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The \__/ociety for the |_|reservation of ||  ||dventure \___/ames

                          ISSUE # 3

    Edited by G. Kevin Wilson (whizzard@uclink.berkeley.edu)
      HTML Version Edited by Scott Reilly (wsr@cs.cmu.edu)

                      October 26, 1994

Here's SPAG3, late but present nonetheless. This issue includes a couple of articles from devoted readers that I think you'll enjoy. One's a very informative piece on Level 9, and the other is a nostalgia-ware bit that brings to mind Norman Rockwell prints and hot cocoa. :)

Since last issue, a couple of exciting events have occurred in the world of text adventures. First and foremost, in my mind, is the release of TADS 2.2. This version adds many of the features IF writers have been screaming for. We've all settled down into a contented purr now, thanks very much, Mike.

Also, a new IF magazine, called XYZZYnews, after one of the magic words from Advent aka Adventure aka Collosal Cave, has been announced. The editor can be reached at XYZZYnews@aol.com for more info. Good luck, Eileen!

And lastly, on to my topic of the day, the future of SPAG. So far, we've gotten along fairly okay just as we have been. I badger you for reviews, you send them in. No biggie. Still, things have got to change. I had to scramble for stuff to print this issue, and even then this issue is several weeks late. So, here's the deal:

1. First off, SPAG is no longer accepting reviews of Infocom games that have already been reviewed. I would prefer to read about the huge number of other games available. Other repeat reviews may be accepted if and only if they add something new to the previous review, and in general, voice a different opinion about the game.

2. If you send me anything using the older forms of reviews and scores, it will have to be returned to you for reformatting. I don't have time.

3. I desperately need more scores for the scores section of the magazine. Take 30 minutes, and go down the list, and send me a score for each of the games on it you've played, and send me in scores for some other games. Why are there over 150 subscribers, and yet an average of 1 score per game? Is it REALLY all that hard to take 30 minutes out of your life in exchange for all the work I do on SPAG? SPAG has to be worth my while too, you know. I see a very disturbing tendency here, just as on rec.arts.int-fiction, to lurk. But those of you who lurk are robbing the rest of us of your experiences and opinions. It's like shouting into some vast, empty space. We have no idea how many people read r.a.i-f. Myself, I'm convinced that there are only 6 people in the world that read it. Talk about your dead arts. Participation is my main concern here folks. I don't want to set up some bizarre distribution method that only goes to contributors, or some other cockeyed scheme like that. I hate to sound like PBS, but there it is. YOU are SPAG. If there is no YOU, there is no SPAG. Molley the Mage and a few other very generous folks have been carrying this magazine. I refuse to believe that anyone is too busy to ever play text adventures or do a review on them. You have time to read SPAG, don't you? You have time for e-mail, newsgroups, sleep, and a great deal of other things. I'm juggling a full college load, a part-time job, SPAG, Avalon, several other writings that I'm working on, Magic:The Gathering, video games, sleep, and a variety of other interests. If YOU can't take time out of your busy schedule for SPAG, then I SURE AS HELL can't. Darn tootin' I'm upset. The magazine is going under, and we haven't even hit issue #5 yet. To those of you who have been contributing, my undying thanks. To those who don't have time, are you sure you don't?

4. Finally, there has been some interest in making available a compressed format of SPAG for those who pay for email. I'll okay this on the condition that someone else deals with it. Send me email if you are interested in either managing this list or receiving SPAG from it. I will give a list of those who want it to the person who wants to run it. Then I'll remove those who want it compressed from the normal list and leave the other person to run it. It'll have to be this way, or a similar no-hassle form, or I won't do it. Currently SPAG is relatively small, and goes out to a large number of people who may or may not understand and have access to uudecode, etc. Accessibility of the many is more important to me. Still, if someone will do it, I have no problem with an alternate distribution method.

				G. Kevin Wilson

[Technically, this is an article. But what the hey, it goes where I say it goes. :) ]

                   by Brendon Wyber
I have fond memories of the company that introduced me to the art of text adventures. Hundreds of hours perched in front of my keyboard exploring vast underground labyrinths, searching lost planets, delving through the deserts, and learning new spells.

Many of you are probably thinking about Infocom. I'm not. To me the company that started it all was a humble little English company called Level 9.

Level 9 started in 1982 when three brothers got together and converted the original adventure game into a format that could be used in the little 8 bit computers that dominated the English home market. Those brothers where Nick, Mike, and Pete Austin. Over the next decade they produced over a dozen adventure games until they folded in 1991. They, where a victim of the fall of Robert Maxwell (an English businessman who was a giant in the publishing industry, who died under mysterious circumstances, and who had dubious business practices resulting in a lot of bankruptcies).

In many ways Level 9 were the English version of Infocom. While Infocom ruled over the American 16 bit market, Level 9 dominated the English 8 bit market. The English 8 bit computers (the 32K BBC family, and the Sinclair Spectrum 48K) where too small to run the Infocom games, but they where just the right size for sophisticated verb/noun style games that made the Scott Adams style games seem trashy.

By using a sophisticated adventure engine, Level 9 managed to compressed the text and the process tables of games in the style of the original adventure to just 32K. A typical level 9 adventure game consisted of 210 locations, and about 70 objects that where manipulable, and oodles of text. The engine seemed to come in five major versions. The description of each is given (note that this is for the spectrum versions).

