Game Review: Questprobe feat. The Hulk (BBC, Americana)

Questprobe feat. The Hulk, Americana, BBC
  • 5.5/10
    Score - 5.5/10
5.5/10

Summary

Converting a graphic adventure like The Hulk to the BBC was going to be a challenge, but despite being a text-only release, it’s managed to keep the core gameplay and atmosphere intact retaining everything that made the Scott Adams original so popular. Confusing and frustrating at times, but a must for Marvel fans.

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As a fan of the text adventures from developer Scott Adams, I was immediately drawn to his Questprobe series dedicated to the Marvel comic book characters. The first in the series, featuring The Hulk, was released for a range of formats including the BBC and Electron. We’ve covered most already that have been released on the Americana label and to date the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum have been the standout versions. But what about this version for the BBC?

The Hulk on the BBC – Compromises?

We saw previously that while the C64 and Spectrum versions featured hi-res graphics, the Commodore 16 was text only to make sure it fit into a single load. As the Americana range was mainly released on cassette (with the exception of a few games for the C64 and Atari), something had to give to fit it into the BBC’s 32k. In this case, once again it’s the graphics that have been removed and it’s a text only release. Fortunately the text seems to be left intact so the gameplay remains the same.

Presentation

One of the strengths of the BBC compared to other 8-bit systems was the fact that it was designed around use for text displays. It’s strength as an education tool was legendary so it was ideally placed for text-based adventures. Having a double-height text mode only highlighted this with the system and while that was only used for the title screen it did show some potential.

Moving onto The Hulk and everything on screen was extremely easy to read, and was probably the most comfortable on the eye of all the versions I’ve played so far despite using a darker colour scheme. Using upper case for text entry – the same as the C16 – made things much easier to read so overall it was the best in this respect.

The only downside was the text layout. Despite the screen size, there are a lot of occasions where sentences are broken over several lines for no reason whatsoever. While people mocked William Shatner for his alleged broken delivery of some of Kirk’s dialogue in Star Trek, you can almost hear his voice when you’re reading the text in The Hulk…

Gameplay

The core game seen in the Commodore 64 and Spectrum versions is unchanged here for the BBC port of The Hulk. The puzzles are the same, there appears to be no difference in the text used and the map – as bizarre and illogical as it is – remains identical. So if you’ve already played it before approaching the BBC version you’ll immediately feel at home.

The main concern I had while playing this was the limbo location. Omitted from the Commodore 16 version, this respawn spot in the adventure allows you to continue every time you die without losing your progress. You’re just sent to a temporary spot on the map which is connected to the starting room. It may only be a minor point to some, but with a game that can kill you without warning so easily, a respawn feature like this is essential.

Overall

The Hulk is still an incredibly frustrating adventure and isn’t one of Adams’ strongest. But if you can get past all of the limitations of the old-school two word parser and mind-bending puzzles, you’ll find an entertaining game underneath. It’s an admirable conversion that hasn’t suffered moving over to the BBC and a great addition to any Mastertronic fan’s collection.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Americana Checklist - Mastertronic Collectors Archive
  2. BBC / Electron Mastertronic Checklist - Mastertronic Collectors Archive

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