Wonderland logo

Virgin £25.99 (1 meg required)

The long awaited Magnetic Scrolls adventure, Wonderland, has finally made it. Was it worth the wait? Did it deserve the hype? It depends on your point of view. It follows the story of Alice's Adventures in wonderland and you get the chance to relive the entire story, Mad Hatter, Duchess and the rest.

Wonderland uses a unique windows adventure system, allowing you to choose what is seen on screen. Each element of the display (text, graphics, compass etc.) has its own window, which can be opened and viewed simultaneously - in much the same was as Workbench.

The story and graphics are excellent, but the system looks a little clumsy and loads slowly. For adventures it is a breath of fresh air, escaping the traditional confines of the genre, but it is far from perfect. A brave step forward nonetheless.

Wonderland logo Amiga Joker Hit

Wer glaubte, die Blütezeit der Textadventures wäre unwiederbringlich vorbei, der kennt die Mannen um Anita Sinclair schlecht: Nach Jahren meldet sich Magnetic Scrolls nun auf der Bühne zurück - mit einem Paukenschlag!

Die Lobeshymnen für die PC-Version strotzten ja nur so vor Superlativen - kein Wunder, Wonderland sorgte schließlich für ein Wunder. Denn das Comeback wurde zum Triumpf: Mit einer packenden Handlung, herrlicher Grafik und nie dagewesenem Bedienungskomfort katapultierte Magnetic Scrolls das totgesagte Genre wieder an die Spitze der Charts!

Erzählt wird Lewis Carrolls "Alice im Wunderland", eine Geschichte, die dank ihres absurden Humors und der skurrilen Gestalten, denen die kleine Hauptdarsteller in ihrer Traumwelt begegnet, auch 80jährige Kinder noch bezaubern kann.

Und es ist den Programmierern wirklich hervorragend gelungen, die Atmosphäre der Vorlage über den Monitor zu bringen! Wer sich noch an Klassiker wie "The Pawn" oder "Guild of Thieves" erinnert, wird sich zudem nicht wundern, daß die Rätsel in Wonderland nicht nur zahlreich, sondern auch originell und trotzdem logisch sind.

Worüber man sich aber sehr wohl wundern darf, das ist "Magnetic Windows", eine wahrhaft geniale Benutzeroberfläche, die eigens für dieses Game ersonnen wurde. Ähnlich wie bei "Windows" oder "Intuition" (also z.B. die Workbench) kann man sich den Screen individuell zusammenstellen: Neben dem obligatorischen Textfenster können noch Inventory, Automapping-karte, eine Anzeige für mögliche Ausgänge, eine weitere für im Raum befindliche Gegenstände und natürlich die Grafik frei am Schirm plaziert werden.

All das darf man verschieben, vergrößern und verkleinern; dazu gibt es noch etliche Pulldown-Menüs, man kann die Grafiken auch direkt mit der Maus beklicken, Gegenstände ins Inventory "ziehen", Textpassagen wiederholen und sich von einer fein abgestuften Help-Funktion (von der dezenten Andeutung bis zum Holzhammer) weiterhelfen lassen. Wonderland bietet mehr Funktionen als so manche Anwendung - und ist dennoch, oder gerade deshalb, kinderleicht zu bedienen!

Die über 100 Grafiken sind wunderschön und teilweise sogar animiert, nur mit den Modi hat man sich ein bißchen verzettelt: Wer weder auf SW-Bilder steht, noch einen Multisync-Monitor besitzt, muß sich trotz diverser Optionen mit 16 Farben begnügen. Auch die sechs Musikstücke werden den Fähigkeiten unserer "Freundin" nicht ganz gerecht, und oft ziehen sich die Nachladezeiten ganz schön in die Länge. Man merkt dem Game halt an, daß es für einen schnellen AT samt Festplatte konzipiert wurde...

Nichtsdestotrotz sollte sich kein Amiga-Abenteurer dieses Erlebnis entgehen lassen: Der Parser versteht praktisch jedes Wort, und wer mit dem anspruchsvollen Englisch nicht überfordert ist, wird sich über die Textausgaben königlich amüsieren. Für Lucasfilm und Sierra brechen harte Zeiten an...! (mm)

Wonderland logo

Touted by its creators Magnetic Scrolls as the most sophisticated adventure ever, Wonderland raises the question - is the most complex necessarily the best?

Lewis Carroll was an odd sort of a chap. For a start he wasn't called Lewis at all, or even Carroll - his real name was Charles Dodgson. He also liked writing maths books and taking photographs of little girls. Blimey! So it isn't hard to see why Magnetic Scrolls decided not to give him much of a billing on the packaging of their computer adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Or, indeed, call it Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at all.

What they have done, though, is attempted to revolutionise adventure games as we know them, taking the unfashionable 'N, E, GET LAMP' concept and turning it into a force to be reckoned with in the Nineties etc. Quite a tall order, eh readers?

