The game with the hourglass figure

Ween logo

Digital Integration * £29.99 * 512k * Mouse * Out now

Have you noticed just how many adventure/RPG games there are knocking about nowadays? In case you haven't I'll tell you - blooming loads, that's how many, and a happy fact is that the quality seems to be getting better and better.

Actually, if you're anything like me then this isn't always good news. It's very easy to decide which product to buy when there's only a couple of decent choices on the market, but take a look through the rest of Gamer - there isn't a bad mark to be seen.

If I were a punter (to use a technical term) I'd probably spend hours dithering over which game looked that little bit better and then up buying two or three, thus scuppering my Friday night beer feast because all my money was in the till at the comp shop. Am I waffling? I think I probably am. Let's get down to business.

Coktel Vision - the team behind Ween - have a slightly chequered past if previous reviews are anything to go buy (and of course, Gamer reviews are the ONLY thing to go buy, as you all know).

Gobliiins was an excellent interactive puzzle-type thing, and we eagerly await the sequel which you should see next month. Their most recent offering Fascination, however, wasn't quite as well received, to say the least. Since I have seen very little of either, it was an open mind that I opened the box and inserted 'disk 1 into drive A'.

On doing this I was met almost immediately by a funny looking old man with a beard who, it transpired, was Okrham the master sorcerer, and great-grandfather of Ween, the character you play. Now it was pretty obvious that this guy was a bit agitated about something, as he began to explain.

Ten years ago Okrham was saddened by the chance in his understudy Kraal, an excellent sorcerer who had a big future ahead of him - Paul Daniels had been in touch and everything - but he began to realise that far greater power awaited him on the dark side of magic.

Eventually Okrham was forced to banish him from the kingdom of the Blue Rocks, which is where the action takes place, to whatever strange place is reserved for such spooky people. Milton Keynes probably.

Anyway, the boot's on the other foot now: Okrham is very old and his magic is fading. This wouldn't be a problem usually, and he'd be happy to gracefully retire: trouble is, he knows (and don't ask me how) that Kraal is planning to return to the Blue Rocks on the day of the eclipse to fulfill his ambition of ruling the kingdom from whence he was banished.

Since Okrham's powers are weak he will be unable to defend the Blue Rocks from Kraal's evil, so surprise surprise, it's up to you, as Ween, to do the decent thing. The eclipse is only three days away and the one hope you have of defeating Kraal lies in the power of the Revuss, or magical hourglass. According to some prophecy or other, all evil will be banished from the Blue Rocks only when the Revuss is furnished with three grains of sand.

To manage this you'll have to overcome three major obstacles, being rewarded with a single grain of sand for every success. Luckily and somewhat predictably, the Revuss lies deep in a hidden temple, the entrance to which can be found in Okrham's house. It's point-and-click, pick-'em-up-and-use-'em adventure, viewed from the eyes of Ween, or you. Several strange inhabitants of the Blue Rocks will show their faces from time to time to either help or hinder you.

Most helpful of these is Urm the fruitbat, who will perform certain tasks for you in return for a snack. Petroy is a friend of Okrham's and frequently communicates telepathically, deciphering ancient text and other such things you might expect of a wise old man with psychic powers.

There are certainly plenty of puzzles and obstacles in Ween - not all of them logical - and the screens are detailed enough, it's true. Unfortunately the colours are very monotonous and in certain instances you could be forgiven for believing that you were using a monochrome monitor.

Sound is in the form of a very forbidding, Omen-like tune that I think enhances the game by providing an atmosphere which the graphics lack. There appears to be a fair bit of depth to Ween, and despite my gripes I enjoyed playing it very much.

As I mentioned at the start, there are oodles of RPGs on the market, and although Ween is not a poor relation by any means, it doesn't exactly stand head and shoulders above the rest either.

If you're an adventurer with a cupboard full of RPGs then Ween is worth a try because it's a good adventure - but those looking for their first game in this genre could very well be disappointed by the way in which Ween is presented. Unfair perhaps, but a fact of life.

Ween logo

Coktel Vision * £29.99

Following on from the previous adventure, Fascination, French software house Coktel Vision have moved on from the world of titillating intrigue into the land of fantasy. Ween is a game that uses much the same format as Fascination, but with a plot that owes more to Swords and Sorcery games than sordid saucery.

You are Ween, an apprentice magician who must save the kingdom from evil. This seems easy - all you have to do is to find three grains of sand. Not your average beach variety, mind, but special grains that can only be found after completing three tasks: opening the entrance to the secret temple;vanquishing the dragon; and convincing the guardian to open the sanctuary.

The plot isn't exactly original, and neither is the game, although, the graphics are pretty. Sad to say, Ween is a game which is likely to appeal for a very short time and then be banished to a shelf to collect dust, and for £30 that just isn't good enough.

