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The Million Dollar Great Jewel Heist

The Million Dollar Great Jewel Heist


    The title screen.The title screen.
Developer: Dorothy Millard
Released: 1991
Genre: Mystery
Graphics: Text-Only
Perspective: n/a
Gameplay: Parser










Note: this is a Commodore 64 game.


The game is also available for ZX Spectrum.



You wake up in an unknown place, tied to a chair with a rope. And how exactly you got there, that you can't remember. The obvious first step is to become free, and after that to find out more about the place, and escape while at the same time recalling the events that lead you there.

That is the starting point for this adventure from the protagonist's point of view, so obviously in a bigger picture it's a classic innocent bystander gets drawn into a crime kind of scenario. Obviously there's not much excitement over what has happened, as it has been in a straightforward fashion spoilt in the game title - the protagonist has for whatever reason been involved in a jewel theft.

The premise sounds like a brilliant setup for a good adventure, unfortunately what follows doesn't quite match the expectation factor here. The preceding events are covered very lightly as timed flashbacks, and there is really no crime solving involved. It remains unclear just what the protagonist is trying to achieve. Obviously escaping the house is one of the primary goals, but doing that requires in the fastest possible way visiting only eight rooms of the about 40 available rooms in the game.

So getting free isn't the big challenge, but finding all hidden treasures is. That of course blows away any thin realistic aspects the game could otherwise have - who would collect tools and items in order to find hidden treasures in a house where one is being held as a prisoner by some kind of criminals? That's probably OK, it is an adventure game after all, but the game is a bit all over the place with the backstory that never goes anywhere, with the potential of catching criminals that is not actually used, and a random treasure hunting which doesn't really require any crime story to work. The way the game is, the player basically needs to search and examine everything, and with very few exceptions to pick up all tools and objects to find all treasures, which don't advance the escape or story at all, but will contribute to the final score where 200/200 is the best possible.

Experiencing flashbacks.Experiencing flashbacks.

There are some interesting design choices, like the inventory being limited, so every now and then it will be necessary to drop some previously used carried items. The problem is of course that there's no way to know which objects will be used in other locations, although most objects have simply one-time use. Few locations and items exist in the game only as red herrings with no real purpose at all. Unlike so many other games, the game also recognises intercardinal directions, and the game cannot be completed without using them, however this feels more like an attempt to prevent fast completion than anything that would really contribute to the gaming experience.

Speaking of which, the parser is a bit funny. For instance, it is possible to abbreviate some commands, like NORTH to N, but with intercardinal directions only abbreviated forms work, as the game interprets NORTHEAST to NORTH. There are some other userfriendly abbreviations too, like EXAMINE can be typed as EX or X, but some other words work very randomly. Some command words can't be abbreviated, and some item words work as abbreviations and some do not. Some synonyms and corresponding phrases are recognised, but in most cases there is only one phrase that works, like "use oil with item" doesn't work, it has to be "oil item". The most bizarre thing is if the player gives any command referring to keys, the game lists all possible keys in the game even before the player has found them! Some of these could be unintentional mistakes, like the game reporting items that the you "haue" (as in have) in the inventory.

Some glitches and typos.Some glitches and typos.

It is not possible to die in the game, but there are some dead-end situations, some of which are intentional and some of which are not. The game can produce some amusing(?) moments related to those. For instance, if the player is standing on a stool with a light source on, and then batteries run out, what follows is a never-ending loop of two screens with no way to do anything. That is most likely an unintended consequence of two special events happening at the same time (standing on a stool, using a light source) when one of them changes. Obviously a bug of some kind, although what really is intended is that the game cannot be completed if batteries run out too early, so in any event it's de-facto game over. Some locations can't be accessed then, and in some other cases the player can become intentionally trapped in a room with no escape if some actions haven't been done.

Most real puzzles are relatively clear to solve, there is hardly any need to think any unorthodox uses for common items. If there is a shovel, something needs to be dug out of some place. Finding hidden treasures is a bit more random, as they can quite literally be anywhere in the game. Often examining things gives an indication of something, although in some cases there isn't much of a hint given, the player just needs to try different things out. And the traditional examining same thing more than once is needed too.

The biggest problem with the game is that it doesn't at all develop the story it starts to tell. Yes, there is a conclusion of sorts in the end, few different ones actually, depending on what the player does, but most of the time the player just goes around the house trying to access closed areas and finding hidden treasures there. So adventuring around without much of a story to follow can be ideal to some adventurers, but most fans of the genre would probably want to have some narrative going on. Having said that, in the category of Commodore 64 adventures the approach isn't unusual and shouldn't be considered anything out of the ordinary.

Without any graphics (or sounds) and with a very thin story, the game ends up being treasure hunting through typing. There's certainly a place and audience for that, but that audience is somewhat of a niche audience, so by far and large most adventurers won't be choosing to play this game. As what it is, it's a good choice among several other similar games. The nice thing about this game is that the player can to a certain point choose how far to play - as a simple escape game it is over relatively fast, however going for all the treasures and full score will take a while longer.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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