Review: "The Camp" (C64) by Protovision
Way back in the mists of time (well, 1982) my parents took me and my sister out of school for a few months to embark on a trip around the UK, Europe and the US. For the European leg we jaunted about in a campervan, staying at campsites (and occasionally on roadsides) along the way. My memories of that time are sadly vague - my main recollection is the ridiculously rough toilet paper that one had to endure in the bathrooms. I’m talking really rough. Like coarse sandpaper. I forget what town it was, but I actually kept a piece of it in my jacket pocket to remind me of the horrors, and it was still intact when we got home.
The setting for this game is based on an actual German campsite the creator(s) spent time at during their formative years, and there is a nice nostalgic feel to it all. Along with the disk (in a rather nicely decorated sleeve), the package includes a campsite newsletter, a beer mat, a lump of charcoal wrapped in foil, a peppermint teabag and, yes, a piece of camp toilet paper (though an acceptably soft piece - I guess the world has progressed... or maybe we were staying at the wrong campsites). Unsurprisingly, one should read through the newsletter as it does contain some important clues.
The adventure begins with the player waking up in a dark hut with a terrible headache, and it soon becomes apparent that your friends and the camp staff have all disappeared. Looks like it’s going to fall on you to figure out what happened to them.
Developed by TUGCS (The United German Commodore Service) using the “D42 Adventure System” for FORUM64’s 2015 Adventure competition, the game was picked up for a proper release by Protovision. Rather than the player entering text commands, there are a small number of actions, some of which take one or two objects to act on. This certainly reduces the frustration of trying to guess specific words on top of tackling the puzzle at hand, but there are some weird inconsistencies (e.g. in one puzzle it was surely possible to both move or open a particular object, but only one verb was accepted).
Each location is accompanied by a picture, the quality of which varies a bit, but overall they’re good. Adding to the atmosphere is the sound - both FX and some decent tunes. I got the impression these are significant, but I must admit I could never quite figure out in what way.
I found the humour to be rather fun. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it is very German, and often reminded me of amusing things my German friends say. I suspect there are number of in jokes that completely passed me by - it was always hard to tell if I was missing something or whether the translation didn’t quite work. There are a tonne of 80s references, most of which I’m pleased to say I got.
The game is unforgiving, and makes no bones about it. In fact, soon after you start it nudges you to perform an action and then gleefully points out you should’ve saved before hand. That’s not the last time you can do something which seems innocuous, yet will eventually prevent the game from being completed.
Due to the graphics and sound, moving between locations always incurs a disk load, and with the game split between two disk sides this can be a bit tedious. I first fired it up on one of my real C64s, but soon switched to an emulator, bumping up the CPU speed during loads.
I’ve played a fair number of adventure games in my time (though I don’t consider myself an expert), and there were a small number of - in my opinion - completely baffling puzzles. I managed to get quite someway into the game before throwing up my hands and searching the internet for hints. The funny thing is that even having discovered a walkthrough, the fact that it was in German combined with said puzzles not making much sense, there was still plenty of figuring out to be done.
Perhaps the biggest annoyance is that the exits of some locations don’t make any geographic sense - e.g. you go north, then continue north, and end up back where you started.
Gripes aside, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had here. Given that this was a compo entry, I was impressed as to the number of locations and general quality of puzzles.
I love the fact that in this day and age a C64 adventure was created and sold in a package with Infocom-style “feelies”… It’s even more impressive considering that this is a translation from the German original.
"The Camp" can be purchased direct from Protovision.