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

Questprobe feat. The Hulk, Americana, ZX Spectrum
  • 6.5/10
    Score - 6.5/10
6.5/10

Summary

Despite being a tough and frustrating adventure to play, with a map that makes very little sense, The Hulk is a still a fun game. Even though its game engine does show its age, the Spectrum version manages to stand above the other ports due to its visuals, but it’s still one that’s more for the experienced gamer.

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We’re nothing if not fair here at the Mastertronic Collectors Archive. We want to cover as many different games and platforms as possible on the site so when we took a look at the Scott Adams text adventure Questprobe featuring The Hulk for the Commodore 64 and Commodore 16, it was only fair that we turned our attention to the ZX Spectrum version as well. While we had mixed thoughts regarding the other two incarnations, we were curious to see how the Spectrum release would fare…

The Hulk in 8 Colours

As with our Commodore 16 review, I won’t repeat the plot or the basics of the game as I’ve already covered that in my C64 review. The core game and the adventure remains the same across every version released – the same with all of Scott Adams titles. So I was more interested to see just how well it had been converted.

As this version had been developed to fit into 48k, I’ll be honest and say that I was expecting some compromises from the C64 version. Where the C16 version lost not only the graphics but also saw abridged versions of many of the location descriptions, I was hoping that this wasn’t going to be the case here.

Presentation

If I’m honest, I wasn’t impressed with the colour scheme used with the Commodore 16 version. Considering the machine’s impressive colour palette, it was extremely hard on the eye during play. As with the C64, the Spectrum uses a split screen approach having the graphics window at the top and the text below in yellow on a blue background. While it’s not as easy on the eye as the C64’s while background and different coloured text, it’s quite a bright contrast and works well enough.

What really impressed me here were the graphics though. When I say that, they’re not the best example of Spectrum artwork – not by a long shot – but they work reasonably well enough and certainly help convey the scenes well. But what is important to note here, especially in comparison to the other versions is that I’d say the ZX Spectrum version of The Hulk has the edge over the C64. While the definition is the same for both, the colour palette is brighter here, so the art is closer to what would have been the comic book style of the 80s. There’s also no noticeable sideborders for the images that was present on the C64 version, so it does seem that the art on the cassette versions originated on the Spectrum first before being adapted for the C64 later.

Puzzle Frustrations

As with all of the other versions of the game, the puzzles are still just as frustrating. There’s very little indication in the text to give you ideas as to what you should do, so a lot of the solutions come about by trial and error. While mapping in text adventures is always a must, it’s even more essential here as the world map seems to wrap around in very strange ways. If you try to rely on your memory alone you’ll get lost very quickly. This isn’t an issue with the Spectrum version but rather down to the game design and mapping itself though.

One I found in particular was a room I was able to enter, then found that once in there there were no exits leaving me stuck in there. The only way I was able to get out was by attempting to change into the Hulk and being killed by a poison gas attack after being transformed back into Bruce Banner. And of course, that sent me to our old friend, Limbo…

Overall

Taking everything into consideration, while the game is still as frustrating as the other versions, the Spectrum version seems to have struck the best balance so far. While the graphics aren’t up to the same standard of the C64 disk release, when it comes to the Americana budget versions of The Hulk that I’ve been looking at, the ZX Spectrum version has come out on top so far. It’s not the best text adventure of its era, but it helped pave the way for licenced games that followed and for that at least we should be thankful.

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