Big Red Adventure logo AGA

Na'Strovya! Hughsky Poyntonov takes a look at Power Computing's Big Red Adventure.

I reckon that to be a successful point 'n' click adventure game player you have to be one of the most bizarre people on the planet. You have to be devoid of all logical thought. I mean, "I'll pick up that half cabbage just in case I want to stand on it to reach the bag of sandwiches I can use to bribe the security guard later" isn't really the kind of thing that hops into most people's heads.

Well Big Red Adventure is one of the trickiest and most convoluted adventures I've played in ages. That's not to say it's not fun, on the contrary, it's a big, sprawling, cartoony, adventure, sprinkled with crap jokes and a big twist of originality.

As you might have guessed by the title, Big Red Adventure is set in the new Russia, the brand new playground of capitalism and organised crime where Izvestija and Pravda sit next to decedent western glamour mags in the news stands that are springing up in Red Square.

Your task is to complete three loosely linked episodes, controlling one of these characters for each episode. The first sees you guiding Doug, the cunning techno-nerd (reminiscent of that Bond baddie from Goldeneye - the one who constantly twiddles his pen and fancies Isabella Scorrupen), through the burger bars and news stands of Red Square and Gorky Park, a TV game show and a sophisticated heist to steal the jewels of the Czars from the Kremlin.

In the second segment you must play the dumb, but good natured, Dino - an ex boxer and sailor who has been left behind on a deserted wharf after missing the departure of his beloved oil tanker, The Potempkin.

The final segment of the game introduces Donna Fatale, a star of the Russian ballet who's amazing gymnastic skills have probably been seen by more people on a dodgy VHS than on the stage of the Bolshoi.

This game will keep you occupied for absolutely ages. There are over a hundred locations, each of which you'll need to spend a while on to collect your full quota of useful items and clues.

Unlike a lot of adventure games, there are a variety of different ways you can solve the puzzles and it will take you a while to work out exactly what to do with the huge amount of people and possessions that you come across.

As I said before, you will need to suspend all normal, logical thought processes to play this game. I recommend playing drunk and only then will it appear logical to find out the weight of a burger by weighing yourself before eating it and then after, using a broken, ferrite aerial you snapped off a TV to cheat the electronic scales into weighing you without paying.

Using three characters to play adds immensely to the game and ensures that the story doesn't get boring or samey. Plus, if you get completely stuck trying to guide Dough through episode one, you can start afresh in episode two playing the part of poor Dino, watching his ship sail off into the distance. Believe it or not you even get used to the 'unique' sense of humour that permeates the game.

Initially you'll cringe at the references to Leo Tallstory and Burger Czar but bear with it and you might even find it brings a wry smile to your lips. My favourite little one liner is one of Dino's. Drifting around a wharf side bar Dino to talk to a former chess master who has fallen on hard times because of the wonders of modern high tech computerised chess boards. Dino comforts him by telling him that, "I'm quite safe, they'll never make a computer as stupid as me". My relationship with anything vaguely computer like summed up in one bite sized quote.

The game controls are about as easy as you can get on a Point 'n' click, and anybody who's played Leisure Suit Larry or Monkey Island will feel right at home here. A big fat red arrow acts as your cursor and a click on the right mouse button will bring up the full selection of objects or actions you may want to utilise.

The downside? Well there are only really a couple of things that draw attention. It might sound a little over sensitive but the writers of the game seem to have a view of Japanese people that some could call a little unPC. The Japanese tourist you meet in Red Square is a none too pleasing representation, laden down with cameras and possessing a huge set of teeth and squinty eyes. It's such a fun, friendly game that there's really no need for this sort of thing (even though it's true - Ed).

The sound isn't really anything special and could have been utilised a little better. OK each scene has a different tune (tacky musac in your Moscow hotel or big top music at the circus) but a few more sound effects or maybe a bit of speech would have made the game a little more enjoyable.

However, this said, Big Red Adventure is a corker. It's just the sort of game the Amiga needs right now; a big shiny adventure infused with loads of plot, fun cartoony graphics and the sort of gentle humour that admittedly won't have you rolling in the aisles but it'll bring a wry smile to your face.

Big Red Adventure logo AGA CU Amiga Super Star

Terrible gags and bizarre plans to steal the Russian crown jewels. Andy Smith's off adventuring again...

Just one example of the terrible gags in Big Red Adventure: Leo Tallstory's typewriter, which he used to write his famous novel War & Peacemaker is on show at the Kremlin museum.

