Pointing the way ahead

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EVIL was abroad and the land was suffering. The crops had failed three years in a row, then the water had become foul. Many people moved away to the north in the hope of escaping the pestilence, but to no avail.

It was decided to seek the help of a wizard, so a party of four departed. They were never seen again. The situation is getting more desperate, so another party must go in search of a solution.

You play the part of Tag, the apprentice food merchant who has been chosen to accompany Bergon the carpenter, Praxis the wizard and Esther the physician on a journey to discover what is happening to the land. Hopefully they will be able to put things right again.

Journey is the story of their travels and their encounters with elves, trolls, dwarves, nymphs, wizards and many other creatures.
The aim of the first part of the adventure is to reach the castle of the wizard Astrix. Here you will learn of the amulets of power which need to be collected and returned to Astrix so that he can battle with the Dark Lord and free the land.

Playing Journey is like taking part in a book. Decisions that you make from time to time lead the story to different directions. Along the way there are many problems to solve, decisions about what direction to take and how best to fight enemies without getting yourself or your companions killed.

The story can proceed in many different ways and has many endings, but only one is correct. Can you make the right decisions or will your party meet the same fate as your predecessors?

You are presented with a screen which is split into three parts. One displays a picture of the current scene and another the story text. At the bottom is a list of currently available commands. Click the mouse on one to execute it.

The pictures, drawn by artist Donald Langosy, are very pretty but do not seem to offer any clues. They appear to be just so much window dressing. The story, written by Marc Blank who co-authored the original mainframe version of Zork, is quite an interesting read in its own right. The game is entirely mouse driven so there is no need to type a single word, although you can use the keyboard if you wish.

Packaging is, as always with Infocom games, very good. There is a map which is needed to complete the game and a little bag containing a strange crystalline object - its purpose remains obscure, but I think it is something to do with magic.

As the packaging is essential to complete the game, it means the disc can be left unprotected for easy backups or transfer to a hard drive.

If you do not like reading much, then you probably will not like Journey. On the other had, if you like settling down with a good book and would love to be able influence events in the story, this style of adventure will suit you down to the ground.

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Death, pestilence, famine and other nasty thinkgs have stricken the once fair lands and it seems that only Asterix the wizard can save the populace from complete despair. Only problem is, Asterix opted out of the rat race some time ago. He now lives along atop a mountain and he is none too keen to receive visitors, so the first task in this keyword-driven adventure is to guide a party of (up to five) characters to Asterix and ask his help.

The screen is divided into three main sections: the top left is given over to small pictures of the various locations, the top right is where the text messages and general location descriptions appear and the bottom part of the screen is where you select various keywords that advance the adventure. The keywords offered for selection depend on the characters in the party, their current situation (they might be in the middle of a battle, or preparing to camp for the night, for instance) and the location. So playing the game is very easy and consists of simply reading the messages and deciding which actions to take.

Once you have found your way to Asterix's abode, the adventure really starts. The quest involves searching through the kingdoms of Dwarves, Elves, Nymphs and other creatures both fair and foul for seven sacred amulets that will enable the wizard to fight the Dread Lord. Progress is generally rapid if a little common sense is applied, but if you are completely stuck the 'musings' option at the end of the game hints at actions that you should have taken.

Altogether, Journey is good fun. The keyword system is simple and easy to use and the puzzles are all very logical and intriguing. It obviously won't appeal to hardened shoot-em-up fans, but anyone who likes games that require thought input will be rewarded with many hours of enjoyment.


The small pictures are adequate, but not superb. Still, there are plenty of them and they help to add to the atmosphere created mainly by the text. As for sound: forget it (on a basic A500 anyway). The lack of sound does little to detract from the game however, so do not let it put you off.

Journey logo Zzap! Sizzler

Infocom, Amiga £29.99

What is this? Arguably the world's greatest rock group on your Amiga? No, in fact it is another prime American export - an Infocom adventure set in a mythical, Tolkienesque land, populated by dwarves, elves and even stranger creatures than those found in ZZAP! Towers.

As ever, this is a time of crisis; the land's once prosperous people have suffered the ravages of disease and famine for five long years. The cause of this misery is known as the Evil One, or Dread Lord. And the only chance of vanquishing him is to find the last of the great wizards, Astrix (sounds familiar). But he lives in solitude in a tower on the summit of the distant Sunrise mountain. So four brave villagers are set to take on this most difficult of journeys through unknown lands: Praxix the wizard, Bergon the carpenter, Esther the physician, and last but not least apprentice food merchant and the narrator of this tale, Tag. Minar, the optional fifth member of the party may be recruited at the local pub.

In yet another adventure requiring not typed input, commands are issued by using the mouse to point to them. Each character has up to three options depending on the location. Some of these are duplicated by other characters but the result of, say, Esther (the physician) examining an injured person is more useful than if Bergon carries out the examination. Therefore, each character's particular skills are needed for different tasks. In addition to the usual adventuring commands, characters will occasionally be willing to tell a legend or story, giving a detailed history of a currently relevant place or people. Praxix (the wizard) also has the unique ability to cast spells, using the magical essences inside his leather pouch (more of these essences can be found during the journey). Among the numerous spells available are levitation, tremor and wind.

As well as individual actions, the whole party may be directed to follow the current route, turn left or right at a junction, or enter buildings. If hostile creatures are encountered, a simple combat routine comes into operation. Just before fighting takes place, the option is given to send one or two characters down the flanks to get behind the enemy. From then on, combat is automatic, the only options being to continue fighting or retreat (if possible). Praxix can also cast a spell at the enemy, although it takes him some time to prepare. There are no hit points as such - characters can either be wounded or killed.

Screen layout is neat, consisting of three windows for commands (along the bottom), detailed text (on the right), and beautifully drawn pictures (on the left), although there is not always a new picture for each location.

The story itself takes much inspiration from Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings - here, instead of nine magic rings, there are seven coloured stones to find in order to defeat The Evil One. But there is a wealth of interesting background information built into the game, especially in the legend and stories. In fact, the sheer volume and quality of text soon has you totally absorbed in a marvellous, magical tale.

The input system works so well that the only problems encountered are intentional ones in this challenging quest. With persistence (especially at finding the only route up Sunrise Mountain from 64 possible ones), reaching Astrix does not prove that difficult. However, finding the seven magical stones is a considerably more difficult task, requiring many hours of thoughtful play. The fact that progress becomes harder the further you get makes it that much more compelling - you are hardly likely to give up after travelling such a long way. And if you get completely stuck, the musings feature (where Tag looks back at possible mistakes along the journey) is a useful last resort.

The only real flaw in the game is the lack of exploratory freedom due to the somewhat fixed storyline from which you cannot stray too far. But if you are a fan of Infocom's interactive fiction style, this is a highly polished and engrossing example.