Publisher: Bazzasoft
Compatibility: BBC B, B+ & Acorn Electron. Not Master 128.
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #53

Besides needing the appropriate kit on an ADFS Electron, this review will also be required if you already have a copy of the adventure game House - IQGR for the BBC. It is intended not just to give the standardised opinion but so too to document the game plus its conversion from the BBC. And to show how to patch up the bug hiding in it making it unplayable past a certain location.

The company Bazzasoft produced a good few BBC/Electron Public Domain titles in the late Eighties and early Nineties [It was behind the "Bazzasoft Filing System 2.34" demo in EUG #45 - Ed] with one of its more noted releases being the Bazzasoft Adventure Programming System (B.A.P.S.). The adventure House - IQGR was created on this system and runs in Mode 6 with over 45 locations, lots of messages and numerous puzzles.

The scene is London where you seem to have acquired a luxury detached house just a road from Downing Street (occupied by Margaret Thatcher!). However, one day your pride and joy, your BBC Micro, disappears from your bedroom. With a few elements of PD game Insomnia, what is to follow as you navigate the house and its environs is a humorous if not a little trippy jaunt featuring screaming wildly, leaping from high locations, visiting the funny farm and exchanging one item for another.

Oh, yes, and don't forget an excess of murder. Each death you sustain by a wrong move brims with sarcasm - yet beating your brother's guinea-pig to a pulp, blowing up a whole location of people and observing a very messy game of politics where Neil Kinnock seems to be doing his 'Hannibal Lecter' are all excesses not for the weak-stomached!

You immediately wonder about several of what could be called the politically incorrect aspects of House - IQGR. Several of its characters, quite apart from Thatcher and Kinnock, are defamed to an extent by the ensuing events. For example, footballer Terry Fennick is a drink-driver and John Kirenan (IRA member), on request, whips up a DIY bomb. That said, their notorious activities at the time of the game's writing [1992 - Ed] are certainly not celebrated and the black humour associated with their appearance still works today! Some might say that, before the internet took hold, PD was the true place for games that were a little 'risque'. What most will find really incredible though is that this game, less than two years later, was carried by the mainstream Acorn disk of The Micro User #12.06!

There are eight characters in total and, in a more fantastical sense, Dot Cotton, Saddam Hussein and a vampire are all quickly discovered roaming weird locations; almost all of which are readily accessible right from the start. The text describing them, and the locations, is well-written, free from spelling errors, nicely formatted and of a very high standard. Take for example:

"You hand the purple harmless iridescent butterfly to the insect-collectologist, who puts it in a matchbox in an armoured suitcase in a titanium safe which he welds closed and wraps up in clingfilm before heading homewards."

Definitely a big improvement on Scott Adams' "OK"! However, it's as well to note that the parser on House - IQGR is not developed up to the same grade. I was initially very frustrated to get endless "Sorry, you can't do that..." messages when I tried to GET, TAKE, KILL, EAT, HIT a GUINEA-PIG in one of the early locations. Because the message never changes, the parser seems very limited; in actual fact, GET and GIVE are the only commands (apart from compass directions) you're likely to need so if neither works, it's not a bug; it's just that you haven't found the solution involving that particular object.

There is a bug in this game though, fortunately discovered and 'patched' during the conversion to the Electron. Without wanting to give anything else away (at least not until EUG publishes the solution!), it occurs when you must use the DIY bomb. "That was probably a bad move," says the text as it explodes and you are arrested...

However, instead of transporting you to a locked police cell, the BBC version then prints "" and leaves you no alternative but to QUIT. As it's now impossible to finish the game, it becomes evident that The Micro User probably didn't test this adventure much, if at all! Luckily though, your EUG reviewer's fix has been included on the EUG #53 disk version. On The Micro User's original effort (and possibly other PD versions), add the lines below to "HOUSEGM":

120DEFPROClook:IF (1+R% MODMX)=2 AND (1+R% DIVMX)=7 THEN R%=R%-1
121IF (1+R% MODMX)=1 AND (1+R% DIVMX)=7 THEN R%=R%-7
122PROCform(2,DES$(1+R% MODMX,1+R% DIVMX)):M%=0:FOR S=1 TO
OBJ:IF?(obc-1+S)=R% AND OBD$(S)<>"" M%=M%+1

The BBC/Electron version on EUG #53, with this surgery, retains everything (on both machines!) of the original apart from the bug. It also includes a lovely converted Mode 7 to Mode 1 loading screen specifically coded to appear even with the 64K Elk's extra memory enabled.

With the game itself, there are just two more little features that require documentation. The first, a relatively minor point, is that when giving an item, you must type GIVE x TO y followed by RETURN as GIVE x alone results in "Sorry, you can't do that...". The second is that there are longish pauses between location and location while memory is accessed. They aren't so long as to ruin the adventure though.

With the bug fixed, this documentation by your side and the requisite Acorn kit, you'll soon discover House - IQGR to be the very creme de la creme of PD adventures. Despite the limited parser, the witty text and simplicity of action will guide you through quite easily. It's of moderate difficulty - its title being an accurate description - and fluidly written. An almost perfect little adventure.