Demoniak has arrived. This is not good news. This Demoniak chap you see, is a large demon from a parallel universe, who enjoys enslaving entire planets. Normal future mythology would have mankind’s shiny space fleets whizing out and bombing the beast. Mankind’s state however, in this future view, bears sad similarities to present day. The world is in a mess and we couldn’t organise a round of drinks in a distillery, let alone a galactic strike force. Thus, world-saving is left in the hands of private enterprise.
Luckily one man has his act together, a certain Doc Cortex, the cleverest man in the entire universe. He calls together a band of costumed misfits (known as superheroes) to help him build the ultimate bomb, the only thing that can stop Demoniak.
Wot no sprites?
Demoniak marks a brave departure for Palace/Pure Fiction, as it is a text adventure. Popular in the early days of computing the format has been largely forgotten since the 16-bits made it big, because these machines allowed glorious pictures and sounds while adventuring, why be satisfied with mere text?
In Demoniak the descriptions and story rattles across the main games screen, while you interrupt the game interjecting actions for the characters you currently control by entering text commands.
Traditionally, there would have been no choice of the charater you contrl but in Demoniak, it can be any of 50 characters, who all have a different view of events. So during the game you’re leaping around a galaxy of planets and personas, aiding the gang of five (Doc Cortex, Sondra the psychic, Flame the fire girl, Sirius the muscle and Madlok the magician) in their quest.
The worlds the team visit are crazy places and a black, nihilistic humour pervades the while game. Each of the 50 characters you can become has psychological problems that loom large just when you need it least.
To achieve free movement, you need to appreciate the games amusingly warped perspective. Then it becomes clear how to encourage folk to do stuff their predetermined character would never dream of.
The 50 peeps on offer all have defined characteristics and objectives, so the curious will have great fun becoming periphery players and pushing the Demoniak universe to its logically mad conclusion. The mind-reader Sondra is fun, because her psychic abilities let you ‘watch’ the thoughts of the person she’s talking to.
Despite the new concepts added to the formula, Demoniak is unable to escape its text adventure roots. The logic ‘parser’ (text/game interface) is more intelligent than your average textural bash, allowing compound sentences and short-cut commands.
You are still forced, though, to master the syntax system to succeed and annoyance is inevitable as this process runs its course. Tying the wrong commands earn a "you don not need to use the word …" and a vicious circle of hurried frustrated key bashing commences.
The limitations of the text adventure mode cannot be held against Demoniak, as it forces the form and frees it considerably from previous constraints. Thrills are few, excitement sparse but the challenge of a 50-way logical puzzle – 49 more than usual – is intriguing!
Refreshingly, the combat is particularly flexible and reasonably tense. You can even become your enemy and mess with their happy fighting thoughts. Despite these saving graces Demoniak will only appeal to those who enjoyed the works of Infocom and Magnetic Scrolls.
Further developments are promised by the Pure Fiction system, as it evolves and throws off its text-only chains. Demoniak is good but is limited by its chosen form.