In pursuit of the Holy Grail

CD-Rom games

Hardened adventure gamers bemoan the demise of text-based games and their graphical point-and-click reincarnation. Publishers still hanker to that fondness for text by including facsimiles of letters and ancient parchments in CD game boxes because, despite advances in computer graphics, you still can't beat a good dollop of text for building worlds in players' minds.

Azrael's Tear comes complete with 3D graphics but also replica documents and a manual that waxes poetically about the Knights Templar and 21st- century archaeological site-robbers called Raptors. Linking the two is the Holy Grail. The Knights Templar took it to Scotland in 1146, where it was hidden in a huge underground temple. Centuries later, it is your job to retrieve it.

The influence of first-person shoot-'em-ups such as Quake has spread even to the ostensibly gentler world of adventuring. Playing the part of a Raptor, your view is mediated through a head-up display unit which complements the evidence of your eyes. You are armed. You can check your health and ammunition supplies. There are in-built scanners, speech translation machinery - everything you need, in fact.

Getting the hang of exploring using the mouse and keyboard does not take long, although Windows 95 users might want to keep clicking on the right mouse button at inopportune times. Some of the puzzles, especially the earlier ones, are not too demanding, which helps the less experienced keep the game on the move.

The graphics are fairly slick, though not in the same league as Quake, and the sound effects and music are suitably atmospheric. In short, the parts all contribute to the sum objective of making it easy for a player to immerse him or herself in the game world.

One minor annoyance is the specific mouse driver requirement. If you don't have Microsoft's 7.26 or higher driver, typing "Azrael" - the name of the batch file that tests your set-up before launching the program - will result in an error message and a return to DOS.

If your mouse is Microsoft-compatible, you can get round this by entering "R", which launches the program directly, and your mouse should work fine.

ANDY OLDFIELD

Azrael's Tear (Mindscape, pounds 44.99). Minimum requirements: double-speed CD-Rom drive (quad speed recommended); 486 DX2/66 processor (Pentium recommended); DOS 5 or greater; 8Mb Ram (16Mb recommended); 1MB Vesa compliant SVGA card; 10Mb free uncompressed hard disk space; Microsoft compatible mouse and driver version 7.26 or higher; SoundBlaster card or compatible.

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