But before we go any further, let's take a look at the plot. It's Alice in Wonderland, basically, so if you've read the book you'll know just what to expect. Alice gets a bit bored of sitting on the riverbank, so when she sees a rabbit running past looking at its watch and going 'Oh dear, I shall be late' she gives chase and follows it down its burrow. Having done so she finds herself in a spooky world of talking playing cards, Cheshire cats, Mad Hatters and giant sherbet-smoking caterpillars. (What she doesn't find, mind you, are the Lion and the Unicorn or Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They're all characters in Alice Through the Looking Glass). It goes without saying that you're Alice, and you've got to solve a whole load of puzzles and get out of Wonderland in fact.

At the heart of Wonderland is a fairly straightforward adventure game parser. Text descriptions of your surroundings appear as you move from location to location, and you tell the game what you want it to do by typing in ordinary(ish) English commands.

As parsers go this is a fairly standard (if sophisticated) one, not different really to the sort of thing that's been around for the last four or five years. It'll understand everything from the basic 'E' (to go east) to huge, unwieldy sentence like 'PUT EVERYTHING WHICH IS IN THE CUPBOARD, EXCEPTION THE POTION IN THE CRATE THEN GET THE POTION AND PUT EVERYTHING FROM THE CRATE IN THE CUPBOARD' (don't ask me - I copied it out of the manual).

But what makes Wonderland different is the amount of clobber Magnetic Scrolls have tacked onto this basic framework. Say, for example, you wanted to pick up a bottle. You could be boring and type 'GET BOTTLE', I suppose. But there are at least 300 more convenient ways of doing it. You could scroll back to a previous 'GET BOTTLE' command and copy it, saving a few keystrokes. No? Right, how about going up the Verbs menu, selecting Get and then picking Bottle from the sub-menu that appears? Alternatively you could open up the items in Room window and the inventory window and drag the bottle icon between the two. Failing that you could even go to the Graphics window, click on the bottle in the picture and choose Get from there (I make that for ways. Ed). Whether you actually find yourself using any of these extra facilities is another matter. Most of the time it seemed to me to be quicker just to type things in.

These initial hurdles could be enough to put many punters off

Once you've got to grips with all of that you can start solving puzzles. It starts off easily enough - just follow the rabbit down its hole (not forgetting to take a pearlamp) and case the joint. You'll notice that almost every location has a picture of some sort to go with it (often animated) and possibly some music too. Pretty soon, though, you'll have picked up everything you can lay your hands on and will be wondering how to enter Wonderland proper.

Two fairly serious puzzles need to be solved, neither of which have much bearing on the book (most of the later ones do, though) and, although some pretty heavy hints are dropped in the text and the Help facility, these initial hurdles could be enough to put many punters off adventure gaming for evermore.

While Wonderland has a very professional feel to it, it could be argued that if you strip away all the extra bits and pieces (which, let's face it, serve only to make things a bit more accessible without actually altering what's underneath) you're really just left with a text adventure, a genre which probably evolved as far as it's likely to go several years ago. The other side, however, would jump to its feet and claim than an adventure packs in far more dept and is likely to require a lot more skill than most arcade games, and besides, Wonderland is rather a nice one and to dismiss it for being an adventure would be terribly close minded.

But what do I think? While admitting that the extra menus and windows (with the possible exception of the map) don't really add much, I did enjoy playing Wonderland enormously. It's a good rendition of the book capturing its storyline perfectly while tweaking it enough to present a challenge even to those who know the plot inside out.

The pictures are nice too. I reckon that if you've had a good crack at adventures before and they've left you cold, Wonderland isn't likely to convert you. But if you like them, and are looking for something to sink your teeth into, it'll be more than enough to light your torch,


Wonderland: Session Window
This is where everything 'happens'. Text descriptions of what's going on appear here, and you can type standard adventurey commands into it. The scroll bar on the side means you can review the last few pages of your adventure and cut, copy and past bits of it if you want. Pull-down menus at the top provide a 'shorthand' for most popular commands, so you hardly have to type anything at all (if you don't want to).

Wonderland: Graphics Window
Most locations have an associated picture, which is often animated. Clicking on an object in the piccy causes a menu to appear listing all the things you might want to do with it - another way of avoiding lots of typing.

Wonderland: Map Window
You'll never need another piece of squared paper again! A map is automatically constructed as you go, and you can move straight to any location by double clicking on it.

Wonderland: Compass Window
And mixing up east and west will become a thing of the past too - you can move to any dierction by clicking on the appropriate arrow (as long as there's an exit that way).

Wonderland: Inventory/Items Window
Your inventory (the stuff you're carrying) can be displayed in a window, as can the objects in the room. You can pick up and drop things by dragging their icons around, and do other things by choosing commands from menus.

