Africa Gardens

Producer: Gilsoft
Memory required: 48K
Retail price: £5.95
Language: Machine code
Author: Tom Davies

Title screen

Under the general heading of The Gold Collection, Africa Gardens is one of Gilsoft’s new adventure games which has been written with The Quill adventure writing utility. While the game loads, there is a very detailed title-page to admire, showing a low wall, topped with luxuriant foliage and split by a large stairway leading up to the colonial-looking mansion which tops the hill. A board in the garden says, Africa Gardens Hotel.

After a long journey you find yourself standing outside the faded Victorian guest house under a cold, wintry sky. Evening is closing in with misty rain adding its eerily swirling touch to the Hammer horror film-like scene-setter. You are told, ‘Mr Robinson insists on your every comfort in the hope that you will extend your stay. Indeed, Mr Robinson hopes that you may be amongst his many guests who feel they can never leave.’

With this chilling formal courtesy, the player is led into a deceptively quiet, elegant and respectable mansion redolent of past guests and their comfortable stays. The mechanics of the game are what we are used to. You can get objects, drop them and ‘spell’ them, which releases any latent magical powers or breaks other spells. Some objects may help, others may hinder or not be needed until later — and as yet unknown — locations. Africa Gardens uses the Quill’s inbuilt objects conveyable figure, which means you may only carry four at a time. A lit candle may be a boon for this murky hotel’s upper reaches, and to have the Book of Spells is sheer magic (power to your elbow). Needless to say, Africa Gardens has its very own secret room, a few priest-holes and its hidden treasure that is very well hidden! Unlike many hotels, this one has only one exit, and the management sincerely hope you don’t get to use it!

Although very largely text only, the author has dropped into a few sudden graphics here and there.

CRITICISM

‘Quilled adventures have an instant response to input, so there’s no waiting around. The text is very clear, with usable objects tagged by coloured bars, some of which flash. Using Inventory, when you are carrying four objects, can make for a veritable fireworks display of colours and flashing! There are numerous locations and a map is an essential, especially when you have to keep dropping objects in order to pick others up. You can then note on the map where exactly you left them. The hotel’s rooms echo with sounds of people never quite seen, cigar smoke lingers in the air, warm food is still on the dining-room table — some of it not very nice at all. The descriptions are excellent, detailed and dripping with atmosphere. The normal horrors of grammar and mis-spelling so common in many adventures seem to have been winkled out in this one, apart from the spalshing water in the fountain — but perhaps that’s a clue?’

‘I think this game has the best atmosphere created by the location descriptions in any adventure yet. You can literally picture the rooms in your mind’s eye, even smell them. So, even if you never get anywhere near a solution, exploring the house is an experience in itself. And there’s always this nagging feeling that if you start again you might just find that overlooked little room that will make all the difference. It’s very addictive.’

‘In most adventures some form of LOOK, SEARCH or EXAMINE seems to work, but not in this one. This leaves you bereft of the usual options for discovering more about an object or a situation, and forces you to be even more ingenious than usual. If you’re a sucker for a supernatural challenge then a visit to Africa Gardens may well be beneficial for your health (meals apart — tasty-looking dishes can make you throw up when you discover what they really are). The pets, too, can take against you for no apparent reason. Despite your inability to EXAMINE or EXPLORE, exploration of the house and the gloomy gardens with their freshly turned soft earth results in descriptions that might have come from a Dennis Wheatley novel and quitting could well be more to do with having to keep looking over your shoulder while playing than a failure to find the exit — and don’t forget, Mr Robinson returns at three...’

COMMENTS

Response: instant
Graphics: simple text in coloured boxes, some object graphics and a few location graphics all instantly generated
General rating: excellent, addictive and very good value for money.

Use of computer80%
Graphics60%
Playability86%
Getting started90%
Addictive qualities93%
Value for money94%
Overall84%

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