Friday, January 5, 2024

BRIEF: Around the World (1983)

 
I wonder what part of the globe this map-maker came from?
         
Around the World
United States
SUPERWare (developer and publisher)
Released 1983 for Atari 800
Rejected for: No character development
         
We had Apple II computers back in junior high school, and in some class that we took in the lab, we were allowed to occasionally play Agent USA (1984), a half-adventure, half-educational game in which you traveled around different U.S. cities battling a terrorist event. The player's goal was to destroy the "FuzzBomb," but the game's real goal was to teach geography.
   
Around the World offers a similar blend of genres. It's less explicitly scholastic than Agent USA, but it offers the same sense of being both fun and educational. The goal is to travel around the world, starting in London and heading roughly east, in as short a time as possible. The journey will carry you through a series of destinations from around 40 possibilities, with the specific routes randomized for each new game.  It has some RPG elements in that you acquire an inventory and fight battles during the voyage, but I don't think that there's any character development during this process. I wasn't able to find any instructions for the game, so it's possible that I missed some features.
        
From an ad in a 1984 issue of Computer Gaming World. The areas are "boundless" because they wrap.
      
During character creation, you select from six pre-made characters or name your own. The pre-made characters are named Sir Edward, Lady Nancy, Beggar Bob, Midas, Bruno, and Hero. I like to think that Sir Edward is a reference to Admiral Sir Edward Belcher (1799-1877), who wrote Narrative of a Voyage Round the World (1843) about his experiences commanding the HMS Sulphur from 1839-42, which included service in the First Opium War. Lady Nancy is named after one of the authors. The rest are goofy or generic and have no "around the world" associations. I would have named the default characters Sir Edward, Phileas Fogg, Victor Young, Amelia Earhart, Kay Kyser, and Sir Cumfrence.
       
Creating a character. Is Sir Edward strong? Is Bruno large? Who knows.
        
If you make your own character, you're asked to set his strength, intelligence, size, wealth, and speed relative to the other characters. Other than assuming that "Midas" starts with the most wealth, I could only guess at random; I assume the documentation had something to say about these attributes. Whichever character you choose, you start in London with 300 food and some variable amount of gold.
     
Each city map is 53 x 20, with graphical features iconic to the city. For instance, London has Big Ben; Venice has canals; and the Alps offers mountain peaks. Although the graphics sometimes make it look like you're in a side-scrolling interface, you can generally walk in any cardinal direction, and the world wraps. You can walk over most graphical features, though there are occasional blockages (walls, rivers, trees) to serve as puzzles. All action is with the joystick.
     
For Paris, they went with the obvious.
      
Each city has a general store, a food store, a transportation store, and a transit station. General stores sell a variety of equipment, including weapons, armor, and items that protect you against the game's various dangers. There are about 20 potential items to buy but only 7 slots to carry them. Food stores sell just food, and transportation stores sell horses, donkeys, camels, or whatever transportation is commonly found in your local area. Transit stations move you on to your next destination. These shops are found by walking on the doorways of the various buildings that you encounter, but there are typically more doorways than shops, so you have to search around.
    
While you're walking around, you are subjected to random encounters with creatures and persons both hostile and helpful. They include mad dogs, rats, thieves, travelers, cardinals, and princesses. The human encounters have names randomly drawn from a pool, so you might encounter a thief named Buck or a princess named Grace. I think there are a fixed number of these NPCs per game, because if you kill one, the game tells you that you "don't have to worry about JOHN for the remainder of the quest."
      
Looks like he's more of a robber.
    
When you encounter these enemies, you have options to fight or persuade. Fighting has the game automatically resolve combat based (I guess) on your hidden attributes and equipment. Persuading can get the NPC to leave you alone or to give you gold, food, or travel hints. Generally, princesses and cardinals are helpful and thieves are hostile, with travelers somewhere in between, but there's a small chance of thieves helping you and also a small chance of cardinals backstabbing you. There are no rewards for winning in combat, and a failed persuasion always leads to combat, so I think it's best to just try persuading with everyone.
       
This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.
      
In addition to these encounters, there are also occasional perilous events, like fires, floods, avalanches, and plagues, which can "damage" you unless you're carrying something to prevent it--a raft for floods, medicine for plagues, a "jacket" for fires, and so forth. 
     
I think it's technically an "avalanche."
       
