A million years in the making (it feels like), Where Time Stood Still has been well worth the wait. The pixies from Denton Designs have pulled out all the stops to make this a game as graphically stunning as it is challenging.
Weep and gnash your teeth, 48K owners, as you realise that the game runs only in 128K. Blub as you resolve yourself to never seeing the giant, fast-scrolling play area, never hearing the spiffy music and sound effects, never knowing the excitement working out how to get past the Tentacle of Doom on the secret causeway...
For this animated arcade adventure, so sophisticated that it's like watching a film than playing a computer game, is the best thing to hit the Spectrum since hot fudge sundaes. (Don't they gum up your sproggets? - GT). Descended from 3-D romps like Move, The Great Escape and Hewson's Pyracurse, Where Time Stood Still strikes an excellent balance between strategy, arcade action, cartoon-style adventure and gritty realism.
Out the skies plunges a crippled plane. Steel-jawed pilot Jarret manages to wrestle it to a crash-landing, but the plane is wrecked and its passengers stranded in a strange valley deep in the Himalayas. As the game opens you see your party of four standing by the wrecked plane. The landscape of rocks, trees and undergrowth is shown in glorious monochrome, and below the big pic are some simple displays; a small portrait the character you currently control, three bar graphs showing strength, food, ammunition and your score, a calendar, and a day/night display. As you play the game, you'll see the calendar flip; at night-time, the scenery turns a twilight blue.
Initially, you control the pilot Jarret. If he gets killed off, you can assume control industrialist; Gloria, his delicate daughter; or Dirk, Gloria's bit of stuff.
Pressing the space bar brings up a window which allows you to select the character you want to control, by moving a pointer over their portrait and pressing fire. You can pick up this menu and reposition it anywhere on the screen if it's obscuring the action. Further windows allow you to switch on off the funky game music; to pause; or to quit. Strangely, there isn't a game save.
The last window is the object handler. You'll want to salvage as much as you can from the wrecked plane; food, water and a rope are a good start. just select the character you want to pick up and the object(s), all of which appear on the object menu; press fire over the object and move it to the upper part of the menu. When you want to use the object, you carry out the same process in reverse and click on the USE icon.
Once you start moving around you'll find that the background scrolls pleasingly quickly in all four directions. Press fire and you'll break into a run; stand still and press fire, and you fire your pistol. Initially, you control pilot Jarret and the other characters follow you around. You'll soon find, though, that the others have characters of their own. Gloria starts to flag quickly, and speech bubbles appear bearing messages like, "I'm tired," or, "I'm" hungry." It's best to stop for a rest and a bit of feed to restore your energy if this happens. You'll soon find, though, that hunger is the least of your problems. GASP! with horror as a giant pterodactyl swoops from the skies and snatches Gloria to her doom! SHAKE! with fear as the Tyrannosaurus-Rex chases you! QUAKE! with terror as the rickety rope bridge collapses beneath your very feet! Each of these challenges presents you with a test of your quick thinking, and some traps require even more skill. For instance, you can cross the monster-infested river by sticking to the lilypads, but you must keep moving or you sink. Step too near the edge and a horrid tentacle snatches you to a watery doom.
As you progress (making a map as you go, I'd suggest) you come across mountainous mazes hemmed in by lethal ravines, villages filled with spear-throwing natives, fast-running rivers, deadly mantraps and strange monsters. And that's only in the first five minutes.
If your leadership is bold and successful, the other characters will follow you faithfully. But dither or get lost, and the others will get fed up, and announce their intention to go off on their own. It's unlikely that they'll survive without help - but then, neither will you.
The great thing about Where Time Stood Still is that Denton have managed to include some stunningly sophisticated playing features, without making their usual mistake of concentrating more on the frills than on the game itself.
Cancel all plans for the next fortnight. Dash down to the shop. Pick up a copy of Where Time Stood Still. Buy a 128K Spectrum if you haven't already got one. Lock yourself in your room and prepare to play the most exciting game you've ever seen on the Spectrum.
Author: Denton Designs
Price: £7.79, Disc £14.95
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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