Chronoquest 1 logo

Amiga: £24.95

The year is 1922, and you return home to the family chateau, with a letter from your missing father. An eminent scientist, he had designed and built himself a time machine, and travelled the world in centuries past.
Unfortunately, his unscrupulous servant, Richard, discovered the secret machine, stole the programs for the trip, and now your father fears for his life. His letter begs you to find Richard, for the very fact you are reading it probably means that he is dead, and Richard must be brought to justice for his murder. The time machine will have returned, so you can use it in your quest, following the routes that he took back in time.

Although the machine is in the chateau, it is well hidden and protected. An initial search of the chateau revels some punched cards, and miscellaneous equipment that will hopefully be useful in your exploration.

The route to the machine seems to lie beyond the door under the grand staircase in the chateau's opulent hallway - but it's dark in there! Even when you manage to shed some light on things, the search does not get any easier. Although you are soon certain that you are onlya step or two away from the machine, booby traps and secret mechanisms are likely to deter all but the most persistent and observant adventurers!

However, once you have found the machine, and managed to activate it, you start off on your journey through time and space, in search of the villainous Richard.

Chrono-quest uses an icon-driven graphics system, with text replies, not unlike Mindscape's system in Uninvited. As well as movement icons for eight compass pints plus up and down, there are fourteen more, including GET, THROW, DROP, TURN, EXAMINE, PUSH/PULL, LIGHT ON/OFF, USE and HIT. The major part of the screen shows a picture of the current location, and the icons run in a narrow strip to the right-hand side of it. Below the picture is a text window for replies, that also shows INVENTORY kcons when requested.

To move, click on a direction icon, and if you are unable to move in that direction, a text message will tell you so. To examine something in the picture, click on the EXAMINE icon, and then on the part of the picture you wish to examine, and any interesting details will be described. Taking an object removes it from the picture, and places it in the inventory list.

Reasonably enough there is a limit of 11 items carried, but strangely it is ont possible to drop more than four items in any room, and even then they must be dropped in specific zones - 'horizontal quarters' is how the manual describes them.

A limited number of sound effects accompany the action, and the rest of the time, there is a deadly repetitive dirge, which is best turned right down.

Being of French origin, the English text relies, when not describing something examined are, at best, adequate, and at worst, meaningless. When I clicked on the LIGHT icon, for example, I got the message 'You don't have an object which will to blaze anything at all'. Sloppy.

Which brings me to another point. The areas on the picture sensitive to the cursor arrow are unpredictable in size. One minute EXAMINing an object will recognise something quite a long way from the arrow point. I got completely bogged down in one of the major puzzles, when, trying to use something in the correct way (although not realising it at the time) I got the reply 'It's not interesting'. Well so what! Never mind whether it is interesting or not - just DO it!!! A half centimetre movement of the cursor, and it would have.

Having said that, the adventure itself has an interesting theme, with plenty of variety once you get the time machine moving. And it's BIG - the program comes on three disks, all of which are copyable, with a protection device in the packaging.

Chronoquest 1 logo

Psygnosis, Amiga £29.95

Ooh la la, what have we here? Une petite offering francaise, n'est ce pas? Hur hur. Trolls can speak French you know, absolutely no trouble whatsoever - standing on their heads they could ask you for un morceau de billy goat, potage de lizard and gnome baguette and never bat an eyelid. Magnifique or what? Being of such a cultural and linguistically talented disposition (zut alors!), I was dead pleased to get my hands on an original product francais. The story is probably a bit too cosmopolitan for the like of you but I will let you in on it anyway. I'm that kind of guy...

OK, this is it: your father (who also happens to be the owner of a very nice piece of franglais architecture) was pretty clever. So clever, in fact, that he managed to develop a time machine. Woo! Unfortunately, his servant Richard found him out and, with a sensible eye towards his own gain (there's always a good side to the villain), conspired to kill him. Luckily for you, papa managed to leave a lurvly little letter behind.

So, mister cleverclogs, this is what you have to do. First off, find the time machine. Second, use it. Er... I mean use it to travel through seven time zones, restore the component parts of a vital program and make sure Richard gets his just desserts (Angel Delight for me, please).

If you think the whole thing sounds a bit complicated, you're right. To make the whole thing that much easier, this huge adventure (and I mean really huge - bigger than two trolls hanging off a bridge) is played entirely using a cursor and the mouse. Each location has its own excellently detailed illustration: all you do is place the cursor over one of the icons (THROW, EXAMINE, PUSH/PULL etc) on a panel to the right of the screen and then click on the appropriate object in your inventory or on the screen.

In theory, a system like this is designed to eliminate all that messing about with parsers and incorrect inputs. You know, knowing what you want to say but not quite being able to find the words to do it. That's all fine and dandy, hunky dory and quite handy - if it works. Trouble is, in Chrono Quest it doesn't always. There seem to be no rules at all as to how close your cursor has to be to an object to get a response. Sometimes you can be miles away from a chest and the command to open it works. At other times you have to place the cursor really pixel perfect to get it to work. Annoying? Yup. Clever? No way.

Those people at Psygnosis obviously aren't as good at French as I am because their translation doesn't quite come off. When they're not totally unhelpful or nonexistent, the responses don't make all that much sense. I reckon the punier ones amongst you might have liked a few helpful hints or even just a bit of praise when you (finally) get something right (halleluya!). I certainly would, and I'm not puny.

Now I've shot my mouth off about the bad bits, lets go right for the jugular and go for the fabbo, brill and trendy bits. As you can see, the graphics are as mouth-watering as a pot of billy-goat stew on the boil - and even despite the slightly awkward mouse control, the gameplay is great fun and extremely compelling. There's something really neat about being able to turn a tap on and actually see the water gushing out. The problems are tough and addictive enough to have you slumped over the mouse, greasy haired and spotty-faced, without one break for a slice of gnome pie or a billygoat steak, for days. Not only that, there's loads of them!

It goes without saying (but I'll say it, anyway) that I would have like Chrono Quest even more if the control method had been a bit smoother. Still, even as it stands it's one of the best icon-driven adventures I've come across and no mean treat for yer average pasty-faces human. Pity about the price tag, though.