You look like you could use a vacation. Ten days in London sound good? Don't worry about expensive tickets and pricey accomodations. About thirty dollars will get you a very special package tour: Blue Lion's Ticket to London.
Just don't expect some stuffy group excursion-this trip is an adventure! The adventure starts at once. Following a title screen, a snatch of music, and entry of your name, you find yourself at Victoria Station. With a colorful graphic of the station serving as backdrop, you are met by a British travel agent. He's wearing a distinctive English Bowler. He has your return airplane ticket, but being a roguish sort, he decides to play a game with you, and test your knowledge of things and people British.
You won't get your return ticket until you guess the mystery Briton he has in mind. To add a little spice to your adventure, clues are scattered around the city. If you don't solve the mystery within ten days, you'll be stuck in London for good.
A quick check of the screen's status board assures you that the situation is far from hopeless. It's ten in the morning on your first day, and you have $300 as well as £50 (that's 50 British pounds). The game's status board is simple and unobtrusive; you can check your financial well-being at any time. If you don't take care of yourself, a line advises you to rest or eat. Another line lets you know how much time remains before you're stranded.
When you're ready to leave the station, a map of London is displayed. The map shows more than 20 different points of interest, including museums, shops, hotels, restaurants, Trafalgar Square, and other important sights. Each location is represented by a distinctive and easy-to-recognize graphic.
Your current location flashes on the map. A single keystroke sets your course to any of the other places of in terest dotting the winding Thames. Some sightseeing is in order, so you choose a mode of transportation and decide to visit the Tower of London first.
The Underground is available, or you can walk, but this time you decide to treat yourself to a taxi. The friendly cabby starts a conversation. He asks a question of British interest and you cycle through several potential answers.
His questions range from history to geography, culture and entertainment. You're as likely to be asked, "Who was the mother of Queen Elizabeth I?" as "What do you get when you mix beer with lemonade?"
Questions appear in balloons on the left of the screen. Cycle through potential answers in the balloon on the right. Press Enter or Return to make your selection. Choose carefully-you only get two chances.
A correct answer is rewarded with a Good Show! message; a tally line appears and tracks your correct answers. Answer enough questions correctly, and you receive a message that guides you to clues. Pay the cabby when you reach, the Tower. Make a mental note to stop at a bank and exchange some more dollars for pounds.
The aged Tower is impressively pictured with its familiar walls and turrets, and you can almost see the ravens. After a bite to eat in a cozy, traditional British inn, it's time for more sightseeing.
This time you take the tubes. Heading to the British Museum, you meet another friendly and inquisitive gent. Thanks to your knowledge, and a little bit of luck, you answer enough questions to receive a message along the lines of, Buy something old, shiny, and round or See Marlowe's play. Clues! The antiques shops on Portobello Road might have something old and shiny, and there may be tickets at the Barbican for a Marlowe play.
The clues are simple. Try some game in jelly would be a good reason to go to Simpson's for an elegant pheasant in aspic. A message advising you to See the American Painter should nudge you in the direction of a museum. Will you know which one?
Follow a message correctly and a bowler hat appears, bearing a clue to the mystery person's identity. Clues are relatively straightforward: He was one of eight children or She was the childhood playmate of her husband's brothers. There are ten clues for each mystery person. The more clues you possess, the more helpful are subsequent clues. Messages can be reviewed with the doorman at your hotel. The travel agent at Victoria Station keeps track of the clues.
I won't spoil the fun by giving away any mystery identities. The individuals, though, are well-known personalities from the realm of British fact and fiction.
Play the game at your own pace. You can rush around London, responding to messages immediately, or you can take a leisurely tour of the old city. From Buckingham Palace to Covent Garden, each place of interest has its own screen. Representations are faithful, colorful renditions that capture the feeling of Londontown.
Stop by Nelson's Column, enjoy a very high-class tea at Fortnum and Mason, or poke around in a dusty old bookshop filled with Dickens and Shakespeare. Don't be afraid to live it up, but watch your money. Think your routes through, as well. Cabs are fast, but expensive. The Underground is cheap, but a delay could cause you to miss the curtain at an opera. Walking saves money, but takes more time. Besides, on foot you may find yourself in the middle of a serious British downpour. Get too wet, and the manual suggests that you'll be forced to spend precious time recuperating at your hotel. (Judicious purchases, though, such as an umbrella and boots, afford some protection from the elements.)
This is an enjoyable program. So much so that you may find yourself wistful when you win. Your tour then ends.
Fortunately, Blue Lion has included enough mysteries and questions to ensure high replay potential. The game is suitable for travellers who have been to London as well as Anglophiles anticipating their first trip. It's also a lot of fun for armchair travellers who may never make the trip for real. In fact, Ticket to London may be as close to London as you can come without going.
- Ed Ferrell
Apple IIc/e/IlGs, with 128K-$39.95
IBM PC, XT, AT, Tandy 1000, and PCjr, with 128K and CGA or Hercules graphics-$39.95
Blue Lion Software
90 Sherman St.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Also in the series, Ticket to Paris, Ticket to Spain, and Ticket to Washington, D.C.