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An evening in front of the telly goes horribly, horribly wrong and PJ Barrett finds himself drawn into the second-worst TV-related experience a guy can go through. After mysteriously bumping into a freaked-out warrior on the sidewalk, his evening at home is cut short when he finds himself sucked through his television set into the alternative reality of Daltere.
I said this was the second-worst TV nightmare. The real worst mare is far too grim to darken the pages of a decent family magazine- let's just say that it involves Esther Rantzen, Lionel Blair, a bath full to the brim with custard, a red triangle in the top corner of the screen and the adjudicating eye of Norris McWyrtre with a stopwatch. Things that make you go, mmm.

OK, so you are in a strange exotic alien-infested world. Does that mean that PJ has to cancel his plans for a good time? Surely not. Altered Destiny allows the player to Look-Search-Pick-up-Use-Talk-etc, PJ through his new world on a voyage of discovery. Talk to aliens, solve puzzles, search for clues and generally 'check-out' Daltere. The world, my dear PJ, is your lobster.

Time to head North, South, East or West...
And so the game unfolds, in standard RPG fashion. The game-commands are interspersed with screen illustrations, providing landmarks by which to map your progress. Guide PJ East, West, North and South, seek out and explore strange new worlds, boldly go where no man has gone before - you know the sort of stuff. Actually, mapping is a good idea as this is a BIG adventure - six disks chocked to the gills worth of adventure to be exact. Save games regularly, don't be afraid to experiment and Altered Destiny has the potential to provide you with an entertaining break from reality.

PJ Barret - Truly a man amongst aliens
Michael Berlyn is the (ever-so-slightly-warped) designer responsible for Altered Destiny. Evidently he taught science-fiction writing at Harvard University, so he should really know his stuff. Maybe he does - the game-plot flows quite convincingly and there are lots of nice little touches. For example: talk to Alnar the Metal Shaper by all means, but don't shake his hand - it secretes acid! Possibilities for all the business-executives out there, I'm sure...

But everything is just so painstakingly slow, you will be sick to bleedin' death of bloody Barrett long before coming anywhere close to realising the potential that the story may have to offer. Disk accessing is somewhat sluggish (to say the least) and moving PJ about the playing area takes forever. Compare Altered Destiny to The Secret Of Monkey Island and PJ's deficiencies are forced even further home

Whereas Guy Thistlebrush merely needed to be aimed in the right direction, PJ however, has to be painfully inched pixel by pixel around the screen. Monkey Island kept the pace up, Altered Destiny shoots itself in the foot.

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Nach "Les Manley in: Search for the King" veröffentlicht Accolade nun das zweite Grafikadventure im typischen Sierra-Design. Typisch in wirklich jeder Beziehung: Abenteuer ohne Festplatte können eigentlich gleich weiterblättern...

Ah, Ihr seid noch da. Dann habt Ihr also alle eine Harddisk? Wenn Ihr nämlich keine habt, könnt Ihr Euch auf eine Diskwechselorgie von biblischen Ausmassen gefaßt machen - man möchte gar nicht meinen, daß hier "nur" 6 Scheiben jongliert werden, 60 erscheinen weit glaubhafter!

Und was beschert uns das wechselwütige Sechserpack? Die Leidensgeschichte eines gewissen PJ Barrett. Der brave Mann holt nichts ahnend seinen Fernseher aus der Reparatur und stolpert so in das Abenteuer seines Lebens. Die Glotze wurde nämlich versehentlich mit der eines anderen Kunden vertauscht, was ja im Normalfall kein Beinbruch ist. In diesem Fall aber ist der andere Kunde ein ausgewachsener Barbar, der in eine Fremde Welt gebeamt werden sollte, um unser Universum zu retten - und zwar mit Hilfe eben jenes Geräts, das nur auf den ersten Blick wie ein normales TV aussieht!

So landet PJ also in "Daltere", und das muß man sich wie den Alptraum eines Computerfreaks vorstellen: Kein Strom, kein Kaffe, kein Mc Würg, stattdessen eklige Aliens und eine Landschaft voller Säureseen, schwebenden Städten und dem gemütlichen "Canyon der Angst". Die ersehnte Rückfahrkanz kann sich unser Ersatzheld nur verdienen, indem er einen gewissen Helmar aufstöbert und ihm das Juwel des Lichts abknöpft.

