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DIGITAL INTEGRATION * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Mouse * Out now

It seems like Digital Integration have managed to round up all the sad and unfortunate programmers in France to develop one of the saddest games I've seen. The French just aren't funny any more. The last game they produced that sticks out in my mind was Psyborg. Although it was a reasonably good game, it had a really bizarre story line.

The story this time is about a new substance that has been developed. Apparently it will revolutionise the world of neuropsychiatry, but from then on it gets too obscure. Amid the babbling of neuropsychiatry, they've managed to incorporate a randy air hostess called Doralice who has inadvertently come by this wonder fluid - a bit of lateral thinking by those wonderful French people.

As if the compulsory stupid story line isn't enough, we have to put up with the ridiculous French sense of humour, which consists of jokes that aren't even fit for Bob's Full House.

This game is from a genre designed for a special type of person - someone who has an unusual amount of patience. Like Operation Stealth and hundreds of games before it, Fascination is very slow to play.
I like to have things going on, which is why I hate playing flight sims simply because they are a waste of time when played ona slow machine - the playability will be nothing like it should be.

In the first screen of the game there are some really blatant attempts to show off naked women. Pointing and clicking on the shower, for instance, brings you two or three very badly drawn frames of the lady in question showering her naked bod - believe me they don't do it very well at all.

The aim of the game is to get the vial of this fluid to a friend of the man who died on the plane. As you have probably gathered, the gameplay is abysmal. It's a very badly done point-and-click adventure - you have the various options of use and take but the clues are just too obscure. Several entail you finding a certain pixel on the screen. If you really persevere with it then maybe you could get somewhere but it's very hard going (yip, yip).

Some of the clues in the game are just plain crap. Old Dolores got the fluid from some old codger who popped his clogs on her plane. Befre he died he said the combination to the brief case was... AAARGH! and promptly snuffed it. No prizes for guessing what the combination is. The clues that aren't crap are just plain tedious, like find the telephone book to find the number, snore, snore and so on.

There's one screen where you are in the pool, while yakking way to old friend (wink, wink) and you need to find a pendant. To find it you have to turn on the pool lights so it glitters - obvious really. Now to turn on the lights you have to click on a single pixel in the corner of the screen. You can see why it gets so irritating.

Graphics-wise the game is quite pleasing, in the places where it's not showing pictures of naked women. There are some effective moody shots of car-parks, dark alleyways and so on, but it doesn't make up for the bad gameplay.

The single most irritating thing is the bloody awful breaks where Dolores bumps in to one of her old bed partners. They then launch the most tedious predictable conversations you have ever heard. You thought the Eldorado script was bad - this is sodding Shakespeare in comparison.

One thing I look for in a game is a decent soundtrack, but apart from a short dodgy tune at the beginning, Fascination has absolutely none to speak of. I'm just thanking my lucky stars that they didn't digitise the speech of the conversations.

Definitely a game for the sort of people who enjoy drooling over the underwear section of Rackam's catalogues. If you're after a mouse-controlled adventure game then you're better off with Operation Stealth.
Better still sit in a room watching Eldorado with a copy of the Sunday Sport. This month it's an over-sexed air hostess, next month is going to be a raving mad lorry driver.

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Do you fancy yourself as a sleek attractive woman with a mystery to solve? Or do you just fancy yourself? James Leach sorts out his psychoses in a French-produced, adult-orientated interactive adventure...

You can tell when you're having 'one of those days'. First your tights ladder, then your high-heel snaps off as you rush to the departure gate and finally, as you're settling down with Vogue on the plane, a man dies in the next seat. What's worse, he gives you a briefcase with a vial of something incredibly secret in it. As life slips away from him before your disbelieving eyes, he croaks something like: "Take this briefcase to the President of the Quantum Unlimited Lab in Miami". Then he croaks, full stop.

Thus begins a mystery that might chill your very heart, still your blood and enlarge your liver, in which you play a gorgeous brunette called Doralice. Pronounce that 'leese' not 'lice'.

Hormone imbalance
The game itself is one of the sort where you point at things shown in the locations, and if the computer recognises them it enables you to pick them up, using them, keep them or drink them. It's called 'Interactivity'. What happens is that you slowly build up a picture of what you can use with what, and what effects this might have. Call it logic, call it common sense, call it knowing how the programmers' minds work. The result is that you slowly progress along through an adventure planned out in meticulous detail.

