Buckle up your swash and free the kingdom

The Adventures of Maddog Williams logo

GAME CRAFTERS * £29.99 * Joystick/Keyboard * Out now

Some people can be so spiteful can't they? Take, for example the parents of the hero of this game. Picture the scene: Mrs Williams has just given birth to a lovely, bouncing baby boy, complete with Ginger hair and Douglas Fairbanks goatee beard.
He's a swashbuckling adventurer though and through. And what do they decide to call him? Bob? Jim? Montgomery? No, they decide to call him Maddog. What a pair of gits.

Imagine the childhood that poor old Maddog must have had. Teased all the time by the kids at school, all the teachers sniggering when they took the register and as he got older he found that no one would cash his cheques. It's no wonder that he threw aside all thoughts of becoming an adventurer and decided to stay at home and invent things instead.

So the years passed and Maddog went about his inventing. He never thought to invent something that would benefit mankind though, like a computer that could figure out why people watch things in which Jimmy Tarbuck appears. Oh no. He invented such useful items as an alarm clock that tips water over you in the morning, and a beer server that catapults glasses off the bar. Which is probably why nobody ever heard of him. Now, while all this was going on, a terrible evil was spreading throughout the land. As we all know, terrible evils do tend to spread though lands quite a lot, and more often than not, when they do there's always only one man who can stop it.
Guess who it is this time? Yup, it's Maddog Williams. So it's up to you to guide Maddog through his quest to rid the land of evil, save the damsel, make friends and influence people and so on.

Your mighty quest begins at home with very little notion of what awaits you. Just like Monday morning in the Gamer office. You basically go about your business, inventing useless things and getting thrown out of pubs, until you picks up some clues and take it from there. Quite a nice change from the strict linear plots of other games of this ilk, I think you'll find. Oh yes indeed.

The more astute of you will have already seen the screenshots and decided that Maddog Williams looks more than a bit like the Sierra games. Well, you'd be right: it is a hell of a lot like them. The graphics, in particular, are a dead ringer for the King's Quest series, with their chunky sprites and colourful fairy tale backgrounds.

The humour is there too, although some of the jokes in Maddog fall flat on their faces. It would appear that most of the humour in Maddog is unintentional, or at least all the bits that I laughed at were. Would you believe that just down the road from Maddog's house is a satanic temple where they sacrifice virgins with alarming regularity?

Don't think that I don't like the game, because I do. It's just that Maddog's sickenly twee attitude is a real pain in the backside at times. For instance, when Maddog is being flung about violently by some tentacle thingies in an underground cave, I tried to CUT TENTACLES, to which Maddog replied "I'd rather not", or when Maddog is downstairs in his antique shop, and refuses to take any of the weapons from the shop on his quest. A choice of maces, crossbows, battleaxes, and he takes his little sword. A few 10p's short of a phone box or what?

This sort of moralistic restriction can make the more mischievous game player feel a bit held back, since you can't search other people's houses or nick things. Still, I suppose it's good for the soul or something. Mind you, for the really evil players, you can always get Maddog stones on the magic mushrooms in the forest (evil cackle).

The game comes on a mammoth five disks, with the first disk containing the introduction and the remaining four disks holding the game.
Each game disk is divided into two chapters - where a chapter is basically a section of the map - and although you can walk from one "chapter" to the next, you can only progress properly if you complete a special task in each.

In chapter one you must rescue a fair maiden from the satanic temple, in chapter two you must find your way across some quicksand. Each time you complete a task, or appear to be following the correct route, a burst of music lets you know that you're on the right track.

The way you can just wander at first, and chat away to the locals about life in general is great, although Lucasfilm-style conversation wouldn't go amiss. As it is, you have no control over speech, and end up just listening as some of the more senile inhabitants ramble on for hours about fishing trips. The characters could have done with a little more personality as well. In a game as involving as this, it really adds atmosphere if you can build up some sort of relationship with others in the game.

Who could ever forget the infuriating used ship salesman in Monkey Island, or the embarrassing storekeeper in Leisure Suit Larry? Still, it's a minor point, as the characters really only exist to give you clues and ideas on how to progress, and this they do very well.

The sound is pretty dire. The music is distressingly bleepy and the FX are not what you would call inspiring. It's not bad enough to spoil the game, but it's a pity that more couldn't be done.
On the sunny side, the graphics are nice and clear, if not very well drawn, and sum up the pleasant feeling of the game. The animation is a tad on the sticky side though, with Maddog's walk looking like that cheery childhood hero, Bod. But this doesn't matter because the gameplay is geared more to chin-stroking pondering, rather than frantic running around.

All in all then, a wonderfully creamy little Pontefract-cake of a game. The puzzles are tricky, but always blindingly obvious in the end, and the graphics set off the atmosphere perfectly.
It's the sort of story that always seem to crop up in cheesy French cartoons on Childrens' ITV, and as such may appeal more to the wee ones than to die-hard adventurers, but a bit of a corker nonetheless. Gorgeous.

The Adventures of Maddog Williams logo

Gamecrafters * £30.99

Leap into the jaws of death, beat up the bad guys, grab the girl and leg it. That's the basic idea here. It's on five disks and has clearly been aimed at admirers of the recent role-playing hit Monkey Island. No throwing of insults to resolve combat in this game though. Oh no, this is real swashbuckling stuff where you get to slice enemies into little pieces with your sword in true, Jim Hawkins' style.

