Lure of the Temptress

Developer/Publisher:  Revolution Software
Year Released:  1992

Review by Steve Metzler (November, 2002)
A few months ago I chanced upon the Total Revolution package on my local game store's shelf. I promptly snatched it up, because it contained everything Revolution Software had ever produced, and I had never played either of the acclaimed Broken Sword games. Anyway, after I played the Broken Sword games, the package promptly went back on my shelf until just the other day when I was looking for something new to have a go at...

Well, Lure of the Temptress isn't exactly new. In fact, it's the very first game Revolution ever produced, way back in 1991. So I dusted off its virtual manual (on a CD in PDF format), cranked it up, and here is what I found.

The Skorl
In Lure, you take on the role of a young peasant named Diermot. You were most recently employed as a beater for the king's hunting party. One night, the king receives a note from a bedraggled messenger, requesting the king's services to help stamp out an uprising led by a young enchantress named Selena in the remote village of Turnvale. As the king's men depart on their horses to ride to the rescue, your pony follows them, and you are unwittingly dragged along to the battle. When your party arrives at Turnvale, they are confronted not by an ordinary peasant uprising, but rather by a band of fierce, inhuman hired mercenaries - the Skorl. The king's men are defeated and the king is killed. In the process, you are flung from your mount and wind up on the ground unconscious. The Skorl take you prisoner, tossing you into the local dungeon. So begins your quest to rid Turnvale of the Skorl menace, and defeat the enchantress Selena.

Virtually there
The manual for Lure boasts that it is the first game of it's type to utilise a concept which Revolution have dubbed Virtual Theatre. The premise is this: the various non-player characters (NPCs) in Lure don't stay in one spot waiting for you to ask them silly adventure-type questions. Rather, they are constantly roaming about the place, and even conversing with each other. If you're in the right spot at the right time, you can allegedly eavesdrop on these conversations (by looking through windows) and pick up valuable information pertinent to solving puzzles. Well... though this sounds like a nice concept, it doesn't really come off all that well in practice. It merely becomes annoying having to traipse all over Turnvale, though it's not that big, looking for a particular character that you need to talk to. Mostly, the NPCs are all just wandering around bumping into you and each other, and the only thing they say then is "Excuse me". There is exactly one time in the game that you need to overhear a conversation to progress the game, and it is pretty much staged. So, while the concept of Virtual Theatre is an interesting one, I thought that Revolution didn't realise its full potential here.

Ye olde gameplay
The interface is entirely mouse-driven, with pop-up menus that you scroll through to execute commands. Very good for its time. The puzzles are not all that difficult. Pretty much a fifty-fifty split between conversation based and inventory based. Turnvale is rather small (only about 20 locations where you can interact with someone or some thing), and your adventuring mostly consists of wandering around asking one of eight or so NPCs the question of the moment. Very often, it's not at all obvious who holds the answer, so you just have to ask everyone.

The inventory based puzzles require you to Look at most objects first to get a further description before you can interact with them. For instance, a barrel might have an amorphous blob on it that looks something like a tap, but you're not allowed to interact with the tap until you Look at the barrel to indeed see that there is a tap protruding from it.

Sometimes you have to get an NPC to do something for you, and if this is the case, a Tell command will appear in that NPC's pop-up menu. You can construct quite complex commands, like: 'Tell Ratpouch to go to the Sewerage Outlet and get Sewerage and then return'. This feat is accomplished via pop-up menus that contain all the possible words to form each part of the sentence. You have to enlist an NPC's aid several times throughout the course of the game in this manner, and this makes Lure a little tough at times, but satisfying once you get these commands to work. Ratpouch, by the way, is a court jester companion that you rescue early on in the game. Mostly, he just keeps bumping into you and saying "Excuse me, sir", but sometimes he has a useful tip, and he's one of the NPCs you will need to use the Tell command on.

And you're probably not going to like this but... there are a few times where you have to fight a Skorl. In these instances, a battle axe conveniently materialises in your hand. You can swing it overhead, mid-section, or at your adversary's feet depending on where you place the cursor. You can also block accordingly. It's really simplistic, and I won these battles on the first or second attempt. However, if you're all thumbs you may require a lot of patience to win your way through, as there's no alternative but to fight.

Fortunately, your efforts at combat (and solving other puzzles where you can die at the hands of the Skorl if you get it wrong) are aided by the provision of 15 save game slots. The system is very well implemented in that you can type in a lengthy description of each save to remind you exactly what was trying to be accomplished shortly before your demise.

As time goes by
What makes Lure a little bit more difficult than it should be is the fact that a 320 x 200 VGA picture becomes extremely blocky as each pixel gets blown up to about four times it's original size when it's displayed on a modern 17-inch monitor. However, this is clearly not Revolution's fault - just a side effect of trying to play an old game on modern gear. Early on in the game I had to resort to a walkthrough because, as it turned out, I just couldn't pick out a rather small hotspot that didn't really resemble anything due to the blockiness. However, once I realised that I had to move my cursor over the whole screen in every scene, I never had to consult the walkthrough again.

The music in Lure is strictly for the brave, being that early 90's period MIDI mix of discordant single notes coupled with equally discordant bass notes for dramatic effect. I left it on, being the masochist I am, but you may prefer to turn it off in the interests of preserving your sanity.

Virtually wrapped up
I enjoyed the few days I spent with Lure of the Temptress. It reminded me a lot of the old Sierra games like King's Quest and Space Quest, though with not quite as much depth. You probably won't be able to find this game on its own, but if you can get hold of the Total Revolution package, then you too can sample the delights of Revolution's adventure gaming legacies. This game is ideal for beginning adventurers, and after completing it, you can progress to their next and much more ambitious offering: Beneath a Steel Sky. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Metzler 2002. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
640K RAM, 16 colour VGA, mouse control recommended. Supports AdLib, Soundblaster, Roland, and internal speaker. Hard drive recommended.