In the August 1982 issue, I wrote about the burgeoning "arcade adventure" format for Atari games. I spoke specifically about Action Quest, a brutally tough but very compelling hybrid adventure, calling for hand-eye dexterity as well as adventure skills.
Shamus, also from Synapse Software, takes another stride in the development of the arcade adventure. Make sure you have no pressing appointments before becoming involved in a round of Shamus. Once you get going, you won't want to stop for a while.
The humorous feeling surrounding the game provides much of its appeal. Author William Mataga first sets the mood, with a grand rendition of the theme from the old Alfred Hitchcock show. The player is then thrust into a complex maze of 32 rooms, containing some very diabolical nemeses. As Shamus, the player must penetrate four levels of 32 rooms each, to finally destroy the Shadow in the heart of his lair.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the completion of this goal. It is bound to take you at least a month. You see, populating each room are the Shadow's henchmen: Whirling Drones, RoboDroids, and Snap Jumpers. The sole pleasure in their lives is to keep you from getting near their leader. And they do a job of it. You are armed with Ion Shivs, and as your opponents are always prepared to fight to the death, the action is necessarily violent.
For those of you who have always wanted to wear a fedora as a character in an Atari game, this is your chance. The rakish lid is your most dashing feature. I'm not sure, but I think my hat has been shot through by more than one RoboDroid blast. Take that, sweetheart...
Once in a while during your search you will encounter a pulsating question mark, the function of which is similar to "Chance" in Monopoly. By touching the punctuation mark you invite extra points and extra lives or ill fortune. I have found it hard to resist them in the long run.
To advance to a higher level, you must obtain the correct keys and unlock the correct portals. This calls not only for keen aim of your weapon, but knowledge of the labyrinthian layout of each maze. Secret passages abound, and it is quite easy to get lost. The bottom of the screen reads out a corresponding number for each room, and this is the only hint you get. I always seem to disorient myself right after unlocking a portal.
Your natural tendency is to shower attackers with ion fire. After a few games, however, you discover that fewer but better aimed shots will nearly always be a superior strategy. Keep cool, and if you find any bubbling flasks lying around, drain them: they will give you new life.
You will notice a couple of familiar tunes recurring throughout the game: one is from the old "Dragnet" series, and the other, if I remember correctly, is from "Get Smart."
Shamus is a very addictive detective game. It will remain in the front of your game software collection for some time, I guarantee it. Arcade adventuring is an emergent and promising gaming category, and this program underscores that fact.