Suspicious Cargo logo

Set in a microcosm reminiscent of the Cyberpunk universe, Suspicious Cargo follows the plight of the (anti-)hero: Jona Haynes, or plain-and-simple Mr Haynes to his enemies. He's a space cowboy that has a death-wish. Our Jonah, bears more than a passing resemblance to Han Solo: he's a fly-by-night devious smuggler who usually falls flat on his face. He has been commissioned, albreit involuntary, by his creditors Universal Products (a world-wide megacorp) to deliver a package of illicit description to Earth.

Why is Jonah on this adventure? Well the scenario so far is that worldwide chaos and disorder was caused by the Hyper-Z virus which devastated the planet during the late 20th century. Several corporations developed antidotes for the virus. Instead of mass producing them cheaply, for the good of all humanity, they exploited their monopoly into a position of such power that they effectively controlled the world.

These megacorps, each believing themselves invincible, soon began to fight amongst each other for a greater share of the potential market for their medicines, which by their addictive nature had become a form of drug the population was now dependent upon.

They were now powerful enough to sling loads of conventional hardware at each other, many seeking additional advantage by resorting to their medical know-how and developing fiendish new biological and genetic weapons, to give them that extra edge required to help them become all-dominant. Universal Products followed this dubious and questionable path and decided to developed a totally new kind of genetically engineered being. A mutant not to be messed with...

Blue hotel
Due to the nature of the cargo he has been instructed to carry, it is of utmost importance that the package be delivered safe and sound as quickly as possible. Waking up from his casket in the Coffin hotel where he's staying, Hayes is informed of the task he has been forced to undertake by a note delivered to him by a mean messenger, along with a navigational cartridge to aid him in his travels. From here on, it's up to you.

Getting into the game is rather difficult, because death has an overwhelming (and annoyingly frequent) presence. But then, what kind of an adventure is easy anyway? Adventure game? Aaaaarghhh! Loads of typing!

Gremlin have been rather adventurous themselves in this game and have employed a totally new user interface, with the use of a very intelligent icon system. Essentially this means instead of having to type in your commands all the time (although you can if you want to and get messages like "Can't understand words 'commit suicide'." you can use the program's icon system which contains pictorial representations of all the commands necessary to play the game.

This adventurous input system makes the game flow a lot faster than most adventure games, a common problem being lack of speed, as such makes it a lot more playable. Even if you are foolish enough to try and use the parser (the text translator) you'll find that it copes admirably with most of what you can throw at it.

Sixth sense
Another excellent feature is the map facility. This can be extremely useful, enabling you to see exactly where you are on any of the ships and also to see where the other characters are at any one time. It also serves as a tool to allow you to select where you want to go on the spacecraft by simply clicking the required destination on the map. This saves a lot of hassle by eliminating the need to create your own map, and allowing you to cross the ship quickly and easily without having to remember the name of the room you want to go to.

3am Eternal
If adventure games aren't usually your sort of thang, you'll probably find this one compelling and will keep you hacking through to the early hours until you progress to a respectable level. The game system works well and provides an easy way of controlling the game.

In-game graphics are understandably limited, but what there is, is good - the game often has incidental screens that appear when selected, to give a view of the current scene. Sound is sparse, but then what would you expect from an adventure game? For novelty, there are also a few interactive arcadey-type incidental games, which add little to the game, but are nevertheless interesting and add a nice little touch.

Suspicious Cargo logo

Lang, lang ist's her, daß sich Gremlin-Kunden mit "F.O.F.T." und anderen Beinahe-Flops herumärgern mußten - mittlerweile hat sich die Company einen ausgezeichneten Ruf erarbeitet. Aber was für Actiongames gilt, muß ja nicht zwangsläufig auch für Textadventures gelten. Oder etwa doch?

Zwangsläufig sicher nicht, in diesem Fall stimmt's aber trotzdem. Allerdings bekommt man es hier eben mit einem richtigen Textadventure im klassischen Sinn (scheinen wieder in Mode zu kommen, die Dinger...) zu tun, was an Grafik vorhanden ist, dient nur als Beiwerk.

