Les Manley in: Search for The King logo

ACCOLADE * £29.99 Keyboard and mouse

Suspicious minds suggest Elvis is not dead but is resting. Search for the King takes roughly the same premise, though, instead of the 'sequinned whale' its central character is the anonymous 'King', set in a knockabout graphic adventure.

Such a plot - an Elvis Hunt! - is guaranteed its fair share of weirdness. A good adventure though, needs more than plot to make the grade; it needs to encourage the exploration the plot inspires, which in turn requires a friendly front end. Search happily lures you in with plot, but is stubbornly reluctant to tell its tale, at least not quickly.

Blue suede clues
The game system used to search for the King blends graphics and text. The pics supply clues, pose logistical problems and provide the humour and text is used to issue commands to Les Manley, the hero. Such instructions are entered via a text window. This is how you tell Les Manley to look, open, drop, examine and (most importantly) take anything he finds.

As with all good adventures, Search sends you into overdrive, grabbing everything that isn't nailed down and prying loose a few things that are.

This mix of graphics and text input provide the 'levers' that are pulled during play. Les has to be guided to a location and then positioned so the action is plausible. If you want Les to search a drawer, he has to be stood next to it and be facing it in the right direction. If Les wants to talk to someone, he needs to be able to see them.

Viva Les Vegas
The problems facing Les are not easily solved. Even when you have been told that an object is of no interest, it pays to examine it further. Search's linear design requires specific items to solve specific problems, so you never know you've missed something until you need it.

Backtracking's inevitable, because steps are retraced to find that missing bit of kit. What's more, the game has a fatal contempt for mistakes because, unlike the Lucasfilm breed of graphic adventures, Search will kill Les at the drop of a hat.

The similarities between Lucasfilm's Monkey Island, and Search for the King go little deeper than their use of 'cosmetic' graphics to disguise the adventure. In Search the free-form textual input of the player determines what happens, rather than selecting a response from a menu which is the case in Monkey Island.

There is still a correct response but you're given no obvious clues as to what it is. The upside of this is that the game is less of a multiple-choice quiz and more a test of intuition. The downside is that even straightforward tasks can prove difficult if the wrong wording is used.

The frustrating element of Search is the speed at which it runs. Sure, there are some neat - Amiga specific - screens, but every new 'room' is loaded from disk. This takes around 20 seconds per location and disrupts the continuity. 20 seconds may not be scandalous for adventures, but a generic title does guarantee a game special privilege. No one would play a shoot-em-up that loaded each screen individually, even if the wait was five seconds. Such comparisons are harsh and slightly unrealistic, but the continual waiting soon erodes patience.

Search for the King is a good adventure. The story is good looking, complex, and occasionally silly enough to make you want to finish. Viewed as a graphic/text adventure it ranks with the Codename Icemans, Manhunters and Leisure Suit Larrys of this world. Viewed as a pure game however, it struggles.


NOW IT'S TIME TO MEET LES!
Les Manley in: Search for The King: Les Manley NAME: Lest P. (Les) Manley
AGE: 27
HAIR: Thin
SKIN COLOUR: Fishbelly
OCCUPATION: Video technician, lots of years, never promoted
EMPLOYER: WILL, Channel 53, NYC
EDUCATION: Graduated in top 60% of his class from Brooklyn High School
FAVOURITE FOODS: Microwave
FAVOURITE MOVIE: The Little Mermaid
FAVOURITE MAGS: DAK Monthly, Popular Mechanics, Amiga Format
COMPUTER: TRS 80
EXERCISE: Drinks protein powder
CAR: None
DRIVING AMBITION: Driving ambition?

Les Manley in: Search for The King logo

Wem die Warterei auf das nächste (vierte, fünfte oder gar sechste?) "Larry"-Abenteuer allmählich zu lange dauert, dem präsentiert Accolade jetzt eine Alternative. Aber ob der gute Les wirklich das Zeug hat, um in die Fußstapfen unseres Lieblings-Casanovas zu treten?!

Les Manley arbeitet als Techniker bei der New Yorker Fernsehstation "Will", wo er meist mit dem manuellen Zurückspülen von Videobändern beschäftigt ist - eine naturgemäß wenig lukrative Tätigkeit. Die große Chance auf Ruhm und Reichtum bietet sich erst, als sein Sender einen Wettbewerb ausschreibt: Wer den "King" findet, bekommt eine Million Dollar in bar! Gemeint ist natürlich Elvis Presley, und der sieht sich die Radieschen ja schon lange von unten an - die Aktion ist nichts weiter als eine billige Werbekampagne. Aber Les ist nunmal nicht der Hellste, und so macht er sich halt auf die Suche...

