IFReviewed by Tom Zuchowski on 2006-05-06 07:47
MAIN PGM Version: 5
Extra Commands: USE, OPEN
Deleted Commands: None
Special Features: 10-directions
Playing Time: 1-4 hr.
Reviewer Rating: 5.0
Average Rating: 7.0/4
Description: The dastardly Black Bark has escaped and has rejoined his henchmen at his hideout. They have been up to no good, and you have been selected to enter their lair and fulfill the mission that you have selected.
Comment: This adventure is rather unique in that it offers the player a half-dozen different missions to fulfill. The dungeon appears to set up a bit differently each time it is played. In theory you could play this several times and play a "different game" each time.
The plot and play is pretty good, and I enjoyed those aspects for the most part. It falls down on a couple of points. Rather than using the standard secret passages that are found with the LOOK command, it simply doesn't list those exits in the room name or description. This means that the player must try all twelve directions in all 88 rooms in order to be sure that he didn't miss anything. Second, I found several of the puzzles to be so obscure that I couldn't solve them. I wasn't able to complete my quest (return Black Bark) because I couldn't find him. I discovered the hard way that the Taser only works one time and then is useless. There are a number of blocked passages that I could not discover how to unblock (this was moot, because I also discovered that you could walk right through the barriers as if they weren't there). I could find no way to escape from the trap doors. There's at least one death trap that will nail you if you don't happen to be carrying something found in the dungeon.
If all this wasn't enough, the icing on the cake was that there were several really tough opponents who quickly killed all of my companions, and I could only defeat them by cheating. When you play this one, bring your tactical nukes-- you'll need them! Perhaps John intends for the player to FLEE here and there until he gets around them; it would be possible to do that but could take hours of mindless fleeing until the insidious RNG gives you the results you desire.
To be sure, this was a landmark adventure for its day with many advanced features and some interesting special effects. But by today's standards, its intolerant puzzles cause it to pale considerably. I give it an (8) for difficulty, but it almost deserves a (9).
Used with Matthew Clark's kind permition.
Original review available at Eamon Adventurer's Guild Online website.