Wonderland: Help Window
There's help available for most problems in the game, ranging from cryptic to blindingly obvious. Each time you use it your score takes a hammering, though.

Wonderland logo CU Amiga Super Star

It is one thing previewing a game as I did this one (CU July 1990) and another actually playing it for a review. At a preview it is all too easy to be shown only what the person conducting the demo wants you to see. Also, it is impossible to get the feel of how the game actually plays with your own hands at the controls. With so many different methods possible to enter commands, and with such a wide choice of available windows, I had reservations as to whether Wonderland's game system might prove so complex and confusing that it detracted from the game itself. After five minutes at the keyboard all those doubts had been swept away.

Using a large text window, an inventory window, a room object window, a compass window, a map, and the smaller of the sizes of graphics window, I found myself quite at ease using the mouse and occasionally entering text from the keyboard, sometimes to try more complex commands not available from the menus, and sometimes just for a change to stop myself from sitting in one position!

Alice In Wonderland is a story with which pretty nearly everyone is familiar to a greater or lesser extent, and therefore most players will have an inkling for the use of cake, a bottle of potion, and a fan. Game author David Bishop has cleverly retained the ingredients from the original story, but moved them around a bit and mixed them up in such a way, that however well you know Alice, you will have to stop and think. And he has added a lot more,which lead to some intriguing puzzles and take you off all over the game board to solve.

One minute you could be down by the river stroking a puppy, and the next frantically ransacking the White Rabbit's house to complete what you set out to do in the first place.

Moving long distances is no longer a tiring business of typing in a series of commands (like E, E, SE, NE, S, S, SW... for example) although you can do this if you wish. All you have to do now is place the cursor on the map at the location to which you wish to travel, hold the right mouse button down and release it on GOTO on a pop-up menu. The game will then take you there automatically.

All the fine text detail that has become the hallmark of Magnetic Scrolls games is there, too, despite so much else being packed onto the disks and crammed into the machine. Take the White Rabbit. His garden indicates that '...carrots play a very important part in the White Rabbit's everyday life...'Go into his living room, and you'll see a fairly insignificant picture hanging on his wall. Click on it to EXAMINE it and you'll discover '... a framed masterpiece entitled Crudites is yet further evidence of the Rabbit's fixation with vegetables'.

Every location, some 105 in all, has a graphic. These vary in shape and size, many are animated including even some of the pictures which are only cameos, and all are sensitive to objects within them being clicked on. Doing this displays the object's name and offers a pop-up menu of verbs valid in relation to it.

The graphics windows can be re-sized and the picture within the frame can be scrolled in any direction using the mouse - and it still retains its sensitivity to clicking.

The verbs list offered both via graphics, room, or inventory windows, and from a top level drop-down menu, are not exhaustive. They contain a standard list of the more common verbs, with valid ones highlighted. The game cannot be completed without a certain amount of keyboard work, which leaves plenty of scope for imaginative thinking to solve a problem. There are certain things you can do to a coat hanger, for example, that can't be done solely with a mouse!

Wonderland will delight and enthrall, as you meet up with all the legendary characters from Alice. With facilities from changing fonts to improve legibility if you are using a TV set, to a tree-structured progressive HELP option to prevent you getting absolutely stuck in any problem, the Amiga version comes on four disks, and can be installed on hard drive. You'll need 1MB of memory, but don't bank on seeing a 500k version, because the chances of one being produced are looking slim.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that a rating should reflect a game's qualities at the time it is reviewed, rather than to try to tie it to a point on an absolute reference scale. A game rated this highly is nigh on unbeatable at the moment and to be honest, I cannot see it being bettered for at least a couple of years. The only reason it loses points for sound is not the quality, but the fact that there are only five or six music tracks, and I wanted more!

Here is an outstanding game that is a pleasure to play, extremely entertaining, and with widespread appeal to gamesters from nine years of age to ninety.

FACTS BOX Author: David Bishop : Mike Powell Artists: Geoff Quilley, Alan Hunniset, Chris Kent.
Magnetic Windows (developed by Magnetic Scrolls):
Text window - scrollable, moveable, fullable, and resizeable, inventory window - As Txt window, showing all objects carried. Icons can be dragged to Room window to drop, clicked on to use in conjunction with verbs.
Room window - As Inventory window. Icons can be dragged to Inventory window to pick up.
Compass window - Direction icons for eight compass points plus up and down.
Map Window - Self building map arranged in levels. Scrollable, moveable, fullable, and resizeable. Adjacent locations can be clicked on to move into, remote locations can be clicked on to go to.
Graphics window - Scrollable, moveable, fullable and resizeable are two standard sizes. Many pictures are animated. Objects shown in picture can be clicked on to display name, and then further acted upon by a verb. Multi-directional picture scrolling possible within a window that is less than full size. Screen layout can be saved as well as game position.
Printer facility provided. Font selectable.