Melbourne House, £8.95
Although the title of this game is Kwah!, perhaps the loading screen title of Kwah? is more to the point. The game is too unfriendly to be linked with mainstream adventuring, requiring a very precise and linear solution pathway to be followed to completion. The game however is slick, the graphics very well done, and it does allow all the usual adventure inputs, so what the heck — until someone can say just what this game is I might as well review it here.
The story here concerns an unlikely hero, Kevin, who transmutes into the superhero Redhawk who, naturally enough, can fly. But as the story goes, he is unable to do this at the start of the plot — due to some forcefield around the gates of the Lee Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of the city. Kevin, who seems to be a journalist onto his own story, goes there armed with tape recorder and press card to find out what happened to him before he lost his memory.
The game commences at 10:27am, and the seconds slowly tick away as you work out what to do with Redhawk at the gates of the Lee Centre. Along the bottom of the screen the game reveals its links to the adventure world: GET, DROP, SAY, KWAH, EXAM, PLAY, STOP, RECD, STO (for STORE), REC (for RECALL) are accessed via Symbol Shift and the numeral keys along the top of the keyboard. Nos 3 and 4 together come up with SAY KWAH, and in this way Redhawk can change to Kevin and vice versa. PLAY, STOP, RECD refer to tape recorder operations, the rewinding of the tape apparently deemed unnecessary when playing back! STO AND RECALL aren’t mentioned in the instructions I received but presumably have something to do with RAM SAVE.
Input is not only achieved by using the keywords provided, but also by typing out words as in any adventure. The language needed to achieve any action is very narrow, or to put it another way, compared to most adventures this game is very unfriendly.
The strength of Kwah! as a game lies in its cartoon strip graphics along the top half of the screen. The three pictures in the serial are very well done and very true to the atmosphere of a cartoon comic. If you input for a character to say something (even if it’s rude), up it will come in that character’s speech bubble. Inside the Lee Centre good old Doctor Lee says ‘Welcome Mr Oliver’, and then, ‘Follow me’. Kevin follows Lee until he stops and says ‘Well then...’. This is where the game slows a bit, but there is a way of speeding it up. If you type in WAIT the program flicks through a great wad of comic strips in quick succession, each one with the print ‘Time passes’ on it. Direction arrows point out the exits at the present location. Should you input something it doesn’t understand, and you’d have to be a genius not to do this every other move, then the program stops counting down time until you press SPACE.
Kwah! is a very unusual game. It will not appeal greatly to mainstream adventure enthusiasts, but will strongly appeal to comic strip fans. Once you accept the game’s limited vocabulary, you can then sit back and enjoy a highly original and graphically pleasing game.
Input facility: sentences and keywords
Response: type-ahead/ immediate
General rating: unusual, highly polished game