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Shadow of the Unicorn

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Released: 1985

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Mikro-Gen

Developer: Mikro-Gen

Submitted by: Ian Marks

48k of memory was great. With 48k of memory you could play Elite, Jet Set Willy, Lords of Midnight and thousands of other Spectrum games…. But for those crazy guys at Mikro-Gen 48k wasn’t enough. No they had a game so great it needed 16k more! Mikro-Gen believed that what people really wanted was to pay twice as much for a game that came with a ram pack add on.

Mikro-Gen were wrong.

Firstly people didn’t want ram pack add ons, we’d had enough of those on the ZX81, and were fed up with having to blu-tack them to the computer. Secondly we didn’t want to pay £15 for a not very good game… and that was the main problem, Shadow of the Unicorn was poor, at best a sub standard graphic adventure, at worst boring and over complicated.

It followed all the rules of Spectrum graphic adventures. You had to go somewhere to find something, meeting other people on the way and getting them to do stuff that enabled you to find the thing.

First play reminds you of Valhalla with characters coming on and off the screen of their own volition, but this feeling soon fades, as you can’t type instructions in like Valhalla. The game it most resembles is perhaps Tir-Na-Nog, but that comparison does it no favours, as that particular game is twice as good, and programmed in 16k less.

That’s the difficulty with SOTU in a nutshell, it plays like an average Spectrum game, and it shouldn’t. You’ve paid 15 notes and you have to plug a memory dongle in to play it… it should play better, it should be the best game ever written on the ZX machine. It’s far from that.

The character graphics are weak, and not greatly animated. It’s very difficult to navigate, as you have to rotate the screen around the character, so it’s very easy to get lost. Personally I never got anywhere near finishing it, and would be interested to know if anyone ever did?

There was never another game written for the extra ram pack, and so it got consigned to a box in my attic, and now I can’t find it to play it again on my beloved childhood Spectrum.

You can however play this game today on emulator… ZX Spin definitely plays it, although you have to run a ROM loading program first. It’s a confusing game though, and my advice is to stick to Lords of Midnight, and other 48k wonders.