Wer sich also eine Präsentation à la Lucasfilm erwartet, wird enttäuscht - wem es hingegen um eine originelle Story geht, der könnte von Suspicious Cargo sogar richtiggehend begeistert sein!

Hier ist nämlich ausnahmsweise mal nicht das halbe Universum in Gefahr, sondern (vorerst) nur der Kontostand eines gewissen Jonah Hayes, eines Zeichens Captain eines betagten Raumfrachters und immer verschuldet bis über beide Ohren.

Zur Zeit hängt unser Space-Desperado auf dem Saturnmond Titan herum, und nirgendwo ist ein lukrativer Transport in Sicht. Daher kommt ihm der dubiose Auftrag eines mächtigen Konzerns gerade recht, mag es sich auch hundertmal um eine brandheiße Schmuggelfracht zur Erde handeln.

Dumm ist nur, daß die örtlichen Behörden den Braten schon gerochen haben, deshalb sollte Captain Hayes den Pronto-Gang einlegen und sich umgehend mit dem synthetischen Kampfandroiden (die illegale Ladung) aus dem kosmischen Staub machen. Allein das entpuppt sich bereits als schweißtreibender Wettlauf gegen den Zoll, äh, die Zeit, und danach fängt das von Piraten, Agenten der Konkurrenz-firmen und Weltraum-Cops bevölkerte Theater erst so richtig an...

Kleine, optionale Actionszenen (z.B. Türenknacken oder Mondlandungen) sorgen für Abwechslung, und knobelige aber lösbare Rätsel wärmen das Herz jedes rechten Galakto-Abenteuers. Trotz des netten Intros kann das Lob, wie schon angedeutet, für die Optik leider nicht gelten: Der Hauptscreen ist geradezu die Antithese augenfreundlicher Gestaltungskunst, auch, wenn Digi-Portraits eventueller Gesprächspartner eingeblendet werden. Die gelegentlich auftauchenden Zwischengrafiken sind manchmal hübsch, des öftern sogar animiert, aber meist qualitativ mindestens so zweifelhaft wie Jonahs Fracht.

Und auch der Sound mit seiner düsteren Titelmelodie und den dreieinhalb Piepsern während des Spiels ist genretypisch karg ausgefallen. Uneingeschränkt lobenswert dagegen der Bedienungskomfort: Der Parser geht voll in Ordnung, und wer nicht tippen mag, kann das gesamt Game über ein trickreiches und narrensicheres Maus/Icon system steuern. Ja, es ist sogar möglich, die "Benutzeroberfläche" des Programms zu verändern (größeres Textfeld, andere Schrift usw.).

Unter dem Strich, ist Suspicous Cargo also ein feines, kleines Computerabenteuer für Sternenfahrer mit soliden Englischkenntnissen. Und das ist doch schon eine ganze Menge, oder? (jn)

Suspicious Cargo logo

Text adventures are undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment - Magnetic Scrolls revamp their classics, and Infocom now re-release their golden oldies at a snip of the price. Now Gremlin have jumped on the bandwagon with Suspicious Cargo, a futuristic story of intrigue and huge 'big brother' corporations.

The plot unravels through the eyes of Jonah Hayes, a seedy character who is 'persuaded' to smuggle to Earth illegal mutant immigrants from Titan. The screen display borrows elements from Magnetic Scrolls' innovative approach, with the text input occupying most of the screen. Alongside are icons that control basic functions: opening doors, picking up objects, etc. The screen is adjustable to fit the needs of the player, but text input is often the best method for getting across ideas to the parser.

Scattered throughout the game are arcade sequences, clumsily called 'interactives', which include landing on the moon and fighting off boarders. These sequences can be bypassed, which makes their inclusion in an adventure rather redundant (fans of the genre are notoriously unwilling to play arcade games).

The plot itself is enticing, although toggling through all those icons to find the one you want gets tedious very quickly.

Suspicious Cargo is by no means a bad game, and it's good to see software houses paying more adventures of this kind. Where this game falls down, however, is that the Magnetic Scrolls Collection offers three excellent adventures for around the same asking price, making this attractive only to those who've exhausted all the other cut-price games.

Still, I hope to see more games using the same system, as adventurers deserve new products - just like shoot 'em up buffs.