MYSTERY OF THE JAVA STAR
Professional, Originally Released On Cassette Only
Game Type : Text Adventure With Wire Frame Graphics
Standalone Release(s) : 1985: MYSTERY OF THE JAVA STAR, Shards, £8.99
Compilation Release(s) : None
Stated compatibility : Electron/BBC Dual Version
Actual compatibility : Electron, BBC B, B+ and Master 128
Supplier : SHARDS, 189 Eton Road, Ilford, ESSEX IG1 2UG
Disc compatibility : CDFS E00, DFS E00
"Comprehensive four part educational adventure. Ideal fun for all the family. In high resolution graphics and text."
100K adventure packed with puzzles, challenges and interesting facts. With three levels of difficulty and a score table at the end.
You have discovered an old map and a ship's log book indicating the existence of magnificient treasures (including a mysterious Java Star) aboard an 18th century sailing ship that sank in the Caribbean. You must organise an expedition, gathering resources and information, before making your perilous journey across the Atlantic...
The Mystery Of The Java Star
This is an adventure in four parts, each of which loads separately. You may only progress to Part 2 when Part 1 has been successfully completed, and similarly with subsequent parts. You may, however, save the completion of Part 1 and/or Part 2, and start the adventure again from either of these positions on a later occasion. To do this you will need a spare blank cassette to act as the 'save tape'.
There are three levels of difficulty for the adventure, from which you choose one at the outset, and there are three different locations one of which is chosen at random, so that you are likely to undertake different adventures on each occasion you play.
The purpose of the adventure is to find the wreck of a ship which sank in 1767 in an unknown location, to search the wreck and recover a quantity of gold and a mysterious ruby called the Java Star, which has some strange properties. You finance your expedition with a sum of money at the outset and, as you spend money as you go along, more if you need a lot of help and less if you are more skilful and independent. In Parts 1 and 2 you have to gather together information and a map, and a notepad is useful to record the information as you assemble it. In Part 3 you have to use this information to locate the part of the world in which the ship was sailing, and then find the island near which it sank. In Part 4 you must find the location of the wreck, and then, using diving equipment which gives you enough air for ten minutes per dive, make a real time search of the wreck. You must take care not to run out of air before etting back to the surface for a new tank or to let yourself be trapped below decks by the hatches closing behind you.
If you find the ruby, you then have to make some decisions to solve the mystery. At the end of the game, scores for your performance in the skills used at various stages of the adventure are given.
The action codes used for playing each part are set out below.
Sections 1 and 2
PRESS Letter (A to F) followed by
Number (1 to 7) for each pair of sections to be exchanged
H for Help
PRESS SPACE to identify location and stop the running menu.
Also to restart the menu.
PRESS Letter (A to K) followed by
Number (1 to 9) to identify area to be searched.
PRESS C - to continue.
R - to change orientation,
D will appear alongside R.
N, S, W or E for direction towards which you want to fly.
Z - to enlarge - followed by Number of Island (1 to 4).
F - to signify FOUND.
M - to examine map.
R - to return from map.
PRESS ARROW KEYS - to move boat.
SPACE - to identify close objects.
PRESS ARROW KEYS - to move diver (red cursor).
SPACE - to identify close objects - ? - requests an action.
U or D - for up or down steps.
U - if on top deck, return to surface.
O - open (Most objects have to be opened before contents can be shown).
C - continue.
If the diver is at the surface,
PRESS S - to stay.
D - to dive again.
Instructions' Source : MYSTERY OF THE JAVA STAR (Shards) Inner Inlay
Review (Electron User)
This is an educational adventure in four parts. The purpose of the game is to find the wreck of a ship which sank in 1767. You then have to search the wreck and recover its cargo of gold. You are also seeking a ruby called the Java Star which is reputed to have strange properties.
You take the part of an adventurer in Bristol who buys an old chest and finds the torn pieces of an ancient map and a page from a ship's log. Your first task is to rearrange the pieces into something recognisable. When you have done this you find that you have a map of the island where the ship sank. There is also information on the approximate position of the ship in relation to the island at the time it sank.
You then load in the next program and find yourself in London seeking more information, such as ship's destination, weather conditions at the time and cargo manifest.
On completing this stage you jet off to the Caribbean to continue your search. There you check various islands until you find one nearest the map outline.
Now comes the final part of the game, where you have to use the page from the ship's log to locate the wreck. I failed dismally. Whatever I did, I couldn't find that wreck. I suppose that adage about teaching old dogs new tricks applies to sea dogs as well!
As I said, this is an educational program but, above all, it's fun! There are three skill levels and despite the fact that I stayed on the easiest one that map was different every time. An excellent educational program with something of interest to kids of all ages, including big ones.
Merlin, ELECTRON USER 2. 5
With its title, accompanied by a box illustration of a model ship in water, one would assume the Java Star to be the vessel of the name. Not so. In fact, the adventure reveals that Java Star is a precious ruby the "size of a pheasant egg" that was lost en route from Cayenne, South America to Kingston on 16th September 1767. Its new home is a sunken wreck, the Sea Witch, beneath the Atlantic Sea. Intriguingly, you are invited to investigate all the elements of this last voyage then finance a one man mission to get your greasy hands on its secrets.