The first version (Basic Text): Black text displayed rather slowly on a white screen. Had a basic verb/noun parser.

The nicer version (Advanced Text): A much quicker displaying yellow text on a black background.

The first graphics version (Basic Graphics): This had a simple picture for every location. They picture was formed by lines, circles, squares, and fills.

The much nicer graphics version (Advanced Graphics): This is them at their prime. Lots of text, a line picture for each location, and an improved parser that, while it was still basically a verb noun parser, allowed inputs like TAKE ALL EXCEPT THE BOOTS AND GO SOUTH THEN DROP THE ROD AND STAFF. For the spectrum, each game came in three versions; a 48K all text version, a 48K graphics version with reduced text descriptions, and the bigger 128K version for the advanced spectrums that had the verbose text, graphics and extra features like multiple UNDO and RAM SAVE/RESTORE.

The yucky interactive character engine (16 bit Engine): The last engine used by level 9 was very powerful, but it had square grid like maps which detracted from the game play (IMHO). In this one, which was aimed at the immerging 16 bit market at this time, had digitised graphics loaded from disk, and more improved parser allowing adjectives and prepositional clauses. The big feature was that it had characters who you could order about, and who acted independently, in a way much better than Infocom's Suspended. Also it had features like GO TO and FIND so that you could just say GO TO THE FIREHOUSE and you would traverse through the locations to the area. Unfortunately due to the way they did this the maps tended to be giant square grids (which I really hated).

Another thing about the 16 bit games was that level 9 called them trilogies and broke them up into three bit. Although there were probably valid programming reasons to do this, what you ended up with was three little square games instead of one large irregular one.

For those of you who have a MS-Dos computer you can actually get these little Gems via ftp. The ftp site is ftp.ijs.si and in there are the games and an IBM spectrum emulator. Below is a description of each of the games.

This is the game that started it all. In fact it is just a version of Crowther and Woods adventure with a slightly different starting location and an expanded end game.

This is the first level 9 game I ever played. It is slightly linear but it is very large. It just went on and on for me. Basically it is the standard defeat the evil demon lord with the magic item type plot. It is set in the area of colossal adventure hundreds of years later.

This is set immediately after adventure quest. The demon lord it dead. You play a mercenary who then loots its tower. In this game they really did pack in the puzzles, making it a very complex game to complete.

Colossal Adventure, Adventure Quest, and Dungeon Adventure were written as a trilogy and were initially called the Middle Earth trilogy. Later on the trilogy was renamed the Colossal Trilogy, probably for legal reasons.

Colossal Adventure, Adventure Quest, and Dungeon Adventure were rewritten later on and given graphics and a nicer parser and some minor text changes were done and text was added.

A very atmospheric game set aboard a gigantic star ship. Terrorists have taken over the star ship and set the control to crash it into a star. You have been awoken by the ships computer to stop them. (The rest of the crew and colonists are is suspended animation). This game was hampered by the fact it starts off in a giant maze.

The follow on to Snowball our unisex hero, called Kim Kimberly (Kim being used as both a boys and girls name in England), finds his/herself stranded the planet Eden. You must basic battle through the very dangerous wildlife to find the Robot-built city which was prepared for the snowball colony.

Set hundred of years after the first two games you play a citizen in a Orwellian computer controlled city. Very unusual game where you deal with political corruption and defying the system more that killing trolls and the like.

Level 9 later packaged Snowball, Return To Eden, and A Worm in Paradise into a single trilogy.

The first graphic adventure this one suffered in that lack of atmospheric text. Basically you play a pilot stranded on a mysterious isle after falling through the Bermuda triangle.

Wow, another biggie spanning from prehistoric times to the far future, you play a ordinary person sent on a great quest the 9 different time zones to retrieve artefacts to stop the evil Time Lords from corrupt the space/time continuum.

Sort of Level 9's version of Enchanter. You are sent to recover the moon rock crystal. In this game you cast spells, but before you can cast the spells you must gain a focus for each spell.

The last of the great level 9 games. A Gothic horror in which you are transported into a old mansion to defeat a corrupted sorcerer called Myglar from draining all the magic from the Red moon crystal. This game was the sequel to Red Moon. This game had shades of computer role playing in it as some of the monsters had hit points. In this one you learn more spells as you go but you must keep a careful balance as casting magic aged you and dropped your sanity.

Lords of Time, Red Moon, and The Price of Magic were combined into a single trilogy and sold as a trilogy.

Level 9 in association did two games in conjunction with another company. From my understanding they were a type of pick you own path type games using the Level 9 compression and screen display code. The less said about these the better.

The first and hardest of the new 16 bit games. Actually a sequel to both the Silicon Dream Trilogy (the sci-fi) and The Jewels of Darkness (the original fantasy) due to a clever plot. According to Pete Austin, their new distributed at this time (called Rainbow Arts) wanted certain changes to the program before it was released which lessened the game to Level 9's view. As a result they changed their distributor to Manderin and the following games were better as a result.

The second of the powerful 16 games was very successful. Based on the adventures of a little female gnome busybody, called Ingrid, which interferes so much in everybody else's life that the trick her into leaving via a magical teleport scroll. You job is to guide Ingrid back. Quite humorous in places.

Pete Austin has always been fascinated in the Arthurian Legend and as a result this game came about. This story is closely based on the myths as presented in "The Once and Future King".

