Saturday, October 03, 2020


Get ready to be scared stiff!!

I'm often a little sceptical of so-called horror games because they're never really gonna be that scary. In fact, the only game that has ever made me jump was the Jaguar's Alien vs Predator - it was a late night and I jumped out of my skin when an alien shrieked just as I was turning around! Anyhow, enough of my scooby-doo adventures.

I first featured Ooze in our Box Art section and figured it was about time I dusted it off and booted up this adventure developed by H. J. Braendle and Guido Henkel of Dragonware Games back in 1988. My box is quite battered with floppy disks that no longer work! But at least I have the manual, which is most helpful.

Helpful because I'm not a massive fan of text adventures if I'm brutally honest. Though I have enjoyed a few over the years on my ZX Spectrum and Atari ST. And, more recently, I bought a couple of crackers - Hibernated 1 and The Curse of Rabenstein so I felt confident with Ooze to see what kind of journey was on offer.

We begin standing outside and looking at our inheritance. Oh, how I wish this was real life!!

I love cheeseburgers!

We play as a character called Ham Burger, which is fantastic, and have just inherited Carfax Abbey from our late uncle, Cheez Burger (oh, these names are killing me). However, it appears he died under mysterious circumstances so, rather than enjoying our wealthy new lifestyle, we instead investigate what's happened. Yep...

From the start, the game sets a creepy atmosphere on arriving to check out our new home. Thunder is rumbling and an old signpost details the address, 666 Rue Morgue. Nervously walking up, we see the porch and an old rocking chair but this ain't no ordinary chair because it's haunted. That's right! In fact, almost every room is haunted by something, so it's a good idea to take it slow and ponder the environment carefully.

Ooze has a fantastic sense of humour. Wait too long and a panicky message appears asking if you're still there. Don't leave me here alone lol. Just try sitting on the porch chair for an eye-opening experience I didn't expect. The characters are excellent - I laughed when rescuing Marie: "Marie EnToilet"!! However, Murx is an oddity which made me chuckle and scratch my head! When you die, the game pranks you - by banning you from the RAM!!

I'm rich and also haunted!

The world of Carfax Abbey is small but will feel much bigger because of the time spent in each location. It's tempting to rush off and explore but that means you'll miss everything and probably die so be warned! Getting around is done using the expected compass directions (N/S/E/W) plus U/D for up/down. So it's possible to 'sit down' or 'run south' to hastily exit. A handy command called 'exits' informs you of all possible routes from your location.

Each area has a vivid description which is extremely longwinded so it's possible to overlook something obvious, like the lance which infuriated me. Thankfully, that can be changed with the 'brief' command, which I used from the moment I entered the Abbey. All adventures require that you read the room's description but it's apparent that Ooze takes this to the extreme thanks to the amount of detail mixed with subtle hints.

The parser is good but I fear something was lost in translation from its German roots. Simple commands are often confused by a pedantic requirement for correct input. Try unlocking a door, searching a trunk or switching on the lights. Well, light... Quite irritating, so Infocom or Level 9 quality this is not. Whatever you read in the description, examine that said object fully because nothing is obvious. Find the chalk if you can, or suss out what you're supposed to do with the Parlor rope. Ooze can be so vague considering the immense amount of descriptive text.

An adventure with an atmosphere?

Visually, I loved how Ooze combined the two resolutions for great effect. Low is obviously used to display a range of gorgeous images and the clarity of Medium is put to great use in order to read the text. This is superb and works really well. Sadly, not every area appears to have its own image which I found a little confusing at first.
Those with a crisp monochrome monitor will be happy to know Ooze works in high resolution. The text looks wonderful but the images not so much. It's as if the low-res images have simply been converted on the fly rather than drawn specifically for this display. Which is a shame.
Audio is superb with lots of samples for eerie creaks, footsteps, ghoulish screams and so on. However, the atmosphere is spoilt by the ST's keyboard clicks, which I didn't see any way to disable. It's no big deal but I'd have prefered to disable these which are a lot louder than the sampled sound effects. (xcontrol didn't work)

The CryptO'pinion?

Ooze is a great adventure and will undoubtedly appeal to those looking for something of a horror nature rather than fantasy. Sadly, I found the room descriptions overly longwinded and, at times, poorly translated into English. Exploring is finicky from the moment you enter the Abbey - walking upstairs is quite an event. If ever there was an adventure that demanded you make a map, this is it. I found it impossible to explore upstairs otherwise.

This isn't something you can easily pick up, not without spending a lot of time. But, if you fancy a break from those fancy Magnetic Scrolls, then I'm sure you'll enjoy this. Ooze offers a sarcastic twist on the horror genre with neat puzzles and a fantastic sense of humour: give Marie a kiss! Oh, don't forget the pen and paper. Enjoy!

A preview image from another game that was never released. I wonder what happened?

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