Garry Francis gives his opinion of one of the
most talked about adventures of recent times – after having
finished the game
Over the past few years, the Adventure column has
gradually grown longer and longer and longer until reaching the
four page epics of the last few issues. Commencing with this issue,
I intend to cut down the length of each article, but from next
issue onwards, I'll try to cover two or three Adventures in each
issue. This means that I needn't spend as much time on research,
the Editor gets more flexibility in magazine layout and you, the
readers, get more hints in each issue.
Let me know what you think of the 'cut down' format
and, as always, suggestions for future columns are more than welcome.
My address is at the end of this article.
Now, as promised last issue, let's take a look at
I first heard of The Pawn about two years ago when
our illustrious Editor told me about a great new Adventure for
the ST that had unbelievable graphics (I think he was just trying
to get me to buy an ST!). Computer & Video Games previewed
The Pawn in April 1986. The article was chock full of superlatives
and the accompanying review gave it full marks. I could hardly
wait for the 8-bit version to be released.
As The Pawn became available for more and more machines,
the computer press gave it rave reviews and glowing comments. Imagine
my disappointment when I did eventually buy the game and found
it to be a bit of a dog! What had happened? How had the computer
community been so thoroughly conned?
When I re-read all the reviews, I realised that some
reviewers had been hoodwinked by personal demonstrations from the
staff of Magnetic Scrolls. They had obviously been shown how 'clever'
the program was without being shown all its shortcomings – not
to mention its bugs! Of all the reviews I read, only one of the
reviewers had actually completed the game! The others had wandered
about the countryside and hadn't even solved any puzzles! This
is disgraceful. The end result was (in my opinion) the greatest
marketing swindle in Adventure history.
I said there was only one reviewer who had actually
finished the game. That happened to be Page 6's own John Sweeney.
His is the best and fairest review of the lot (and even then, I
think he's a bit generous), so if you're thinking of buying The
Pawn, make sure you read John's review first. It's in Page 6 Issue
28 July/August 1987. And please note that 8-bit owners MUST have
a 1050 drive or compatible as the disk is in enhanced density.
I played The Pawn on an 800XL, not on an ST. The
graphics are good, but not great. I've seen much better. They tend
to use monotone colour schemes to enable subtle shading effects,
but in a lot of scenes, you can't even tell what the picture is
supposed to be! So what's the point of subtle shading?
All except a few pictures at the beginning load from
side B of the disk, hence the disk must be flipped twice every
time a new picture is displayed. This becomes so frustrating, that
I always played with the graphics off unless I discovered some
new territory. The graphics aren't necessary to solve the game.
On the positive side, the scrolling is superb. It is so smooth
and easily controlled that not even an ST could do better.
The plot is devised by a philosophy student – and
it shows. (If you've ever known a philosophy student, you'll know
what I mean.) Most reviewers comment on the game's sense of humour.
It does have a few very funny spots, but the "sense of humour" is
more because of the bizarre and unrealistic events – somewhat
like Monty Python. Some of it is just plain old bad taste (such
as the gratuitous violence, use of alcohol, marijuana and Satanism).
It is also heavily influenced by religion and politics, but you'd
expect that of a philosophy student. Overall, the game feels 'immature',
but I'm sure that will disappear in Magnetic Scrolls' future releases.
The area where The Pawn receives my greatest criticism
is the parser. An Adventure parser falls within the area of Artificial
Intelligence known as Natural Language Processing. A Natural Language
Processor essentially consists of three phases – lexical
analysis, syntactic analysis and semantic analysis. In simple terms,
lexical analysis is where the input string typed by the user is
broken down into separate words and checked to make sure they are
in the program's vocabulary. Syntactic analysis is where the program
makes sure that the words are arranged in a grammatically valid
way. Semantic analysis makes sure that the combination of words
makes sense. Then and only then should the program act upon the
The Pawn's lexical analysis is reasonably good except
that the range of verbs is a bit limited. The syntactic analysis
suffers by allowing some extremely complex constructs to the detriment
of the simple and more commonly used constructs. The player's efforts
to communicate with the program sometimes turn into a frustrating
session of trial and error.
The game's biggest shortcoming however is the semantic
analysis and the resultant command processing. It often produces
nonsense replies, grammatical errors, misleading statements, logical
inconsistencies and downright mistakes. In other words, it's full
of bugs! So beware!
When playing The Pawn, there are a few general hints
I can offer to make the game as painless as possible. Firstly,
remember that you have five senses. EXAMINE, FEEL, SMELL, TASTE
and LISTEN TO every object you find and every noun in room descriptions.
You will usually get a sensible response which bares little or
no relevance to the game. It is the odd occasions that it DOES
bare some relevance that you will be thankful for this advice.
