4. Blade of Blackpoole

by Garry Francis, Australia

 

 

Issue 12

Nov/Dec 84

Next Article >>

<< Prev Article

 

If you've read the Adventure column in the last three issues, you would have noticed that a large part of each column was devoted to an informal history of Adventures. It was something that I've always wanted to do and I hope you found the subject as interesting as I did. Now that I've got it out of my system, let's take things easier for a while.

There is an absolutely huge number of Adventures available for the Atari. I am trying to cover a broad cross section of these to give you a feel for what's available. If you'd like me to feature a particular Adventure, then drop a line to the Editor and he'll pass it on to me. I have completed over 35 Adventures myself, so I have a good base to draw from. If you just need a hint, again drop a line to the Editor and he'll put it in CONTACT. If I can't give you any help, then maybe somebody else can.

I'd also like to know how you feel about the hints that I supply in each column. Is the coding system alright? Are the hints too easy? Too hard? Too many? Too few?

Anyway, enough chit chat. Let's get down to business.

Review

This issue, we'll take our first look at an illustrated Adventure. I've chosen Sirius' "Blade of Blackpoole" because it deserves more recognition than it has received so far.

Sirius is best known for their arcade games for the Apple. Several of the better ones such as "Bandits" and "Wayout" have been translated for the Atari, but "Blade of Blackpoole" was their first translation of an Adventure. It is an illustrated Adventure somewhat like the well known Sierra On-Line series, but of a much higher quality. The game was designed by Tim Wilson and runs on an Atari with 48k and an 810 disk drive. If you've got a drive other than an 810, try before you buy. The copy protection is such that it may not work on some non-810 disk drives.

The game comes on a double-sided disk. Side A is copy protected, but side B is not. When you first boot the game, you are given the option of making a backup copy of side B. Make sure you do! From that point on, you need the original disk only to boot the game. The backup of side B is used for everything else. I wish other manufacturers would adopt this policy as it has three big advantages. Firstly, it doesn't matter if your copy gets damaged, because you still have the original game to make another backup. Secondly, the SAVE GAME routine is carried out directly to the backup disk. This saves all the dreaded disk swapping inherent in other disk-based Adventures. Thirdly, the manufacturer maintains sufficient copy protection to prevent the average user from illegally copying the program and giving it to friends. Bravo Sirius!

When you've completed the backup procedure, you can proceed with the game. Following the title screen, you are dumped into the first location. The top two thirds of the screen is devoted to high resolution pictures of your surroundings in ANTIC mode 14 ($E to you hex freaks) or GRAPHICS 7+ as it is often incorrectly referred to. The pictures are always drawn as though you are facing north. They are not as high in quality as (say) Datasoft's "The Sands of Egypt", but they are much better than the kindergarten-style of Sierra On-Line. I particularly liked the soft, pastel tones chosen for the colours. One thing you'll notice is that the pictures are drawn fast. Very fast! I'd like to see their fill algorithm!

At the bottom of the screen, eight lines are reserved for text. Unfortunately, this is always in upper case probably due to its Apple origins. Overall, the only really bad point about the display is an occasional screen flicker.

The room descriptions are usually two or three sentences long, but I found that they never provide any useful clues. They just add atmosphere to the game. Upon subsequent visits to the room, only the first sentence of the description will be printed. You can opt for lengthy descriptions all the time by typing LONG or revert to the default by typing BRIEF.

Talking about input, "Blade of Blackpoole" has an excellent input routine. You can use multi-word input like TALK TO THE BARTENDER or MOVE THE ROCKS WITH THE STAFF THEN GO NORTH. Despite this, I tended to use the traditional two word input whenever possible. When you've finished typing your command and you press RETURN, a response comes up immediately! Now that's what I like to see! Another thing you'll notice about the input routine is the absence of the keyboard click. I missed this at first, but you soon get used to it.

On the negative side, the program is marred by the occasional bad spelling (or American spelling such as tunneled, center, etc.) and some really pathetic grammar and punctuation. Why do text-based programs like Adventures always fall down in this area?

The remainder of this review contains quite a few game playing strategies, so if that bothers you, don't read any further! The instructions tell you that the object of the game is to recover the magical sword "Myraglym" from a secret chamber beneath the lake at Blackpoole. You must then return it to the altar from which it was stolen. (There is actually a further requirement, but this will be explained to you within the game.) You begin at the edge of a small lake (this is NOT Blackpoole). Nearby, you will find a tavern where you can quench your thirst or buy goods essential to the completion of the game. You do not have enough gold pieces to buy everything available and you will not know which items are useful until much further into the game, so be prepared to restart if you buy the wrong items. Experienced players beware. Your Adventurer's instinct may be misleading!