Control is a combination of text input and joystick which, while being fire for combat situations, becomes a chore during conversation with other characters. The graphics are good but the lack Monkey Island's character. On the plus side there is a huge area to explore within the game, and there are some brilliant animations when something happens to Mad Dog. The story line is well written, containing all the quirky humour that you have come to expect from games of this format.

The Adventures of Maddog Williams logo

In den fernen USA, dem Land der unbegrenzten Adventure-Möglichkeiten, schickt sich eine kleinere Company an, es den Giganten Sierra und Lucasfilm gleichzutun. Ein weiter Weg, ein großes Ziel - werden teutonische Recken das neue Übersee-Abenteuer zu schätzen wissen?

Wahrscheinlich nicht, und das mit gutem Grund. Bereits die konfuse Story läßt erahnen, daß das Game womöglich zu lange unterwegs war und nun an Reisekrankheit leidet: Ein Dämonenpriester hat den friedlichen König Serak umgepolt (nicht was Ihr jetzt denkt!), fortan terrorisiert er sein Fantasy-Reich mit Menschenopfern und ähnlichen Gemeinheiten.

Ein gewisser Robert Thaylor schnappt sich daher den König, sperrt ihn ein und übernimmt die Macht in Duridian. Thaylor, wiederum verschwindet einen Tages ebenso von der Bildfläche wie seine hübsche Tochter Lenria. Angeblich ist der zwischenzeitlich flüchtige Ex-Monarch darin verwickelt, aber nix Genaues weiß man nicht. Also macht sich der Erfinder Maddog Williams auf, um die beiden Kidnapping-Opfern zu befreien und gegebenenfalls den fiesen König unschädlich zu machen...

Am Screen entwickelt sich das verwickelte Drama ganz im Stil der frühen Sierras: Der Held wird über die Cursortasten oder den Joystick gesteuert, seine Befehle empfängt er via Tastatur. Hin und wieder kommt es zu eher harmlosen Auseinandersetzungen, bei denen sich Maddog mit dem Schwert oder anderen Waffen zur Wehr setzten muß, während ein Energiebalken seine momentane Befindlichkeit kundtut. Aber auch friedliche Kommunikationmit den zahlreichen Bewohnern des Königreichs steht an, hier ist der Spieler auf seine Fantasie und Englischkenntnisse angewiesen; Hilfestellung vom Programm darf man nicht erwarten. Was man hingegen erwarten darf, ist so das Übliche: Hier einen Gegenstand aufklauben, ihn dort einsetzen, und sich gegen bare Münze bessere Ausrüstung zusammenkaufen. Damit man unterwegs nicht verlorengeht, liegt eine Landkarte bei.

Bisher klingt das zwar alles wenig originell, aber auch nicht richtig schlecht. Bloß die technische Ausführung, oweh! So nimmt die Grafik zwar gut zwei Drittel des Screens ein, ist aber ebenso farb- wie detailarm und macht überhaupt einen recht antiquierten Eindruck. Auch der Schlummer-Sound gehört mehr zur Kategorie "Motivationskiller" als daß er rechte Abenteuer-Stimmung aufkommen ließe, ist aber immerhin abschaltbar. Weitaus ärgerlicher ist das ständig Nachladen von Diskette, sobald der Held ins nächste Bild läuft. Wer weder Festplatte noch Zweitlaufwerk besitzt, sollte also zumindest etwas für häufige Kaffeepäuschen übrig haben!

Mit einem Wort, der "verrückte Hund" ist mehr ein alter, zäher Hund. Den Programmierern seien ein paar Nachhilfestunden bei ihren amerikanischen Kollegen dringend ans Herz gelegt - immerhin drohen sie uns durch den Untertitel "Volume I" weitere Adventures gleicher Machart an. Aber wir lassen uns nicht einschüchtern: Es gibt viel zu tun, legen wir es vorerst weg... (pb)

The Adventures of Maddog Williams logo

It's American, it comes on five disks, it can only be another stab at computer gaming's soft underbelly - the animated adventure cinemathingumy game. These can be either extremely good Monkey Island, Cruise for a Corpse) or steadfastly average (most other ones).

You know by now that if a game falls into the former category it gets a nice double page spread at the front of the magazine, and perhaps a mention on the cover. And if it's tucked away at the back, in an inconspicuous run-on spot, well, it's best not to get too excited...

The 'Maddog Williams' referred to by the game's title is, as you might have guessed, the chap you control in your attempt to thwart some evil somebody or other. But while he's quite happy to sink five pints of beer without displaying any ill effects, and will cheerfully plunge headfirst into icy streams, he seems curiously ignorant of the concept of a bar fight. (He also wears a pink vest). Still, he's your hero, and you've no choice but to move him around the screen using the joystick and issue commands through a simple text parser. It's just like the sort of thing Sierra were doing five years ago (but if anything, cruder).

The graphics are really very amateurish indeed - lightyears removed from the current state-of-the-art - and it's mainly this that deterred me from probing the game's hidden depths. I mean, if they can't even be bothered to make it look nice on the outside, what chance do the innards stand? The puzzles I did encounter seemed fairly run-of-the-mill - just a case of guessing what needs to be done and finding the right combination of objects and/or commands to see it through. There are some sword-fighting bits too, but, well, um... Oh, and sudden deaths abound, so save regularly.

I didn't really like Maddog Williams much. (You can tell, can't you?) While it's clear that loads of effort has gone into it, it's effort of the uninspired, not-really-giving-it-100-percent variety, and that never makes for a great game.