You also occasionally encounter chests, which might contain gold or deadly traps. In general, the game offers a weird melange of themes. You're traveling around the "real world" but opening chests, amassing gold, fighting combats, and encountering plagues.
        
Ah, Rome . . . where travelers routinely encounter locked chests of gold.
    
There's no health meter in the game. Generally, if you're "damaged" in combat, by opening a chest, or losing a battle, the damage is reflected in lost days. A plague might set you back 7 days or a lost battle 3. I'm not sure if there's a time limit, but the number of days it takes to complete your journey is reflected in your final score. Occasionally, an event does just kill you outright. If that happens, you "meet your maker" and can resurrect on the spot, but only twice. The third time, you're dead for good.
 
The game's primary danger is starving to death. As you move across the landscape, you consume an incredible 5 units of food per step. [Ed. It apparently depends on the character, ranging from 2 to 7.] Simply walking from the arrival square to the transit station can easily consume all of that. You need to build up food--and fast. The problem is, it's expensive, and you need gold for other things. You get most of it begging from NPCs. There's a strong incentive, therefore, to save when you arrive in a new location, explore to find key locations, and reload to do it "for real" so that you can plot a route that consumes a minimum of food. There's also a strong incentive to save after positive encounters and reload after negative ones.
      
London offers the best deals on food.
     
Transportation options--horses and such--save only time, not food, and they disappear when you transit to a new location, so they're somewhat useless.
      
The second major difficulty, and the primary "puzzle" of the game, is finding the transit station in each area. They start off easy. London's is a huge station, probably meant to represent King's Cross or Victoria Station or something. But as you get deeper into your journey, the transit stations are hard to find. Rome's is in a random house in a row of houses; Paris's is at the base of the Eiffel Tower; the one in the Alps is at the top of a mountain. Eventually, they get sadistic. Finding Moscow's station requires you to enter a completely black square in a wall surrounding a Soviet housing block. The one in the Black Forest requires you to navigate a maze through the titular forest, where you can't tell visually which trees are impassable.
     
The final major difficulty is figuring out the travel route, which changes every time you start a new game. The transit station in London only takes you to a single place in Europe, such as Rome, Paris, or the Rhine Valley. After that, most transit stations have multiple destinations. It's not always a matter of moving east. In my most successful game, I got caught up in a maze that never seemed to get me out of Rome, Venice, Athens, Paris, and the Rhine Valley--all destinations seemed to be within this group. Finally, I discovered that I could get to the Alps from Rome, to Moscow from the Alps, to the Black Forest from Moscow, and finally to the Nile River from the Black Forest. 
         
Sounds about right.
        
As you might notice from the last one, the destinations aren't always sensible. Based on NPC dialogue, if I had found my way to the origin points, I could get to Hudson Bay via Nome, Arabia via Bombay, San Francisco via the Incan Ruins, and--my favorite--the South Pole via the Yukon. So finding your way is more like a node map than an actual journey. I'm not sure what the destination is supposed to be. You'd think it would be to return to London, but an advertisement for the game suggests that the journey ends in North America somewhere. I never got any hints involving places further east than Chicago, so perhaps it's there.

I played to the Nile. There, the transit station is in the middle of the river, and to get there you have to navigate an invisible maze. It took me about 45 minutes to map the maze, frequently reloading when I starved to death in the attempt. Given that I was 5 hours into the game by then and had visited only about 10 of the 40 locations, I decided it wouldn't be a good use of a CRPG Addict's time to continue, even though I was enjoying how the authors had chosen to graphically depict each area. This game is ripe for someone to take up with a full walkthrough.
        
My map of the Nile area, including the hidden maze needed to reach the transit station.
        
The game window for the same area.
        
Around the World was written by Nancy and George Schwenk of Silver Spring, Maryland. George was a relatively prolific author of strategy games and other programs; he published through several companies before starting his own SUPERWare. The Wargaming Scribe has a good rundown of Schwenk's history in his coverage of After Pearl (1984), a wargame about the Pacific Theater in World War II. The Scribe also covered Schwenk's Dawn of Civilization (1984) in November. I was supposed to do some cross-blog synergy with the Scribe in November and let him down by taking an unexpected break, so I apologize to him and encourage you all to check out his blog, where you can learn some interesting things about history in the context of his well-written coverage.

54 comments:

  1. Surely in a game about circumnavigating the world, at least one character should be named after Magellan, no?

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    1. Given that Magellan famously *failed* to circumnavigate the world after dying horribly in the attempt, I feel like it'd be bad luck to pick him!

