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Retro Corner: 'Lure Of The Temptress'

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First Released: 1992 (Amiga, PC, Atari ST)
Now Available On: PC

Lure Of The Temptress
As ardent fans of the point-and-click adventure, we at Digital Spy were delighted to see Revolution Software co-founder Charles Cecil receive an MBE in the recent Queen's birthday honours list. With a career spanning more than 25 years, few have done more to pioneer the adventure game. Cecil masterminded such classics as Beneath A Steel Sky and the Broken Sword series, but his first contribution to the genre was a lesser-known fantasy offering called Lure Of The Temptress.

Released for PC Atari ST and Amiga in 1992, Lure Of The Temptress arrived at a time when the graphic adventure was thriving. LucasArts caused the genre to explode into the mainstream some years earlier with The Secret Of Monkey Island, and Sierra was at the top of its game, paving the way for other studios to launch similar titles. Cecil started up Revolution with Tony Warriner, David Sykes and Noirin Carmody specifically to develop Temptress. The end result was a hugely significant game, not least because it marked the emergence of the Virtual Theatre game engine, hardware that would later serve as the foundation for the critically acclaimed Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars.

Lure Of The Temptress
Despite belonging to the same genre and using the same technology, Temptress is a far cry from Revolution's more familiar titles that would follow. For one, it's a medieval-style fantasy affair. The player takes control of a young peasant named Diermot, who starts out as a beater for the king's hunting party. When his majesty's men are intercepted by a messenger bearing news of an uprising in a nearby village, they ride out to battle to stamp out the rebellion. Unfortunately for Diermot, his pony follows the pack and drags our hapless protagonist into battle. It soon transpires that the news of a revolt was simply a ruse by the evil enchantress Selena, who sets her army of inhuman mercenaries known as the Skorl on the king and his men, who don't last very long, making for a grisly intro sequence. Diermot is captured and flung in a dungeon, at which point his quest to become the unlikeliest of heroes begins.

Gameplay bore many similarities to a string of other early '90s point-and-click offerings. Using the mouse cursor to interact with objects and people in the environment, it was one head-scratching puzzle after another. However, too much ambition was evident to call it bog standard. The idea behind the Virtual Theatre engine was to breathe life into the non-playable characters, allowing them to move freely around the environment and even strike up conversations with other sprites. This opened up new gameplay opportunities, enabling the player to extract information through eavesdropping. As innovative as this feature was, it felt like the developers had bitten off more than they could chew. Many of the NPCs did little beyond bump into one another, and it was a chore having to find them when you needed to.

Lure Of The Temptress
The core mechanics were also more complex that your average adventure, and perhaps a little convoluted. In addition to your basic push, pull and pick up commands, there were a host of drop-down menus that enabled the player to carry out complex orders. Interacting with companion NPCs was an integral part of the game, and Diermot could command them to fetch items or lead him to specific locations. In addition to the point-and-click gameplay, there were a handful of reflex-based battle scenes that had players choose how high to swing Diermot's axe. Given that these features were used only minimally in future Revolution titles, Temptress was a trial-and-error release, in retrospect. Interacting with a sidekick was used heavily in Beneath A Steel Sky, but this function was streamlined, presumably based on the feedback the developers received in the wake of Temptress.

In 2003, the game was released as freeware via Revolution's website, and is widely available around the web. However, players using modern hardware are likely to encounter performance issues, and in some cases be unable to run the game at all. Running the game through emulators such as DOSBox and ScummVM will help you swerve many of these problems, but the game does look considerably more pixelated on current PCs (though its aesthetic shortcomings may just be more apparent in this day and age).

Lure Of The Temptress
In hindsight, Lure Of The Temptress was not one of the greatest adventure games to come out of the mid-90s, but it was one of the most significant. Not only did it pave the way for the Revolution classics that followed, it also introduced the engine they were based on. Charles Cecil and co certainly learned from the missteps of this one, and went on to create some of the best point-and-click adventures of all time. We'd like to see Temptress re-emerge for touch-screen devices, like its successors have, although at the very least, its interface would need an overhaul in order to lure the contemporary crowd.

Do you have any fond memories of Lure Of The Temptress? Write a comment in the space below!

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