As in Shards' PETTIGREW'S DIARY, you are presented with a self-described epic adventure written in BASIC which loads in a number of parts; in JAVA STAR, this is four. "Epic" connotates in both that locations in separate countries must be traversed to complete them and the Elk versions are all fully compatible with the rest of the 32K BBC series.
If you were around schools in the mid-Eighties, you'll remember a variety of BBC only Mode 7 'adventure' games constructed in such a way as to be educational (eg. LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, MAGIC GARDEN, WAGONS WEST) which loaded from 5.25" disk(s) - which only one teacher knew how to <SHIFT><BREAK> up! All such games usually had factors in common: The <BREAK> and <ESCAPE> keys were well protected so hands unaccustomed to the keyboard didn't ruin a session tapping them, games were simple and had all instructions on screen, lots of use was made of colour and sound and it was not possible to 'die' but only to fail by not noting or remembering info from ONE part of the game in a subsequent part.
Generally, this meant these games were intended for a young audience equipped with official photocopied log-books, or at the least a paper and pen. The relevance of all this history is that JAVA STAR is somewhat of a game of this age but set in Modes 1 and 5 instead of 7. You must equip yourself with a notebook and biro and be prepared to complete a series of puzzles before progressing on the search.
Earlier, the word adventure was used to describe this but it has none of the traditional elements (Unlike PETTIGREW where section two needed commands like NORTH, EAST, etc). You progress from location to location via reassembling graphical maps, answering questions correctly, buying an aeroplane ticket and choosing to cruise around the map's island. It all takes time; typically on tape over two hours. Half this with disk.
Although this all sounds complicated, it isn't because in all of the first three parts of JAVA STAR, the player is prevented from making any henious mistakes by the program itself. In Bristol, which is where you discover the map indicating where the Sea Witch floundered - although what it's doing there is anybody's guess - you must simply piece it together to move onto London (and you can see the solution by pressing H).
In London, the nicest part of the game, you can visit many places of historial interest and, as well as discovering a lot about the weather and course of the ill-fated craft to transscribe, visit places such as the Old Bailey, the Stock Exchange and Buckingham Palace. After a set number of excursions, you need to gain a high grade on a quiz and buy a ticket to Jamaica to proceed.
A map of South America begins part three, presenting one relevant and many irrelevant locations where you can begin to search. The correct co-ordinates are obvious if you've studied the earlier parts and "that seems like a good place" confirms them when entered. Unfortunately, trying elsewhere isn't accepted and the map remains until said grid coords are entered so, although the map detail is accurate and nicely drawn, it is otherwise a pointless scene.
Fortunately, the bulk of the scene involves selecting an island to investigate. The screen shows four at a time, tilted through 90 degrees to make comparison with the map more difficult. The instructions for this part are meagre and it is not nearly as hard as it at first seems.
First, you need an isle with both a town and lake so discount any without. Then survey any island looking vaguely like the map by pressing F. I spent ages surveying different islands and discrediting any that even had one discrepancy such as "The bays are not opposite" fearing landing there would waste funds. Eventually I decided enough was enough and replied Y to the "Land?" prompt only to find that as there were less than SEVEN faults, I had probably chosen the correct one, and, when the island loaded, it was suddenly IDENTICAL to the map!
However, just when you're thinking JAVA STAR must be ridiculously easy, you come to the search of the island which is simultaneously very difficult and mindnumbingly snoozeworthy. The movement routine from PETTIGREW (that everyone hoped never to see again) is back! The area around the island is huge and moving the boat through it takes far, far too long pixel by pixel. Now with a confusing map and yrds scale to complicate the search further, selecting a location is pure guesswork and after a few unsuccessful dives, which again take too long, all your dosh will disappear. The tape version is bugged here too and locks up without displaying your score due to a combination of a CHAIN" " command and ON ERROR RUN statement.
Make the wreck and the added factor of a time limit and stupid controls worsen the affair still! Only with a lot of patience, and repeated dives is it possible to get the ruby and gold out. More players will tire of the slow movement long before they even find them.
JAVA STAR is a very early game, released in 1984, and is one on its own with an idea that is quite sound. Indeed, elementary mistakes like not clearing the keyboard buffer properly can be forgiven compared with its inventive and experimental content. It's also clever that a player's finances are limited, and shopping around in London can both deplete and increase them. But counter-balancing this are some irritating touches like the map which changes depending on the screen Mode - and senseless repetition of the "We Are Sailing" music in each part.
Were part four not so out of sync, slow, bugged and boring, this would be a viable educational title with which children (as it does protect the <BREAK> key) and adults could while away an hour or two. Its score breakdown on the disk version also makes for an interesting read. But, ruined by part four, it still falls into the same league as PETTIGREW. Hence, it is not recommended and will probably very rarely be completed.
Dave Edwards, EUG #52