      This game sounds interesting -- the gameplay does seem punishing, but the graphics and overall conceit are very fun. Sort like an Atari-era 80 Days!

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    2. Well, same for Amelia Earhart, no? ;)

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    3. Good point! Probably best just to stick with Sir Cumfrence.

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    4. I wasn't a huge fan of 80 Days, but it definitely seems better than this!

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    5. You'd name one character "Sir Cumfrence" and in the game you get most of your food begging from NPCs? Let's hope you'd not get arrested for punhandling.

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    6. You could pick the leader of the small crew remainder from Magellan's expedition who managed to finish the journey alive, being the first documented persons to cicumnavigate the Earth. I guess Juan Sebastian Elcano is less well-known outside of Spain, though - admittedly I also mostly am only familiar with the name because the Spanish navy named their sailing training ship after him and someone I know served aboard.
      (Just learned from Wikipedia that it is the third-largest tall ship in the world, and the sailing vessel that has sailed the furthest.)

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    7. Speaking of circumnavigation and 80 days, the new 80 days game by Inkle (Android ios switch steam etc) is really very good. I assume it would be better than the atari one...

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    8. Re: Magellan, there's a case for Enrique of Malacca, who started in Southeast Asia, was enslaved by Magellan in Malaysia, then brought to Portugal and packed along on the planned expedition around the world. Though he never quite got home exactly, he reached his... longitude of origin quite a bit earlier than the rest of the Portuguese on the Trinidad did.

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    9. What does "around the world" even mean? I'm not sure the character in this game ever leaves the northern hemisphere (neither does Phileas Fogg, if I my memory is accurate). The singer of the Victor Young song only hits four countries. If I fly from Iceland to Point Barrow and back, have I gone "around the world"? What if I stand at the South Pole and do an about-face? We have to define the terms more clearly before we can start giving awards.

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    10. Fogg touches in Singapore after leaving Calcutta (his ship stops to take on coal), which appears to be his only stop in the Southern hemisphere.

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    11. In 80 Days (the game), you can indeed travel to the North Pole, waltz around it and return to London to your unimpressed peers in less than 20 days (there are some hand-designed events to keep you on your toes). You win the bet and lose friends.

      You can really go off-course in 80 days. South America? Why not. South Africa? Possible. The Moon itself thanks to Monsieur Verne's contraption? Sure.

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    12. I'm curious, what about if you do the same on the south pole in that game?
      But if you really want to screw with some people on a bet like this, you can always claim that because the Earth rotated once, you technically also went around the world. In that regard, congratulations to all my fellow world record holders.

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    13. It's close, but Singapore is still northern hemisphere.

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    14. My definition:

      1. The contestant must cross every line of longitude or every line of latitude.

      2. The contestant's route must include two points that are antipodal to each other (within some range of tolerance).

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    15. @Chet: I might be misunderstanding this - wouldn't it mean someone travelling straight from the north pole to the south pole (or vice versa) one way would already fulfill the criteria? So maybe for latitude each line would need to be crossed twice?

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    16. If "alive and in one piece" isn't a necessary condition, parts of you could make it around half the world in 240 hours by blowing yourself up at an altitude of 15.000 metres over London (the model doesn't go any further).

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    17. @Busca: I don't think you need to add that qualifier as the task is to 'go around' the world, not go half way and then stop.

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    18. Proper definitions for "around the world" do indeed stipulate you have to cross the equator, and the journey must be longer than the circumference of the earth. I think passing beyond two antipodal points are also required but there I am less certain.

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    19. This page gives definitions and lists some 'firsts' and other notable feats:
      http://www.expedition360.com/home/circumnavigation.htm.

      According to it, a definition and resulting rules endorsed by several organizations is/are:
      "Start and finish at the same point, traveling in one general direction. &
      Reach two antipodes (Two diametrically opposite places on Earth)."

      Therefore, it states a "true circumnavigation" must:
      - Cross the equator. [I assume this includes travelling along the same?]
      - Cross all longitudes. [This does not cover the north-south axis travelling we discuss above, though.]
      - Cover a minimum of 40,000km or 21,600NM (a great circle).

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    20. > What does "around the world" even mean?

      In case of Fogg, it was a reasonably well-defined bet tied to a completion of a very specific route:



      "In eighty days," interrupted Phileas Fogg.