The popular gnome Ingrid returns in another game where she must save the local village hall from being bulldozed over for some sort of shopping mall. Kind of like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets The Hobbit. Actually a third Gnome Ranger game was prepared on paper but sadly they died before it was written.

The final game of level, you play the ghost of a police officer killed in the line of duty. You must revenge yourself on you killers as well as rescue another police officer who was captured. I cannot comment much on this game because I really haven't played it.

As I said before you can download these games and play them yourself. Here is the ftp information on where they are. Fortunately all of the good early ones are ftp-able.


ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/c/colladv128k.zip
Colossal Adventure, from The Jewels of Darkness. 
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/c/colladv48k.zip
Colossal Adventure, from The Jewels of Darkness. 
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/a/adquest128k.zip
Adventure Quest, from The Jewels of Darkness. 
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/a/adquest48k.zip
Adventure Quest, from The Jewels of Darkness. 
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/a/dunadv128k.zip
Dungeon Adventure, from The Jewels of Darkness. 
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/a/dunadv48k.zip
Dungeon Adventure, from The Jewels of Darkness. 
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.



ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/s/snowball128k.zip
Snowball, from The Silicon Dreams Trilogy
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/s/snowball48k.zip
Snowball, from The Silicon Dreams Trilogy
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/s/snowball.zip
Snowball, the original stand alone version.
Spectrum 32K Basic Text Version.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/r/reteden128k.zip
Return to Eden, from The Silicon Dreams Trilogy
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/r/reteden48k.zip
Return to Eden, from The Silicon Dreams Trilogy
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.



ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/l/lordsti128k.zip
Lords of Time, from the Time into Magic Trilogy.
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/l/lordsti48k.zip
Lords of Time, from the Time into Magic Trilogy.
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Reduced Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/l/lordtime.zip
Lords of Time, the original stand alone version.
Spectrum 32K Basic Text Version.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/r/redmoon128k.zip
Red Moon, from the Time into Magic Trilogy.
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/r/redmoon48k.zip
Red Moon, from the Time into Magic Trilogy.
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Reduced Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/r/redmoon.zip
Red Moon, the original stand alone version.
Spectrum 48K Basic Graphics Version.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/p/prmagik128k.zip
The Price of Magic, from the Time into Magic Trilogy.
Spectrum 128K Advanced Graphics Version with No Pictures and Full Text.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/m/magick.zip
The Price of Magic, the original stand alone version.
Spectrum 48K Advanced Graphics Version with Pictures and Reduced Text.



ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/e/esmerald.zip
Emerald Isle, (note press Shift to scroll text).
Spectrum 48K Basic Graphics Version.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/a/a_mole1.zip
ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/a/a_mole2.zip
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, In two parts.
Uses (and abuses) the Basic Graphics Engine.

ftp.ijs.si   /pub/zx/snapshots/z/z80-201.zip   
An emulator for the MS-Dos computers.
If you are keen for a sample of their work I would recommend that you play the 128K version from the Jewels of Darkness. I thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy!

[Heheh, we seem to have a lot of article-like letters this issue. Oh well.]

----------------- cut with elven sword here ----------------------
The Joy of IF, or Why I Love Text Adventures
by S.P. Harvey (sharvey@interaccess.com)

Come with me now, gentle SPAG reader, to a time that has vanished into memory.

The time: the early and mid-1980's, the place: in front of an archaic 8-bit personal computer. Ronald Reagan was President, junk bonds were everywhere, and Infocom reigned the computer gaming world.

There are probably few, if any, readers of this magazine who cannot recall the first work of Interactive Fiction that captured their imaginations and drained untold hours of their free time. For me, it was Zork II. Don't ask why it wasn't Zork I, I don' t remember. Eighth grade. Nathan Hale Elementary School, Chicago. Mrs. Sheehy's class. I don't know how many history and algebra lessons I spent redrawing my careful map of the Great Underground Empire. All I knew was that it was worth every minute.

There's still a certain nostalgic wave that crashes over me each time I start a new IF game. Something about that blue screen with the white status line, and the ubiquitous ">" prompt that has earned an indelible place in computer folklore and history. Unfortunately, some of the "features" of early IF have passed into memory, along with the 6502 microprocessor. Who out there cannot recall the sweaty-palms impatience of waiting for a reply while your 5 1/4" floppy drive whirred and ground for the answer? Or, having reached a new point in the game, only to realize you don't have a formatted diskette to save your progress? I know I can never forget the joyous frustration of continually seeing the messages "Insert STORY disk into drive 1", followed by "Insert SAVE disk into drive 1". Advances in hard drive technology have eliminated most of these unfortunate side effects, but I, for one, miss the solid "clack" of my Atari 810 diskette drive.

Playing an IF game is a uniquely solitary enterprise, but it's never a lonely one. In good interactive fiction, the personality of the Implementors is infused into every description, every object, every off-handed response. You can hear them cheering you on towards the finish, feel their fingers gently poking you in the ribs, even picture them lovingly building their houses of cards in the hope you'll knock them down.

The geniuses who ran Infocom have become our Founding Fathers, our King Arthurs, indeed, even our Olympians. Every work of interactive fiction that has been written since Zork I burst onto the scene owes a debt of gratitude to Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Steve Meretzky, and the rest. If it weren't for these giants, the rest of us would still be playing the latest Space Invaders variant. And some of us would have gotten better grades in algebra and history.

[Very moving. *sniff* Still, I probably miss the software a lot more than the hardware. I rather imagine that skeletons were found in front of Commodore 64's, still waiting for Ultima 4 to boot....]

