Down these mean streets, a duck must waddle…
Sam Mallard – subtitled The Case of the Missing Swan – is something more than a bit different by way of an adventure game for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. A noir-esque, menu-driven graphical adventure in black and white, where you play a fedora-wearing duck.
It’s also pretty much brand, spanking new by Spectrum standards, having been released online on World of Spectrum, where you can download it for free, in August 2016. However, you can now also buy it on cassette – with added goodies!
Fans of old-school detective/gangster movies (like me) will find themselves immediately at home with this short but sweet outing into Humphrey Bogart-style adventuring, albeit as a, dare I say it, duck-tective. You are Sam Mallard, the eponymous anti-hero, and as usual you are still in your office late at night when, the clock having turned midnight, you get a knock on the door and a Mr. Swan, owner of the Swanline Shipping Co., tells you all about how his wife, Edith, has disappeared, and the police aren’t being helpful. Can you track her down? As an incentive, he offers a grand up front if you can find his wife by morning, no questions asked. You might well be suspicious about this, but with a shortage of clients queuing up to hand over a wad of smackeroos, you’re not going to ask questions, are you?
One thing I particularly love about this game is the look: it’s just like an old-school black and white Apple Mac adventure from the 1980s, albeit lower res. Screen layout offers an action menu to the upper left, graphics to the right of that and a text window at the bottom of the screen. Controls are simple: you can use a Kempston joystick, or the Q and A keys (up and down) plus spacebar (select). You don’t even have to type anything in. This means the ‘vocabulary’ is very limited.
The 48k Spectrum cassette version comes as a super little package, with a Sam Mallard badge and card, instructions, and even a mini-CDR so you can run the game on a Windows PC via emulator, or copy it onto an SD card. However, the game also ran perfectly via FUSE on my Mac Pro by double clicking on the sammallard.tap file in the Resources folder.
This atmospheric and easy-to-play outing into the world of duck-noir is not just for the birds. It would be a great intro to adventuring for anyone who hasn’t played such a game before or who hasn’t hours to spare. If you’re a collector, the money for the cassette package is well spent. Highly recommended.
The game is easy to operate, short but with a few head-scratchers along the way. It’s atmospheric and fun. Lack of colour is no loss, quite the opposite. Presentation is simple but well laid out. A great package if you buy the cassette.
Sam Mallard – The Case of the Missing Swan is, quite simply, duck-tastic! If you love old noir movies, you’ll love this.
Review copy kindly supplied by Monument Microgames: http://www.monumentmicrogames.com/
A version of this review was originally published in the Crash Annual 2018 from Fusion Retro Books.