And they don't get any better during this graphic adventure. You're playing the part of Doug - ordinary bloke on holiday in Moscow who just happens to want to steal the prized crown of the Tsar (encrusted with diamonds, pearls and open cheques...) after seeing it in the Kremlin museum (yes, the Kremlin's a museum nowadays).

So that's where the adventure starts. Doug in the bedroom of his hotel plotting to steal the crown. But of course it's not going to be that easy. Many, many tasks need to be completed before Doug's going to get anywhere near the crown and all the tasks are of the usual graphic adventure variety. An example?

Snap Happy
You're in Red Square. You want to have your picture taken standing next to the statue of the famous games character - Karl Marx. You give your camera to a nearby tourist who manages to take three crap photos of you (first with the lens cap on, second with his finger in the way and the third is all blurred).

Now you have run out of film and will need to go to a nearby burger bar (Burger Car - geddit?) in order to find a broken camera with a whole new roll of film. Load this in, give the camera to the tourist again and finally you'll have a picture of the statue. And why should you have a picture of the statue - because you're trying to work out how tall the statue is in Vodkacola cans, silly.

Actually, that probably sounds completely bizarre and off the wall but when you're playing it's not to say the game's completely straightforward (who'd have thought you need to stick the TV aeriel you're carrying into the slot of the weighting machine to get yourself another four roubledollars?Not me).

Big Red Arrow
Controlling the game is pretty easy - a big red arrow acts as your cursor - move it around the screen and anything of any importance is highlighted (including links to the next location) you then simply click and the appropriate action is carried out.

Although the designers have tried to make it as friendly as possible there's still a bit of this 'click on that object, click on the use icon and then click on the other object' to get things done. It's not so bad though because it's just a right mouse click to bring up your main icons menu and dragging and clicking isn't too painful.

Why should you have a picture of the statue - because you're trying to work out how tall the statue is in Vodkacola cans, silly.

And a jolly big adventure it is too. There are four parts of the game to complete and that is going to take you a while. You're going to have a lot of fun playing it though. It's not quite a mind-blowing gaming experience - probably not worth rushing out and buying a CD-ROM just so you can play it - and it's not the best adventure game to have appeared over the years either.

It lacks the comedy and innovation of something like Monkey Island, but it's a whole lot more fun than things like Dream Web or Leisure Suit Larry.

There are a couple of other niggles I've got with Big Red Adventure too - moving your cursor around the screen is okay if you're not too swift, but you can occasionally miss things because the on-screen text flashes on and off too quickly. Not a massive thing but niggly nonetheless.

To it's credit though it doesn't suffer from the teeny-tiny pixel at the corner of the screen being the most important object, which is good. However, it does suffer from the 'oh dear I've drunk the can of Vodkacola so now I can't use it where I needed too' syndrome which does mean you've got to go back to your last saved game and continue from there - again, not too painful but annoying enough to ensure it misses out on Format Gold status.

Keep coming back
Die-hard adventurers are going to be used to the game's nuances though and will be prepared to work with them while the rest of us will shout at the screen a couple of times and go back and do things properly because we want to get a bit further in the game. And it does have that level of addiction.

The interface is good enough to keep the game playing experience fun and it's not so illogical you'll give up at the first problem - like most adventures, just keep trying when you're stuck and you're going to find the solution. Eventually.

All in all a good, but not supremely great, adventure game. The temptation is to give it a higher score than it deserves simply because it's a good game and we all know there are precious few of these around right at the moment, but we're not going to fall into that trap.

It's a jolly good game, accessible to people who don't normally play adventure games and yet convoluted enough for people who do. Well worth buying.

Big Red Adventure logo AGA

Price: £TBA Publisher: Core Design/Dynabyte Supplier Power Computing 01234 851500

After what seems like an eternity a decent graphic adventure is here.

After proving to be a hit with PC owners, the Big Red Adventure is now available for Amiga players. There's lots of colour, bags of music, and tons of puzzles for you to solve. So don't just sit there, pack your bags and head East young man.

The iron-curtain has fallen and the Russian Bear is now to be found wearing designer jeans and guzzling Coke. Burger bars are sprouting in Red Square and decadent Western magazines can be bought at street kiosks. Does this mean that the former mysterious Empire is now as boring as Wigan? Don't be silly! The door to the East may be open but behind that door there are still many dark corners to explore.

In the vast treasure house of the state museum lies the crown jewels of the old Tsar just begging to be stolen. Mad professors are lurking in their laboratories waiting for nubile western flesh to experiment upon and mysterious gypsies who deal in witchcraft and are to be discovered hiding in the dark pine forests.