Consider the following review header:

 NAME: Cutthroats            PARSER: Infocom Standard
 AUTHOR: Infocom             PLOT: Two Seperate Paths
 EMAIL: ???                  ATMOSPHERE: Well Done
 PUZZLES: Good               SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
 CHARACTERS: Not Bad         DIFFICULTY: Medium
First, you'll notice that the score has been removed, and replaced by one or two word ratings. These are pretty arbitrary, and should allow more freedom to the reviewers. The EMAIL section is for the e-mail address of the game author, not the reviewer. AVAILABILITY will usually have either Commercial ($price), Shareware ($price), or Freeware. If the commercial price varies in stores, then it will just say Commercial. If it has been released in the LTOI collection, this line should say so. Lastly, if it is available on ftp.gmd.de, the line should add GMD. (Demo) if it's a demo version. The body of the review hasn't changed.

When submitting reviews: Try to fill in as much of this info as you can. Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send those along. The scores will be used in the ratings section. Authors may not rate or review their own games.

SPAG accepts reviews of any length, letters to the editor, the occasional interesting article on text adventures (no reprints please), and even just ratings for your favorite game, if you don't have the time to do a full review. Please though, at least send me info for each game you have rated equivalent to the review header for Cutthroats, above. All accepted materials will be headed by the submitter's name and e-mail address, unless you request that they be withheld, in which case the header will read as "Anonymous."

Well, Adventions is still teasing us with _The Legend Lives_, but by all accounts, that should be released sometime Really Soon (tm).

_Avalon_, my own project, just keeps taking longer and longer. Maybe I can finish by April. Maybe. *sigh* Gee, that's what, only about a year late? Let's see if I can break the record for most overdue game.

*grumble grumble* Blasted college....

From: "Konstantin Yu. Boyandin" (MBO@ccphys.nsu.nsk.su)

Name: Crypt v2.0              Gameplay: 0.5
Author: Steve Herring         Plot: Linear
Email: N/A                    Atmosphere: 1
Availability: GMD S12         Writing: Good
Puzzles: Average              Supports: MSDOS
Characters: Primitive         Difficulty: Medium
Crypt is a small gothic horror story about an adventurer discovering the mysteries of the old church and its old history. I can only add that I liked the story, but found it a bit straightforward and predictable. The main flaw of the game is a poor vocabulary and the existence of traps one cannot get out of (for example, if you fall into a grave without a ladder). Characters are 'part of the interior' and behave like special places rather than intelligent beings. Nonetheless, the story is impressive and the whole game is worth registering.

Alas, I have been unable to finish the game yet. Hope to do that after registering.

From: "Lars Jodal" (joedal@inet.uni-c.dk)

NAME: Deep Space Drifter             PARSER: TADS standard
AUTHOR: Michael J. Roberts           PLOT: Mostly linear, rather slow
EMAIL: mroberts@hinrg.starconn.com   ATMOSPHERE: First good, then shaky
AVAILABILITY: GMD, shareware ($15)   WRITING: Fair
PUZZLES: Some good, some tedious     SUPPORTS: TADS ports
CHARACTERS: Only in the text         DIFFICULTY: Easy (to medium)
You are a space explorer who are almost out of fuel. With the last reserves you manage to reach a space station. However, the station seems to be under attack and nobody is around. What is going on only gradually becomes clear. To get really rescued you must go down to the planet below and find an escape vessel.

The part of the game on the space station is good, with quite a bit of atmospheric details and generally good puzzles. But down at the planet things are less convincing. Everything is deserted, but no real reason for this is given. Several of the puzzles here are also very time-consuming and tedious. Among these puzzles are the game's two infamous mazes. The mazes are novel (no "twisty passages, all alike"), but too large and take a _long_ time to solve.

The story contains two characters apart from the player, but they are not actually part of the _game_. This is to mean that they are mentioned in the text, but the player never gets a chance to interact with them. Thus the characters are not really NPCs but part of the story.

The game is shareware. Upon registration one gets a very good hint book with many hints for each puzzle. The hint book is arranged so that you won't read hints by mistake.

From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: The Dungeon of Dunjin      PARSER: Infocom-Like
AUTHOR: Magnus Olsson            PLOT: Non-Linear (Treasures)
EMAIL: ???                       ATMOSPHERE: Fantasy
AVAILABILITY: GMD                WRITING: Quite Good
PUZZLES: Mostly Good             SUPPORTS: IBM, MAC
CHARACTERS: Few, Simple          DIFFICULTY: Above-Average 
The Dungeon of Dunjin is a shareware game which has been available for several years. It was written by a Swedish national, Magnus Olsson, but the game is in English (although you'd never know it wasn't written by an American, to tell you the truth). The original game was written using Turbo Pascal; it has also been ported to the Macintosh, where it sports a rather spiffy user interface. The parser is about as good as the older Infocom games, not allowing for any complicated structures but sufficient to get the job done with a minimum of "guess the word" problems.

The "hook" of the game is simple enough. You're a tourist of sorts, here to visit the famous Dungeon of Dunjin, a series of caverns and adventurous areas known far and wide. Unfortunately for you, the Dungeon is closed for renovation (and due to a few nagging problems with visitor safety). Of course, like any good adventurer, you won't let this daunt you -- especially with all the treasures to be had once you get inside.

