Another RPG with very few redeeming features? Surely not. DARKNESS ENTERS YOUR PAIN-FILLED SENSES BEFORE YOU EMBRACE BALA'S REALM AS THE LAST MEMBER OF THE PARTY. IS THIS THE END OF ALL ADVENTURES?
I don't know about you, but there are some things in life that have always really annoyed the pants off me. Like that irritating way Fruit Gums get stuck around your mouth every time you eat a packet, forcing you to wipe your finger around your gums and look silly. And that in most RPGs, as soon as you die it's Game Over. Except that as you can save the game at any point, it isn't really so you have to keep saving in case you're killed off suddenly.
Take your first ten minutes of Ambermoon. If you accidentally walk into the fireplace (which includes walking past it and accidentally pressing Up), you're instantly burnt to death. Start again. But then, walk by chance into a particular fireplace and you unexpectedly end up in a secret room, and don't die. And there's some treasure chests inside, but if you open a certain one up, you die. AAAARRRGGH.
AS YOU ENTER THE DARK CELLAR ROOM THROUGH THE GATE YOU SENSE AN IMPERCEPTIBLE MOVEMENT SOMEWHERE ABOVE YOU AS YOU LOOK UP EXACTLY AT THE SAME MOMENT THE FIRST OF THE LARGE SPIDERS DROP DOWN ONTO YOU.
Then there's the irksome way that sometimes the hot water in your house runs out mid-bath so it starts filling up cold before you realise, forcing you to marinate in depressingly tepid water. And the way that the combat in most RPGs is really boring and takes ages even though it's pretty obvious who's going to going to win right from the start. Take Ambermoon's combat system. You plot your moves on a small grid. Moving left or right or back takes a turn so you can't move in either of these directions and attack in one turn, but advancing forward doesn't, so you can.
Once you've set your move, bizarrely the computer takes its turn before yours has an on-screen effect. At one point I was trying to attack this spider, so I chose to move forward and attack. But the spider moved backwards before my character moved, hence it was out of range and I couldn't swipe at it. I advanced, it moved back. Stalemate. As far as I am aware there is no way of exiting out of the combat until one side has come out as a victor, so I just had to turn the game off and start again. HNNNNNNNGH.
A YOUNG MAN WITH A SEVERE WOUND ON HIS ARM SAYS: IT TRIED TO PROTECT MY FATHER AGAINST THE ORCS BUT COULD NOT FIGHT THEIR SWORDS WITH MY PITCHFORK. IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH COURAGE, YOU WILL FIND THE MOB OF ORCS OFF THE CAVES TO THE NORTH WEST OF THE FIELDS.
What about that advert which goes "After eating, dentists agree..."? What, so they can't see eye-to-eye while their stomachs are still rumbling, but stick them down in front of a prawn cocktail, and before the dessert arrives they'll all be best of friends? Eh? Is that it? Huh? And that most RPGs look dated beyond belief, play as originally as Jim Bowen's stand up routine, and are TEDIOUS BEYOND BELIEF. HMMMMMMMMM?
Actually, Ambermoon isn't that bad. It's divided up into two styles of play, cutesy overhead Zelda bits, and 3D Eye of the Beholder-meets-Doom bits. The Zelda bits are initially disappointing. "Hey - that's nice. It looks all consoley and user-friendly." You double blink at this point just to check that your eyes aren't deceiving you - your character jerks a hexagon at a time with no animation; to such a degree that you almost expect to find a tank around the next corner shortly followed by a miniature figure calling himself 'Napoleon'.
The graphics aren't that cutesy either. The characters are too small and indistinguishable to have any real personality, while the scenery, instead of being all cartoony and out of proportion as it should be, is just small and gritty.
The Eye of the Beholder bits aren't much better. Well - to look at they're better than EOTB, because they're calculated in real time - hence the Doom reference. But everywhere looks a bit samey. And since everything of interest is shown on the map, and the graphics are so bland that you don't know where you are, you always have to call up the map every few paces any way. The 'go to' points (which allow you to teleport and hence save pooling about for ages) are nice though, so a swift it fleeting mention to those.
But what of the actual game? Well, let's not waste time with that yet. How about a mention to the control method? It's great. Fabulous. Fantastic. And only requires you to use the mouse. This hilariously effectual control gives you a real 'cup of tea in one hand, feet on desk' feel to the game, and I notice it's the first thing I'd written down under 'Good Things' in my reviewers-aid notes. The list ends there.
Though, except for a margin note that I should test out whether the control method would be even more relaxing if I were wafted with a palm leaf and fed grapes by semi-naked female slaves; a situation I could faithfully recreate by getting Dave Golder (my house mate) to wave a newspaper at me while feeding me nice chocky biccies.
THE GAME, THEN
BUT IT IS. After a solid four days playing, I've explored a sizeable chunk of the map and have dipped my toes into the shallow end of the spell market. But I don't seem to have really solved any puzzles. I've been told to do stuff, and I've done it, but I'm yet to actually tune in to the contemplative side of my brain. Quite frankly, the thought of having to load up Ambermoon again even for long enough to make my screenshots for this review fills me with an unnerving sense of dread, Ugh. It's just another RPG with very few redeeming features.