I work at the National Videogame Museum (UK) and found this parser adaptation of a Famous Five novel while I was going through some boxes in storage today - so charmed by the blurb!
This is actually quite good for a cassette-based 8-bit adventure. The engine looks very similar to the one used by the Melbourne House adventures (The Hobbit, Sherlock, The Lord of the Rings), but is in fact a clone called Worldscape.
There is an interview with the creator, Colin Jordan, in issue 6 of The Classic Adventurer.
So fab! Thank you for the info, I’d never heard of this game before I found the box today!
It looks to be an Amiga game, in which case it will be on floppy disks and 16-bit.
I wish I’d heard of it back in the day! Of course it follows quite a number of Famous Five CYOA style interactive fiction gamebooks. But this is the only commercial parser game I know of.
IFDB has a detailed 2015 review of this parser game. Worth a read!
It is hard to tell from the box which version it contains, but the screenshots on it are obviously from the Amiga version.
It was written on a SAM Coupé (basically an improved ZX Spectrum clone) but the Youtube video I linked to is of the version for
the original ZX Spectrum (Edit: Seems to be the ZX Spectrum 128K version, which has more pictures). That one is 8-bit cassette based.
On the Amiga you could play the Infocom games at the time, and compared to them it is a little less impressive.
Only the Amiga and ST versions were boxed. While you cannot make a guess which of the two it is, you can pretty much drill it down to one of the 16-bit versions. The engine was a bit better than on the 8-bit versions. Character swapping for instance was much more convenient.
@laurenodonoghue Great find by the way. The box is a true rarity. I’ve been hunting this forever without luck as it is one of my favorite adventures back from the day. The game is not too hard and actually pretty close to Blyton’s novel with the same name. The game was approved by the Bylton estate.
(I do have the Spectrum tape version though which came not with a box)
I remember playing it on C64 as it came on the cover tape with Commodore format:
and more info here:
It’s a great game, very atmospheric and nostalgic, and also faithful to the book (which it is a definite advantage to read, several puzzles being directly lifted from scenarios in the original work).
I had it on cassette for the ZX Spectrum and also Colin Jordan’s previous game, The Great Peepingham Train Robbery, which used the same Worldscape system and is similarly charming but similarly ridiculously sluggish by today’s standards - definitely best played on an emulator in speeded-up mode to eleviate the agonisingly long parser-lag (not sure if it was any better on other systems).
The author of the detailed IFDB review is, I think I’m right in saying, none other than Chris Ainsley (@adventuron), creator of Adventuron. I believe the game was a definite influence on the creation of that engine.
See also the CASA page for map and walkthroughs.
Thanks so much to everyone who has shared additional info, context and memories around this game, it’s always a real joy to see people excited about our collection.
I only checked out the box in passing when I spotted it, I’ll have a look inside next time I’m in the archive and see if there’s any additional material.
Will definitely share any other IF games I come across too!
Investigated the box a bit further and found not only the floppy disk but the instruction manual too! Lovely condition. Thought some of you would like to see!
If you’ll accept one of my kidneys I’ll take it
Nice find. Lovely condition! Thank you so much for sharing!
The parser looks quite good. I wonder what instructions you can give to the other characters?
You can just give them standard commands to carry out, such as SAY TO GEORGE EXAMINE CAT or SAY TO AUNT OPEN DOOR. You can use their knowledge to help you progress, such as ASK DICK ABOUT TREASURE. And with the tight inventory limit you’ll probably end up using the characters to help you cart stuff around.
But you can also BECOME the main characters and do the actions directly. At times you will need to be specific characters to make progress; such as BECOME DICK, as he’s the one with the torch and you need to light the way forward.
Thanks for the info. Sounds a really cool game. I wonder if they made any more in the series?
They didn’t, no.
Speaking to Classic Adventurer, Colin said: “Enigma, having bought the rights, decided to move away from computer software and started working on Game Boy and console games instead. I never actually suggested to Enigma it was to be the first of a series, and in fact would have probably struggled to make a decent text adventure out of the next book.”
The Atari ST version has not been preserved. It would be great if you could get a copy of this to be archived for future generations.
I wonder, the Worldscape engines seems not to have been preserved or available
I don’t think Worldscape really existed as a distinct separate system that could be preserved. There are probably some similar programming techniques used in the Sam Adventure System Colin produced but that is a lot more simplistic and doesn’t include the PSI stuff. Coming from the PAW, I found SAS really cumbersome to use and, despite being a SAM owner and very active in that text adventure community, I never actually produced a game of my own using it.