A decent time-traveling adventure, despite disk swaps and red herrings
I discovered this game when it got included on CD 1 of the King's Quest Collection Series, along with an Apple II emulator to play it on. The game is called Time Zone
, and it was released by Sierra way back in the Eighties, where it was known as On-Line Systems back then. Since I was interested in games that involve time manipulation, I decided to check it out.
The game starts at your house, and as soon as you try to go anywhere, you are given your assignment. Basically, you are chosen to save Earth from destruction at the hands of an alien tyrant on Neburon, a planet many light years away. Nobody can reach Nebulon unless they go forward in time. No matter though. A time machine mysteriously appears on your doorstep. With it, you can travel to every continent, and as far back as 400 million BC.
There is a lot to do in Time Zone
, as you travel a lot back and forth in time, mainly picking up objects from one time zone and then using them in another. The puzzles you face are challenging, and a major example is knowing which objects you can take to which time periods. If you try taking something to a period before it existed, the item will disappear forever and the game cannot be completed without that object. You also have to deal with dangers that lurk in each time zone, whether it is a wild animal or a person blocking your way. Throughout the game, you get to meet people that made a name for themselves including Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Columbus, and Robin Hood.
Unlike other games in Sierra's Hi-Res series (such as Wizard and the Princess
), the whole game was shipped with six double-sided disks, each one of them storing a time period, and you need to swap between them when the game requires it. The game is advertised as requiring "a year to complete", so before the start of the game, Sierra allows you to initialize a blank disk specifically for saving your progress. The game only uses one drive, so swapping between your save disk and whatever game disk you're using is still necessary.
There are a lot of scenes in the game, and the graphics are drawn nicely. Like previous Hi-Res adventures, they still have that "polka dot" feel to them, but I think this is the result of the Apple's limited color palette. The inside of the time machine looks amazing, and I like how it is easy to jump from one time period to the next since you only need to deal with two buttons and a lever.
Sound-wise, there are only two pieces. One is the piece that goes up in pitch as you look at the console of the time machine. You are also awarded with a nice, long melody if you complete the game. Even coming from the Apple's speaker, it is better than hearing nothing at all. Melodies like this aren't present in any of the Apple adventures I have played so far.
I didn't notice this before, but what's funny about this game is if you type a swear word into the parser, you are kicked out of the game. You have no opportunity to play again or restore a saved game. The only thing you can do is reset your Apple.
As I said earlier, there is a fair amount of disk swapping during the game. It would have been nice if Sierra supported two drives, to reduce the amount of these swaps.
Also, Time Zone
is filled with red herrings and empty zones. An example of this is Antarctica. You can't explore the continent and are forced to retreat back to the time machine. Having red herrings is common in adventure games, but they should be carefully scattered throughout the game and used sparingly.
The Bottom Line
In my opinion, Time Zone
is the best of the Hi-Res adventures since it contains a lot of adventuring and puzzle-solving. The graphics are nicely drawn, and there is the occasional sound here and there. However, the freedom of going to a particular time period is ruined by the amount of red herrings in the game and the frequent disk swapping becomes tedious every time you enter a different time period. But regardless of these issues, anybody who owns an Apple looking for a decent adventure to play should get a copy of the game.