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The Thirty-Nine Steps

by Jack Lockerby

Espionage, Literary

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About the Story

Your same is RICHARD HANWAY, a retired mining engineer, bored with having a life of inactivity in London. That is all about to change when one evening in early May an American named Scadder, who lived in the flat above your own, suddenly bursts into your living-room with an unbelievable tale of killers, spies and murder!

He is in such a state that you allow him to take refuge in your flat. Over the next couple of days he tells you about a secret organisation known as "The Black Stone" and about a little black book pinpointing the location of their headquarters - the book was written in code of course!

Returning late one evening, from your club, you find the American lying an the floor of your flat - dying of stab wounds. The only course open to you to continue the fight against Scadder's murderers and, as the circumstances surrounding his death could make YOU the logical suspect, you resolve to journey to Scotland the very next day. After all, had Scadder not already informed you that the anarchists have a "hide-out" there?

Unbeknown to you, however, there are TWO men watching your flat. Are they the killers? It will be up to you to discover the truth behind this and many other puzzling situations ... Are YOU up to the challenge?

Game Details

Editorial Reviews

Jack Lockerby's 39 Steps seems to be a faithful copy of the style and plot of the classic old thriller, which was first published in 1915, and although Lockerby has retained the same flavour and sense of urgency in his game, the text isn't as dated (or as politically incorrect) as the original. [...]

Perhaps because I was immediately gripped by the plot and tension of this adventure, all the usual annoyances apparent in any Spectrum-emulated game were irrelevant - the unfolding story and the puzzles far outweighed the minor inconveniences and technical shortcomings of The 39 Steps.
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Member Reviews

Number of Reviews: 1
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Nintendo Hard Spectrum game (RR #16), July 18, 2015

The Thirty-Nine Steps by Jack Lockerby is a mystery/detective-like game based on the same-titled book by John Buchan. I'm not familiar with the source material, but games based on works of literature, movies, etc. are generally something I would like to see a lot more often.

This is a ZX Spectrum game, which will likely limit your save options to only one save state (ramsave), unless you're an expert with the system, I guess. The slowness of the parser is a huge problem, more often than not letters are swallowed because the software cannot keep up with an average typing speed. After doing some research I assume this to be a problem of the hardware itself.

The Thirty-Nine Steps has some interesting features. The room description is displayed in a separated partition on top of the screen and updated in real time. Likewise, the passage of time moves the game time forward. Time window puzzles combined with the abovementioned typing speed limitation lead to frenzied backspace manias.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is an extremely hard game. There is little time for exploration (literally), objects are barely manipulable and usually hidden (sometimes even in plain sight). The inventory management is sluggish and confusing, the size of items seems to matter when putting them in a container, but illogical situations still arise (e.g. placing a table in your coat pocket). Puzzles pretty much require you to know exactly what the author intended you to do. Even when you have stumbled on the solution to a problem, you will be forced to start this game again and again to optimize your path - wasting time will make you miss the time windows and leave you in limbo. In one situation you are required to carry no items in your inventory (except if they are in your container) - you better anticipated this and dropped all items you deemed unnecessary for your progress ON THE DAY BEFORE!

I managed to complete a fifth of the game, based on the score, but got stuck in an illogical situation where a cab driver rats you out to the police even though you have never met him before (or committed a crime, for that matter).

This game is not necessarily bad, but its crazy difficulty ensures that you will not get far without a walkthrough (to my knowledge, none exists) if you're not a text adventure god with a lot of time on your hands.

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Games that are adaptations of conventional (not CYOA) books by ChrisM
I'm interested in games that are straightforward adaptations of conventional books (probably novels, but I'd be interested to know if there are any non-fiction book adaptations). The ones that I know of are The Famous Five and The...

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