      "That is true, gentlemen," added John Sullivan. "Only eighty days, now that the section between Rothal and Allahabad, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, has been opened. Here is the estimate made by the Daily Telegraph:—

      From London to Suez viĆ¢ Mont Cenis and Brindisi, by rail and steamboats 7 days
      From Suez to Bombay, by steamer 13 „
      From Bombay to Calcutta, by rail 3 „
      From Calcutta to Hong Kong, by steamer 13 „
      From Hong Kong to Yokohama (Japan), by steamer 6 „
      From Yokohama to San Francisco, by steamer 22 „
      From San Francisco to New York, by rail 7 „
      From New York to London, by steamer and rail 9 „
      Total 80 days.

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  2. What about Nellie Bly? She famously went around the world in a record-breaking 72 days back in 1889/1890. Side note, she has a new monument in NYC's Roosevelt Island (though more for her journalism work).

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    1. And CRPGs fans know her already since she appears as a NPC in Martian Dreams!

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  3. "This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps."

    This Big Lebowski reference has me repeatedly cracking up every time I think about it. Well done.

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    1. Seriously, best sentence I've read since "Livvy rizzed up Baby Gronk."

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  4. My first computer experience at school would have been in '89-90. We had Carmen Sandiego and an Aussie title called 'Goldfields'.

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    1. Ah, Carmen Sandiego would probably have been the better comparison. I never played it, though.

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    2. Not playing Carmen Sandiego is easily rectified by the Internet Archive:

      https://archive.org/details/Where_in_the_World_Is_Carmen_Sandiego_USA_Europe_EnFrDeEsIt.md

      There are other versions, this was the first one I found.

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    3. Jimmy Maher ('The Digital Antiquarian') has an article about (the genesis and context of) CSD I found an interesting read (https://www.filfre.net/2014/08/apple-carmen-sandiego-and-the-rise-of-edutainment/).

      He basically started his blog with a search for the original version of 'The Oregon Trail', probably the first landmark 'educational game' where you travel.

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    4. Imma just throw this out there: while we have no evidence that this is the case, given the timeline and geography, it is entirely possible that Prince was one of the first people to play The Oregon Trail.

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  5. You are going to hate me (and yourself to a lesser extent), but the food consumption depends on the character, from an unplayable 10/step for Bruno to an easy-mode 2/step for Lady Nancy.

    I just published my article on the last of Schwenk's wargame: Panzer War. It is at the same time his best wargame and the least interesting to read about as it is pretty vanilla by our standards.

    Small mistake: "Around the World was written by Linda and George Schwenk of Silver Springs, Maryland" => It should be Nancy Schwenk (his wife), not Linda. I tried to contact them, but no answer.

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    1. There's going to be something mildly hilarious about this if it ends up retroactively becoming game 500.

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    2. See, I thought I did my due diligence by checking out three characters, and they all consumed at a rate of 5 per step. I guess I needed to do all of them.

      Still not an RPG, though. An initial selection of characters with different attributes doesn't make it an RPG. The characters have to grow.

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    3. And where did "Linda" even come from!? I'd already noted that "Lady Nancy" was named after one of the authors.

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  6. 'Agent USA'! Played that game on C64 and had quite a bit of fun with it. 'Cultivating' diamonds and keeping the citizens away to get the 100 you needed for the fuzzbomb... .

    Someone even started working on a remake (covering the whole world) with top-down and 3D views (https://blenderartists.org/t/agent-earth-34-1/472055), but apparently it remained unfinished.

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    1. I also played this one in the school library. Freaked me the f- - - out whenever I got off the train in a fuzz-controlled city.

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  7. I remember seeing ads for this game in the Atari 8bit magazines Analog and Antic. It was advertised as being akin to Ali Baba and Ultima so surely it must have been good. Based on your experience I’m glad I didn’t buy it.

    http://www.atarimania.com/list_ads_atari_publisher-language-_1454-2-_8.html

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  8. I’ve always had a soft spot for this particular (sub)genre of semi-educational travel games. This one looks particularly complex and interesting.

    “I assume the documentation had something to say about these attributes. Whichever character you choose, you start in London with 300 food and some variable amount of gold.”

    Is this some kind of copy protection, or did you mean that you were unable to guess the scale, e.g. what would be a good value for strength etc?

    “transportation stores sell horses, donkeys, camels, or whatever transportation is commonly found in your local area.”

    Do you buy them or rent them? Or does the game not make that clear? Buying them seems reasonable for a fantasy game but not for an educational game, does it?

