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Virgin Games Ltd
Adventure: Text
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Derek Brewster
Chris Bourne

"Being popular as well as intelligent isn't easy", is just one of the many profound observations which emanate from the poet of the Midlands, Adrian Mole - 15 and a quarter years old. We join our schoolboy hero at the turn of another new year, studying for O Levels but dreaming of A Levels and beyond. The only problem is that this is Thatcher's Britain, and Intellectualism in general (and soppy non-violent pastimes such as poetry in particular) are positively frowned upon.

Adrian, a gangly and spotty adolescent, spends much of the game struggling to make sense of life at the end of a cul-de-sac in Leicester, a town just north of errr, and south of errr; exactly. Although Adrian's pubescent fumblings with girls such as Sharon Botts and his long-standing crush Pandora, are amusing, there is much more to the Adrian Mole Diaries than this. In these books and computer games we take a wry look at provincial Britain, where the people who created and settled the industrial heartlands watch the antics of 10 Downing Street with bemused disbelief. Adrian has set his sights on a studio flat in Hampstead with no interruptions from 'Hawkers, Traders or Philistines', but for now we must suffer his growing pains against the backcloth of the Falklands (he eventually found the islands on his map under a cake crumb), the water strike, and powerful lobbies which ply children with chocolate and have the Moles wondering why 'socks have their ingredients listed but not all foods'?

The computer game follows closely both the book and the recent Thames television series. Having bought the book for this review, and caught some of the TV programs. I must say that familiarity with the scripts will enable you to gain a higher mark when playing the computer game. The score is your prime concern during play, your aim being to increase it by making Adrian as popular with everyone as possible. As you might guess, this is not always an easy matter due to competing interests (eg Pandora or Nigel's views in the Pink Brigade), or due to unforeseen negative results to saintly acts. These unpredictable twists in plot are what keep you from the higher, more complimentary- sounding scores. If a game is going well you might rise from the likes of Worthy Youth (from a start of the 40%-rated Lowly Schoolboy) through the Poet ratings to Worthy Prodigy (76%), and on to the heady heights of Suburban Paragon of Virtue (81%), but it will take all four parts (between which ratings are transferable) to go very far into the eighties.

A criticism which has been levelled at these MOSIAC BOOKWARE products (in this case marketed by VIRGIN) concemsthe games' ability to only withstand one run-through, as with a book. Having played the first part of this game several times, I have noticed a few devices to counter this criticism. After playing through the part once you would expect a re-run to see you making all the correct decisions; but not only is it hard to remember the right choice between the 3 options (made more difficult by the program swapping round the question order), it will be noticed that certain sections vary in content and order. In the first part the canal sequence involving Mr Mole's government scheme reclamation job may either be missing entirely or dealt with at great length. Similarly, the toothache sequence may be touched upon or agonised over for some time.

Curiously, this variation can be responsible for a justified criticism in that the program lacks the chronology of the book and hence people unfamiliar with the Moles and their environs may need some prior introduction to the colourful characters which inhabit their world. For example, at the start of Part Three we are told of Adrian's father going to see a Brett, and a Stick Insect. Readers of the book will immediately recognise the nicknames of his father's lover and the offspring of their union, but what of newcomers? The plot can also suffer due to the attempts to vary the game each time it is played. Take Adrian's relationship with Pandora which is fine at the end of one part and then mysteriously cool at the beginning of another, the reason being lost in text which may not pop up until these parts are played several times.

Before finishing, could I just mention some points about the structure of this four-part adventure. Each part can be loaded separately and then played repeatedly to obtain a higher score. As there are two parts per side, it is wise to stop the tape immediately after loading parts one or three, the first parts on sides A and B respectively. When playing the parts in a row do not be alarmed if at first the programs do not seem to be loading as this ignored information is only taken up if that part is being loaded on its own (a small white square appears at bottom right when the program is loading proper). As I've mentioned, the score does transfer between parts when the computer is not switched off; it would be impossible to achieve a high score otherwise. To quit a part, or to ask for help, option 4 is your choice (where RESTART is suggested to quit and begin a part again).

I consider the Adrian Mole games to be very entertaining, as they draw on some great material from the Sue Townsend books. This game, the follow-up to The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, is not perfect (when pictures are being drawn, and sometimes text zips up and off the screen before it can be read; also typographical errors crop up now and again) but it doesn't half keep you enthralled. Now I might have said 'doesn't half give you a run for your money ' but a £9.95 price tag does not compare favourably with the METHUEN paperback book which costs just £1.95. While contemplating whether a termer outlay is worth the pleasure of guiding Mole through his adolescence, perhaps you might like to consider these two quotes, one from the program and the second from the book. The first concerns some perfectly reasonable advice to a cigarette manufacturer, "I have written to Rothmans offering to improve their health warning. The current one is very badly laid out." And how about this one for a comic ending to an innocuous-looking paragraph: "My father was ironing baby clothes when I got home from school. He said, 'If you laugh.

I'll kill you'. My mother was feeding the baby, with her feet on the dog's back. It was a charming domestic picture, only spoiled when my father put the ironing board away and went home to his other family."


Difficulty: about as difficult as opening a Mars bar
Graphics: weird, 'prepaid post cubist through mottled glass' school of art
Presentation: just fine
Input facility: press keys one to three
Response: fast
General Rating: Great material.