Collection of these treasures is the primary way you will score "points" in the game; however, I would venture to say that the plot of the game is only incidentally related to the collection of these items. In fact, you will do much more than run around gathering up trinkets; if you are brave and careful, you'll save a princess from an evil wizard's spell and slay a terrible dragon, among other things. In truth, the final scene of the game, where you present your treasures for counting (in a very Adventure-like fashion), is really an anticlimax; but don't worry, because the other plot points have enough text to satisfy and the writing is very solid throughout.

The first few puzzles are very easy, a deliberate decision on the author's part so that players can experience quick success which hopefully will give them enough of a sense of accomplishment not to quit in frustration when they hit the harder puzzles later on, and I think it is a very good idea, one which other games should emulate. The game boasts an impressive on-line hint facility, which is context-sensitive; it tries to give you the hint you need, based on your current situation, and is largely successful. The hints are only provided up to a certain point in the story, however, after which you're on your own. One problem with the game is that it features not one, but several mazes (although only one of them is strictly required to finish the game). Luckily, they are small mazes, and easily mapped; but many players will still cringe in horror at the repetition. At the time of this writing, the author is working on a new version which will feature a way to bypass the mazes without tedium or severe penalty, as well as increasing the strength of the parser to include more conversation with NPC's.

The game as a whole is very enjoyable. You'll quickly discover that the "Dungeon" is not merely a series of dank chambers beneath the surface, but rather a very large and vast world containing everything from dragons to dwarves and even computer hackers (I hope you can handle it). One very interesting idea in the game is that magic works within the "fantastic" regions, inside the dungeon, but not in the "mundane" regions, and objects behave accordingly depending on where you are. The writing is good, and there is a fair amount of humor in the game -- some of it, especially the part involving ABBA, is not to be missed. Upon finishing the game, I was very satisfied, because it is challenging.

Although I say the plot is "non-linear" because you are able to solve many of the puzzles in no particular order, the truth is that once you discover the true plot of the game, certain actions will be imposed on you and it is possible to get into a bind where you are trapped with no recourse but to restore a saved game. This is unlikely, however, and should not happen unless you are playing through the game a second time and really get ahead of yourself.

A possible point of contention for some people might be the registration fee -- $20, which is generally considered "a lot" for a shareware text adventure game. I would say that it's worth the money, as long as you don't run screaming in terror from mazes. Give it a look and see for yourself; I think you'll find The Dungeon of Dunjin an enjoyable experience.

From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: The Great Archeological Race    PARSER: TADS (Good)
AUTHOR: John LaBonney                 PLOT: Linear, "Sectional"
EMAIL: ???                            ATMOSPHERE: Indiana Jones-ish
AVAILABILITY: GMD                     WRITING: Not Bad
PUZZLES: Wide Variety                 SUPPORTS: TADS ports
CHARACTERS: Interesting, 1-D          DIFFICULTY: Below Average 
Well, I must confess that while I had heard of this game from a few other people, I resisted playing it primarily because the word "archaeology" is so prominently misspelled. A trivial and petty reason not to play a text adventure, I know, but typos ruin games for me faster than anything else. I am pleased to report that not only is it easy to ignore this mistake in The Great Archeological Race, but the rest of the game makes up for it and is quite enjoyable.

TGAR, as I'll refer to it, is a shareware game from Absolute Zero. You play an assistant curator at the Evelyn Museum in Boston, whose job is in peril because of a lack of new acquisitions. The game, therefore, becomes a series of adventures wherein you are sent to various sites by your boss to bring back whatever trinkets (or treasures) you can find. The atmosphere of the ame reminded me somewhat of the "Indiana Jones" movies; quests for ancient artifacts liberally sprinkled with humor.

I think the game is probably easier than most text adventures, but this is not a criticism. I was able to play almost straight through the first few sections in a couple of hours, which enabled me to concentrate on the game itself instead of on the usual stop-ponder-start-stop-ponder-start method I usually use. The individual archaeological "digs" are filled with interesting items, locations, and characters, although the quality of the room descriptions is rather inconsistent. In many places, the writing is plentiful and good; in others, it's extremely terse. Some of the best writing is in the various newspaper articles and reports you'll get on your various excursions around the world, as well as religious propaganda you get from a guy at the airport (and you can just imagine what *that's* like).

As you return from the various digs, you check in with your boss, and the items you have recovered are placed on display in the museum itself. This is a nice touch, and provides an obvious measure of progress, as well as allowing the player to feel as though his actions have made an impact. It's obvious that the game does not take itself seriously; the first site you'll visit was abandoned by the original dig team because the University funding the dig used the money for a new swimming pool. It says to me, "Hey, I know the plot is contrived, and you know the plot is contrived, and I know you know, so just play the game and shut up, okay?". I *like* that. The game doesn't try to be anything more than an enjoyable puzzle-solving romp, and of course the tricks and traps commonly associated with ancient sites provide the ideal excuse for having lots of puzzles.

The registration fee is $20; this gets you the standard maps, hints, and eternal love and devotion of the author. The game is written using TADS, and so the parser as good as any; no worries on that score. There is mention in the docs about possible availability of the TADS source code to registered users, so aspiring TADS programmers might want to check that offer out. Truthfully, I can't feel too good about saying that the game is worth $20; $10 or $15 would have been more appropriate, but considering some of the tripe people are paying $60 and up for, TGAR is a bargain. I highly recommend that you download this game and give it a try for yourself.

