Red Moon

Reviewed by John Sweeney


Issue 19

Jan/Feb 86

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Level 9
32k Cassette 6.95






Level 9 seem to have learnt how to cram an incredible amount into 32K. Red Moon has more than adequate descriptions of over 200 locations, scattered with over 50 items, and inhabited by no less than 19 different beings with whom you can interact.

Its vocabulary is adequate, its ability to understand English not much more than 'VERB NOUN' but once you accept that (and, unfortunately, with few exceptions, that is true for most adventures today), then it is an excellent adventure. Level 9 have enhanced the usual text adventure concept by adding lots of Dungeons and Dragons elements. You start with 50 Hit Points. You lose Hit Points when you are wounded, and it also costs you Hit Points to cast spells. One nice touch is that SAVE is treated as a spell and costs you 1 HP each time you do it!

Magic is an important part of the game. There are ten spells documented in the instructions, each of which requires you to use a certain artifact as a focus. There are a further 12 magical items in the game, most of which are extremely useful (one is actually described as being 'vaguely magical'!). Learning your way around the dungeon, and how to use magic effectively, are important aspects of the game. There are also plenty of problems to solve and then there are the fights!

Some denizens attack you, some talk to you, some ignore you. Some of them are more valuable to you alive than dead. Some of them can be killed or avoided without a fight but if you do get into a fight then make sure you are well armed and armoured. You can fight with weapons or with spells, or indeed both. Likewise there are both physical and magical ways to defend yourself. The dungeon is littered with weapons, armour, a cloak, a ring, etc., some of them magical - one item, for instance, will improve your Agility.

Beware though of too much mayhem. In this game very few of your foes stay dead - they will return to haunt you as ghosts and attack you at the most inconvenient times! You can actually explore about 150 rooms without a fight (although not without a couple of killings!), but just one fight can open over another 40 rooms to you.

The implementation is excellent in that you get colourful graphics which whilst only simple line drawings of the rooms are very pleasant and are drawn VERY quickly at the same time as the text is being output to the screen, and AT THE SAME TIME as it reads your keystrokes. You can if you wish, turn off the pictures. There is a large keyboard buffer so that you can key your commands ahead as fast as you like without waiting for each response, but beware if you have killed too many denizens for their ghosts will get you while you are keying! The people at Level 9 obviously know how to use the inside of the Atari.

Your objective in the game is to rescue the stolen Red Moon Crystal but don't assume that once you have found it you can wave your magic dulcimer and escape to the surface. Once you pick it up it's guardians appear, and they make everything you fought before pale into insignificance. However, since you are allowed to have three lives, you can die gracefully, be reincarnated and fulfil your quest without finding out how to win that final battle. You will however only achieve 1000 points if you rescue the crystal without dying, get all 9 treasures, complete one other minor quest which you must discover for yourself, AND do all this without SAVEing. In order to stop you restoring each fight until you have a lucky win, you lose 1 scoring point every time you SAVE. If you do all that you will definitely have got your money's worth, but there is one final challenge - it is possible to get 1000 points AND end the game with 50 Hit Points - can YOU do it?