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The Devil's Hand
Compass £2.50 Jan 1989 YS37
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Mike Gerrard
After a bit of a wait author Jon Lemmon has completed the filial part of his 'Darkside' trilogy, coming after the excellent Demon from the Darkside and The Golden Mask. The professional colour inlay explains the background to the story. The basic idea is that you play the part of Morrack and must 'battle against the dark hordes of evil', meaning you're on a Seek and Destroy mission against that nasty piece of work Draylon... sorry, Drakon, and must destroy his black soul before he can destroy the great Wizzard Zorron.
    One thing that impressed me about the first two in the series was that, like the inlay, although these are essentially from a one-man software house, the results would put many a professional outfit to shame, no names mentioned. The Quill has been used with The Press text compressor to cram in 30K of text and 14K of graphics: 30 of the 70 locations are illustrated, and these are nicely done but do take a while to draw. Still, there's always the PON/POF feature, to switch pix on and off as you wish. Other options include STORE to save to RAM, STAY/FOLLOW instructions to give to other characters, a VOCAB command to prevent you wasting time trying to find the right words, and a free compass with every adventure! Just type in COMPASS and you'll be reminded of the arrow symbols which are used to show the exits.
    You start next to an old sea wall, and "to the south a large Troll moves swiftly as if he has my scent." Too true he does, as five moves later he pounces and you're deaded! It takes a few experimental moves here to try to work out the best thing to do, but no sooner had I escaped the reaches of the Troll than I was in a circle of black twisted trees where an Orc was waving his weapon at me. Dirty devil. I noticed a deep dark pit. Should I risk it? Okay, down I go (complete with sound effect) to find, yippee, a sword - but before I can pick it up the Orc drops down too and rips my throat out. Rats!
    These early sudden deaths might have put me off a lesser game but there was always enough interest to keep me plodding on, getting a step closer to a possible solution each time. Another black mark for several spelling mistakes (e.g.'guidance', 'friendley' and 'embeded'), but a bonus for the good use of sound effects - one was so unexpected that it really made me jump, but I won't spoil the surprise for you. Another nice touch are the graphic symbols used for game objects, and the screen presentation and layout is very well done.
    There are a couple of potential allies in the adventure, if you treat them right, though don't expect the sophistication of a character in Gnome Ranger or a PAWd game. I felt The Devil's Hand was far easier than its predecessors, as I progressed through quite steadily clocking up the percentages, but it's well above average for games in this price range and it would be money well spent. I'm now hoping for a fourth game in this trilogy!

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   CRASH  7/10   
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