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Personal Nightmare logo

Horrorsoft, Amiga £29.95

Personal Nightmare The Geek beats me at chess and rearranges my bodily parts, the world is taken by hordes of Robin ‘Boyo Wonder’ Hogg clones who force everyone to play flight sims all day, and I miss an episode of Cell Block H: that just about sums up my personal nightmare. For other people, vampires and demons are the things most feared – I’m not worried about them though; when you live with a ‘thing’ as ugly and stupid as The Geek, ghosts and ghouls seem positively loveable. Besides, some of my best friends (and relatives) are well-known from returning from the dead – my Great Uncle Boris has stages more ‘comebacks’ than Joe Bugner although he hasn’t been knocked out as many times!

The tiny village of Tynham Cross sounds like my kind of place. It is gradually being taken over by the devil himself who has already possessed some of the residents, making them take part in bizarre rituals where some unlucky innocent gets sacrificed. Quite why the devil wants to subvert such a sleepy little place is beyond me – the village’s only place of entertainment is the pub, The Dog And Duck, where you’re staying. Why are you here? For the beer? Well not exactly; your dad, the local vicar, has mysteriously disappeared along with your mother, who invited you to stay for the weekend.

While you’re checking out your room, you hear the screech of brakes in the street below. Drunken photographer Jimmy Blandford has just been run over and left dying in the road. At last, the adventure has truly begun. It’s up to you to collect hard evidence of evil doing and present it to the local bobby to get the relevant people arrested. But with hellhounds and vampires looking for a quick bite you’d better keep eating the garlic, monsieur smelly breath.

Tynham Cross consists of only ten buildings including a church (with a vampire sleeping in the crypt!), garage, post office, and the charred remains of the old manor which burnt down a few years ago, killing the parents of Tony Donaldson, a young lad who now lodges at the pub. To enter most of the houses you’ll need the relevant keys and know that the owner is elsewhere – getting caught prowling around someone else’s house results in your arrest and the end of the game.

Personal Nightmare is yet another graphical adventure in which the mouse is used to choose from an on-screen list of commands. They can be typed in if you prefer, along with extra input not included in the list. The vocabulary is fairly small and I found it difficult to use one object on another – there isn’t a USE or OPERATE command – although in the case of UNLOCKING doors the correct key is automatically used.
The mouse can also be used to identify objects/people which appear in the large graphics window by simply pointing to them. Object can be dragged into your inventory with, appropriately, a red hand. However, unlike the similar Déjà vu II the positions of objects within a room can’t be altered – you can only take them. On opening the inventory or looking into a cupboard etc the main graphical window is replaced by a window showing all objects therein.
The numerous characters encountered all lead independent lives, roaming around the village at will. Communication with them, however, is limited. You are only allowed to ASK someone ABOUT something and they often don’t reply at all.

Mike Woodruffe’s design team (whose past hits include Gremlins, Seas Of Blood and Masters Of The Universe) spent 18 months developing Personal Nightmare, using a special adventure design language, Agos. One of the main selling points of the game is its superb presentation with 600K of sampled sound and remarkably detailed graphics. Computer-controlled characters are all excellently drawn and animated – Mr Roberts, the village registrar, even hangs up his jacket after entering the pub.

The high quality presentation helps to create a good atmosphere, the only drawback being that there’s inevitably much disk accessing and shuffling – the game comes on three disks. This interrupts the otherwise flowing play although nowhere near enough to spoil the enjoyment. The ‘Hammer horror’-style plot is chilling (although Horrorsoft claim that it’s all in good taste) and there are plenty of puzzles to solve and people to rescue while you admire the gorgeous scenery.

Zzap! Issue 53, September 1989, pp.21-22