Reviews by Canalboy

Phoenix

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Kingdom of Hamil, by Jonathan Partington

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Kingdom Of Hamil - Jonathan Partington Shows Signs Of Mercy, April 20, 2021
by Canalboy (London, UK.)
Related reviews: Phoenix, Topologika, Mainframe, Kingdom of Hamil, Parser

With Kingdom of Hamil , or just Hamil as it was originally known in its mainframe form, the author Jonathan Partington chose to be a little more lenient with his player. He was the most prolific of the Phoenix IF authors in the seventies and eighties, with a particular penchant for large and innovatively tough mazes. While Hamil still has it fair share of them (including one maze which is included in the Phoenix version on this page but was omitted for reasons of space when the game was released by Acornsoft) the overall standard of puzzle is slightly easier than most he created over the years. Having said that there is still ample scope to make the game unwinnable which I managed several times. The inventory limit is set at seven items which seems to be the par for most of these games. Some objects have multiple uses while only one seems to be a red herring.

Mercifully there is no lamp timer in the game unlike Professor Partington's earlier co-authored work Acheton and it is significantly smaller than most of the other Phoenix efforts so easier to map. By modern standards it would still be considered large however. Location descriptions are brief but adequate with just the right amount of atmosphere thrown in. There is no option for VERBOSE, BRIEF etc. so full descriptions are only repeated when you LOOK. The converted mainframe version scores up to 300 points while the scaled down BBC one has a maximum of 250 points.

Like most of the Phoenix games the plot is merely a flimsy framework to support the pure beauty of the puzzles; you have discovered you are the heir to the throne of the kingdom and set out to try and reclaim what is rightfully yours. As well as this odyssey there are the usual treasures to collect and deposit in their rightful place to trigger the one move endgame. There is also an interesting twist at the end which reappraises the reason for your journey.

Most of the puzzles can be worked out either with a pen and paper (the game has its own code system which you will need to play around with at the beginning and very end of the game and mazes where every turn is crucial) or by trial and error. The game is not too strict in which order you choose to address the puzzles although there is one near the beginning that has to be solved in its entirety or victory is cut off. This should become apparent when you find it.

The terrain in the game is very unstable and there are frequent earthquakes and rock falls which add to the complexity of several areas and prevent backtracking. Try and leave nothing behind and deposit your items in a central location.

There is a particularly elegant problem involving a vampire which took me an age to crack but had me applauding when the penny finally dropped. Another that centres around Lewis Carroll's Hunting Of The Snark is also very clever and I think would have defeated me had I not played other games by the author and knew the way his mind works. I suppose this is rather like recognising the style of a cryptic crossword compiler in a daily newspaper.

A couple of annoyances include sudden death by one of a multitude of creatures if you hang about too long in one place and an object that it is impossible to hang on to for more than a few moves. This latter problem is exacerbated by the fact that it is impossible to SAVE your position in two of the game's mazes.

I would recommend a player try this game before attempting the other titles from the Cambridge stable with the possible exception of Sangraal by the same author.

There is the usual excellent two word parser and lack of an EXAMINE command which has polarised opinion over the years. TAKE ALL is implemented however.

Solve this and you may be ready for even tougher challenges from the Phoenix authors.






Parc, by John Rennie

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Parc - Old Phoenix Mainframe Game From 1983, March 18, 2021
by Canalboy (London, UK.)
Related reviews: Mainframe, Phoenix, Treasure Hunt, Alchemist, Parser

Parc by John Rennie is one of the lesser known of the Phoenix IBM mainframe adventures written between 1978 and 1989 and also one of the least large; I say least as that is only comparing it to monster games from the same stable like Acheton and Hezarin. It still weighs in at over 100 locations including two clever mazes (one external and one internal).

The back story (if ever these games really had them) is that you have volunteered to usurp an evil Alchemist named Ping Narott, a name which sounds like an anagram but isn't. His experiments have been making the good folk of Parcs' lives a misery. There are also 25 treasures to amass and store away somewhere inside the Alchemist's castle. Some of these treasures have dual roles as puzzle solving objects as well.

The game has the traditional excellent two word parser (TAKE ALL is allowed) and no EXAMINE command but this is seldom needed anyway as everything you need to know about an object is there for you.

Parc is atypical of the Phoenix games in so much as it has a strong chemical basis behind the plot; the usual mind bending mathematical posers conjured up by Jonathan Partington, Peter Killworth et al have been replaced by problems involving Indium, Zinc Sulphide, Radium etc.

The game takes place in three main areas: Inside the castle; West of the river and North of a chasm. Like most of these games there are a lot of one visit only areas and opportunities to miss a vital object and make the game unwinnable. Leave nothing behind as I only found one object that is never used out of about forty.

Having bashed my head against most of the Phoenix games I feel that it is one of the less difficult ones, but compared to Quondam and Xerb almost every piece of Interactive Fiction ever written would seem easier.

Richard Bos has written a .z5 file of progressive hints for Parc. I barely had to use them which is unusual for me when playing Phoenix games.

Most of the problems can be solved by lateral thinking or a visit to Wikipedia to check out the properties of a particular chemical compound, but there is one particular problem that had me stuck for ages; having seen the solution I can confidently aver I would never have deduced it between now and the Sun becoming a Red Giant and swallowing the Solar System. Suffice to say it involves an IBM 370 Mainframe computer and a FORTRAN IV Manual. Well quite. Thirty-eight year old in-jokes do pall somewhat.

I found one proper bug involving freezing an object and a few typos but nothing to affect the playing of the game itself.

There is the traditional endgame if you manage to vanquish the Alchemist and store all 25 treasures but it is something of a let down.

If you manage to stumble on a Pig's Ear in the game (and I expect you will) it means that you have screwed up and can't win. A change from Acheton's hideous voice I suppose.

Parc is of course Crap backwards but I feel that Yhtrow would be more appropriate.

I played the game via WinFrotz v 1.19. Kudos to David Kinder, Adam Atkinson and the rest of the boys for making these old games available to play on modern pcs.



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