Staying in to Play

By John Paul Richard, 3 October 2008

For all you readers new to mute (all of you I guess) this bit is the Computerised Entertainment Appraisal Section where I'll be taking you through the fairly good and the little bit better of current computer games In response to no letters and the fact that you poor Apple supporters out there have little in the way of games support, this issue kicks-off with review of four action/adventure games for the Macintosh: 7th Guest, Midnight Stranger, Return to Zork and the almost ubiquitous Myst. So plug in, copy the contents to your system folder and chill out.

7th Guest (Softline - pay no more than £35)

When you first start this game, carry out the following instructions, leave the room, make a cup of tea, take the dog for a walk and get back just in time to miss the tedious, hammily acted, eight minute introduction, then sit back and glide through the beautifully rendered interiors, watch the masterly video overlays, solve the good-but-slow puzzles, then, sit back an( glide through the beautifully rendered interiors and watch the masterly video overlays. The only real justification for playing this game is the face that you just spent £35 on it and unless you are a postal chess fanatic with orders from your doctor not to get too excited, I'd give it a miss. Difficult to rate as a game, more of an interactive drama.

9/10 for graphics, 7/10 for interface, 3/10 for gameplay, 6/10 overall.

Midnight Stranger (CD Direct - pay no more than £47)

"The first CD Rom employing Virtual intimacy"..." Romantic Adventure"...." First Person Interaction" (hey, that's new!). You're young, you're male (if you're not male, you can always role-play), those hormones are pumping and the night is youngish, in the mean, gritty, suburban streets of Midnight Stranger. Just point and go - for 60 minutes of digital video, 23 different locations and 18 characters. With the help of your mood-o-meter, virtually intimate yourself into a variety of situations ranging from the bizarrely amusing to the downright tedious. A surprisingly good game that promises the world but remains a little thin in the will I get a shag at the end of the night stakes. So, throw away the compulsory headphones (included in the price for some reason), turn the lights back on and invite a friend around for a virtually intimate evening (that's if you're not actually out on the gritty town getting laid and listening to someone else's record collection).

7/10 for graphics, 9/10 for (un)coolness, 7/10 for gameplay - 8/10 overall.

Return to Zork (Softline - pay no more than £35)

A little rough around the edges, Zork is a run of the mill adventure game with a good, intuitive interface, instant travel and more than its fair share of ludicrous characters (what the heck is a Wishyfoo - I'll just look it up in my 103 page Encyclopedia Frobozzica that I found in the game box). Centred around the re-emergence of the of the Empire of Zork, the game threads a pretty thin storyline through a mildly uncomfortable mix of digitised backdrops, poorly drawn props, adequately rendered animation and the apparently compulsory crap acting (the attempt at parody doesn't work - and hey, cinema has been around for a few years with surprisingly good plots and good acting - maybe there are some lessons to be learned somewhere...). If you drink real ale, wear itchy jumpers, and simply adore Frankie Howard, then buy it.

5/10 for graphics, 8/10 for interface, 5/10 for gameplay - 6/10 overall.

Myst (Softline - pay no more than £47)

Myst is very beautiful. It oozes charm, sophistication, atmosphere, but, whenever I play it, I come away feeling intensely lonely. The game consists of a series of worlds, liberally sprinkled with simple architectural features and ingenious puzzles (you're not getting anywhere in a hurry, I trust) lovingly recreated in slick, soft focus, M n: a cross between Jules Verne, Harrods furniture department and a South American Dental Surgery. You should probably buy it just for its visuals unless you are a manic depressive or are recently bereaved (you might just see your recently departed here). Myst is exquisite, but it has its legs firmly crossed and its top button stitched firmly in place.

10/10 for graphics, 9/10 for interface, 8/10 for gameplay - 9/10 overall.

In conclusion, something out there just isn't quite right: begins with C and ends with D, two letters, holds megatonnes of data, is very cheap to produce and lasts forev .... well a few years. The CD (rom) has plenty of promise but in terms of action/adventure games, just doesn't seem to deliver the goods, (yet). Yes, they come in the obligatory, high gloss, full colour, no expenses spared, novel sized box that looks oh so impressive on your bookshelf. Yes they draw on a vast array of cultural practice: from detective pulp fiction and sci-fi to third rate melodrama, but, the bastard offspring of failed B-movie directors, Times crossword fanatics and people who frankly should get out into the sun a bit more often, are, at best, worthy but dull. If CDrom software developers are serious about the games/home entertainment market then they really have to stop making games that play themselves, get their fingers out from where they're firmly stuck and get inventing. The graphics firmly in place but let's have bucketloads more gameplay.

John Paul Bichard, Welwyn Garden City.