Reviewed by John Sweeney


Issue 32

Mar/Apr 88

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When you load Tanglewood you are presented with a control panel dotted with switches and dials surrounding a large black window which fills about three-quarters of the screen. If you use the mouse to click on one of the numbered switches on the left of the screen the window immediately fills with a colourful bird's eye view of a strange land.

The land of Tanglewood is enormous. Roads and rivers criss-cross a variety of colourful landscapes and allow you to explore around 3,000 squares of the 12,000 or so which form the grid across which your five robots, or, to be more accurate, your Mining Mobiles can travel. The roads and rivers lead to a variety of terrains such as lakes, swamps, forests and gardens not to mention the Purple Cabbage Maze!

The variety of terrains is one of the main challenges of the game none of the mobiles are capable of travelling on all the terrains. The limitations of your mobiles are further complicated by the fact that they are all ropy second-hand equipment, bought cheaply by your uncle who wants you to recover some vital documents for him. They are either lacking in programs or equipment, or liable to break down at a crucial moment!

It is very easy to start playing. Just pick a mobile and steer it round the roads or rivers with the mouse. You will discover lots of interesting places such as T'nglian (the local inhabitants) bases and trading posts, matter transmitters, subways, telephone boxes, and, hopefully, a few useful items. One warning here, you MUST keep the sound on when exploring new areas or you will never find anything. A ping indicates a find. If you stop where you heard the ping then the item you have found will appear in a small window near the bottom of the screen. The game is completely mouse driven. Pointing at switches on the screen, pressing mouse buttons, and moving the mouse allows you to issue the equivalent of GET, EXAMINE, USE, DROP, SAVE, RESTORE, etc. You can also access the lists of programs and data which provide each mobile with its own special abilities, e.g. Number Three could use his Anti-Gravity Data to enter the swamp, if only the Gravity Reducer hadn't been lost in a lake during an earthquake!

The graphics are so good that just exploring the main map and learning how all the mobiles work is great fun and would have provided a more than adequate adventure in its own right, but there is far, far more to Tanglewood. A number of the locations you attempt to enter will ask you to confirm R-P transfer. Once you accept this you will find yourself in a maze. There are three quite different types of these, each providing an excellent set of puzzles to solve.

The Mines is a 'platform game'. You get a sideways view of a small area which scrolls smoothly as your mobile (visible in the centre of the screen) moves along the tunnels and up and down ladders and ropes, and presumably up and down the elevators as well if only you could get them working! The problem of mapping the mines is exacerbated by the fact that your lousy second-hand mobiles won't work properly. Number Three won't go down ladders, Number Two won't climb up ropes, and Number One has lost his mining data completely and won't even go in! Working out how to map the mines and get the three mobiles to co-operate to reach the final treasure is practically a fully-fledged arcade game in its own right!

In the Forests, Under-water, the Swamp, etc. you get a completely different view. You now see what the mobile can see ahead of itself, and you move by using an arrow to indicate TURN LEFT, TURN RIGHT, TURN AROUND, or MOVE FORWARDS. Because of the severe limitations of your equipment all you can tell is the kind of terrain you are in and which directions have exits, i.e. this is the visual equivalent of 'You are in a maze of twisty passages all looking the same'! You are not allowed to drop items to mark locations, and even worse, the MOVE FORWARDS arrow, as well as causing movement CAN also, with no indication, cause a change of the direction in which your mobile is facing as he enters a new location! Mapping some of these is a nightmare!

Somewhere deep in the Opposition Control Centre is the document you need in order to win the game. Again the view is different, now you are looking down the corridors of a three- dimensional maze. You can see walls and turnings ahead of you and also the Yellow and Red spots which mark Elevators. These mazes provide many challenges: the elevators won't all work for you and some are only one-way; the mazes are enormous covering well over 500 locations and when you get to the highest security area, your mobile's visual scanners start malfunctioning!

Apart from the sheer problem of mapping the whole of Tanglewood, the game also has some excellent logical puzzles for you to solve, ranging from understanding the alien culture of the T'nglians to finding a way into the Walled Garden and, to add to the Arcade feel of the game, there is the problem of the enemy mobiles which zap yours, and the fact that you are racing against time. Don't be put off by that if you aren't into arcade games you will soon discover how to avoid the enemy and there's always SAVE/RESTORE! and it is possible to finish the adventure in less than half the allotted time, so it is not too much of a race once you have solved all the puzzles.

As in most programs of this size there are a few minor bugs watch out for the following rare occurrences and you should be able to avoid problems: Apart from Stones/Crystals all other items are unique. If you find a second one of anything it's probably best to go back to your last SAVE position. (If you find a T'nglian Communications Protocol diskette deep in the mines then you should restart the game from the beginning fortunately this appears to be extremely rare, neither I nor the writer of the program can reproduce the bug!). If the screen ever appears to be jumbled, or bits of things appear where they shouldn't be or you lose the mouse pointer, then you should reload the game and go back to your last RESTORE. You should be able to repair both holes if your equipment vanishes after one hole then RESTORE and try again.

Tanglewood really is quite an amazing game, with tremendous scope and lots of variety. Pete Lyon's graphics are impressive, and Ian Murray-Watson's program will keep you guessing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm sure you will. Let's hope for lots more of the same.