From: "Brian Reilly" (reillyb@gusun.acc.georgetown.edu)

NAME:  Lurking Horror		PARSER:  Infocom Standard
AUTHOR:  Dave Lebling		Plot:  Gothic Horror at GUE Tech
EMAIL:  ???      		ATMOSPHERE:  Very Good
PUZZLES:  Well Done		SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
CHARACTERS: Somewhat Weak	Difficulty: Medium
In Lurking Horror, you assume the role of a college student who starts out trying to complete an assignment, and is caught up in an adventure of missing students, demonic Alchemy professors, and a showdown with the ultimate evil. As you wonder about the tunnels and corridors of GUE Tech, you must deal with everything from sticky-fingered urchins to fierce rats. The main strength of this game is the sense of atmosphere created. The writing creates a sense of suspense and terror, and the player is enveloped in a frightening world of the macabre. The only weakness that I found with Lurking Horror was the NPCs. I feel that they could have been developed to a greater extent, especially the hacker. I was also dissapointed with the ending; it was a climactic let-down from what had been built up during the game.

Besides this, though, it was a very good game. The puzzles are interesting and not too difficult, and there is enough humor to keep the player interested. Lurking Horror can be found in LTOI 1.

From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)

NAME: MAGIC.ZIP (Three games)         PARSER: Mostly 2-Word
AUTHOR: John Olsen                    PLOT: Simple
EMAIL: ???                            ATMOSPHERE: Okay
AVAILABILITY: GMD                     WRITING: Terse
PUZZLES: Easy                         SUPPORTS: IBM
CHARACTERS: Few                       DIFFICULTY: Quite Easy 
MAGIC.ZIP contains three IBM text adventures written by John Olsen. The games are all very simple, but they are enjoyable and should provide you with a few hours of fun. The games unzip as MS-DOS executable files, using Mr. Olsen's own interpreter. The parser used in the games is simplistic, but the puzzles are generally so easy that you won't have any problem telling the game what it is you're trying to do. The three games in the package are:

Merlin's Magic Forest:
In this game, you are transported to a magical forest where Merlin the magician (of Arthurian legend) has been placed under an evil spell. You must collect the five components needed to mix up a counterspell that will free the great wizard from his torpor. Along the way, you'll get to play with Excalibur and face some evil monsters (including some really mean trees who really got on my nerves).

Merlin's Golden Trove:
As a reward for your serivces to him in the first game, Merlin transports you to his castle, where you seek to discover all his hidden gold. There are hidden tricks and traps for the unwary, and treasures hidden in some surprising places. The weakest of the three games, but still an enjoyable distraction.

Son of Ali Baba:
To win the Caliph's daughter, you must venture to the island of the evil wizard Roxor and bring back a piece of the shell of a Roc's egg. You'll face a dragon, among other things, but luckily you have several magical talismans to assist you in your quest. The best of the three games, I think, except for a few rather arbitrary puzzles.

All three of the games are quick plays -- an afternoon apiece at most. They use text very sparingly, but the writing is not bad. These games reminded me very much of the Scott Adams adventures, in fact, although they are much easier than some of Adams' puzzlers. Merlin's Magic Forest is arguably the most difficult of the three games, with some non-intuitive puzzles to be solved. Merlin's Golden Trove is strictly an exercise in searching for treasures. Son of Ali Baba is my favorite of the three, providing a little bit of the flavor of the Arabian Nights tales.

The author is asking $20 for the three games, which comes out to less than $7 apiece. That's a good deal for a text adventure, but in truth these games are so short and simple that they're probably not worth registering. However, Mr. Olsen also has three other collections of similar text adventures, and all of them can be found on the if-archive. It would not be unreasonable to expect someone to play two of the three-game sets and then register one of them. But you didn't hear that from me.

If you're looking for a game or three to kill an afternoon with, or if you wax nostalgic about the Scott Adams-type adventure games, give MAGIC.ZIP a try; and check out Mr. Olsen's other games, which include more fantasy, and even some horror, among other things.

From: "Molley the Mage" (mollems@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)
NAME: Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan  PARSER: AGT
AUTHOR: Andre M. Boyle                     PLOT: Minimal
EMAIL: ???                                 ATMOSPHERE: Demented
AVAILABILITY: GMD                          WRITING: Strange
PUZZLES: Weak                              SUPPORTS: IBM
CHARACTERS: Not Much                       DIFFICULTY: Incomprehensible
"Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan" has perhaps the best title of any game I've yet seen on the Interactive Fiction Archive. This alone prompted me to download it and give it a play. I had a moment of fear when I discovered that it was written with AGT; I am able to report, however, that the game would have been just as bad in TADS, Inform, or any other language as far as I can tell. The introduction is promising -- you're sitting in the garden when an alien ship lands nearby and two blue beings begin making fun of your cardigan. They then proceed to vaporize it with a ray gun. You're quite dismayed, since your mother gave you that cardigan, and you fear physical reprisals if she discovers that it's gone. Getting a new cardigan, therefore, becomes the goal of the game. Sadly, the game was almost totally unplayable, and I was unable to determine if Our Hero actually succeeds. All I can really say about the game is that it had a glimmer of potential, but that quickly vanishes under a torrent of typographical errors, bad attempts at humor, and bugs. There are 10,000 possible points in the game; just by walking around and picking things up, I somehow achieved 257 of them without attempting to solve a single puzzle.

