this is where Abandoned Places departs from the run-of-the-mill dungeon adventure. Rather than providing one huge underground complex that has to be thoroughly delved, level by level, to complete the game, Places offers a chance to go walkabout in the great outdoors.

However, unlike in Mindscape's similar Knightmare, what you do above ground is every bit as important as your endeavours below. There are towns and cities in which to trade and gather information, there are other dungeons scattered about and there are loads of monsters to bash on the way. In fact, with more than 100 levels divided among 36 dungeons and a whole heap of settlements to visit, you could feasibly spend days just wandering, horse riding, boating or even flying (oh yes, these wizards are tricksy with their spells) around Kalynthia in search of firepower sufficient to rid the world of evil.

The game's five disks give a hint of hugeness

To cope with the overground adventure, there's a second interface featuring a scrolling map of the surrounding terrain and an icon panel below which enables you to decide such group actions as making camp, choosing modes of travel, searching, trading and generally moving in interesting ways. A small animated figure reminds you of what you're doing at any one time and it too moves in an interesting way, which brings me to one major downer - the game's graphics.

The screens veer from fairly bog standard stills of town scenes to very 8-bit-sh screens when fighting. The animation is similarly lacklustre. Agreed, it would be pushing it to expect some kind of rotoscoped extravaganza, but when a figure adopts the mincing strut of someone in need of Diar-eze, it somewhat knackers one's credulity - credulity being hefty prerequisite for embarrassment-free fantasy role playing.

Perhaps I've been spoiled by the panache of Eye Of The Beholder and similar's graphics, but when so much effort has been put into every other aspect of something as huge as Abandoned Places, it seems a shame that it's so completely outgunned in such a very important area.

Gripes about grotty graphics aside, the whole thing stands up well gameplaywise. It's hard enough - both in terms of fighting and getting your head around the scale of the plot - to make it a challenge. There's just so much to be done to achieve the threefold aim of this utterly agoraphobic experience. First, get out of Heaven's Light and build up the party - you'll find oddments of treasure for buying those essentials that can't be found just lying around.

Second, go questing for the items - a sword, an orb and a globe - that will have you crowned King of the World. There's quite a bit of legwork involved here and plenty of opportunity for meeting monsters in the wild, should you want to (the map screen reverts to the underground interface for a quick scrap or two), and, indeed, for exploring some of those aforementioned 'abandoned places'.

The game is structured so you'll collect sufficient experience, hit points, spells and magical devices to meet the final conflict well prepared, and boy you'll need them. Bronagh is not the sort of chap to take things lying down and, when the moment is right - boof! You're teleported into the Halls of Rage to face a pretty awesome test before dealing with the man himself. (And no - I'm not to make it that easy. There's no way I'm telling what the test is).

Electronic Zoo reckons the final stage of Places is as big as the whole of either Dungeon Master or EOTB and that the game will take you at least two months to play. I am inclined to believe it. Having made my way across leagues of Kalynthia and engaged in numerous subterranean sorties. I'm still daunted at how much there actually is left to do.

Abandoned Places may not represent the new standard in RPGs - it's a bit scrappy in certain areas for that - but you can bet your bottom dollar it'll be responsible for a great many hours of lost sleep among the die-hard D&D fraternity.

Aspirant mages should get quite a kick out of Abandoned Places, as there's some awesome firepower to be wielded. Like this...
Characters start out with a selection of low-level spells but, as the party's magician and priest advance in level, you'll have the chance to blow seven bells out of the opposition.
The magic capabilities of each character are listed on the statistics screen - just scroll through an ever expanding list of incantations, select and abra-kerflop! You'll be told you're out of points. Yep, there's a price to be paid in the form of magic points, which are accumulated through experience and can be regenerated by having a quick kip.
There's also an abundance of arcane artefacts. The staff of fireball crisps a good yardage of enemy occupation - just be careful not to use it in a confied space. (OK, so I nearly totalled the whole party - could've sworn it wasn't loaded.) And then there are staffs of lightning strike wands of web, magic swords, armour; all the latest quality accessories for today's dungeoneer. Go carefully, however. The game is designed so you'll collect what you need for the final showdown, which saves a lot of backtracking for that knick-knack you thought was a plain old knapsack, but was actually the fabled Plain Old Knapsack of Zorp. Take care with your magic items and you won't be caught with your vorpal trousers down.
Your first foray into Abandoned Places will put you in touch with these unsavoury fire elementals, so it's a good idea to become rapidly au fait with the control panel...
Abandoned Places 1: Explanation Interface
  1. Main viewscreen
  2. Use weapon
  3. Position in party
  4. Selected character
  5. Hit points remaining
  6. Magic points remaining
  7. Message panel
  8. Game control - pause, rest, etc
  9. Character's inventory
  10. Character's statistics
  11. Select magic user
  12. Move party
  13. Spells available

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Hungary isn't noted for a great deal apart from Goulash and the occasional revolution. Its latest fad, though, is computer programming, and this is one of the first Hungarian games to be released in the West.

