Mortville Manor logo

KYILKHOR CREATION/LANKHOR

France's 1987 Game of the Year and biggest seller apparently shifted twice as many units as its nearest rival, and now hopes to pick up a few accolades here too. If you've ever played and enjoyed Borrowed Time, Deja Vu, Witness, Suspect or ay other whodunnit, then Mortville's for you.

GAMEPLAY

You play the part of Jerome Lange, a Bogard clone private eye who's received an invitation from an old friend to join her at Chateau Mortville to help with a desperate situation. With a name like Mortville you might suppose something is seriously wrong and, yes, you're right. Your old friend Julia has already departed. To Deadsville.

Arriving in a storm, you are met by the butler who gives you a run down on the place and its inhabitants before showing you to your bedroom. From there on it's entirely up to you. You may wander around the various rooms and the grounds outside, the idea being to search for evidence and find a variety of objects which may lead you to the murderer in your midst. There are eight characters on whom to pin Julia's murder: you may question these suspects directly about the background to the case and, as you progress and locate evidence, grill them about their alibis.

Discretion will make your task a lot easier. It's best to amass evidence secretly before confronting your presumed killer as, of course, everyone's guilty until proved innocent and it's quite easy to have a knife plunged in your back when all you're doing is exploring the attic.
So, who did dunnit? Like any good thriller,it's got to be the one person it couldn't possibly be..


GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Each location and object is depicted by simple but effective graphics, nothing an 8-bit micro couldn't put on screen. What makes Mortville really unique is that the characters really do speak to you, complete with animated faces as they deliver their message. Nothing new about speech in a game, you say, but eight characters talking clearly in thick French accents?? Genius! There's a staggering amount of speech crammed onto the disk, far too much for it to be digitised - the game is evidently using the Amiga's speech synthesizer chip directly, so how it'll work on the ST is anyone's guess..

Add to this a wealth of high quality effects to supplement ambience - short musical inserts, doors swinging smoothly open, footsteps, chiming clocks - and you're talking Atmosphere; the big essential of any adventure.


INTERFACE

Mortville is a mouse driven adventure using a unique method of conversing with other characters. Discussions are selected by clicking on the name of the person you wish to talk to, and a screen then appears showing a range of discussion topics appropriate to what you've discovered at that point. You click on one to hear the reply, and you really do hear it, in an outrageous French accent!

Actions are determined from pul-down menus. Either a verb is understood and responded to immediately - you click on 'open' and a door does likewise, or the verb requires further qualification - you must move a cursor over the object to which you wish to apply your action and click to enact.


CONCLUSION

It'd be a sound decision to add Mortville to your adventure collection. Although the plot is a little cliched, the method of interaction and sense of involvement are compelling enough to make up for this. And then again, it's just great just to listen to all those crazy French accents. Just hope you end up as Poirot and not Clouseau.



Mortville Manor logo

Lankhor
Amiga
£24.95

A desperate telegram pleading for help, has you rushing to Mortville Manor, so seek out Julia Defranck. Very ill, she expresses fears for the safety of her family. And so you find yourself in the mountains, the snow covered Manor in front of you gleaming in the morning sun. As you approach, a wolf howls, sending a shiver down your spine, and the bell on the chapel tolls, almost as if in warning.

Entering the great building, you are greeted with the news that Julia has died, and her family has gathered at the Manor to sort out her affairs. The detective in you tells you that all is not what it seems, and so you set about investigating what you are convinced is a case of murder.

Mortville Manor is of French origin, and has to be the first adventure that uses digitised sound as an integral part of the game, rather than as an added extra.

All actions are performed using function keys and mouse - there is no text input at all. For example, to move, the MOVE option on the menu bar is touched with the mouse, and a drop-down menu lists the available locations. Select it, and you are on your way. Sometimes you are also offered the option of 'choice on screen', and can then point to a place in the picture to which you want to move.

To carry out other actions, ACT on the menu bar displays a long list of selectable verbs. Objects are taken by first discovering where they lay (you may have to open, say a drawer) and then searching it, using the ACT menu. If there is anything of interest inside, these will be graphically displayed in sequence, allowing each to be taken, or otherwise manipulated.