    “This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.”

    Absolutely love this reference! It makes me imagine a strange family-friendly version of the film that becomes even more of a cult classic than the original.

    “If that happens, you "meet your maker" and can resurrect on the spot, but only twice. The third time, you're dead for good.”

    I find it funny that your maker doesn’t want anything to do with third-time losers. “Ah, you know, he’s a real reactionary.”

    Btw, I’m not logged in because Blogger won’t let me comment with my mobile phone. I’ve tried three different browsers and fiddled around with the settings but to no avail. Does anybody else have that problem (or, even better, a solution?)

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    1. I don't know what kind of phone you have. To be able to comment from Safari on my iPhone, I had to go to the settings and uncheck "Prevent cross-site tracking." It goes without saying that you have to be in regular mode and not "private" or "incognito" mode.

      There are all kinds of weird comment quirks, though. I get an email with every comment, including a link back to the entry. If I click on the link, which by default opens a new window, the browser (any browser) takes me to the page logged out, and I have to log in before I can comment. However, if I CTRL-click on the link, it takes me to the page logged in.

      All I can say is that I've been on this platform for 14 years now, and I can't see taking the effort and time to convert to a new site and maintain all my archives, pages, and image placements intact. We have to live with it.

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    2. Thank you, Chester. I've tried that but to no avail. It's all good, I'll just comment from my computer.

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  9. Ah, the millennia old tradition of putting oneself in the center of the map...

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    1. Somebody has to be - why not the cartographer?

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    2. I wonder if the folks at the Royal Naval Observatory every regret that one. "F@*% yeah, we're the origin point!" sounds great until you realize half your country is in one hemisphere and half is in another and there's no consistency in the coordinates. It's like running a time zone border right through the middle of New York City.

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  10. We had an educational Around the World in 80 Days game on our school computers, though it wasn't this one; I'm 90% sure it was Sherston Software's Around the World in 80 Days for the Acorn Archimedes, but unfortunately no one seems to have documented it anywhere on the internet (anyone here know about it?).

    I wonder how games where you need to gulp down 5 food units per step would look in real life. Just constantly gorging yourself as you walk around...

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    1. Not as bad as an Elder Scrolls game where you are walking down the street, see somebody and pick a fight with them, and when you are losing you magick twenty cabbages out of your backpack and munch on them while your adversary stands watching...

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    2. (To be fair, Popeye also did this in the pre-computer games era.)

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    3. Popeye always got his spinach out in real time, usually while in the process of being beaten, strangled, actively restrained, etc. At least in the shorts, the comics strip version was naturally more ambiguous.

      Granted there was usually little explanation of how he managed to do things like will the spinach can out and cut it open with his pipe, but at least it was in real time and Bluto or whoever wasn't waiting for him to do it.

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    4. This is the whole basis of "Cabbage Theory" (cf. glossary). Just about every RPG allows for limitless consumption of healing potions during combat, and people generally don't make fun of it because we recognize the generally abstract nature of the whole thing. But when you take pains to offer a more realistic real-time combat system and some of your healing items are real-world foods rendered in graphic detail, the logical inconsistencies become more glaring.

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    5. @Showsni re Around the world: Did you already see the answer by Simon Farnsworth to your question on stackechange which links a brief news item with a screenshot (https://retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/27874/are-there-any-screenshots-of-sherston-softwares-around-the-world-in-80-days-for/27908#27908)?

      There is also another bit of descriptive text plus a screenshot of the title screen here: https://archive.org/details/risc-user-vol-7-iss-06-1994-may/page/n4/mode/1up.

      Hope that helps to confirm your memories.

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    6. Thinking now of Resident Evil, where characters regularly scarf medicinal potted plants, which started out abstract, but by RE VII had evolved to Ethan pouring health drinks on his wrist. (Which VERY cleverly may have been foreshadowing a revelation from the next game)

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  11. What's CHESTER supposed to be, a Jiangshi?

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  12. Man, your mention of Agent USA... I remember playing this occasionally on my brother's C64. I couldn't remember the name of it for years before I asked him what the hell I was playing. I can only imagine how horrible it would be today, though I could probably navigate the US without issue.

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  13. I understand Victor Young and Kay Kyser are probably closer to Chet's musical heart and earlier / not alive anymore - otherwise a more interesting(-sounding) character choice than some default ones could also have been Guillaume Emmanuel ("Guy-Manuel") de Homem-Christo ;-).

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