Um... about half past three

Deja Vu 2 logo

THINGS were looking bad. The editor was on to me and it wasn't to wish me happy birthday. The review I'd been assigned had been dragging on for days. Deadlines weren't getting any longer. I had to do something, and do it fast, or it was curtains for me. I don't know if you've ever been in fabric retail, but it isn't a pretty sight.

Tracking the software down wasn't hard - Icon Design had set it up. Software houses were like that, you could never trust 'em, always on to some scam or other, and nearly everyone on the take. It was getting so a guy couldn't make a decent living.

I took a look at the box and got that weird feeling - you know, when you think you've seen it all before. I told it: "Of all the in-trays in all the offices, you had to fall into mine". I guess I felt kinda dumb just talking at it, so I slid it into my disc drive. "Play it, Sam." I said.

Sam was my Amiga. I'd known him since he was very young. We were like brothers. We had our ups and downs like any other partnership, but on the whole we got along swell. He was a good kid.
Sam was doing the driving so I sat back and lit up. I told myself to be sure and get round to fixing that power cable some time. Sam stopped at the light. We were there.

OK, so I'd been wrong about this set up. Something was different here and it made me uneasy. There was always someone trying to work a new angle, and it always ended up messy.
Hey, what kind of a stunt were these boys trying to pull? This looked a little like a Workbench screen. There was windows all over the place: Inventory, graphics, exists, text - it was all there. Someone was cracking funnies, but I wasn't laughing.

I pulled over a window and he came easy. I was surprised. I told him I was going to have to rearrange his features. He didn't look too worried. I re-sized him, sent him to the back and to the front, then dragged him around for a bit. He was unruffled. I was surprised.
I gave the same treatment to the rest of them, all except the graphic which looked too big for me to handle. They lapped it up. This was impressive.

Being an ace at this sort of work I soon discovered that I could pick up objects by clicking on them and dragging them to the inventory window. And if I opened up an object, its own little window appeared.
To move around I could either click the appropriate part of the screen or on the little squares in the exits window. Any other actions could be performed by clicking on the words in the top right corner. If this is what's meant by user-friendly, fully icon-driven interactive adventures, they lay some more on me.

I soon had the full story. I was playing the part of Ace Harding, down and out in Las Vegas and on the receiving end of some unwelcome attention from the mob. I had to get back to Chicago to try and sort it all out. But it's more than 106 miles to Chicago. I haven't got a car, never ind any gas, I'm out of cigarettes, it's light outside and I've mislaid my sunglasses.

This was going to be no picnic. It couldn't even be comfortably described as a peanut butter sandwich. But I had to complete it. I knew if I didn't I'd regret it - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life. And so will you.

Deja Vu 2 logo

When the boys from the Mob decide to interview you over the head with a brick, Icon Simulation/Mindscape leave you dazed.

Life sure is tough. One minute you're snacking in Chicago, the next you're abducted, grilled by a Vegas mobster and then beaten senseless. Fun times.

Your task is simply to raise a mere 100,000 in a pretty green within seven days or face the consequences. We've heard it all before, but the muttonheads following you are pretty mean sonovabitches and will rather pull out their own finger nails then let you survive. The odds aren't in your favour, matey. Can you sort out the real clues from the dross? If so, you may avoid the cold metal against your head and live to tell the tale back in Chicago.

The sense of Deja Vu hits you from the onset - very reminiscent of the original. I almost thought they'd sent me the first by mistake. The gameplay is identical, the same mouse-controlled action which, once you get used to it, is so easy. Click on the action and double-click on the object: what could be simpler?

Wandering around this true graphic adventure game is enjoyable, although it is slow in places with frequent disk loads. Every action causes the green light and 'dwhirr' to occur, which is just about acceptable because you'll be busy scouring the windows for your next choice of action. Quick movements around the landscape are a problem: even more so if some object is moving or some sound effect is in action.

The sound effects are very well sampled and clear but, as usual, there is never enough. To make up for this I have this unexplainable urge to smash every window and mirror in the game or wait around in the train station for the unforgettable 'Awl Aboooooaard!'

Graphically the game is good - colourful concise and clear - anything too extreme could make the game unplayable with the mouse control. In fact everything within the graphic window can be manipulated, obviously with varying results. Mobsters, cacti and clear stumps all have the same intelligence and are treated the same, but it simplifies the game to such an extent that the computer does the work.

Deja Vu II isn't mind warping in the typical puzzle adventure sense, but death or trouble occurs via the simplest of decisions: getting on the wrong, train, walking around without your clothes, hitting passers-by. Commonsense things really, but easily overlooked in this adventure.

Altogether, Deja Vu is a really good and enjoyable romp, it's not a traditional tough text adventure, which will give it a wider appeal. Pretty pictures, good sound, it's easy to use, requires no typing skills and there isn't a bug-eyed monster in sight. An adventure for lazy nights - slouch back in a comfortable chair, put the mouse on your lap and get engrossed in the criminal underworld of Deja Vu II.