Ween logo

Ein Adventure von Coktel Vision - das ist meist gleichbedeutend mit einer originell ausgedachten und hübsch präsentierten Story, der es "nur" an den abenteuerlichen Elementen mangelt. Kommt hier die Ausnahme von der Regel?

Irgendwie schon, denn nach Softsex von Muriel Tramis sucht man in Ween ebenso vergeblich wie nach Ballerspiel-Aliens, die sich à la "Bargon Attack" selbständig machen - stattdessen steht eine Reise ins Fantasy-Königreich der Blauen Felsen an. Den Grund dafür hat der greise Chef-Zauberer Ohkram geliefert, dessen Kräfte zusehends schwinden, während die seines bösen Gegenspielers Kraal bedrohlich anwachsen.

Nach einer alten Prophezeiung läßt sich die Sache nur regeln, indem drei Körner in den "Revüss" geworfen werden, worunter man sich am besten eine überdimensional Sanduhr vorstellt. Diesen Job hat man Ohkrams Enkel Ween auf's Auge gedrückt, dem nun genau drei Tage Zeit zum Finden & Werfen der rettenden Körnchen bleiben...

Trödeln darf er also nicht, aber zumindest ist unser Held unsterblich und verfügt über Hilfspersonal: Die Zwillinge Ubi und Orbi dienen quasi als lebendes Inventory, den alten Petroy kann man auf telepatischen Weg um Rat fragen, und der vegetarische Vampir Urm übernimmt kleinere Aufträge, sofern er mit Obst bestochen wird.

Wen das alles jetzt ein wenig an "King's Quest" und Konsorten erinnert, der wird sich nicht wundern, daß auch bei der (Maus-) Steuerung unübersehbare Anleihen beim Adventure-Profi Sierra genommen wurden - mit dem kleinen aber unfeinen Unterschied, daß die Iconleiste gleich so streng standardisiert wurde, daß einige der Optionen hier nicht benutzbar sind! Außerdem muß man die (einzeln umgeschalteten) Bilder schon recht genau mit dem Nagetier absuchen, sonst übersieht man leicht mal einen für den Lösung nötigen Gegenstand.

Das Strickmuster unterscheidet sich letztlich also nicht allzusehr von "Bargon Attack", die Hauptbeschäftigung besteht auch hier darin, sämtliche greifbaren Gegenstände aufzusammeln und später an der richtigen Stelle anzuwenden. Dennoch ist Ween kein Adventure für blutige Einsteiger, denn das Herausfinden der "richtigen Stelle" (und der richtigen Anwendung) kann gelegentlich ganz schön knifflig sein.

Trotzdem hätte etwas mehr Tiefgang nicht geschadet, komplexe Gespräche etwa muß man sich gleich abschminken. Dafür erinnert die farbenfrohe Grafik ein bißchen an "Dune" und überrascht manchmal mit toll animierten Zwischensequenzen - leider ist sie nicht ganz so hübsch geworden wie bei der gleichzeitig veröffentlichten PC-Version. Die tragisch-gehaltvolle Begleitmusik kann man sich erstaunlich lange anhören, Geräusche haben hingegen Seltenheitswert.

Die große Ausnahme ist Ween somit doch wieder nicht, und wahre Profi-Abenteurer werden mit dem Game wohl auch nur für relativ kurze Zeit glücklich werden - aber wer nur mal eben ins Fantasy-Genre schnuppern will, findet hier eine passende Gelegenheit, zumal die Verkaufsversion komplett deutsch sein wird. (ms/od)

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Ween a game comes out with a funny name, ween-ever miss a chance to make a few puns.

Before we start I should advise all of you who are expecting any sad attempts at a joke about a game called Ween that you're going to be disappointed. This is not a magazine where we would even attempt such a low blow at a game, we think Ween is a perfectly good title and wouldn't dream of making any jokes about it. (I am relieved. - Ed)

Okay, so it is one of those French RPG thingies. I'm looking forward to this one. Let's see, what does it say here? One day, blah blah, evil omens, blah blah, anger of the heavens, blah blah, nasty wizard, blah blah, good wizard needs help. What, no women with no clothes on? What's with all this 'good wizard needs help against bad wizard' stuff? There can't even be much violence with that plot. Oh never mind let's see what the game's like anyaway.

Playing these French adventures for the first time is a very refreshing change. They've obviously put a lot of thought into how to make these games playable. Gone are the endless icons or the ridiculous text entry systems what never understood what you were trying to say.

Now with two clicks of a mouse button you can go from examining a rat close up to stuffing a drug down its throat or slaying a dragon. I wish more companies would take a good look at this control system to see how it should be done. Bravo Coktel.

