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A large, solidly built game with a promisingly starting plot. And even if the latter finally doesn't live up to the expectations, turning into a treasure hunt; the parser is rather primitive by modern standards; the player is treated most unfairly (not to mention such trifles as sudden deaths without the possibility of undoing the fatal action, and landing in a "cul-de-sac" without warning, this is the only game I've ever encountered that can be made unwinnable by simply saving it! As the authors explain, that's done to avoid "brute-force" solutions to some of the puzzles; still, it'd be nice if the players at least received a warning about it); and the game requires from you to slay a few people for no apparent reason, this work still remains admirable in several respects. Among them are the clever Shakespeare references (the game starts with the player character being magically transferred to Shakespearian time), the humour (admitted, it may appear odd to some people, but fortunately for me, I seem to share the authors' preferences in this regard), and, of course, the fulcrum of the whole game, the puzzles (to tell the truth, the ones in the last of the three structural sections of the game appeared to overuse the "try a random object in a random situation and see what happens" kind of approach (at least, to me), but most of them were logical and elegant). Thus, if you are a puzzle-lover, and the aforementioned issues don't scare you away, you should give it a try.
-- Valentine Kopteltsev
Gunther Upon Avon
Of the Topologika games out there, Avon is definitely one of the easier ones. Don't, however, expect an intricate plot or story; Avon is, at its heart, a collection of puzzles written by an University professor for a group of University students and therefore the story is "you're trapped in this strange world; try and escape while enjoying the tons of Shakespeare references" -- but due to its nature it's great fun to play, and the lack of hideously devious puzzles helps, too. (Gunther Schmidl)
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If you are fond of Shakespeare you will enjoy the numerous quotations and meeting familiar characters .... the King and his three daughters,the lady with the caskets (which one will you chose?) Shylock asking for his pound of flesh, the ghost at the banquet, Falstaff who challenges you to a drinking bout, and many more. You will visit Bosworth Field and the Forest of Arden and the Capitol, but beware the Ides of March, or you will come to an untimely end.
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That is the tempting question the game asks you after you've typed QUIT. Many times I responded YES to just try and avoid that last nasty trap one more time.
Avon was originally written in 1982 in Cambridge University as a mainframe game. It was later released by the Topologika company. After reading some background information, I get the impression that the good folks at Topologika have shaved and polished off a lot of the splinters and rough edges of the original.
While it is still possible to die, you only do so when you have actually made a wrong move or choice. There are lots of unhinted traps where you die on entry. In these instances you are asked "Now you probably wish you didn't do that, don't you?", giving you the chance to continue the game from that location. You do lose the opportunity to "solve" the trap and get the points this way.
I put "solve" between quotation marks because there are very few actual puzzles in Avon. There are many unannounced death-traps, a lot of riddles where you get only one chance and you must have found a clue beforehand (no lucky guesses!) and a few easy mazes. A few playthroughs are needed to locate the traps and the clues and passwords, and only then can one hope to put them in the right order and solve the game.
I know that if I were to read a game described as above, I'd probably run away. Fortunately I had almost no information on it when going in. Avon is actually a really fun game. The generous helping of Shakespeare quotes (often in inappropriate contexts) are funny, the parser and narrator are friendly and polite, descriptions are over the top in a good way...
Two more things to persuade you to play: a) at one point you get an ass's head on your neck, and b) this game contains one of the dumbest and funniest puns in any IF I have ever played.
Unfair, sure, but fun!
If you enjoyed Avon...
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