Search for The King ist ganz im Stil der Grafikadventures von Sierra gehalten: Man steuert den (Anti-) Helden mit Maus oder Tastatur durch ca. 80 verschiedene Örtlichkeiten, sammelt nützliche Gegenstände auf, redet mit anderen Personen und knackt eine Reihe mehr oder weniger anspruchsvoller Rätsel. Dabei fühlt man sich wirklich auf Schritt und Tirtt an das berühmte Vorbild erinnert - Les sieht nicht nur aus wie ein jugendlicher Larry Laffer, er kriegt ebenfalls diesen gierigen Blick, sobald ihm weibliche Reize ins Sichtfeld geraten!

Überhaupt könnte die hübsche, bunte Grafik ebensogut Sierras wie Accolade Hexenküche entsprungen sein.

Selbst Al Lowes berühmt-berüchtigten Humor hat man zu kopieren versucht - je weiter Les bei seiner Suche vordringt, umso witziger und origineller werden die Gags! Leider werden die Puzzles gleichzeitig immer unlogischer...

Les Manley in: Search for The King

In einem Punkt übertrifft Les Manley aber problemlos alle Larrys dieser Welt: Der Parser ist so ziemlich das unverständigste, worunter Adventurefans bisher zu leiden hatten! Die Steuerung ist ebenfalls nicht unbedingt das Gelbe vom Ei, am allerschlimmsten aber sind die endlos langen Nachladezeiten für jedes einzelne Bild.

Dadurch wird der Spielablauf äußerst zäh - ungeduldige Naturen werden statt der faden Begleitmusik bald nur noch ihr eigenes Zähneknirschen hören.

Über der mangelhaften Handhabung geraten die positiven Aspekte der Angelegenheit fast in Vergessenheit, beispielsweise das absolut sehenswerte Intro oder die beigelegte Lösung. Letztere ist nicht nur codiert (erst mit Farbbrille lesbar), sondern geradezu vorbildlich aufgebaut! Aber auch damit wird die Königssuche nicht zur einer ernsthaften Konkurrenz für Larry, es bleibt bei einem Lückenfüller, um sich die Wartezeit zu vertreiben. Bloß: Wer ausreichend Geduld hat, um hier die Nachladezeiten zu überstehen, dessen Geduld reicht allemal auch, um auf das nächste "echte' Sierra-Adventure zu warten... (Manuel Semino)



Les Manley in: Search for The King logo

Once they've completed Lucasfilm's Monkey Island, adventurers can check into Les Manley's Heartbreak Hotel.

How's this for a weird game? Les Manley In Search For The King is about some dork who's idea of a good time is to hang around in electrical stores, and whose favourite food is listed as Microwave. For reasons which I haven't the time or space to go into, he sets himself a mission, one which will take him to the most rockin' parts of the USA, introducing him to interesting people, and (more importantly) cute chicks.
His mission: To find The King. Bizarre is not the word (but it's close enough).

For a game which is so obviously about The King (you know, the hamburger-eating, pelvis-gyrating, Viva-Las-Vegasing rock 'n' roller), it's rather odd to see a disclaimer, informing the world that any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental., accidental or unintended. Neat, though not quite true. But anyway, onto the game proper.

First up (as is the norm with American stuff) we have the lengthy intro sequence - something which consolidates the feel of quality with this product. It's good to see an American game which isn't a direct port from some poor PC version. All too often the accompanying guff is of excellent quality, but the game itself is shoddily put together. None of that for LEs Manley though.

There are seventy backdrops, each looking very polished and individual. The characters also have their own visual identity, and are remarkably well animated. The attention to detail even extends to Les getting darker when in shadow, and having a reflection in pools of water. The whole thing has a 'confidence' which so many games (particularly adventures) lack.

Okay, I guess comparisons with the recent Monkey Island are inevitable. Both games require one meg, are sprawled over several disks, and both are modern adventures laced with humour. At a glance, both product look very similar indeed. Could this be an adventuring renaissance? Well maybe, but it's when Search For The King is pitted against Lucasfilm's masterpiece that the cracks become evident.

The game is caught between two stools with its user interface. The programmers were eager to move with the times and incorporate slick point-and-click control styles, but they were obviously loathe to abandon the standard text entry system. This is understandable, but as Lucasfilm's Monkey Island proved, a pure mouse-driven system is more effective (given the constraints of current technology).

The mouse and text systems just don't seem compatible, and although it's certainly less unwieldy than Sierra's recent efforts, it doesn't do the player any favours.

Moving Les around the screen for instance takes a mammoth amount of effort. When compared to Monkey Island's system where you simply point and the character will make his own way there, here you've got to point the mouse to every little position, navigating Les around furniture and the like, which quickly becomes fairly irritating. Add to that the fact that the most commands don't generate anything like an interesting response, and the whole thing begins to feel very stilted and artificial.