Monkey Island 2, you'll be thinking. Yes, it's pretty similar to that in the way it works, but doesn't have the same polished feel. The fantasy setting is obviously absent, so you end up looking at screens of not particularly interesting hotel rooms and suchlike.

OK, so you're playing a woman. How does this affect the game? Well you might hope that it redresses the imbalance in favour of males in computer software, but, er, you'd better take a look at what happens when you pop slinkily into the shower. A nude showering woman appears on the screen in several poses, all designed to start a hormonal reaction in the (male) players of the game. Yes, it's sad to say but they have to stoop to stuff like this (and quite early on in the sequence of events, too).

But isn't this what adult-orientated software is about? Maybe, but it doesn't add to the plot and it certainly doesn't make you feel at ease with the gorgeous female you're supposed to be playing.

As you progress through the game, you realise that it isn't very flexible. The route you're supposed to take is pretty clearly defined. The very nature of interactive games is such that you can't go wandering off where you please. There just isn't room for all that extraneous data. This means that all you need to do is to be persistent. Collect everything you can, try using everything you can and make the odd logical leap.

For example, there's a wall-socket, an adaptor and a toothbrush with different voltage settings. How much lateral thinking is required to bring these three items together? And when you do, lo! - another item is discovered, which interacts with several other items later in the game. This is pretty much how you progress through the game that is Fascination.

The graphics are very much the same as you've seen before. Neatly drawn, with the emphasis on a slightly cartoony feel, they are clear enough to display everything you're supposed to see. The game contains plenty of small objects resting in fairly inaccessible places, and the only way to get these is to see them, then move the mouse over to them. The graphics have been drawn with this in mind, so you don't feel cheated because you haven't noticed a vital clue. Roaming the mouse around and seeing what shape it changes to is also a good way of sorting out what you can interact with this game.

The system used is pretty fool-proof, even if it does involve a disproportionate amount of clicking 'OK" when you've decided on what course of action you are going to take. Fascination has a vein of humour running through it which borders on the witty. This sits uneasily with the voyeuristic 'adult-orientation' which pervades it.

The interaction with other people in the game is a bit of a let-down. They seem only to give you the information you need, then clam up. Thus all you have to do is ask them your pressing questions once and the answers are magically revealed with little further brain-usage by the player.

Overall, Fascination is a competent attempt at a mouse-controlled adventure. The setting isn't inspiring, though and the structure is a little too rigid and formulaic. The sexism (for such it is) doesn't help either.

Up against Monkey Island 2, it crumbles into insignificance. But to compare it to the king of the genre is a little unfair, as the style is so different.

Fascination is a pretty well-presented product. It's just a little too linear and lacks the touches which would make it feel special. Jet aircraft, pool-side cocktails and disrobed females don't really cut it.

Sex minus drei

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Immer wieder grifft der computerisierte Lustmolch voller Vorfreude zu den Softsex-Adventures von Muriel Tramis, immer wieder wird er enttäuscht. Beim dritten Anlauf nach "Emanuelle" und "Geisha" standesgemäß in dreifacher Hinsicht...

Erstens: Die liebe Muriel scheint zu glauben, daß Erotik Fans automatisch nur Schmalspur-Abenteurer sein können. Also Leute, die es gerade noch schaffen, mit der Maus sämtliche Räumen einzusammeln und anschließend auf sämtliche anderen Gegenstände und Personen anzuwenden.

Sogar die Reihenfolge ist dabei ziemlich beliebig. Hauptsache, man klickt gnadenlos alles und jeden an. Dementsprechend einsteigerfreundlich sind die Rätsel gehalten, vom Handlungsablauf ganz zu schweigen.

Zweitens: Auch die Story wirkt nur auf den ersten Blick faszinierend. Die Piloten Dolarice May ist durch eine Verkettung unglücklicher Umstände in den Besitz einer Ampulle mit hochbrisanten "Liebestropfen" gelangt, die sie unbedingt an den Mann bringen will - und zwar an einen ganz bestimmten. Bloß ist der äußerst schlecht erreichbar, dafür interessiert sich jede Menge andere (böse) Männer brennend für das kleine Röhrchen.