Inventory control is very important. You can only carry six items at a time and several of the items you find are useless, so carry only what you need. About halfway through the game, you will have to get to the top of a cliff. You will later find that you should have carried six specific items up the cliff in order to complete the game. If you find that you don't have the items, then there is no way to return to the bottom of the cliff. Therefore, always maintain a saved game prior to ascending the cliff. I'd also suggest that you save the game before exercising any magic unless you are familiar with the consequences.

The HELP or HINT command is very useful, although some hints are so obscure that you will not understand them until after you have solved the puzzle that they refer to. If you run into trouble, try everything you can think of. The game has a huge vocabulary and will quite often return a humorous response.

As you work your way through the game, you are awarded points for achieving certain tasks. Keep track of your score. The maximum is 500, but I could only get 480 points at the completion of the game. The last 20 points are some sort of bonus, but I couldn't figure out how to get it. Could somebody please help me?

In summary, "Blade of Blackpoole" does not have a very original theme, but it is very well implemented. Unlike some other fantasy Adventures, the objects and surroundings are very consistent to the story. There is very little violence, but a fair share of riddles and magic. It is easy to map, but hard to solve. I would put it in the intermediate category, although a couple of puzzles are extremely difficult.

Hints

If you come to a grinding halt, try HELP or HINT in each room. If that doesn't help, try the hints below. (Note that I haven't given any hints where they're available within the program.) If you're extremely desperate, a complete solution may be found in "A Shortcut Through Adventureland" by Jack Cassidy, Pete Katz, Richard Owen Lynn and Sergio Waisman (published by Datasoft, 20660 Nordhoff Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311-6152, U.S.A).

Blade of Blackpoole hints

Don't know what you're supposed to do?
59 9 21 56 36

Can't take any of the items from the small room next to the tavern?
35 44 36

Can't get out of the quicksand?
11 25 12 24 8 20 39 53 21 26 52

Can't catch the bees?
36 36 36 13 57 1 40 36

Can't get past the carnivorous plant?
7 46 61 36

Can't move the boat?
11 25 62 27 52

Can't carry the boat?
15 41 36 14 47 36

Can't find the source of the faint voice near the misshapen tree?
7 46 61 36

Can't find the Jewel of Selmarn?
32 9 66 5 16 64 36

Can't get closer to the eerie light emanating from the trees?
34 63 67

Can't get past the monster in the river?
68 3 43 48 68 3 14 36

Can't move the boulder?
17 68 22 45 36

Can't open the huge metallic door?
68 51 33 36

Still haven't found Myraglym?
59 51 49 21 51 2 18 36

Can't find the key?
30 51 19 55 46 51 2 18 36

Keep hitting your head when you take a dive?
28 54 46 50 61 36

Can't find a bow?
17 51 29 36

Can't find an arrow?
6 51 31 52

Lost all your belongings?
10 37 65 23 4 58 42 67

Can't get the last 20 points?
69 38 10 67

1 THAN
2 RIGHT
3 STRONG
4 DABBLING
5 SHED
6 REMEMBER
7 TALK
8 BREASTSTROKE
9 HINT
10 I
11 WHAT
12 BACKSTROKE
13 IS
14 DRINK
15 SAVE
16 SOME
17 TRY
18 PLACE
19 SPELL
20 AND
21 IN
22 HIGH
23 ABOUT

24 ,
25 DO
26 COMMON
27 USE
28 WEAR
29 MAZE
30 RETURN
31 SCROLL
32 THIS
33 KEY
34 DON'T
35 TAKE
36 .
37 WARNED
38 CAN
39 BUTTERFLY
40 WINE
41 GAME
42 MAGIC
43 MONSTER
44 INVENTORY
45 FREQUENCY
46 TO

47 POTION
48 NEEDS
49 PRAYER
50 PROTECTS
51 THE
52 ?
53 WAVE
54 SOMETHING
55 BOOK
56 TAVERN
57 SWEETER
58 WITH
59 SAY
60 FIND
61 IT
62 GONDOLIER
63 BOTHER
64 LIGHT
65 YOU
66 SHOULD
67 !
68 A
69 NEITHER

top