Dafür überlaßt ihm ein freundlicher Waffenschmied gleich zu Anfang eine hübsche Axt und ein feines Schwert. Obwohl eine ordentliche Laserkanone sicher noch viel feiner und hübscher gewesen wäre...

Verglichen mit "Les Manley" ist Altered Destiny wesentlich eigenständiger, schließlich stammt das Konzept vom bekannten amerikanischen Sf-Autor Michael Berlyn - und der hat ja schon Infocom-Titel wie "Infidel" und "Suspended" entworfen.

An die Qualität dieser Game kommt der Parser aber nicht annähernd heran und das, obwohl er angeblich 1.500 Worte versteht. Damit könnte man noch leben, mit dem grausamen Handlung schon weniger. Die endlosen Nachladezeiten sind wirklich eine Frechheit. Zudem ist das Programm höllisch langsam, beispielsweise folgt jedesmal eine längere Zwangspause, wenn der Held ein paar Schritte auf dem Screen machen soll. Zusammen mit der elenden Diskettenwechselei ist das sehr, sehr ärgerlich, zumal Altered Destiny ansonsten ein bildschönes Spiel wäre! Die Grafiken können stellenweise sogar "Monkey Island"

Konkurrenz machen (sie wurden für die Amiga-Version extra mit 32 Farben neu gezeichnet, am PC waren es nur 16), der Soundtrack umfaßt stolze 25 Musikstücke, die Maussteuerung funktioniert ziemlich genauso wie bei den Sierra-Adventures, und die Packung quillt über vor lauter Begleitmaterial (Poster, Hintbook, deutsche Anleitung, englisches "Tagebuch"). Aber wie gesagt: Ohne Festplatte braucht man gar nicht erst lange über dieses Adventure nachzudenken... (mm)

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It strikes me as rather odd that, given the length of time these American/French animated graphic adventure thingies have been around, and the considerable number which have been produced, no-one has managed to come up with a snappy title to neatly encapsulate the genre. We've got scrolling shoot-'em-ups, driving games, puzzle games, flight sims, cute games... but no pigeon hole for these devils. Don't worry though - I'm not about to try and find one.

With another hopelessly forced intro out of the way, let's take a look at the game. As usual you play an ordinary sort of bloke, minding his own business, who gets unwillingly dragged into an alien world and has to solve a quest to get back out again. The bloke is called P.J. Barrett, the world is called Daltere - and is depicted by a huge quantity of slightly amateurish but nonetheless attractive graphics - and the quest involves finding a jewel and defeating a baddy. And above all the whole game is weird. Very weird.

I've never actually played any of the Leisure Suit Larry games (heaven forbid), but I believe Altered Destiny's control system is similar to theirs - movement of your character is achieved by clicking on where you want him to go, while any other actions (such as picking things up) have to be routed through a parser, which means flexing your fingers and typing things like GET PENCIL.

Luckily the parser, while very crude, manages to cover most eventualities, so you shouldn't have to spend too much time struggling with its vocabulary. The only real problem comes when you seen an unidentified blob on the ground and can't examine it until you've worked out what to call it, and can't work out what to call it until you've examined it.
If there's a simple way of finding out what something's called without going mad in the process I've yet to find it.

More likely to be a source of hassle are the interminable pauses between things happening, as often as not accompanied by disk accesses and swaps. (The game comes on six disks). I can't imagine a hard drive would ease the situation much, either, as most of the time seems to be spent decrunching rather than reading data. You eventually get used to the game's very laid back pace, though.

Interestingly, Accolade have taken the dubious step of including in the package a clue book, containing complete solutions to the whole thing in varying degrees of crypticity. This is good news in some ways, as many of the puzzles are extremely obscure and you'd probably have ended up sending off for it anyway, but it immediately robs the game of much of its challenge and mystique.

You'll just have to be disciplined enough to hide it under the bed until you reach the hair-loss stage, and then sneak it out and tentatively peek at the bit you need before snapping it shut and checking no-one saw you. (As a reviewer I was obviously allowed the privilege of unrestricted access, however).

I know I've been almost entirely critical of Altered Destiny so far, but it's actually not a bad game at all. A vast amount of manpower has obviously gone into it, and that shows in the game's huge scale and correspondingly long life expectancy.

