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About the Story
As a local historian, you had been allowed into the great library of Karoway Manor. There between the pages of an ancient book you found a seemingly much older sheet of paper. it told of a stone gateway to the mythical land of karos opening only at midnight on the summer solstice. Were it not for the majestic stone arch in the centre of the manor lawn, and that it was by then dusk on MidSummer's Day, you might have replaced the page without a thought...
I have just finished play testing Derek Haslam's new version of this game for RISC OS emulators. Thirty-nine years after the original Acornsoft version was released the author has extensively rewritten and expanded the game into a highly entertaining 296 room odyssey to claim the magical Talisman of Khoronz and return with it to Carraway Court (together with various assorted plunder you have accumulated along your quixotic way). Freeing himself from the memory shackles of the old 32K BBC the programmer has been able to produce a much more interesting and absorbing experience.
I have seldom played a text adventure which has the almost perfect melding of back story and puzzle fest. Derek is a natural writer and the world of the island of Karos (together with sundry small islands scattered around its coast) is woven skilfully around the story of the wizard Khoronz and his battle against the evil Vork.
The game encompasses many regions, from snowy mountain passes to treacherous swamps (watch what you are wearing) and thick forest. A castle sitting on a remote island, a deep and hazardous coal mine traversing a large underground region and stone barrows containing hidden clues are all to be explored and the game also features many NPCs, both friendly and informative ones who will impart essential information, sell you essential items (the barter system is de rigueur in some cases) and sometimes kill you. There are volcanic eruptions, sea monsters, wolves and kobolds to deal with, together with the most original use for an anvil that I have ever come across. It is possible to circumnavigate the island of Karos on a craft and there are several landing spots but be careful as it is very easy to drown on needle rocks or be sucked into a whirlpool amongst other entry points to Davy Jones's Locker. You will need a certain amount of nautical know-how to manoeuvre the boat correctly.
One unusual facet of the game is movement. In the main part of the island the normal eight compass directions plus up and down and occasionally in and out are used but indoors and occasionally at the more far flung regions left, right, forwards and backwards are used. This took me a while to perfect but it actually works very well once you get your head around the logistical concept.
The game does feature a very generous lamp timer, a continually descending number of energy points (you start with 1000 and lose one for each move or occasionally more at sea) but these can be replenished in several ways. There are no thirst or hunger timers. I particularly like the lamp icon which appears in the top left hand corner of the screen to remind you if it is on or off.
The inventory limit is set at a very high number and realistically heavier objects are more difficult to carry; indeed one can only be dragged. Almost every item has at least one use so discard nothing. Occasionally you will receive a helpful message stating that an item is no longer needed after you have used it for a particular task.
I finally finished after approximately fifteen upgraded versions and amassed over a thousand points although there was one treasure I did not collect along the way.
The fully released final version will include an incremented hint system at certain locations where continually typing "hint" or "help" will give you clues of gradually increasing helpfulness. This function is likely to get a fair amount of use as the puzzles in the game are sometimes far from easy but always fair. I don't think that it is possible to put the game into an unwinnable state without the player being aware of the fact.
I would definitely advise creating a map as the island is so large you will get lost on more than one occasion and the layout may even suggest a problem solution or two.
I thoroughly recommend giving this Tolkienesque work a go. Details of where to download the game are available on CASA. It can also be downloaded from Derek's web site http://www.boulsworth.co.uk/intfict/index.htm
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