Questprobe Chapter 1 - Adventure 3

Reviewed by John Sweeney

 

Issue 25

Jan/Feb 87

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Fantastic Four featuring the Human Torch and the Thing
Scott Adams/Adventure International/All American Adventures
48k Disk

14.95


I used to enjoy Scott Adams' adventures, but, rather sadly, they seem to have been left behind by the other main adventure producers like Level 9 and Infocom. It is not really fair to compare them with Infocom since they are designed to fit into a 64K memory (apart from the pictures), but Level 9's adventures are written with the same constraints as Scott Adams', and they get better all the time. Questprobe 3 seems, if anything, inferior to the earlier adventures in the series.


With the pictures turned off, Questprobe 1 (The Hulk) normally gave sub-second responses. The Fantastic Four has a three to four second response - what went wrong? (It gets even worse if you WAIT - the command WAIT 15 takes 30 seconds to do nothing!)

 

A response time of a few seconds can be quite acceptable, it is, for instance, quite common in Infocom adventures, but the difference there is that you know it is going to be worth waiting for the response. This, alas, is not true of The Fantastic Four. 99% of the responses from the adventure are: 'I see nothing special' (even single word descriptions of a few things would be nice), 'I don't know what xxxx means' (even for a word like PRINCESS, which is listed in its
vocabulary!) and 'I didn't completely understand you' (you get this for even the simplest of sentences, e.g. OPEN DOOR - both of which are listed in its vocabulary - and this is the same door, in the Chief Examiner's office, which you COULD attempt to open in The Hulk!). But it gets even worse.


The adventure starts with the Thing stuck in a tar pit and the Torch nearby. You can switch between the two characters by typing in SWITCH. I flew the Torch over the pit and tried to get him to lift the Thing out. This didn't seem to be working so I checked the documentation, which is quite extensive giving long descriptions of the various heroes and villains in the story. Sure enough, the Thing weighs 500 lbs, and the Torch can get 'enough lift to carry around 180 pounds. By forming a jet from his feet, directed behind him, he can achieve speeds of up to 140 miles per hour'. This sounded like it might be enough to jerk the Thing free from the tar, so I typed in TURN ON JET - 'I don't know how to BEGIN something' - huh? I said TURN not BEGIN, and TURN is listed in the vocabulary! So I tried BECOME JET -'OK', but all it did was switch me to being, the Thing. It would appear that BECOME is a synonym for SWITCH, and it just ignored the word JET completely. This is hardly what one expects of a company which has been producing adventures since the beginning!


Anyway, I gave up trying to rescue the Thing that way, but did eventually discover how to save him from drowning in the tar pit. I also explored around the place a bit with the Torch and discovered how to work the cannon. After a few hours I had still found very few locations, and extremely few artifacts (three to be precise). I was getting bored. I had now reached a point in the game where the Thing is stuck at the bottom of a shaft. Now the instructions say 'Your computer is able to understand long, complex sentences such as "CLIMB ALL THE WAY UP THE SHAFT"'. That sounded just right for my current problem so I typed it in. After my previous experiences with the game's inability to understand the simplest of English, I shouldn't have been surprised when it responded 'Your sentence has too many elements for me to understand. Please simplify it.' (Can we do them for false advertising?)


One final complaint - how come it can understand GIVE CANDLE TO THING, but not GIVE CANDLE TO RINGMASTER? I don't mind if he doesn't want it, but anything would be preferable to seeing 'I didn't completely understand you' appear on the screen yet AGAIN! There is absolutely no point in having a vast vocabulary of hundreds of words, unless you program the game to understand a few more sentences than those absolutely required to complete the game. It just becomes a guessing game as to which is the only valid sentence you can use in the current situation. This, combined with the atrocious response times for such a primitive adventure, results in what I can only describe as a disappointing and boring game.


It's got some pretty pictures - if you don't mind waiting while they load.

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