WHAT is the secret identity of this superhero? Is it Ed, the high flying executive? No. Is it Armitage, the brilliant washbasin? No. Is it Joe, the mild mannered window cleaner? Could be.
Life as a window cleaner is not much fun. Tired of cleaning in the sunshine or staying home to watch the rain? So what are you going to do about it? Well, for a start you could do something about Ed, your fascist boss on secondment from the Waffen SS.
You just were not cut out for following orders. Stand up to him - or better still run away, get away, far away. But where to?
Without giving too much away, it is fairly obvious from the title that there is going to be some sort of time travel involved - plus some trouble perhaps at a lesser known publishing house - so mapping may involve donning the pointy ears and taking a correspondence course in non-euclidian geometry.
Thus you embark on a journey which will pit you against aliens, spear wielding guards, savage chickens, mechanical monsters, swamps and the inevitable mad monks who will beat you to death as soon as they pray for you. Better remember to take a packed lunch.
If you think Wimp adventure is one where you must find a cure for your acne or rescue your pet hamster from the top of the wardrobe, then check this out. All actions are performed with the mouse. Position the pointer anywhere in the play area, click the button and your character will move towards it. Not only that, but it does it intelligently, avoiding obstacles where it can. The mouse can also select options from a set of text gadgets for the manipulation of objects. For example, if you choose Examine you will get a roving crosshair which will identify any objects it passes over. Further information is given by pressing the left button. Be sure to examine everything very thoroughly - some objects are very small indeed. In a similar way you can take, use or operate any object on the screen or any of the objects in your inventory which pop up as text gadgets whenever relevant.
Graphically the game is wonderful, as you might expect from the same French programming team who brought you Bio Challenge. The play area varies in size, adding variety and creating some very nice effects, especially the screens which have been edges with silhouettes in the foreground. All that and animation too.
From a puzzle point of view, Future Wars is tough. A few of the objects are pixel-sized and microdot precision is needed to negotiate some of the obstacles you face. Speed is also a factor - one problem requires you to plot out your route well to advance if you are to deliver the goods on time, and even then you have only get about 50 per cent chance. If you have a death wish, you have a choice of around a couple of hundred ways to die, all of them quick but not always painless (Well, some of them brought tears to my eyes). With about 100 locations, a quick sum will tell you are in constant danger.
The abundance of routes to a swift demise and the policy of keeping the player in the dark not only breeds paranoia but also helps to keep the game alive as you progress through it, striking the happy balance between frustration and boredom. You honestly do not know what is going to happen next. Future Wars and the Cinematique adventure system may owe some of its design to earlier efforts such as the Sierra On-Line series - for example the character's movement directed by the mouse pointer - but it is several miles further along the path to icon driven adventure enlightenment. Nice one.