Judith Kane knelt on the dais and carefully read the plaque mounted below the coffin. “Murder Most Fowl!” the inscription read. “Hmm!” thought Kane with her best Sam Spade cynicism showing through “looks like I’ll be able to pin this one on Howard the Duck.” She left the dais and braved the mist which surrounded it, while Bertram Trench coat, an amazingly inept android assistant, followed. Suddenly, a band of mist dwellers attack.
Judith fired her trusty Smith & Wesson, only to discover that she had missed the short, squat mist dweller that was closing on her. “Drat,” she cursed in a 1940’s euphemism, “Sam Spade wouldn’t have missed!” The mist dweller attacked and slashed her knee. “Wasn’t it supposed to be a blackjack to the back of the head?” She fired again and watched the attacking mist dweller fall to the orange coloured dust in agonizing death, then wheeled to face the next attacker.
TIME SHIP (TS) isn’t just another ad- venture game. It’s a role-playing system. In TS, the player(s) are allowed to travel the time stream through an ancient knowledge of mind power and universal energy. The documentation for the system is excellent in establishing the parameters for the game milieu.
Unlike many systems which are restricted to a certain time frame, the task and/or adventure modules which are to be published at a later date will be free to explore any historical or a historical era. The documentation aids the first time player in setting up the system by guiding the novice through the process of creating a data and player disk. The player disk will be able to hold character files for up to 10 players. After creating the data and player disks, the program prepares the player for play and allows the character generation process (Time Traveller’s Guild Registration) to begin. Like many role playing systems, TS begins by quantifying attributes. Unlike some RPG systems, the quantities by which the basic attributes are described are player determined (not randomly assigned). These attributes are: Strength, Charisma, Dexterity, Endurance, and Intelligence. The experienced RPG player will be familiar with their functions within the system.
All five attributes begin with a value of 50 (below average) and the player has 60 points to spend in creating the character has a Weapons To Hit Number (WTHN) which reflects the character’s proficiency with that weapon (within 19 different categories). Each WTHN begins at 60 and, since the lower the WTHN the more likely a character is to hit, the player is given 60 points to subtract from the 19 WTHN categories. That concludes the character generation (or Guild Registration) process. Next, in the tradition of most role playing systems, the player has the responsibility of equipping his character. Of course, it makes a difference where one is going in time as to what he/she will need on the adventure. In MURDER AT THE END OF TIME, the introductory module which is packaged with the basic system, the player is warned that weaponry is probably limited to 20th century standard detective issue. The player is also warned in the module fact sheet that many objects which were brought into the Time stream will be lost or will decrease in effectiveness. These factors and the opportunity to choose one’s own equipment enhance the interest in this game.
Alas, the introductory module is not nearly as well executed as the game system. The game system requires consideration of one’s “Charisma” value, but interaction with NPC and suspects is exceedingly limited. For example, at one point the character meets a nymph in the woods. In attempting to initiate any form of dialogue and/or interrogation with her, the character is put off with the statement that she isn’t to talk to strangers. At another point, when the character tries to interrogate the “butler” of the deceased, he is told that Igor can’t hear. Further, one would think that after all the time spent on creating a combat ready character that one would be able to initiate combat.
This is not always true. If one attempts to attack Igor, the player is told that Igor isn’t affected by the character’s attack on his knee. I find it difficult to believe that a revolver bullet is going to be ignored as a pathetic attack, even if it is directed at the victim’s knee. Why create an elaborate and well-thought out combat system in order to use it against mist dwellers and not against obstacles to one’s investigation.
Even the module has some nice features, however. I particularly enjoyed seeing what the program does when an obscenity is typed in. The program says, “Say you’re sorry, you silly fool.” It will not accept any further input from the key- board until the word, “sorry,” is entered. I also found the graphics in the module and the fast-scrolling text pages for the basic system to be aesthetically pleasing.
However, the module contains too many dead ends, some which act like a Deus ex machine. For example, knowing that to press a certain button causes the character to fall through an iris opening and into the cargo hold of an alien vessel, Judith Kane tied a rope to a stationary object and pushed the button. When Judith couldn’t find an exit from the cargo hold, she started to climb out on the rope, only to have an unseen mist dweller pull the rope up and out of her reach, moments before she grasped it. Further, there are many occasions where it might be advantageous to do something destructive in order to escape or investigate, but the program will simply not let one do so. The spelling errors are also distracting. It is highly unlikely that the deceased was killed with a wooden “steak,” unless it was stage prop food with a very sharp edge. Further, one is given the impression I noted at the beginning of this review that the phrase, “Murder Most Fowl,” is an important clue.
Watch the spelling errors and avoid frustration. I am impressed with TS as a potentially interesting game system, but was disappointed with the way the introductory module failed to make use of the strengths of the system. One can only hope that the future task (where the character must perform one action, i.e. assassination, rescue, etc.) and adventure (where the character is allowed to explore a time milieu in order to solve a given problem) modules will use more of the built-in features of the system. If the future modules will exploit those strengths, Five Star will give Info COM some terrific competition.