Game Review: Questprobe feat. The Hulk (C64, Americana)

Questprobe feat. The Hulk, Americana, Commodore 64
  • 6/10
    Score - 6/10
6/10

Summary

While the first game in the Questprobe series was groundbreaking at the time, the solution to the puzzles seem are too obscure for all but the hardened adventurers. The limited parser makes things more difficult, and logic doesn’t always help when you struggle to communicate with the game. One for Marvel fans or more experienced players.

Sending
User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Scott Adams is a name that will be familiar to most of you who grew up in the 8-bit gaming era. If the name isn’t familiar, many of his games will be. Founder of Adventure International, he was one the pioneers of the text adventure, starting with the classic Adventureland written back in 1978 and ported to countless systems over the years. But some of the most well known were part of the short-lived Questprobe series based on various Marvel comics characters. Including this first instalment featuring The Hulk…

Part One – Questprobe featuring The Hulk

Planned as a series of twelve games (with accompanying comics by Marvel themselves), it was an incredibly ambitious project. Rather than just licensing the characters and being left to his own devices, many of Marvel’s staff worked with Scott Adams to bring the series to life including Bob Budiansky, John Byrne and John Romita Snr assisting with artwork.

Taking on the role of The Hulk/Bruce Banner, you’ve been captured by a strange being known as the Chief Examiner. Trapped in an unknown realm, he wants to test your abilities as The Hulk as well as your mental agility as Banner and has given you the task of collecting gems for him while trying to avoid traps that have been left for you. Signs are left around the landscape giving you cryptic hints but other than that, you’re on your own.

Playing The Hulk

As with most adventures of this era (this was released in 1984), it’s all text based. Graphics are there purely for illustrative purposes and don’t really add/detract from the gamplay itself. Each location has a brief description of what you can see, exits available to you and then you just type in instructions to decide what you want to do next.

Developed using the same engine as most of Scott’s earlier games, this has quite a limited vocabularly and can only accept one or two word commands and in a way that can make the game frustrating. Moving around is quite simple – type go north, go south etc (or abbreviate to n, s and so on), but for other commands you can end up struggling to figure out exactly what words Adams would have used to describe the actions you need to do.

Perplexing Puzzles

The Hulk is certainly no game for beginners to the text adventure genre. While later games, released by the likes of Level 9 and Infocom, used far more advanced parsers capable of understanding complete sentences, the limited parser in use here really does make the game much harder than it needs to be. Text descriptions are also often quite brief and don’t help give you any clues as to what you might need to do.

This is one time when the pictures really do make a difference and give you some idea of what might be going on in each location. It’s not a huge help, but in some cases it’s better than nothing. The puzzles themselves also often defy logic and I found myself wandering around aimlessly and then dying apparently without warning. Fortunately even though there are hazards where you can get “killed”, it’s not permanent…

Welcome To Limbo

Instead of death, you’re sent to “Limbo” – essentially a point where you can respawn and return straight back to the game without losing any of your progress or anything you’ve already collected. There’s no limit to the number of times you can do this, so it becomes a case of trial and error if something happens to keep sending you there. Obviously if you’re far from the starting point when it happens, it might help to map your route first…!

One thing you will notice doing this is that mapping the adventure will throw up some odd locations in the strangest of places. One minute you’re walking through a field, and the next moment you encounter the aforementioned Chief Examiner in his office…

Comic Catastrophe

Despite the game being based on one of Marvel’s top characters at the time, the game’s visuals don’t really live up to expectations on the C64 version. In order to fit the game into a single load for the European market (as the majority of users were cassette based), compromises had to be made with the visuals with The Hulk. So instead of using the better artwork from the disk version which loaded each image in separately, these were cut down versions.

This was done by changing them from full colour images to using the C64’s hi-res mode. Fewer colours were used saving memory, and art was designed in a similar way to that on the ZX Spectrum, colour clash and all. When playing the game you can see some slight visual indicators of this around the edges of the graphics window showing where the C64’s display is being split between the different display types. While it does drop the quality, it at least allows us to have graphics in a single load.

Overall

Despite it’s flaws, I did still enjoy playing this first entry in the Questprobe series. I do have a soft spot for all of Scott Adams’ games (Adventureland was one of the first games I owned for the Vic 20, getting it on cartridge with the machine itself) so it brought back memories of a simpler time. But that didn’t stop the frustration setting in on more than a few occasions while playing. While I didn’t quite rage quit, it did need some perseverance.

Looking back, it is still an entertaining way to pass some time, but not the best example of the genre, and there are better text adventures out there, even on Mastertronic’s other labels.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Game Review: Questprobe feat. The Hulk (C16, Americana) - Mastertronic Collectors Archive
  2. Game Review: Questprobe feat. The Hulk (BBC, Americana) - Mastertronic Collectors Archive
  3. Game Review: Questprobe feat. The Hulk (ZX Spectrum, Americana) - Mastertronic Collectors Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*