THE latest adventure to reach us from Activision is Mindfighter by Abstract Concepts, written by Anna Popkess and programmed by Fergus O'Neill, who is well known for his humorous and satirical adventures as The Boggit and The Colour of Magic.
This is the first adventure produced using the team's new operating system, SWAN - System Without A Name. The game has appeared across many formats, which suggests the system is machine independent, an important advantage for programmers and the distributors who have to meet launch dates.
The team's previous games with their special brand of humour have been very successful. Mindfighter is completely different. It is a departure from their previous style, both in programming and in the story content.
The main character is Robin, a fourteen-
Instead he wakes up to find a Southampton devastated by nuclear war. In addition to the horrors or rotting bodies, starvation and radiation sickness, there is also The System, a rigidly-
Back in the present, his friends manage to make contact with Robin, help him plan the defeat of The System and free the slaves. Robin then returns and they set out to prevent the war starting.
Adventures, however strange the setting, must have a consistent logic to be believable. Either by default, where there is little text and nearly all the detail comes from the player's imagination. Or, as in the case of games from Infocom, Level 9 and Magnetic Scrolls, where the text is lng, descriptive and carefully tailored to the plot. Mindfighter has long descriptive text but read in conjunction with the book it is inconsistent and illogical.
The 150 page book must be presumed to contain clues, and it is in reading this and playing the game that I found difficulty with the logic. Playing the game alone, albeit with its own inconsistencies, would probably not have caused the same build-up of disbelief.
SWAN will accept complex commands and there is some interaction with independent characters. The vocabulary does not seem to be very extensive and the interpreter's responses are limited. "That wasn't possible" appears with monotonous regularity.
This is frustrating. You do no know if you are simply tackling the right problem the wrong way, or if the words you are using aren't recognised. EXAME XXX often gets the bald statement "Robin couldn't examine that". One can live with these shortcomings, but they do not help the game's atmosphere.
Mindfighter has a totally illogical map. Not only can you travel east to go west but in some locations if you go south, the immediately north, you find an entirely different location. Again this is a question of logic. Although I found the mapping an enjoyable challenge, this type of confusion does not inspire confidence in the gameplay as a whole.
Pressing a mouse button or Return with no command entered, brings up an icon display window. This provides a number of options including ram or disc SAVE/LOAD, printer on/of, graphics on/of and OOPS.
The text is very descriptive, not for the squeamish, and dramatically sets the scene. The graphics occupy a small window across the top of the screen and add to the desolate atmosphere of the story. You will not find much humour in Mindfighter, and even Robin turns out to be a three times murderer.
This adventure is not my cup of tea and it will be interesting to hear what you think of it. But with so many previous hits to their credit, SWAN and Mindfighter surely only represent the beginning of what I hope will be a new and productive era for Abstract Concepts.