Format reviewed: Commodore 64
Publisher: AVS / Craig Communications
Developer: John Wagstaff (AKA Lee Kristofferson)
Submitted by: Mark Lumley
System 15000 is one of the most unusual and addictive games I've played; it's also not so easy to categorise. I've listed it as Adventure, but Strategy could equally apply. Certainly, the player is not required to 'GO N' or 'TAKE AXE'; the best description is probably 'hacking simulation'.
The player is tasked with tracking down money that has been ripped-off from its rightful owner, and eventually deposit the funds back into his bank account. You do this by using the eponymous 'System 15000' software to dial-in to various remote databases, bulletin boards, and other systems.
The game's brief instructions take the form of a letter from a friend called Mike. He gives you the background to your task, encloses the software, and after giving you a phone number and login, wishes you luck.
Your task then is to dial the number, log in, and explore the virtual world of systems that contain other numbers and logins to try. You have to piece the information by logic and/or guesswork alone, but with the promise of potential 'help when I can' from a mutual friend called Geoff.
Periodically during your explorations, you must log-off due to your line being traced by the telephone company, or by the police; it seems that both sides of the law are factors in the game, since 'organised crime' may have a hand in the missing money…
The deliberately limited use of graphics and sound are a case of 'less is more'. Text, numbers, and occasional Prestel-like pictures are the graphics, with sound consisting only of dialling and busy tones, plus the odd bleep.
Despite, or perhaps because of this, the game is effective in drawing the player in. Whether it succeeds in holding you is another matter; I don't know how far in to the game I got, but I did seem to hit a dead-end. Frustration could set in at this point.
It's been many years since I played it seriously, and possibly a fresh look would see further progress. Given that it's a game I would like to solve, it should surely be measured as a success.
System 15000 was released on the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro.
I'd say this is a game well worth checking out if you fancy using a little grey matter, and are bored of arcade games or traditional text adventures.