I'd been meaning to try this game (from Russia's SAM Style) for ages as it had been sitting in my 'Speccy backlog' list for some time. I thought it looked ace from the screenshots; I've always been a sucker for the black-INK-on-light-PAPER-colour look for some reason. Perhaps because so many Speccy games seem to be INK n, PAPER 0 - so it gives my old eyeballs a change of scenery.
The instructions don't give away much storyline - you'll very quickly learn your primary objective within a few screens. All you can expect is that you'll be doing something heroic, for sure. There isn't even a game menu; after a (long) load, you press fire, and jump right into the game.
Wanderers - Chained in the Dark would almost certainly be classed as an 'arcade adventure'. I'm calling it an adventure game for this article. Aside from moving your character, there's nothing that requires reactions in this game, so you can treat it like a menu-driven adventure that doesn't require vocab input.
Upon starting the game I instantly had flashbacks of Zelda on my old Gameboy Colour, though in this game you walk in just four directions (no diagonals). You can interact with people and objects - when you press fire, a context-sensitive menu pops up with different options.
Hopefully I won't be spoilering the game too much by saying that you soon find out your main quest and it will involve some sort of boss fight. And talking about fights, when you encounter an enemy, you're switched into a JRPG-style turn-based battle.
The fights are simple to understand - there's some strategy involved, but not a huge amount. You don't start with much but during the game you soon acquire and equip weapons, armour, magic and magic protection items which have different attack or defence properties.
Some enemies will be too strong for you when you first meet them. And I mean far too strong, making it obvious that you have to go away and do something else before returning.
Once engaged in combat, you can't run away, or change equipment. But if you die, you're just plonked back onto the previous screen, health and magic restored. A nice touch - for a tense few seconds after my first death I thought I'd be cruelly catapulted back to the start of the game.
It means you can safely try different strategies without fear of death; you'll never have to restart or re-do sections of the game. This was definitely a good idea from a game design viewpoint, as it transfers the focus of the game to exploration, discovery and puzzle-solving.
Most of the puzzles involve you fetching or finding an item from somewhere and giving it to someone. Later on in the game you'll gain the ability to craft things - well, only a couple of things really. Most of the problems I had were caused by a couple of non-obvious on-screen items - hardly pixel hunting though, and I did play the game without looking at the inlay hints, which help a bit.
Most puzzles need to be solved in a set order to trigger a new event in the game - such as a character appearing or moving to a particular screen. I found I had to do a bit of backtracking through previous areas to move the story on - something I didn't really mind, as the locations are nice to look at and despite there being probably around 50 screens, they're well laid out so you won't need a map. Later in the game solved puzzles result in the opening up of shortcut routes between areas.
By the end of the game you'll have amassed a small collection of weapons, magic and tactics that you can use to complete the game. And it's not difficult to finish it. You won't have many items in your inventory at any one time, and the tasks are extremely easy to complete.
There are a couple of very nice 128K AY tunes throughout. The main one while you're wandering around, and another during battle scenes (of which there aren't very many).
Well, it took me a while to start this one, but once I had, I really wanted to play it to the end. And I did so, over the course of a couple of days. It's nice to see a game that the designers clearly wanted their players to finish, to see the full story.
There's a nice mix of exploration and battles, and it's unlikely you'll get stuck - for long at least. The crafting and equipment elements add a little to the battle strategy, but you don't need to be a JRPG veteran to beat most of your opponents.
Criticisms? Well, some of the English translation isn't the best (though TBH I'm just happy that it was translated at all, otherwise I would've struggled to play it). And as mentioned, the puzzles aren't particularly puzzling as such - mostly just find item x and give it to the person who's been explicitly asking for it.
But otherwise, plenty to like. Treat the game as a single-playthrough story-driven game. Traverse the map, taking in your pleasant surroundings. You won't be disappointed.