Pack of 3
The plot is a number of loosely connected episodes in which you alternatively take control over one of three comic misfits who are cut on a spree looking for trouble and riches. There are three main characters in the game: Doug the Computer Nerd, Dino the Italian and Donna Fatale from the Bolshi Ballet (she of the flashing eyes and curvy shape!).

The story is as big as the Russian Steppes and it snakes its way from Moscow overland on the Orient Express, to a watery climax in Venice. The cartoon graphics and snappy one-liner dialogue gives the game a look and feel similar to the Leisure Suit Larry series but thankfully without the smutty bits.

In the initial stages you will only have one character to control but in the later sections of the game the three come together and you must select which of them to use to solve any particular puzzle. As you would imagine, once your options are increased, so are your problems.

The game is also split up into a number of different chapters featuring different characters as the star. Not only does this give a different feel to each of the sections but it allows you the chance to try and solve a separate section if you are bogged down in one of the others.

The first episode requires you to guide Doug the computer nerd in his quest to steal the Tsar's crown. To complete this quest you'll first have to get yourself onto a Russian TV quiz show, then take part in a Mission Impossible style jewel heist.

The second episode features Dino the Italian who makes a plank of wood seem smart. You will have to guide Dino through an adventurous circus background and then onto the Orient Express bound for Venice.

In the third episode you'll be guiding Donna Fatale around the Orient Express, where death and mysterious strangers lurk in the sleeping compartments. In the final episode you'll encounter the evil Doctor Virago who is looking for a young virgin (so what makes him so special?). It doesn't take long before Donna is bundled away to the villain's lair and it's left to you to rescue her from a fate worse than death. (Never did understand what that could possibly be).

Larger than life
The problem with old-style adventure games was that once you'd finished them there was nothing else to do with the software. Luckily modern storage methods now mean that larger games with alternative solutions can now be produced, and this game is no exception.

There is more than one way to skin a bear, and with this game you can arrive at a solution by a variety of routes. Happily this means that once you have solved the game you can have another go and try and find the alternative solutions that are also available.

Adventure games rise or fall according to the difficulty level set by the game designers. Too hard and frustration and disillusionment sets is, too easy and you'll feel cheated. The difficulty of the puzzles within Big Red are probably set about right.

There are lots of objects to find and use, and although they are sometimes hidden away in corners, the fact that they are highlighted as the mouse pointer travels over them makes them not too difficult to find.

One aspect which can cause confusion is that if you don't know about something, you can't ask a computer about it. You can speak with someone a million times and they won't offer to sell you the gold-plated 'wotsit' until you are actually aware that the 'wotsit' exists.

This means that you will need to revisit locations and speak with the same computer-controlled characters many times as you progress through the plot. To solve most problems you will have to go through the usual routine, which is the bane of all adventurer's life, of sticking unlikely objects into unlikely places.

Places to go...
The full-screen graphics which make up the 100+ locations are drawn in a primary colour, cartoon style format. To stay true to the original PC version the screens have been ported directly. To display them at their original resolution, they are all interlaced so the look a little flickery until you get used to them.

No doubt thanks to the high storage capacity of the CD, the game is also full of music and sound effects for nearly every location. However, if the puzzles confuse you as much as they are supposed to, you'll soon be reaching for the volume control, to give your brain a chance to think.

Point 'n' Click
The game uses a simple point and click interface. Clicking the 'right' mouse button brings up the inventory window which allows you to select or pick up objects and use them on active parts of the mains screen. By 'using' a selected object on your own character you will then be able to reselect the inventory using a 'plus' symbol which will allow you to use two objects together from the inventory.

By adopting this method of hiding all other windows during normal play, the whole screen can be used to display the current location. There is no need to do any typing, just move the mouse around the screen and any object which has a use will be highlighted with a text title.

A new, large and colourful adventure for the Amiga has got to be a bonus, so it would be churlish to find a fault with any offering. However, I do recall a game called Nippon Safes which was around a few years ago to which the game bears a remarkable resemblance. I have a sneaking suspicion that this game has either been written using the same game engine, or it's been created by the same team of game designers.

Nippon Safes never made it big as it was so obviously a continental import, having a different feel to home grown products. Many continental games do succeed in Britain, but like garlic it can be an acquired taste. The game is big and it will take you a long time to complete it. The puzzles are not going to drive you mad, but the answers won't come easy.

Let's face it, it really must be time you decided that you are never going to finish Monkey Island after all, so why not give yourself a break and buy a new game to drive yourself nuts with. And if you are going to buy a new adventure, then the Big Red is one which won't disappoint you.