So, what about the game itself. As you would expect from looking at Coktel's other games (Fascination for one) it's a point and click adventure. You are Ween (although you only actually see him once) and you have to roam around the various locations solving deviously tricky puzzles. Well actually the puzzles range from blindingly obvious to slap on the forehead "Why didn't I think of that?" type problems.

Ween is a lot of fun to play

The way the system works means that anything that's of any use to you will be shown on screen when you move the mouse over it. This is fine but it does tend to have one drawback: whenever you first enter a screen all you have to do is just swing the mouse over everything, see what's highlighted and you get the general idea of what you have to do to complete that particular puzzle.

In Coktel's earlier games this detracted from the gameplay and made the games too easy. Luckily that particular program stops here because of the puzzles in Ween take a hell of a lot of working out. However with pure, ice cold logical brain power (and the help of the guy upstairs who's played the game before) I managed to get through the worst of it.

The graphics are a real mixture of styles. Some of the outside scenes are done in a lovely sepia style while the interiors tend to use more purples than anything. This may sound rather odd but it does create some strange lightning effects which are really atmospheric, especially if you're playing the game late at night with the lights down low and some soft music coming from your stereo.

Sound effects in this type of game are never up to much anyway. There's very little animation to speak of, bats flying overhead and a moving rat. What there is quite well done but doesn't really add anything to the game. That said, touches such as this do tend give you quite a start.

Playing these French adventures is a refreshing change

These point and click adventures are usually fun to play because they're easy to get to grips with. Ween however is a lot of fun to play and the feeling of satisfaction when you solve a particularly tricky puzzle is immense. Many's the time I've been seen wailing around the office with a smug grin on my face after wrestling with a nasty problem for hours on end. You'll have to face up to those problems as well because you can't progress until each problem has been well and truly solved. None of this 'Oh I'll do that bit later' stuff here, thank you very much.

There are only a couple of places where you're likely to get well and truly stuck, but even there you can work it out eventually - it's just a case of trying everything you have in every possible combination, ooops, was that a clue? Nah, not really. Ween isn't one of the biggest adventures I've played. In fact when you know what you have to do you can breeze through it fairly quickly. I'd say for the experienced adventurer - the kind that eats Monkey Island games for breakfast - this may be just a smidgen too easy. For the novice to beginner, however, it will be a real battle of wills as you go head to head with your Amiga just to prove who is the smartest.

Several times I found myself cursing the machine and swearing that no way would this damn game get the better of me. It was normally at these times that I would find out that the answer had been staring me in the face all along.

To me these adventures are an ideal way of spending a few afternoons when you have nothing better to do. They're not overly expensive when you compare them to some of the others on the market and they can be a lot more user-friendly. I can see Fascination appealing to more people because of its more up to date plot but I think Ween is more of a challenge and therefore a better game. It's the classic example of just how a good adventure should be challenging but solvable.

Ween: Hints for the Lab Room
  1. A trap door that leads down, it couldn't be that simple surely. Well it's locked and that key isn't the one that opens it.
  2. Admire the decor all you want but feel free to rearrange it if you like.
  3. Is it a crack? Is it a hole in the wall? No it's a secret hideaway with an occupant who needs help to go to sleep.
  4. This key doesn't fit any locks, but it is a sort of skeleton key. Knock it on the 'ead son.
  5. These seeds may be small but they are a big feed for your friend in the hole.
  6. Ah, a sleeping draught could slow things down a little.
  7. This skull rings a bell (clue).

Ween logo

Coktel Vision £25.99

They do come up with some funny old games, those French cousins of ours. Take Ween for example. It's another of those strange graphic adventures, where nothing seems to follow any particular pattern, and you never quite know if they've forgotten to include half of the instruction manual, or if they meant to leave you completely in the dark.

Ween's plot is the usual kind of thing, knocked up on the Adventure Game Plot Construction Kit. You know, silly names, tales of mystical lands and unfulfilled prophecies. It boils down to a straight quest for, wait for it, three grains of sand! I can tell that's got you all excited, but simmer down, the best is yet to come.

It's played with a rather scrappy-looking point 'n' click interface, which would have been okay a few years ago, but comes nowhere near the standards of the Lucasfilm and Delphine adventures. Unlike those classics, Ween fails to convince you that you're in another world. Instead it just feels more like an interactive slideshow.

Puzzle-wise, it's completely illogical. Rather than being hard but fair, the solutions to the problems are just plain stupid. Once you realise that logic was a word missing from the designers' vocabulary, you end up just pushing, pulling and using everything you can lay your hands on in the hope that you'll hit the right combination of irrelevant moves. You do get a bit of help from Kevin the fruitbat, but in exchange for clues, you have to give him pieces of fruit, which are hard to come by.

If you're bored of logical adventure games where everything makes sense, Ween is the one for you.