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Hamil - Review

Review by Canalboy

Ratings

Parser/Vocabulary
8
Atmosphere
6
Cruelty
Tough
Puzzles
9
Overall
8
Written:
28-04-2021
Last edited:
Platform:
Z-Machine

With Kingdom of Hamil, or just Hamil as it was originally known in its mainframe form, the author Jonathan Partington chose to be a little more lenient with his player. He was the most prolific of the Phoenix IF authors in the seventies and eighties, with a particular penchant for large and innovatively tough mazes. While Hamil still has it fair share of them (including one maze which is included in the Phoenix version on this page but was omitted for reasons of space when the game was released by Acornsoft) the overall standard of puzzle is slightly easier than most he created over the years. Having said that there is still ample scope to make the game unwinnable which I managed several times. The inventory limit is set at seven items which seems to be the par for most of these games. Some objects have multiple uses while only one seems to be a red herring.

Mercifully there is no lamp timer in the game unlike Professor Partington's earlier co-authored work Acheton and it is significantly smaller than most of the other Phoenix efforts so easier to map. By modern standards it would still be considered large however. Location descriptions are brief but adequate with just the right amount of atmosphere thrown in. There is no option for VERBOSE, BRIEF etc. so full descriptions are only repeated when you LOOK. The converted mainframe version scores up to 300 points while the scaled down BBC one has a maximum of 250 points.

Like most of the Phoenix games the plot is merely a flimsy framework to support the pure beauty of the puzzles; you have discovered you are the heir to the throne of the kingdom and set out to try and reclaim what is rightfully yours. As well as this odyssey there are the usual treasures to collect and deposit in their rightful place to trigger the one move endgame. There is also an interesting twist at the end which reappraises the reason for your journey.

Most of the puzzles can be worked out either with a pen and paper (the game has its own code system which you will need to play around with at the beginning and very end of the game and mazes where every turn is crucial) or by trial and error. The game is not too strict in which order you choose to address the puzzles although there is one near the beginning that has to be solved in its entirety or victory is cut off. This should become apparent when you find it.

The terrain in the game is very unstable and there are frequent earthquakes and rock falls which add to the complexity of several areas and prevent backtracking. Try and leave nothing behind and deposit your items in a central location.

There is a particularly elegant problem involving a vampire which took me an age to crack but had me applauding when the penny finally dropped. Another that centres around Lewis Carroll's Hunting Of The Snark is also very clever and I think would have defeated me had I not played other games by the author and knew the way his mind works. It is worth solving this puzzle just to endure the awful pun which awaits you). I suppose this author recognition is rather like recognising the style of a cryptic crossword compiler in a daily newspaper.

A couple of annoyances include sudden death by one of a multitude of creatures if you hang about too long in one place (this seems to be any location which isn't part of a maze) and an object that it is impossible to hang on to for more than a few moves. This latter problem is exacerbated by the fact that it is impossible to SAVE your position in two of the game's mazes.

I would recommend a player try this game before attempting the other titles from the Cambridge stable with the possible exception of Sangraal by the same author.

There is the usual excellent two word parser and lack of an EXAMINE command which has polarised opinion over the years. TAKE ALL is implemented however.

Solve this and you may be ready for even tougher challenges from the Phoenix authors.




Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 8/10)

Rarely if at all will the two word parser be insufficient to implement the player's desired action and most relevant nouns and verbs are covered.

Atmosphere (Rating: 6/10)

Terse but adequate descriptions. Mimesis really isn't the raison d'etre behind Phoenix games however.

Cruelty (Rating: Tough)

This is a toughie but falls short of the real masochistic nastiness of Acheton, Quondam etc. from the same stable.

Puzzles (Rating: 9/10)

Really the author's strong point. Some beautiful logic puzzles and some fun word play.

Overall (Rating: 8/10)

Old school fans of knotty problems to be worked out with pencil and paper will love this. Fans of modern story based IF, one room games and Twine jog on.