For this round-up, we've selected three October releases from Microdeal (with Cuthbert at large again) and two recent releases from other companies, including an interactive adventure from Virgin and another adventure with educational overtones. Follow Bryan Skinner and Mike Gerrard as they travel with Cuthbert and explore castles.
Success in Castle Adventure, from Virgin Games, requires that you rescue the Staff of Gamroth from within the Castle and return with it safely to the drawbridge through which you entered. As you stand there, wondering how to get in the fortress, you might be tempted to read the sign: "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here". Ignoring a byster's suggestion that I type LEAVE BOB BEHIND, I tried GO EAST - only to fall in the moat and drown! Not an auspicious start.
This is a text-only game and even the text formatting leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps I've been spoiled by adventure games of increasingly high quality recently and this is certainly not in the same class. In fact, it's a bit of a let-down. The screen display is limited to a brief description of where you are, what you can see, and where you can go - North, South, East, West, Up, Down.
INVENTORY tells you what you have with you and you even get one or two items that you've not previously taken! LOOK is a similar one word command, the rest being the noun-verb pairing. There's no character profile and it's all too easy to get done in by the many and various unpleasant manifestations that pop up frequently.
I felt no desire to rescue the staff, who were probably having more fun watching telly in the servants' quarters.
There used to be a magician whose speciality was that he "fills the stage with flags", and you job in Crazy Painter is to fill the screen with paint, moving your brush around with either joystick or the arrow keys, and for once this is a game where keyboard control seems preferable.
There are eight levels of difficulty, from A to H, the latter presumably standing for Hilariously Suicidal, and you can start a game on any level.
The usual choice of three background colours applies, and you have four pots and give brushes, or lives. One pot should just fill the screen, if carefully applied, and you're given an extra pot for each completed screen.
To prevent you from giving your paintwork a lovely finish there are more hazards than I've encountered in a day's do-it-yourself, starting with dogs who tramp muddy pawmarks across the screen, moths who zig-zag down, balloons that rise up, caterpillars that drift waywardly across, and boys who have the helpful habit of dropping turpentine just where you've painted!
An amusing and frenetic game which has you dashing frantically about to a jaunty background medley which includes Whistle While You Work and Whistle A Happy Tune. Good graphics too.
If you've any energy left you can then try Cuthbert Goes Digging, which might better be called Cuthbert Goes Bonkers, and which for me was a disappointment. If Microdeal wants to do something with its Cuthbert character then it should be a bit more inventive than merely to recycle arcade games. What's next? - Cuthbert Plays Space Invaders?
Not that there's anything wrong with Space Panic or whatever else you know this game as, where meanies chase you along a network of platforms and ladders while you try to lure them into holes to enable you to rearrange their heads with a shovel.
The action's fast and it's a reasonable arcade clone.
There was, though, either a bug in the program or a bug in me, because after half an hour's playing I hadn't scored a single point, being unable to put Cuthbert in just the right position for bashing meanies. They simply wouldn't plunge through the holes, though if there's a problem in the program, it's presumably just on this pre-production review copy.
For those who can manage it, the game offers eight skill levels, ranging from six pursuing meanies to thirteen, and either keyboard or joystick control. There's the usual disappearing oxygen and a chance to enter your name in the Hall of Fame - or in my case the Hall of Shame.
Preferable is Cuthbert in the Jungle, even if our hero has managed to change his appearance slightly in the meantime in infiltrating himself into yet another arcade variation. Here it's joysticks only as you manoeuvre Cuthbert along a jungle landscape offering more hazards than Tarzan ever had to face.
You begin with three lives and a timer ticking down from 20 minutes. You have 2,000 points to your credit, decreasing every time you bump into a rolling log or fall into a pit or experience some other minor disaster, and increasing for each piece of treasure you find.
Among the hazards are quicksand that appears and disappears, pools full of alligators that must be bounded across when their mouths are closed, snakes, scorpions and burning fires to jump over, and lakes to swing across by grabbing a handy vine.
There's also an underground passage, safer but less rewarding, and you can run along this or above ground in either direction. The only disappointment is the graphics, which are a little on the simple side, but it proved an enjoyable game to come back to again and again.
Giant's Castle from Dungeon Software is billed as an adventure game for the younger player. Your aim is to rescue a beautiful princess from the giant's domain - what would a seven-year-old girl make of that, I wonder? To do this you have to answer a number of questions put to you by various characters you meet, such as a 'deformed witch'.
The locations are poorly described, being mostly of the form "You are in a dank/dark/slimy cavern/cave/pit" and there's a lot of repetition of rather unimaginative screen displays.
Questions range from vocabulary - "What do you call someone who flies an aeroplane?"; anagrams - "What is the vegetable - RPIAPNS"; to maths - "What is 6 + 4?". If you enter TEN to this, you get 'ERROR-REDO' - so the error trapping is almost non-existent.
I found the direct encouragement of aggression rather hard to swallow; if you get caught by the skull-crushers you're told to "Go on, give them a good punch"...!
Quite frankly, I wouldn't let children anywhere near this program. It's not particularly good, but also its outlook is limited and its purpose obscure. There's a lot of poor 'educational software' on the market and we're just beginning to see some very good pieces appearing. There's no excuse for poor programming or lack of design just because you're producing a program for younger children. Quite the reverse. I have to report "2/10, could do much better with a little thought and effort".