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Epic's 'Adventure', July 19, 2019
Epic Adventures, a small company operating out of a terrace house in Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire, were nevertheless one of the biggest and best known producers of text adventure games for the Acorn Electron. The Kingdom of Klein was their third release.
Perhaps surprisingly, The Kingdom of Klein shows a stronger influence of Crowther and Woods' 'Adventure' than either of the author's previous two games. It's a cave crawl, the aim being to restore the Klein Bottle to its rightful place on a pedestal in the King's palace. Along the way you'll also have to find the five Platonic solids. It's a big game, boasting 230 locations, and this, along with a superior parser, was a big selling point for Epic's catalogue. In reality, it's one of the game's biggest flaws, and all of Melvyn Wright's games suffer from the same problem. Most of those 230 rooms are there simply to represent distance and scale. To give an example, at one point in the game you find yourself on an open plain. To cross it, you must go west 11 times! Later in the game you find yourself in a ravine which requires you to go east 18 times before you arrive at where you need to be. A mountain takes 10 moves to climb up and down, and so on. This might be acceptable once, but the game requires you to constantly retrace your steps and traverse the same terrain. Needless to say, most of these intermediary locations are empty and have nearly identical descriptions.
The puzzles are very much in the spirit of 'Adventure', but completely original. Wands and magic spells feature heavily and some of the solutions are rather under-clued, though the hint sheet provided makes up for this. For the purposes of this review I played with the help of Dorothy Millard's CASA walkthrough, but when I reached the point where I had given up in the 1980s, I was actually surprised at how close my teenage self had got to the end. There's a fairly generous inventory limit, but it can still be a problem given the size of the map. For a cassette-based game written in 1984, the parser is remarkably robust, and I had no problems making the game understand what I wanted to do. The parser in Epic's later The Lost Crystal is even more impressive.
Returning to The Kingdom of Klein after 35 years, the game, though bug-free and solidly programmed, is definitely showing its age. I'd be hard pressed to recommend it to a modern IF player, but for those interested in IF history it's an interesting artefact, clearly influenced by 'Adventure' but not in any way derivative of it. Three stars.