It's not often that you know you're buying the Game Of The Year, but in this case it's true because Guild earned that accolade for authors Magnetic Scrolls in last year's British Microcomputing Awards. And note that it was Game Of The Year, not just Adventure Of The Year, so it must be something special. Of course other machines had the stunning Geoff Quilley pix, but Speccy owners have to be content with the words, and even then only if you've got a Plus-3. Yep, the words plus the system are too big to fit into 128K, making it the biggest adventure yet available on the Spectrum. And the best? Read on...
Magnetic Scrolls games come with a box full of goodies, just like American adventure giants Infocom, and this time Rainbird's bright blue box contains:
1 Bank Of Kervonia Credit Card: made of genuine plastic, unless some thief has substituted a cheap ivory fake. Name on card is Waiter Ego, the account being the Guild Of Thieves Trading Account. Card expires November '96. 1996? 96 BC? Who knows? Kervonia's like that.
1 Copy, What Burglar? Magazine: contains interesting ads for burglary supply companies, entertaining articles, coded clues for would-be thieves, plus extracts from Guild Of Thieves Rules Of Conduct, e.g. "Rule 2, members shall not punch other members. Rule 3, that includes in the gob."
1 Copy Adventure Guide For Spectrum Owners: contains loading, saving, screen layout and input editing information.
1 Scroll (non-magnetic): one legal indenture and contract of service, to be signed by all those who would join that merry band of rapscallions, the Guild Of Thieves.
1 Dice: made of genuine ivory, unless some thief has beat you to it and substituted a cheap plastic fake. For some reason, the face that should have three spots on is missing. Who knocked spots off my dice?
Your aim in The Guild Of Thieves is simple. You want to become a member of the Guild Of Thieves. Achieving this aim is not so simple. To prove your potential rapscallionship you will be taken to an island by the Master of the Guild, and left there till you can escape with all the treasures the island contains. The game begins with you in a boat, although you won't be there for long, as if you don't jump to the shore of the island yourself you'll be helped on your way by the Master.
Screen layout is similar to The Pawn, with a neat text of 56 characters across and a Status Line at the top of the screen showing your location, score and number of moves. The parser too, is more or less as before: impressive in many ways, but sometimes letting itself down. I notice the fault I pointed out in earlier versions hasn't been corrected. Right at the start where you're sitting in the boat and have to jump to the island, the parser doesn't understand the fairly straightforward JUMP OUT OF BOAT, you have to obey the Master's commands precisely and JUMP TO THE JETTY. Little things like that are irritating, but of course they're very minor compared to the vast amount of pleasure and puzzling to be had from the game, which for me is a better effort than The Pawn because the story holds together more.
On the island, a check of the inventory reveals that you have a striped sweatshirt, a pair of jeans containing a pocket containing a credit card (not unlike the one in the packaging), and a swag bag containing the obligatory lamp. Near the jetty you should encounter your first character, a frail old man who's trying to drag some heavy luggage around. Virtue may be its own reward, but if you try to help the old man you'll naturally expect something to happen, which it does.
To the south, through golden wheatfields, is a mill, but you can't get to it because the sails drive you back. This being an adventure game as opposed to real life, you can't just walk around them, you have to devise some other way of getting past. Use your senses on that one - or one of them, at least. But can you then part the miller from the goodie he's got? Can you get through the cave network, sort out the WOBNIAR room or win some money on the rat race?
Though there's no doubt this is a tough adventure that will keep experienced players crouching over the keyboards for hours at a time, it's also got a lot to recommend it for the more novice adventurer too. There's quite a lot of ground to explore before you start coming up against real hurdles, there are coded hints of varying degrees of reliability if you get bogged down, and of course, the better the parser, the less likelihood of newcomers getting put off by being unable to find the right combination of words.
The text is excellent, and to get a flavour of it just look at the sample response elsewhere on the page. It's disappointing not to see what the Spectrum could do with the graphics, as I don't see why they couldn't have included a few in the space remaining on the disk. Or even have some put on the other side of the disk, which is blank, to be called up when needed. I'm sure no-one would mind swapping the disk over from time to time. But then I'm not the one who's paying the bills to get the graphics done!
To sum up, I think this is definitely one of the best adventures around for the Spectrum now, along with Gnome Ranger, and if you want one final justification for buying the game, then just read the back of the box: "Buy This Game or We'll Steal Your Computer! " Better get on the right side of the Guild Of Thieves quick!
TEXT - AN EXAMPLE
You're in the Temple, where there's a statue. Naturally, being an impetuous (not to mention greedy), sort of a person, you attempt to get the statue. This is what happens: "There is barely time to consider the declining standards of Kervonian workmanship before the immediacy of the ensuing danger takes precedence and avoiding the toppling statue becomes your prime concern. Dodging artfully to one side you congratulate yourself on your agility. On reflection however, it seems that this self indulgence was as premature as your opinion of Kervonian workmanship was inadequate, since the falling statue appears to have removed a significant portion of the temple floor. Instinctively you grasp for a solid object which, on a good day, would be a handhold but today is the statue, and together you head downwards into the gloom...
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