Sci-fo thriller falls flat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 June, 1996, 12:00am

I Have No Mouth adn I Must Scream for PC CD-Rom Based on a science-fiction short story by Harlan Ellison, this game features five 'lucky' survivors of a holocaust brought about by an insane supercomputer, AM. They live in the bowels of the earth and must escape to the surface - and away from AM's menacing control - before they can live freely.

Gorrister is a suicidal loner who carries a burden of guilt because of his wife's death; Ellen is a puritanical engineer who turns into a quivering mass of jelly every time she spots anything yellow; Nimdok is a scientist who conducted horrendous tests on humans; Ted is a paranoid socialite; and Benny is a former army general who has turned into an ape.

You get to play as any one of these five - what fun.

Frankly, none of them are particularly pleasant - or pleasing to the eye. You start in different places, depending on who you choose to play. But not before you have endured some aggravating taunts by AM.

Like other adventure games, this psychological thriller is basic fare. You wander around looking for hotspots and clues, and try to solve mind-bending puzzles.

But one of the differences is that the game also requires you to make ethical and psychological choices, which makes it dreary and better suited to the sophisticated player.

Cyberdreams, which I thought did rather well with the graphics on Dark Seed, has been disappointing with I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. The environment is usually very well presented with its eerie and moody atmosphere. However, the characters themselves are not much to crow about.

Either the figures are too small and their features unclear (as with Nimdok and Ellen), or the scrolling action is rather stunted.

In one scene where Benny sort of rolls down some stone steps to the cemetery, he disappears from sight completely, leaving only a loud 'thud!' in his wake.

The interface also regresses to old-time adventure games, with the 'Talk To', 'Walk To', 'Pick Up' and other buttons which you click on to do the task.

And even then, due to some minor glitches, it doesn't always work. Sometimes you are left talking to someone who isn't there anymore.

Some of the puzzles themselves are mind-boggling which might prove challenging to very experienced players, but will most likely leave others quite bored.

A Pentium processor with at least 8MB RAM is recommended for this although it also works with a 486/66, 4MB RAM and 256-colour SVGA.