Also try LOOK IN, LOOK UNDER, SEARCH, READ, PUSH and PULL when
they seem appropriate.
Ask all the characters about all the other characters.
This is the best way to build up a picture of a character's personality,
but also helps you to determine who can or cannot be trusted. Any
other conversation is pretty limited. The program tries to be clever
when conversing with characters, but usually ends up making a fool
Kronos will appear very early in the game and give
you a small task to do. Don't leave it at that. Prod him and probe
him and ask all sorts of questions, but whatever you do, don't
let him leave (as I did) until he's also given you a major task.
You cannot finish the game otherwise.
Save the game before giving objects away, for if
your generosity does not achieve the effect you desire, the object
is gone forever.
You cannot use the blue key twice! Think about it.
Which use gives you the most points?
As John Sweeney pointed out in his review, the game
does not appear to have a clear conclusion. It simply fizzles out.
The aim is to achieve the full 350 points which are awarded as
follows (the descriptions are intentionally vague and in no particular
|Getting the note
|Entering the toolshed
|Making the plant
|Reaching the narrow
|Getting the pouch
|Getting the coin
|Getting the black
|Moving the boulder
|Stopping the Guru
|Getting the blue
|Entering the staircase
|Reaching the rockface
|Getting the ballot
|Feeding the alchemists
|Getting the rope
|Defeating the snowman
|Reaching the ledge
|Getting rid of
|Voting for the
Well, that just about wraps it up for The Pawn (except
for the dozens of bugs). If you're still having trouble, refer
to the coded hints accompanying this column. Please note that they
are a lot more explicit than usual because of the game's difficulty.
Next issue I'll be covering Lapis Philosophorum,
Stranded and (depending on space) maybe one or two others as well.
See you then.
The Pawn Hints
1. Can't remove the silver wristband?
107 51 1 109 3
2. Can't cross the dotted red line?
3. Can't buy anything from Honest John?
45 20 94 117
4. Can't enter the toolshed?
45 104 11
5. Can't move the wheelbarrow?
6. Can't plant the pot plant?
122 41 55 91 55 41 55 33 55 41 29 24
7. Can't get past the guards?
8. Can't stop the Guru laughing?
102 9 29 114
9. Can't open the Guru's cupboard?
10. Can't get past the boulder?
62 61 76 119 108 29 114 91 60 2 29 61
11. Can't get past the rockfall?
12. Can't survive the cold?
13. Can't pick up the snow?
14. Can't get past the snowman?
15. Still can't get past the snowman?
50 120 29 23
16. Can't climb the icy ramp?
115 96 8
17. Can't open the door on the landing in the ice
45 89 11
18. Can't get the Princess out of the ice tower?
56 28 91 62 64 10 25 91 106 88
19. Can't open the wooden door in the tree?
45 100 11
20. Can't remove the wooden boards in the tree trunk
21. Can't find a use for the ballot boxes?
22. Can't open the safe?
45 89 11
23. Can't enter the lift?
53 31 76 92 91 58 36
24. Can't get the lumps?
25. Can't cross the lava?
90 98 91 84 87 76 35 121
26. Can't get out of the maze?
27. Can't get past the alchemists?
68 49 91 68 70
28. Can't open the tomes?
15 52 66 57
29. Can't get past the paper wall?
63 3 29 77 75
30. Can't descend safely from the paper wall?
62 64 10 74 33 13 76 84 3
31. Can't open the double doors?
6 6 6 6 6
32. Can't get past the porter?
33. Can't see the relevance of Jerry Lee Lewis?
34. Can't see what's in the fridge?
122 3 29 113 76 80 3 99
35. Can't get past the dragon?
97 23 43 7 91 4 43 7
36. Can't survive even a single move in Kronos' workshop?
21 112 46
37. Can't kill Kronos?
27 47 16 43 72
38. Can't get past the dragon on the return trip?
39. Can't enter the cream doors?
67 9 76 6
40. Can't escape the brilliant void?
41. Missing a chit?
38 33 18
42. Missing a coin?
38 22 12 33 95
43. Missing a metal key?
38 33 26
44. Missing a pot plant?
38 22 69
45. Missing a trowel?
46. Missing a chest?
107 93 109 9 83 85 116
47. Missing a blue key?
38 22 79
48. Missing a wooden key?
38 22 17
49. Missing a light source?
59 10 101
50. Still missing a light source?
14 39 29 110 76 68 10 101 91 80 54
51. Still missing a light source?
48 5 76 19 76 89
52. Missing a ballot paper?
38 33 82
53. Missing a safe?
38 22 30
54. Missing a hard hat?
38 33 95
55. Missing a black potion?
107 103 109 118 94 42 94 9