Deja Vu 2 logo

Mindscape/Icom Simulations
Price: £24.99

When the original Deja Vu was first released on the Macintosh its software technology caused quite a sensation. Two more games in the same format followed, Shadowgate and Uninvited, and now a sequel to the original has arrived.

Deja Vu II uses the full windowing capabilities of the Amiga, and play is almost 100% by mouse. Word icons are used to enter command verbs, and the picture and/or a graphical representation of a carried object is used to complete the command. Click on EXAMINE, and then click on an object in the picture, and a description of it is displayed in the text window. More common verbs like TAKE or DROP are executed by simply dragging the required object from picture into an INVENTORY window and vice versa.

The verb OPEN, used in conjunction with a container, opens up a window showing the contents of the container. So, for example, to get something out of your wallet, you first 'open' your trousers, revealing the wallet. Items can similarly be transferred between the various container windows that are currently open. These windows can be treated exactly like any other window - they can be sized, 'fulled', scrolled, and dragged to any position on the screen.

Moving about is done by clicking either on an exit shown in the picture, or on a mini plan view of the room in which exits are highlighted. If the exit is not open, the first double click on it will open it - provided it is not locked.

If that is not enough, there is extensive animation within the picture. But, disappointingly, on the Amiga there is no sound - and the digitised sound of a railway station, with steam trains arriving and porters shouting 'All aboard!' is sadly absent in comparison with the Atari ST version. The Amiga picture, too, when using a TV, is of poorer quality than that on the ST, and the window titles are very indistinct.

But what of the game itself? You are Ace Harding, back again after being cleared of the murder on Joey Siegel. This time you are being chased by mobster Tony Malone over a little matter of $112,000 of his cash - cash which Siegel had not accounted for at the time of his demise. Malone suspects you have it, and gives you just one week to get hold of it and pay up, or else... And just to make sure he does not lose track on you, he assigns Stogie, one of his heavies, to keep a watchful eye on your movements.

At the start you find yourself in a dingy hotel room in Las Vegas, and soon reach the conclusion that a visit to Chicago would be a good idea. The local train service is quite frequent but unfortunately costs money. Let us hope you get lucky - or wise - in the casino!

Deja Vu II is a worthwhile but not an easy game. How can you get past the morgue attendant, for example? To what use can you put the hidden secrets you uncover in Joe's Bar? Attention to detail and perseverance are needed to progress through the story, but will prove rewarding and result in an entertaining and enjoyable adventure.

Deja Vu 2 logo Zzap! Sizzler

Icom/Mindscape, Amiga £24.99

Waking up in a Las Vegas hotel with a splitting headache is guaranteed to send shivers fown the spine. Did you really bet your life savings on roulette last night? A glance in the mirror brings ugly memories flooding back: the name is Ace Harding, private dick, and mobster Tony Malone who believes you owe him $112,000. Not even you could lose that amount of money gambling, instead it has all to do with your previous adventure when you were acquitted of the murder of one of Malone's leg men. Your splitting headache comes from a 'friendly' discussion with Mr Malone and his henchmen, last night. If you do not find his hundred and twelve grand within the next week he will put more perforations in you than a Tetley tea bag, letting the flavour flood out (along with your blood).

During the week you are free to wander around Vegas, but just to make sure you do not make a quick getaway Malone has ordered Stogie Martin to keep an eye on you. Stogie resembles King Kong in a suit, so it is wise not to cross him.

Leaving your room, you are unsurprised to find that the 'Lucky Dice' hotel has its own casino, where you can play blackjack against any of five house players or try your luck on the fruit machines. However, getting out of the hotel is not easy - the only two methods I found are to either hit someone or take off your trench coat and trousers! Once outside, you find Las Vegas has changed a bit - apart from the hotel and a railway station there is nothing but desert. Thankfully trains leave to Los Angeles, St Louis, New York and your home town - Chicago - but for Stogie there is no place like home, and he will shoot you if you go anywhere else. Travelling around Chicago is by taxi with a deaf driver who needs to be shown where you want to go. This is where the real adventuring takes place as you explore seedy underworld locations in an attempt to recover Malone's dough.

As in the original Deja Vu, Ace Harding is controlled using a simple menu of just eight basic commands. Every location has beautifully detailed pictures which can be examined by clicking on various things. Objects are taken by simply dragging them from the picture into the inventory window. In addition, some items (coats, drawers etc.) may be opened to reveal further windows (containing their contents). Windows can be closed, moved around the screen and expanded/contracted.

Communication with other characters is limited to a simple speak command - this is the only time input is directly typed in. But most characters encountered are not exactly conversationalists and will only respond to strictly limited input.

The menu/window system is a pleasure to use, and eliminates the problems caused by obscure vocabulary in normal adventures - with a limited set of commands, all problems must be solved by lateral thinking instead of word guessing. Clues to the mystery of the missing dosh are hidden everywhere and you will have a wonderful time interpreting them. Location descriptions are brief (to fit into the smallish window) but contain plenty of acidic humour, and complement the truly excellent graphics to create a fine atmosphere, enhanced by occasional, but good, sound effects.

Deja Vu II is a worthy follow-up to the excellent, innovative original.