The puzzles themselves are nonsensical; sometimes typing HELP will get you a hint, other times not. The atmosphere of the game is badly fragmented; items and locations are thrown together without the slightest rhyme or reason. The parser is unresponsive at best and damnably frustrating most other times. There are a few funny bits of text -- the chess grandmaster in particular is rather humorous -- but most of the attempts fall on their face. I usually prefer Irish/British humor to American humor, so I can safely say that cultural differences do not play a role in my failure to find the game funny (although people with no experience whatsoever in British humor might not even understand why the jokes are *supposed* to be funny). The most interesting thing about this game is that while registration is not expected by the author, if you do register (for $60.00 or 30 pounds) the author offers to write an entirely new game to your specifications and place you as a character in one or more of his later games. I am mildly curious to know if anyone has taken advantage of this offer, although I must say after playing Space Aliens Laughed At My Cardigan, I can't see any reason why a sane person would.

[Let me just say that I encourage both positive and negative reviews. SPAG's goal has always been to become something like a Consumer's Guide to IF. I hope to print reviews that will not only steer you towards the outstanding games, but away from the bad ones. I've played "Aliens Laughed at My Cardigan". Trust Molley on this one, folks. He knows from whence he speaks.]

From: "Brian Reilly" (reillyb@gusun.acc.georgetown.edu)
NAME:  The Witness		PARSER:  Infocom Standard
AUTHOR:  Stu Galley		PLOT:  Solve a Murder
PUZZLES:  Not Bad		SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
Who killed Freeman Linder? You came to his house to protect him from an unknown threat, but he has been murdered nonetheless. In Witness, you take the role of a 1930s police detective and must find out what caused Linder's demise. Question the suspects and search the Linder estate for clues that will bring you closer to the truth. Witness was Infocom's second mystery game, and is nowhere near as difficult as Deadline.

The plot flows quickly, and it is rather easy to stumble upon the guilty party. However, Witness does a great job at capturing the feel of the 1930s. This is achieved partly from the writing, but more so by the characters. The NPCs are interesting and provide the player with entertainment after all the puzzles have been solved. Witness is easy compared to many of Infocom's other titles, but it is still enjoyable. Witness can be found in LTOI 1, and serves as an excellent introduction to interactive mystery to gamers.

Ok, I'm not gonna waste space in this issue on describing the new system of scoring again. It's outlined in both the SPAG.FAQ and SPAG2, so I see no reason to continue to clutter up the magazine.

Here's a revised ratings line for Trinity:

Name       Avg Sco  Chr  Puz    #Votes    Issues     Notes
=======    =======  ===  ===    ======    ======     ======
Trinity      8.9    1.7  1.5      21    1-5, 8, 11    C_INF
A complete and revised version of this rating system appears in the SPAG FAQ, which should be up on ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/SPAG/SPAG.FAQ. From now on, only changes to the system and the notes will appear in each issue. For the basics, look at the FAQ.


A   - Runs on Amigas.
AP  - Runs on Apple IIs.
GS  - Runs on Apple IIGS.
AR  - Runs on Archimedes Acorns.
C   - Commercial, no fixed price.
C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30.
F   - Freeware.
GMD - Available on ftp.gmd.de
I   - Runs on IBM compatibles.
M   - Runs on Macs.
S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20.
64  - Runs on Commodore 64s.
TAD - Written with TADS.  This means it can run on:
        AmigaDOS, NeXT and PC, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, 
        DECstation (MIPS) Unix Patchlevel 1 and 2, 
        IBM, IBM RT, Linux, Apple Macintosh, 
        SGI Iris/Indigo running Irix, Sun 4 (Sparc)
        running SunOS or Solaris 2, Sun 3, OS/2, 
        and even a 386+ protected mode version.
AGT - Available for IBM, Mac, Amiga, and Atari ST.  
        This does not include games made with the 
        Master's edition.
INF - Infocom or Inform game.  These games will run on:
        Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Macintosh, IBM, Unix, 
        VMS, Apple II, Apple IIGS, C64, TSR-80, and 
        Archimedes Acorn.  There may be other computers 
        on which it runs as well.
NOTES: If there was no rating for Character or Puzzle, it was left blank. Please remember that I do not yet have a large enough sample of scores to accurately compare them. The grading system has changed and that may further damage the accuracy until I get about 20 more scores for each game.

