FLINT STRIKES BACK: SUPER SPY FLINT III
Professional, Originally Released On Cassette Only
Game Type : Text Adventure
Authors : C.J. Potter & A. Potter
Standalone Release(s) : 1985: FLINT STRIKES BACK, Potter Programs, £2.95
Compilation Release(s) : None
Stated compatibility : Electron
Actual compatibility : Electron, BBC B, B+ and Master 128
Supplier : POTTER PROGRAMS, 7 Warren Close, Sandhurst, Camerley, SURREY
GU17 8JR. Tel: 0252 877608
Disc compatibility : ADFS 1D00, CDFS 1D00, DFS 1D00
Instructions currently unavailable.
In this no-graphic text adventure from Potter, you return for the third time as the "SUPER AGENT" of its clever title. You have been captured by minions of your old adversary, T.E.R.D. Rather than kill you outright though, they strand you on their space station, aim it at a ball of fire and lock it on course. It will burn up in thirty minutes of real time and only by gaining access to the computer and aborting the program will you be able to turn it around and avoid a fiery end.
Although Potter could probably just have about escaped with such a silly plot on the stereotypical "bad guys always engineer a spectacular death for the James Bond-type" line, the scenario rather boggles belief when Flint has been neither tied up nor incapacitated in any way. The first location of the adventure is a corridor and a cursory inspection of its environs reveals a very handy identity 'kard' and a space suit.
It appears T.E.R.D. are not only so stupid as to have left you enough time to escape 'inevitable doom' (sacrificing their own space station into the bargain!), they have also allowed you free run of the station itself and given you infinite inventory space to carry these incredibly convenient items!
The next surprise you find is that there are several guards onboard the Titanician vessel with you! But are they running around, comprehending their imminent destruction, desperately jabbing at computer consoles and screaming "Betrayed by those T.E.R.D.s who were supposed to be our friends!"? No, not a bit of it. They are standing to attention at certain locations demanding passwords - which are just as conveniently scrawled uncoded across walls in other locations!
The plot becomes rather laughable now. Of course this is true in numerous adventures but even filling in such holes with assumptions like "Perhaps the guards really are unaware of the situation!" is rendered ridiculous by the fact that, without the fake id card, they immediately blast you to death (Why didn't they just do this beforehand?!) but, with the same appearance and simply carrying it, you are assumed to be a legitimate fellow T.E.R.D!
Progress is frighteningly easy and the only real obstacle you're likely to encounter during your expedition is time running out. There are no cryptic clues, mazes or illogical problems and, in fact, the few objects you discover only have one purpose - to open doors to allow further access to the station. So, for example, the torch is not to see in a dark location, but to operate a light-sensitive door!
The standard directional commands NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST are understood (with their abbreviations) but little else and FSB may be the most limited professional adventure to grace the BBC/Electron series. To use an object, the word USE is required. Sounds obvious, but generally adventurers will try UNLOCK DOOR or OPEN DOOR and not USE BRONZE KEY as the game demands. INVENTORY, GET and DROP work as expected and, in appropriate locations, if the word PASS is contained in your input, you will be asked to enter the password in an unnecessary inverse video prompt (which makes the screen look messy) but all other input brings up the unfeeling message "I don't understand."
Were this not the case, Potter could at least have produced a "beginners'" adventure. But coupled with the crazy plot, their decision not to note the PASS and USE commands in instructions would simply infuriate the amateur. Which brings us to the LOAD and SAVE commands...
There are bugs in the procedures dealing with both in the original code with the result that the saved position file is left open when retrieved. Attempting to re-load it after being killed, or re-saving at a later position results in an error which locks up the game! The commands CLOSE #2 need to be replaced with CLOSE #0 (to close all files)!
The Mode 6 screen is laid out not unlike several other Potter adventures. The location description is laid out at the top of the screen while commands are entered in a smaller window (surrounded by *s) at the bottom. Once again though, there are errors with text formatting. Whilst words are not cut over lines in the location descriptions, they are subject to strange and varying degrees of justification. In the input box, typing INVENTORY gives a list with no formatting whatsoever! On one occasion, text meant for the input box appeared in the location description too!
The rest of the errors - yes, there are more! - are unfortunate English grammatical fluffs: "You were not wearing a space suit and was instantly sucked out of the ship" is but one example. Many location descriptions are pathetic: "A room with red lights" is south of one "with orange lights" and east of "green lights". Those of the spaceship have an unintentional depressing atmosphere...
Slating over, finally we move onto the 'quest'. The good news is that the quite large number of locations does encourage its adventurer to make a map and locating the two keys and three crystals required to hack into the mainframe is very much assisted by doing so. By using this method I was able to progress to the very last location in only an hour or so. Unfortunately, much hair-pulling is involved in figuring out how to insert them into it! Neither USE CRYSTAL nor USE KEY will work and HELP just brings up the cold "You're on your own."
This is a thoroughly awful adventure. Devoid of atmosphere, humour, plausible script, friendly parser, unique puzzles and entertainment, it must qualify as the worst professional release on the market. ELECTRON USER's "Adventures" column once wrote that the second of the Flint trilogy (RETURN OF FLINT) was so bad that it should never have been released and presumably would've thought the same of these further meanderings! [The real 'super' agent trilogy is that of Robico's RICK HANSON where all this review's negatives become positives - Ed] The verdict on FSB has to be a resounding raspberry fit only to be relegated to the back of your games' collection in record time.
Dave Edwards, EUG #56