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Countdown

Reviewed by  Wendy Mann


Introduction

Countdown is a 1990 point-and-click adventure game.  Being an old DOS game, one needs to play it using the latest version of  DOSBox  (I used DOSBox 0.72, but 0.73 is available).  The controls are slightly unusual, but very easy to use.

This is quite an enjoyable game that relies a lot on conversations and flashbacks to piece together what really happened.  There are other devices as well that give clues and information, such as finding mail or a note, etc.  The game has an unexpected twist at the end that some people complain about, but which I thought fit very well.

The game is logically designed, and nowhere did I find the clues and puzzles illogical.  As in most point-and-click games, one finds items, talks to people and performs inventory based puzzles, among other things.

The short action sequences are never frustratingly difficult, except that the Tiger Pit Puzzle can take a while to figure out, and so can the Bomb Defusing Puzzle.  I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out how to trap the tiger without getting eaten (I got eaten many times before I figured out the correct method, but maybe I was just slow on the uptake!).  If you are alert for the correct clue during the game, the bomb puzzle is not too bad either.

The quality of the game is fairly good for its era, and I can happily recommend this game to any point-and-click adventure game fan.  It has quite a lot of depth and is fairly long.  I personally enjoyed it and will definitely play it again sometime, even if only for the fun of tackling the tiger puzzle again.  The game holds your attention very well and has an interesting story.

There is not much blood in the game, and even the 'eaten-by-tiger' death scene was fairly well sanitized, so it would only frighten very young players in my opinion.  There are a couple of corpses, so if the young player is very sensitive, it could upset the child.

The game has an overall time limit, but it is not frustratingly tight.  I personally hate games with time limits, but this one did not bother me much.  But then I cheated...  if a sequence or scene took too long while I was experimenting and learning what to do, I simple restored from my last save and re-did it.

I suspect that the game randomizes the location of the contents of certain rooms (e.g. in the asylum), because I found items in rooms in somewhat different locations to those described in the walkthrough.  Several times the walkthrough would say that an item was in a room in a particular place in a corridor, but I found the relevant contents in a different room in the same corridor.

Story

Countdown stars an ex-CIA agent who was imprisoned in an insane asylum on what he believes must be trumped up charges.  The agent however has lost his memory.  You play the part of the agent, and you progress through the game by initially finding a way to escape from the asylum and then trying to find out what really happened, while avoiding dangers as you go.  As you regain parts of your memory, you see short flashbacks.  The story is in fact very interesting, and introduces many characters who give you both information to carry the story along and useful clues as to what to do or where to go.

DOSBox needed

If you play this old DOS game on a modern PC, you will need to use the latest version of  DOSBox.  The game may appear to play okay without it, but you will probably come to some areas that are impossible without DOSBox, so rather use it from the start.

Interface

Countdown is a 3rd person, 2D, point-and-click adventure, with the screen divided into a playing area on the top portion and a smallish control panel at the bottom (see screenshot at bottom of review).  The view of the playing area is mostly from the side.

All actions are controlled by the mouse, and movement by the arrow keys on the keyboard.  Actions are performed via commands clicked in the control panel (conversation, move, open, take, etc).  The game is fairly linear...  a new destination will only open up when you have triggered the relevant destination by finding something or talking to someone that 'logically' leads you to the destination.  Of course you can wander about and explore freely within a room or area.

The conversation device is controlled by certain attitudes you adopt (e.g. help, hassle, pleasant, etc), or by using the 'talk-about' option, which sometimes has to be triggered by using the relevant attitudes in the correct sequence (e.g. help, hassle, pleasant, then 'talk-about').

The inventory can hold all of the items needed, so you do not run out of space in inventory as happens in some other DOS games.

You travel around by clicking on a travel command, which then displays a list of the people/places that you can go to.  You also have a computer link for making inquiries, which is well worth reading because it gradually fills in pieces of the story.  You can also use it to investigate certain items more closely.

There are quite a lot of saved game slots.  You can die fairly regularly, so save often.

Graphics, Music, Sound Effects

The graphics are quite good for the era, given the age of the game.  The colors tend to be a bit dull in most places, but not enough to bother you.

The music is fairly primitive.  It changes according to the area that you are in, and is fairly unobtrusive.  Sound effects are fairly limited, but satisfying.  Speech is non-existent...  everything is conveyed via text boxes (which is perfectly sensible given the age of the game), but lack of speech does not detract from the game.

Puzzles and Gameplay

The puzzles are typical of a point-and-click adventure game.  Some of them require fairly good reasoning (especially the tiger pit and the bomb puzzle), and although a walkthrough is available if you really get stuck, it is much more fun to try to work them out for yourself.

The puzzles consist mainly of:

In my opinion, the challenge level / difficulty of the puzzles ranges from easy to medium, with only the tiger pit puzzle and the bomb puzzle being initially fairly high difficulty (until you figure them out).  Of course, with a tiger after you or a bomb about to explode, one cannot dawdle!  There is one large maze that took me awhile to find my way through, but it was not frustratingly difficult.

You do not need keyboard gymnastics, just careful thinking and simple use of the mouse and control icons in certain sequences.

Longevity

The game is relatively long for its era, and there are lots of enjoyable features and interesting conversations, so it keeps your attention very well.  However you would probably only want to play it once.

Bugs / hiccups

I experienced only one kind of technical hiccup, which was that the game would freeze every so often (especially inside the fortress).  I would then have to Ctrl+Alt+Del to get out of it, and then re-load the game.  This happened quite a few times to me, and I found it irritating.

Apart from the freezing mentioned above, I found no other bugs or problems.

Conclusion

I can personally give this game a fairly good recommendation.  The game is good fun and the conversations are interesting.  It is fairly cleverly designed, the puzzles and connections are very logical, and it is very satisfying to play, especially when you solve a tricky puzzle.  Try to play it without the walkthrough, but eventually you may need to resort to the walkthrough at a couple of points.

Countdown is an interesting and attention holding old DOS game.

  March 2008  Wendy Mann



Full View Screenshot in DOSBox


Developed (1990) and published by  Access Software.


Not Rated !


Minimum System Requirements:  DOS


Where To Buy This Game:


Walkthroughs or Hints:

"Walkthrough amended by Wendy Mann"

"Black Wolf 's Walkthrough"


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