The crux of the game is interaction with the family of the deceased during your investigation. They all move about the Manor and grounds, and sometimes gather in small groups at different times of the day. When you find yourself in the company of someone you wish to question, the DIScuss option on the menu bar produces a list of the characters, with the available ones shown in highlight.

Selecting one of these causes an animated portrait of the person in question to be displayed, followed by a list of questions or subjects for discussion, such as Julia's death, Eva's relationship with Max, and so on. Further subjects are added to the list as you make more discoveries whilst progressing through the game.

Once a subject has been chosen, an animated portrait of the suspect replies in sound only - no text captions are provided. The result is often comic, for the speech has a very distinct French accent superimposed on a robotic intonation. In posing your questions, it pays to be discreet, for asking too many questions tends to produce hostility, and results in the rather monotonous answer "You are too curious".

The mystery is solved by the process of deduction - from the different answers you get to the same questions, together with other clues your sharp sense of observation provides you with, as you move from room to room. Why, for example, does Bob seem to think Julia died from frostbite, when everyone else tells you she died from pulmonary embolism?

Altogether a 'different' game, with plenty of atmosphere, and whilst I am not sure I would like to play with the format frequently, it does make for a refreshing change.



Mortville Manor logo

Lankhor, Amiga £24.95

Lankhor are a French company who until recently have specialised in arcade-type software. This, the beginning of a promised series, is their first crack at adventure games.

Putting you in the guise of Gerome Lange PI, Mortville Manor has you revisiting an old house which, as well as being full of memories for you, hopefully holds the key to the mysterious death of your good friend, Julia Defranck.

On arrival at the manor, the butler answers the door, takes you to your room and informs you of meal times and the service that takes place in the chapel everyday at ten. Once alone in your room, exploration of the house may begin. However, stealth and discretion are required at all times as other inhabitants may become suspicious of you if you ask the wrong questions or if they discover you in areas of the house you should not be in. Either of these events is sufficient to end the game in failure.

The corridor outside your room is elegantly carpeted with many doors leading from it. One exit is particularly interesting as it leads to a little-used room which hides many intriguing and useful items. The kitchen, Library, and Dining Room all hide clues for you to find and understand.

Exploring the area immediately surrounding the house is a dangerous occupation while the snow storm still rages - an icy death awaits should you wander too far into the wilderness. The stone well (which may be accessed using the rope found in the aforementioned little-used room) is also very dangerous and it is not wise to dally in its depths.

However interesting wandering the house and its grounds may be, the heart of the game is in questioning and interrogating the other characters. The more you find out about your surroundings the more subjects you can question suspects on. Being in the right place at the right time helps, I suggest you do not miss meal times as everyone gathers... just waiting to be asked questions.

Even though Mortville Manor has been written by a French company, translation problems are rendered minimal by the fact that the game is menu driven with most game replies spoken. All speech may be repeated so that if you are having trouble with the Amiga's French accent you can listen again and again until all becomes clear.

The menus (displayed at the top of the screen) are DESK (a reminder of the authors) INV (objects carried) MOV (to move around) ACT (a choice of actions such as Examine, Get or Read), SELF (actions which relate to yourself or items carried) and DIS (the persons present with whom you may converse). When conversation takes place the screen displays a list of the topics available; however, their existence does not necessitate an answer from an unwilling party.

The main area of the screen is taken up by attractive graphics the contents of which may be pinpointed with the cursor (via the mouse) and interacted with - examined, opened, taken, etc. A clock to the right of the screen displays the time, and a brief text description of the present location adorns the very bottom of the screen. Effective music and suitable sound effects accompany many locations and events.

An unusual adventure in its implementation, Mortville Manor is a masterpiece of intrigue and puzzle solving. Although the other characters' reply of 'You are too curious' is heard far too often the game is a must to play and play again until the mystery of Julia's death is solved. Then there's the theme tune... play it again Jean Paul.