At first, Abandoned Places seems to be a run-of-the-mill RPG. Indeed, it's very reminiscent of both Dungeon Master and Captive, but has enough originality to escape being labeled a rip-off. The plot centres around a group of heroes who have been imprisoned in a tomb for the past 900 years. During their extended vacation, the surrounding kingdom has fallen pretty to dark forces, plus all the usual malarkey, such as two-headed calves and failed crops. At last, though, someone has come to free you from your rocky tomb, and without an inkling as to what's happening you set out to save the world.

Unlike most RPGs, there's no character generator, so you're stuck with a choice of ten preset adventurers. What's worse is that you're not even given a list of their stats, so you only find out who the duffers are through trial and error. It's a pity really, as building your own team is a lot more fun.

The in-game control system is comprehensive, if a little awkward at times. Selecting spells, for instance, can be difficult during combat: you must ensure the right character is facing the right way, and then scroll through a list to find the appropriate enchantment. A character is equipped by dragging an object over their body, while weapons are placed in hand icons.

Clicking on the arrows in the left of the screen steers the party. Objects are collected by clicking on them and dragging them into the character's inventory. Similarly, to use an object you have to take it from the inventory and place it over the target.

Unfortunately, when holding an item you're not told what it does. This is rather annoying, but you'll soon get the hang of jumping in and out of burning rooms to see if your latest find is actually a fire-protection ring or some other trinket.

The graphics are very elementary. Many of the backdrops are rehashed for later and some of the creatures are laughably bad. The attractive still screens that appear when a major event happens, though, are minor saving graces.

Don't let anyone kid you, size IS important, and Abandoned Places is big. The initial dungeons ease you into the game, but the later areas make it the largest RPG I've played.

For all its inadequacies, Abandoned Places sets a worthy challenge. An animated intro sets the scene and, after that, information is scarce. Once you've escaped from the first dungeon you'll realise how big the game world is - there are dozens of towns, dungeons and quests to discover. It's a bit rough around the edges, but Abandoned Places has all the essentials that makes a worthwhile RPG. Check it out if you're after a real challenge.

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Patrick McCarthy has always found Abandoned Places rather disturbing - especially if the seat is still warm or there are hoof-prints across the ceiling. (He's been at the cheese again. Ed.)

Abandoned Places is, as you can see from the screen shots, a mouse-driven RPG. The first in a new series of RPG's, actually. Like all adventure games, there is a great evil threatening Kalynthia, the mythical land in which you live (Wasn't her last single top of the Dance Charts? Ed.) and you are the controller of a band of four dashed attractive types who must quest their way through the game to everybody's benefit (except, of course, the baddies).

Refreshingly, and unlike most adventure games, there's nobody with huge jugs in it - presumably because the game itself is so big there's no room.

You control four characters, which you select from a range of 12 - two warriors, a cleric and a mage (sounds like a building society advert). Their attributes are not apparent until you get into the game proper, at which point, of course, the true anal retentive will quit and try all the others in turn to see if they can get that vital extra hit-point. Those of you interested in beards (we get a lot of letters from facial hair collectors) will be interested to know that all of them have beards or facial hair of some description - even the women, who have dashing waxed moustaches.

The game is comprised of two worlds - the Inner (dungeons, towers, etc.) through which you have to fight your way in order to reach the Outer (where the land features many different types of terrain and all your travelling is done). The land is divided into different states, each with its own capital and leader. It is up to you to locate and work with these leaders - who you help, and who you don't, dictates the course of your progress and even (gasp) your ultimate fate.

You can journey on foot (in which unhappy condition you will be more vulnerable to attack by passing monsters), on horseback, by ship (by moving your party to where a ship docks and selecting the travel icon - you can't control its destination). If your spell-casters grow powerful enough, you can use the Fly Spell to whizz your group around the place, although you can't enter any town or city unless your feet are firmly on the ground.

You start in a modern, rather starkly-decorated dungeon, filled with unpleasant people with wings and flamey hot breath and your first problem is to find a way out of the joint before the bats finish you off, hopefully arming yourself on the way to the surface...

Amiga reviewPatrick: Abandoned Places is a very large game. It comes on four disks and if you want to save a game to disk, you'll only get one saved position per disk. The designers reckon it should take you 80 hours to get even halfway through the game (and that's, er... more than a day, I think). (Moron. Ed.)

The mouse-driven interface works okay (technical, eh?) but, let's face it, it's almost a standard arrangement these days. The graphics are functional without being particularly inspiring and the sound is rather disappointing, consisting largely of moody but rather naff synthesizer tunes which quickly grow irritating. This isn't intended as a major slagging - if you're an experienced player and like RPG games, you should enjoy it as it's a quite good, and rather massive, example of the genre. On the other hand, if you're not sure whether you like them or not, it doesn't particularly have anything that will win your round, and if you're a newcomer to adventure games it may well be a bit deep for a first-time buy.Stop