And then there's the humour - such an important part of Monkey Island. Here it's a bit, well, lacking - never sufficiently sustained, and while the flagrant air of sexism adds an edge (whether it's actually poking fun at sexism or using it is open to debate) everything's far too American to really work in the UK. It really wouldn't have been hard to make the jokes a bit more universal in nature.

Players of Leisure Suit Larry's latest escapades should have no problem identifying with Les Manley, or getting around his Manley world for that matter. It's just that after the silk of Monkey Island, why settle for polyester (or something like that)?



Les Manley in: Search for The King logo

Remember all those Sun and Sunday Sport headlines from a few years ago, claiming that Elvis Presley was alive and well and working as a teasmaid in your local Co-op? Well, Accolade certainly do, and have devised an entire graphic adventure around the idea as you seek to find The King, collect a $1 million reward, and cop off with the boss's secretary to boot.

An impressive intro sets the scene and introduces thte major characters. Les's cigar-chomping boss is shown leaning over a boardroom table grilling his TV station executives arbout the company's failing revenues. Some bright spark has the brilliant idea to launch a 'Find the King' competition with a prize of $1 million should be he found alive.
Les Manley, the character under your control, listens intently and decides to set out and find the King, win the money, and, hopeully, the affections of Stella Hart, the company secretary.

Les is a bit of a nerd, to say the least. His job involves manually rewinding video tape to save on electricity and he works from a grotty basement office. Stuck in a dead-end job, he's definitely one of life's losers, and the chance to get rich quick is just too much of a temptation.

Les has to travel through more than 70 screens in his search with plenty of red-herrings impeding his progress. For instance, it's useless trying to buy a ticket for Vegas from the New York bus station as the maze-like crowd-control barriers don't actually lead to the counter. Try visiting the Test-o-Strength stall at the Circus instead for a novel way of reaching your destination.

The game is mouse-controlled although there's also a keyboard option. Moving Les around the screen is straightforward - merely click on the aprt of the screen you want Les to move to, and he'll obediently follow.

As with all graphic adventures there's a great deal of text input, and the parser is remarkably efficient at recognising a broad range of verbs and commands. If you're new to adventure games, you might find yourself struggling in the early stages as things aren't always clear. It's a good idea to thoroughly examine very screen and take whatever isn't bolted down - you never know when you may need that thermos flask of water, mouldy cheese sarnie or ID card. Another handy tip, if you get really stuck, is to consult the walk-through guide which comes conveniently packaged with the game.

Search for the King has been out on the PC for some time, but it's only now that Amiga owners can join in the fun. That's because instead of porting the game across and adapting the PC graphics and tinny sound, the game's graphics and sonics have been reworked from scratch to take advantage of the Amiga's capabilities.

Overall, the animated antics of Les and his pals looks a treat. The attention to detail is superb with jam-packed screens hiding a number of clues, equipment or interactive elements of one kind or another. Especially entertaining is the Circus screen where, after having earnt a ticket by shoveling Elephant (dung(!), you can face off against the World's Strongest Man or have yourself a palm job with the local Fortune Teller. Watch out, also, for Bart Simpson on a skateboard and numerous other celebrities who pop up for cameo appearances.

Sadly, the sound is a distinct disappointment. There are a number of in-game tunes but they rarely rise above the mediocre. Even Rolf Harris with his trusty Stylaphone could have done better than this.

Another minus point is the amount of time spent swopping disks. Search for the King comes on five disks and if you haven't got a second drive you'll be forever changing them. The game also loads incredibly slowly, and each new screen takes an age to appear. This cuts up the action and can be really frustrating at times.

It's not just Elvis devotees who'll get their kicks from Search for the King. Its appeal is fairly broad, due to the game's in-built humour and inherent silliness. Solutions to many of the problems aren't easy - you have to literally think how Les would think in many instances. It's not easy being a nerd (or so I'm told!), but it's a hell of a lot of fun. And I'm not going to spoil the game by telling you if Les eventually tracks down the King, marries Stella or even-pockets the $1 million - you're just going to have to buy it for yourself!


THE KING IS DEAD

Search for the King takes its inspiration from the life of Elvis Presley, an incredibly famous singer of the fifties who ended up a fat and bloated has-been performing to blue-rinse grannies in the stiffling heat of Las Vegas. Throughout the game there are many throw away references to his past life. For instance, the Circus owner is called the Colonel, an obvious reference to Colonel Parker, a former circus hustler who went on to manage Elvis and shape his career.

Les also visits the Kingdom, an obvious doppelganger for Elvis's Gracelands retreat, complete with gaudy interiors. There are even reference to the many Elvis impersonators who hawk their dubious talents around the nightclub and cabaret circuits as Les has to dress up as one to get into the Kingdom's inner most sanctums. Unfortunately, as Accolade didn't fork out the cash for an Elvis licence, none of his music accompanies the game and instead we're served up a diet of substandard tunes which have you reaching for the volume control.