It's all very American, of course, but perfectly enjoyable if you're prepared to make the necessary allowances.

Altered Destiny logo

If time weighs heavily on your hands then Altered Destiny might well prove to be the answer to absorbing some empty hours. It's a six-disk graphic adventure with the emphasis on exploration and discovery. Loading alone absorbs several minutes, particularly if you choose to watch the snail-slow animation introduction that unfolds across several screens.

There's nothing wrong with games which take plenty of time to play of course - far too many have the longevity of a stick of gum - and Altered Destiny has a multitude of locations to explore, objects to examine, and plenty of sticky puzzles to solve.

The plot revolves around PJ Barrett, a businessman who settles down for a quiet night in front of the TV with his girlfriend only to switch on the recently fixed set and find himself sucked inside, popcorn and all.

It's hardly an astoundingly original plot, particularly for an author of bona fide sci-fi novels and nor is the tale which unfolds in the fantasy world within. No TRON-type hi-tech scenery or even giant valves and diodes here, just a typical Terry Pratchett-style world of bizarre creatures and weird locations.

In order to return to the comfort of his living room, Barrett has to find a character called Helmar who has in his possession a jewel with destructive powers that are destroying the universe he is caught up in.

The game begins with PJ in a clearing on the top of a huge floating vine. There are no obvious clues as to what to do or where to go, so exploration is the order of the day. You can control the character from the keyboard and the mouse, though you'll soon find that it can be painfully slow to move him with the latter.

It also takes an irritating time to load each screen from disk too, particularly when you shift locations and have to place a different disk in the drive.

There are plenty of locations too, from bizarre structures, weird multi-coloured woods, a castle, an evil smelling canyon, boiling pits and more. These areas are populated by fantastic creatures which PJ must first ascertain are friendly.

Altered Destiny's game system is based on typing in commands and questions on the keyboard in true adventure style, and this is one of the overriding irritants of the game that could well put off players used to more streamlined styles of graphic adventure.
The one that comes most readily to mind is Delphine's Cinematique system which can be found on Cruise For A Corpse and Operation Stealth. A system which works logically (as do the puzzles found therein and efficiently).

The packaging to Altered Destiny also boasts 'Enhanced 32-Colour Graphics' and while you're not going to be put off at the colourful cartoon-style locations depicted on each screen, they're far from being airbrushed artworks. Sound too is limited to an extensive series of twee tunes which play through each screen but which do little to add to the atmosphere of the game.

If this sounds like a demolition job it isn't meant to be. Altered Destiny has plenty in its favour - the graphics are colourful and the game is strong on flavour and characterization. It's just difficult to agree that it pushes 'the envelope of adventure gaming' as one quote on the box suggests.

If anything this is an old-style graphic adventure with enhancements, and for that reason it will only appeal to the type of person who reckons 'they don't make them like they used do'. Others will breathe a sign of relief.

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Accolade/£29.99/Out Now

Amiga reviewAmaya: For PJ Barrett, the yuppie hero of Altered Destiny, life's hardly been a bed of roses lately. After a tough week of 'challenging executive games' and 'doing lunch', PJ is looking forward to a romantic evening with his chick, Trudy.

On the way home, PJ pops into the local TV repair shop to find that his telly has been collected by the huge muscle man he crossed in the street. He borrows the hulk's TV and, at home, when Trudy shows him her lingerie, PJ is so turned off that he decides to dive through the TV screen. (And why not? It certainly beats the old "I'd just like to be friends" excuse).

And that's where this graphic adventure takes off. You, as PJ, are transported to the planet Daltere, whose rulers were expecting the muscle bound warrior (with your TV). They realise they'll have to make do with a wimp, so you're entrusted with defeating Helmer, who has the power to destroy Daltere.

Using a point and click interface and accurate typing, you examine locations, collect objects and talk to a plethora of bizarre characters. Accolade has wisely taken the trouble to redraw the graphics for the Amiga, but the game looks very similar to the PC version and, although on six disks, the graphics fall short of 'amazing'. (The sound, however, is annoyingly catchy).

PJ moves very slowly and there are long loading waits throughout. Fairly run-of-the-mill adventure fare.