Drittens: Die Präsentation hält leider nicht, was sich der Molch verspricht. Zwar ist die Grafik recht hübsch anzusehen, aber nicht besonderes umfangreich. Schlimmer noch, sie ist ziemlich jugendfrei! Dazu wiederholt sich andauernd die gleiche Begleitmusik. Effekte sind zwar vorhanden, aber rar und kaum spektakulär.

Was hier wirklich befriedigt wird, ist das Verlangen nach einer vernünftigen Maussteuerung - anders geartete Gelüste bleiben eher unerfüllt. (od)

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At last, an adventure where the main character is a woman. Or is it just an excuse for a bit of smut?

Apparently it's bad practice to kick off a review with a summary of the game's plot. You're meant to begin with some sort of 'hook' to catch the reader's attention - a joke, perhaps, or an amusing anecdote about the game's programmers. Let's throw away the rule book, eh?

You are Doralice, "the sexiest captain on the Paris-Miami flight", according to Fascination's manual, and you find yourself in a hotel room with a briefcase given to you by a dying passenger on your plane. In the briefcase is a vial containing a dangerous aphrodisiac, he explained, which has to be taken to the president of a certain company without it falling into enemy hands. The passengers dying words were: "The briefcase combination is... AARGH!"

On the advice of the manual you tap the combination 'AARGH' into the briefcase and it opens to reveal an electric toothbrush which in turn contains the aforementioned vial. The door to the hallway is in the corner. You've played this sort of thing before. I'm sure you can work out where you've got to go next.

Those who decry the gaming world's proliferation of male heroes will be pleased to note that Doralice is actually a babe, and she's just as capable of clearing up mysteries as any crummy man. But, erm, hang on a minute. Why is Doralice there, exactly? Merely to provide a little non-sexist variety? Or something rather more sinister? Now don't panic. I'm not about to launch into some sort of self-righteous, pseudo-feminist spiel (I hope).

I'm as much a fan of a bit of innocent rumpy-pumpy as the next man. Hell, I've even watched a couple of Carry On films. But Fascination comes across as the product of a group of individuals who thought it would be a bit of a laugh to pretend to have an attractive woman performing at their every beck and call. To this end you can send Doralice through a graphic shower scene without encroaching on the story line in the slightest, and there are pieces of her underwear lying around for you to rifle through, again to no obvious end.

Does its best to make the player comfortable

What clouds the issue, is that Fascination hasn't been dreamt up by your average deranged games person, but a French female designer. There's also the fact that the sequences which appear to have been included for titillation are far too jokey and cartoon-like to excite even the most desperate individual.

The argument that sex in computer software exists for cheap thrills might work for strip poker games, but it doesn't hold water here. Is it possible that what comes across as mild exploitation to us British is simply an example of the French people's open attitude towards sexuality? It's a strange thing to be asking in a game review, I know. But with Fascination it's a relevant issue, believe me.

If this all sounds like your idea of fun, though, there are more important points to consider. Games like this are all about solving puzzles, and it's the puzzle side of things where Fascination falls down. It's not so much that the answers are too obvious - would you have guessed, for example, that the best place to hide a vial of liquid was in the ice box of a fridge?

The trouble is that while there's a problem waiting to be solved, that's all you are allowed to think about. Your movements are restricted pretty much to the location in which the puzzle is set, and you can't actually do anything that isn't connected with the puzzle's solution.

Answers are found by luck rather than intelligence

It's impossible to get side-tracked, or to go and tackle something else while you're having bit of a muse. And as your actions are limited to clicking o things on the screen and using objects from your inventory, a few minutes' random clicking and using is usually enough to turn up the answer to most situations. And then it's on to another location and another puzzle. Ho hum.

At the moment, for example, I'm stuck in a kitchen where I've obviously got to mix together three chemicals to create poisonous fumes. (I've no idea why, but it's the only thing I can do so it must be right). Every time I do it, however, the fumes get into my eyes and I die. I've presumably got to protect them somehow. I'll get there eventually but I'll wager the answer will be found by luck rather than intelligence.

But don't despair, I do have one or two appreciative comments up my sleeve. The main one regards the graphics which are clear, well-drawn and nicely animated on the rare occasions on which they move. There's a nice tune at the beginning too (but what about those jingles?!). And one or two of the jokes (this is a 'humorous' game) are actually quite funny, in a French sort of way. The mascot that dances on the bonnet of the car when you turn the stereo on is a case in point. This is a game which does its best to make the player comfortable playing it, I'll give it that.