                        Avg           #   SPAG
 Name		       Score Chr Puz Vts Issues Notes:
 ====                  ===== === === === ====== ======
Ballyhoo		7.2   -   -   1	   x	C_INF
Beyond Zork		7.4   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Border Zone		5.6   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Bureaucracy		7.8   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Curses			8.6  1.5 1.7  1    2	F_INF
Cutthroats		6.4   -   -   2    1	C_INF
Deadline		6.8   -   -   1	   x	C_INF
Deep Space Drifter	5.5   -  1.4  1    3    S15_TAD_GMD (I think)
Dungeon of Dunjin       7.0  1.0 1.5  1    3    S20_IBM_MAC_GMD
Enchanter		6.8  0.8 1.3  2    x	C_INF
Great Archaelog. Race	6.5  1.0 1.5  1    3    S20_TAD_GMD
Hitchhiker's Guide	8.0   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Hollywood Hijinx	6.0   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Horror of Rylvania	7.7   -   -   1    1    C20_TAD_GMD (Demo)
Humbug			7.4   -   -   1    x	S10_GMD (Uncertain)
Infidel 		6.9   -   -   3   1-2   C_INF
Jacaranda Jim		7.0   -   -   1    x    S?_GMD
Klaustrophobia		9.5   -   -   1    1    S15_AGT_GMD
Leather Goddesses	7.7   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Lurking Horror, The	7.2   -   -   1    1    C_INF
Magic.zip		4.5  0.5 0.5  1    3    S20_IBM_GMD
Mind Forever Voyaging	8.1   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Moonmist		6.4   -   -   1    1    C_INF
Multidimen. Thief	6.0  0.5 1.0  1    2    S?_AGT_GMD
Nord and Bert		6.8   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Planetfall		7.3   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Sanity Claus		9.0   -   -   1    1    S10_AGT_GMD
Seastalker		5.0   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Shades of Grey		7.9   -   -   1   1-2   F_AGT_GMD
Sorceror		6.6  0.6 1.5  2	   2	C_INF
Space Aliens...Cardigan 2.0  0.5 0.5  1    3    S60_AGT_GMD
Spellbreaker		7.9  1.2 1.8  2    2	C_INF
Starcross		7.4   -   -   2    1    C_INF
Stationfall             6.7   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Suspect                 5.9   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Suspended               7.0   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Trinity                 9.2  1.4 1.7  3    1    C_INF
Unnkulian One-Half      8.1   -   -   2    1    F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 1   8.1   -   -   2    1    S10_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 2   7.1   -   -   2    1    S10_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Zero          9.0   -   -   1    1    C25_TAD_GMD (Demo)
Wishbringer             6.3   -   -   1    x    C_INF
Witness, The            6.3   -   -   2    1    C_INF
Zork 0                  6.5  1.1 2.0  1    x    C_INF
Zork 1                  5.4  0.6 1.6  2   1-2   C_INF
Zork 2                  6.4  0.8 1.6  2   1-2   C_INF
Zork 3                  5.7  0.6 1.4  2   1-2   C_INF
The Top Three:
 1. Klaustrophobia	9.5
 2. Trinity		9.2
 3. Unkuulian Zero	9.0
    Sanity Claus	9.0

Editor's Picks of the Month:

This month I recommend John Olsen's four trilogies of games. In ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/games/pc/ they are: crypt30.zip, magic.zip, treasure.zip, and horror30.zip, I believe. A very good value for your money, as you get 3 games for $20 or so. Very reminiscent of Scott Adams, and the solutions for the first three compilations can also be found on GMD. Sadly, as far as I know, these games are available only for IBM PCs and compatibles.

Notes on last month's Save Princeton Advertisement:

Jacob Weinstein, author of Save Princeton, has a new email address:

EXTRA! EXTRA! SPAG finds new home inside InfoMenu!

Some of you may have heard about InfoMenu. Welp, I tried it out, and it's a very elegant little program. What it is, is essentially a menuing system for all your infocom format games. All you need to use it is one of the freely available z-machine interpreters available on ftp.gmd.de, such as ZIP. You tell InfoMenu where the interpreter is, where your games are (it will scan up to three directories, counting the one it's in), and Presto! A menu pops up with a list of the titles of your games. Then you either use the mouse or the arrow keys to select and play one. InfoMenu is only available for IBM PCs and compatibles. Personally, I dumped all my .dat, .z3, and .z5 files into my InfoMenu directory, and deleted most of those crappy LTOI menu systems. I did keep zip4.exe from LTOI 1, as well as the files from Zork Zero. After all, you delete those, and no fancy Beyond Zork or Zork Zero pictures for you. I imagine that Shogun, etc from the LTOI 2 CD would have to be treated the same way.

[PS- LTOI=Lost Treasures of Infocom, discussed in issue #1, for you new subscribers.]

Now, on to my favorite part of the program, the help system. Hit F1, and you are presented with a nice little menu, with everything from InfoMenu specifics to communicating with text adventures. Put the cursor over a game title on the main menu and hit F2, and you are presented with a very spiffy description of it, usually. Even if there's none there, it's quite easy to write your own, or alter the existing one. I was so pleased with this program that I edited all the F2 descriptions to include an SR in it (SPAG Rating). This is just the score that you see in the ratings section of the magazine, and only the main score at that. But still, if you've just bought LTOI, and you can't decide which of the games to play first, this could be a convenient device for you. The standard game descriptions appear to have been typed in from the backs of old Infocom games.

The current release is beta version C. While it's a beta version, I found only one bug in version B, and that's been fixed in version C. Still, the current version doesn't include the SPAG ratings, but the next one should.


[Remember to use binary mode, just in case. Also, later editions will probably follow the same naming conventions, such as infom9d.zip, etc.]

SPAG is not affiliated with Calvin Culver or Culverware, Inc. in any way. I just added the SPAG ratings to his help menu and sent it to him for use, nothing more.

InfoMenu was written by Calvin Culver, and is copyright 1994 by Culverware, Inc. All rights are reserved.

InfoMenu is donorware. It may be distributed and used for non-commercial purposes free of charge. However, this software represents a couple hundred hours' work, so if you find InfoMenu useful and would like to make a small donation, you may do so to the following address:

                        Culverware, Inc.
                         W6999 King Rd.
                   Poynette, Wisconsin 53955
The author may be contacted either through the above address, or by e-mail at any of the following:


Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

PS: Happy Thanksgiving. I'll be gone until Monday.