Product: Amnesia
Publisher: A&B Computing
Compatibility: BBC B/B+/Master 128
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #74

A&B Computing published a variety of games and utilities for the BBC Micro and Electron - some nice and some nasty! - but it really excelled itself with Adventurescape, which was an Adventure Publishing System. Adventurescape stood the test of time - because it was written in BASIC (unlike its contemporaries), it was easy to change or improve it. And because it was disc-only, adventures it produced could be as big and sprawling as a 640K disc capacity would allow.

Originally, A&B supplied the utility in an issue of the magazine for the reader to type in. It came with a companion adventure - Lost In Xanadu - which adventurers at the time also rated quite highly. A&B's staff, and its readers, then had a go with the utility themselves and created some of their own adventures which they sold via mail order. So we come to the little-known adventure Amnesia - advertised in a few issues of the A&B magazines, and shipped back in the day on a 5.25" disc without box or instructions. All copies of Amnesia were originally thought lost until one Janny Loonenga dug it up and sent it to the 8BS web site.

The game begins by telling you that "...you have woken up from a dreamless sleep - to find yourself in a hot sweat! - lying in the dark on a hard bed. You can recollect neither who you are - nor what you are doing here. You have only a sense of desperate urgency!" Blundering around the room and its environs you soon discover that you are in some sort of Research Establishment. The game also informs you that you are fat, unkempt and sinister-looking... yet somewhat obsessed with cleanliness.

You then make progress by using the typical text adventure commands - NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST - and verb-noun combinations to effect actions. The game is a little more unusual than most; there is a plot to 'discover' rather than simply to plod through. In order to review it therefore, I'm going to have to give away some of its secrets. If you've seen the film Memento (in which a man with amnesia slowly understands what has happened to him in the past) then you'll probably be familiar with the concept of Amnesia. You start off blundering around then as you discover more items and locations, more things begin to make a sort of sense.

Firstly, there is a question of identity that pervades the whole game. Who is this man staring back at you from the mirrors dotted around the facility? Is it Paul Wildman, whose name is sewn into the suit jacket hanging in a cupboard? Or could you be one of the staff listed on the internal computer database - Professor Mark Myword perhaps, or Dr. Xenophone?

Secondly, how have you ended up where the game starts? No, I don't mean your predigious girth and suspicious countenance - that's probably a result of too many candybars and spending too much time at University - but rather I mean the hard bed and loss of memory situation. It is safe to assume someone did this to you. Presumably that was the same someone who knocked off poor Professor Vizor. A search of the grounds will discover his bloated corpse floating in a pond. Was the motivation for both of these acts the same?

Rather like a crime scene investigation, there are clues scattered around. A dusty photograph of some students from King's College, for example, and an internal memo that speaks of the theft of a poisonous chemical. Whilst you are initially restricted to the empty laboratory too, if you can solve its puzzles you will find your way out of it. You also will find your memory starts to return as you get closer to the endgame. Now I don't want to spoil this for everyone by giving away exactly what your mission is but I will say that the puzzles are complex and take in many of the sights and experiences of London, including an impromptu swim in the Thames.

Now whilst I quite like Amnesia, that is not to say that it is perfect. There are some silly aspects to it. The solution to one problem is to read copies of the A&B magazine that you find stashed in a cupboard. I don't like games that shamelessly self-promote their software house. If the game is a quality product, this sort of stuff simply isn't needed. Other silliness involves the attack of a giant mutant slug which you inject with a syringe to neutralise - this just doesn't 'fit' into what you eventually discover the Research Establishment is involved in. Almost unforgivably too, the endgame has a solution that is, to my mind, rather stupid.

There are also some spelling mistakes in the game and, weirdly, they are not consistent. For example, you will see some 'Alsation' dogs in one scene but they become 'Alsatian' dogs when you interact with them.

Despite these inclusions however, I do think Amnesia has got quite a broad appeal. It's not too hard as to be impossible to solve and by the end you will understand who you are, and exactly what happened to you. Amnesia's puzzles are satisfying to solve and the Adventurescape environment is a nice one, with descriptions, narrative and object manipulation being quick and perfectly formatted.

A final warning however. Despite some publicity stating that Amnesia worked on the Electron, it won't do so unless you have the incredibly rare Mode 7 Display Unit from Jafa Systems. This is because the game requires both Mode 7 and for PAGE to be at &E00.