Okay, so I may have simplified things a little regarding the restrictiveness of the thing, but all the time I was playing it, my overwhelming feeling was that I was being channeled in the direction the game wanted me to go, rather than being left to explore it of my own free will. I hat that feeling. I like to be in charge. (It's true, we've seen the jackboots - Ed.)

These people clearly know how to write computer games, and I hope they do another one. But before they do, they'd do well to take a good look at the direction Lucasfilm are taking things construction-wise. Linearity is out, Flexibility is in. And shower scenes are best left to Wash 'n' Go adverts.


You've found a Walkman in a locker by the swimming pool. It doesn't work, and there's no tape in it, but when you click on the battery compartment it tells you you'll need some sort of tool to get it open. You're carrying a torch, a telephone token, a newspaper and a pendant. The game's obvious not going to let you get any further until you sort this one out. What do you do?

Try everything in your inventory until you find the item that works. (It's the telephone token, as it happens.)

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An adventure game that can only be played by those over sixteen? Tony Dillon is intrigued...

In this, the latest game from those cunning French chaps at Coktel Vision, you play the part of a beautiful female pilot, who has just landed in Miami after your regular Paris-Miami flight. Whilst on the plane, a passenger died in your arms from a heart attack, but not before telling you of a vial of highly-important solution hidden in his briefcase that has to be returned to the Director a top lab. Returning to your hotel with the dead man's briefcase, you are determined to do as he asks - especially since he stressed that the future of all mankind depend on it. From that point on you are dragged further and further into the mystery...

Fascination is a graphic detective story, in a similar vein to that old Infogrames' classic, Vera Cruz. unlike the recent spate of new-age adventures, the whole game is viewed from a pseudo first-person perspective, with each location laid out in front of you. Solving the game involves putting any objects you may find to good use and keeping an eye out for the assorted clues along the way.

The game is entirely mouse-controlled and, as you move the pointer around each location, the names of important objects appear at the bottom of the screen. Clicking on them will then either bring a close-up view, show descriptive text, or pick them up and place them in the inventory. From here, you have to figure out how to use them.

Let's take the hotel room our nubile pilot starts in as an example. Moving the mouse around, you find that the fridge is highlighted when you move the mouse over it. Clicking on it opens the door to reveal an empty ice-tray. Nearby is a jug of water so, picking up the jug with the mouse you pour some water into the tray and close the door. After a minute of two you open the door again to find that nothing has happened. Looking at the back of the fridge you find the cable resting uselessly on the floor. Picking up the plug and sticking it in the socket you are greeted with the message 'Now I can have some ice cubes'.

It's a very simple system to use, but that doesn't automatically make the adventure an easy one to complete. Each screen is packed with things to do, but sometimes the objects you are looking for are so small that the only thing to do is to scan the room completely, moving the mouse very slowly around the screen until it finally rests upon whatever it is you are looking for.

A bad point about such object-filled rooms, though, is that it is sometimes too easy to overlook something important, resulting in several dead-ends. Thankfully, the game always offers a clue as to why you died to aid you next time round. For example, somewhere in the game there is a guard dog who won't let you take a key hanging on the wall. Trying to take it results in a Rottweiller attack the tabloids would revel in. If you die here, you are told that something sweet might have saved your life. Next time you play it, you remember to take a lump of sugar when offered a coffee.

Fascination is a very interesting game, if only because it's something that hasn't been done in quite a while. An enjoyable plot, linked with some well thought out and logical puzzles makes for a playable adventure. Ignore the rubbish about the game's '16' classification - it's just a gimmick on a game that doesn't really need one. It won't be easy completing it, but give it a go - you'll be hooked.


One of the most unusual aspects of Fascination is the large number of cheap thrills thrown in. From some quick topless shots of the main character to the Mad Scientist's hideout (below a Lingerie shop), everywhere you look there's a cheap excuse for a bikini or a bout of nudity. Even in the hotel foyer there's a soft-porn mag hidden underneath a newspaper. This kind of attraction has been used by French programmers before - anyone remember Emmannuelle (actually, this is written by the same programming team, so that explains it)? And while it makes no difference at all to the game, it should give the moral majority something to shout about - especially since Coktel's aim for a 16 certificate for the game could bolster sales due to the novelty value...