by Ian Weatherburn, Paul Lindale
Imagine Software Ltd
Crash Issue 02, March 1984   page(s) 13,14

This is Imagine's first step into the mist-shrouded world of terror and mystery, Warlocks and monsters, Wizards and spells. It still Isn't a proper adventure, much more of an arcade type game, but with adventure overtones. You, the most skilful Alchemist on Earth, have been summoned to do battle with the Evil Warlock who is terrorising the Land. You must enter his dread castle, find the four sections of the magic scroll, which will enable you to render the Warlock powerless by using his own Spell of Destruction against him.

Playing the game is quite a complicated matter. The Alchemist can wander about as himself until he reaches a drop or a steep hill, and these obstacles may be overcome by transforming into an eagle, which is made to fly by flapping its wings. The dread castle is full of rooms, caverns, passageways and stairs, filled with a wide variety of monsters, useful objects and minor spells which may be used once, and of course the four pieces of the magic scroll. The Alchemist is only allowed to carry one object at a time (and he's the most skilful!) so a strategy element creeps in.

Any type of movement, or bumping into objects, or transformations, deplete your stamina. This is maintained by passing over food packs (if you were an evil warlock keeping skilful Alchemists at bay, would you leave food packs lying around your castle)?

The two weapons you possess, hurling lightning bolts or casting spells if you have found one, use up your energy, which is replenished only by time. Encounters with monsters also drain you, though this depends on whether you are carrying some useful object like an axe or a sword. So there it is, O Skilful One - care to have a go?

Control keys: seven keys are used to walk/fly left and right, transform, cast a spell/hurl lightning, flap wings, pick up/drop objects and pick up/drop spells. The Quit key (1) seemed dangerously near the other action keys.
Joystick: Kempston, Fuller
Colour: very good
Graphics: excellent
Sound: very good
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 1
Screens: continuous scrolling

'On your mission you will encounter many problems, like finding a key to open a door, and many Guardians such as lobsters, ghosts, brooms, skulls, bats, evil butterf lies, swords which attack you, snails, caterpillars, bones, axes, a boulder and much more. The presentation Is very good, with a high quality title screen and adequate instruction, although a bit more advice would not go amiss! The graphics are very good and so is the sound, with a rather spooky organ tune which sets the scene well. In playing, the game Is extremely good, fun and very addictive. Definitely another winner for Imagine. Oh, by the way - don't pick up the trap thinking you can use It as one - it will explode during the game, destroying you!'

'The Alchemist is an original game which is fun to play, not only because it is difficult, but because it also has exceptional graphics, lots of them, all well designed and animated. Controlling the game requires a handful of keys which take some mastering, but they seem quite well laid out. The game is not unlike Atic Atac in feeling, and has about the same level of playability. Although it couldn't be called a shoot em up, it still manages to be very addictive, since it is so easy to lose your one life.'

'This is a game which is fun and has so much detail to explore in the massive castle that it makes you want to keep playing. That said, I didn't think it was terribly addictive, although I'll probably want to go back after some ti me and have another go. Excellent graphics and use of colour. An Imagine-ative game and obviously worth the money.'

Use of Computer: 80%
Graphics: 85%
Playability: 90%
Getting Started: 68%
Addictive Qualities: 89%
Value For Money: 95%
Overall: 85%

Summary: General Rating: Excellent

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 03, May 1984   (1984-03-05)   page(s) 70

A graphic adventure game where the player takes on the role of an alchemist, and must collect various objects and the four parts of the destruction spell to aid him in his quest to kill the evil warlock.

John: This is certainly the most original game to come from Imagine. Its use of colour must have stretched the Spectrum to its limits (if not beyond), and includes the smoothest, flicker-free, high resolution graphics ever produced on this machine. 9/10

Tony: The eagle looks like an eagle, the wizard's movement is realistic and the use of sound is excellent. There's only one small problem the 'baddies' move too fast. 9/10

Mark: The speed of this game is just right when you first play it, but seems a little slow as your expertise increases. Highly recommended. 9/10

John: 9/10
Tony: 9/10
Mark: 9/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash - Crashback Issue 08, September 1984   (1984-08-30)   page(s) 67

Use of Computer: 80%
Graphics: 85%
Playability: 90%
Getting Started: 68%
Addictive Qualities: 89%
Value for Money: 95%
Overall: 85%

In issue 2 we said that Alchemist was Imagine's first step into the mist-shrouded world of terror and mystery. Perhaps overating it somewhat! Alchemist, however, was Imagine's first attempt at anything with adventure overtones in an otherwise arcade style game.

Alchemist does have some imaginative graphics, although I can't agree with the review, 'exceptional graphics... excellent graphics'. They are quite old looking and don't move very easily about the screen. The keyboard layout is poor. Overall this game comes nowhere near Atic Atac, as mentioned in the original review. The castle which seemed massive on first playing has dwindled down to just a dozen separate rooms. I think was overrated.

I don't entirely agree about the graphics. They are quite original, certainly very detailed. If they move awkwardly it is more because of their size and the inertia which has been added. On the other hand I do think Alchemist lacks a lot in playability because of the content, which isn't very high. It's an easily completed game and unlike Atic Atac doesn't have sufficient arcade interest once completed to keep you having another go.

(Matthew) The 80% for use of computer doesn't hold up as far as the keyboard play goes, and I wouldn't give it more than 69% now. The graphics too, by today's standard, would have to come down, probably around the 72% mark. As to its addictive qualities, well the original 89% is right out of the window! More like 60% for me.

(Lloyd) I wouldn't push the graphics down much at all, they still look fine to me. It got 90% for playability, well it's fun to start with but I think that's over the top. It seems to me, looking back on it, that Alchemist was among the first of a generation of games which tried to get definitely away from the shoot em up tradition, so perhaps its ratings were more appropriate then than they are now. Certainly it's addictive qualities were rated far too high, I think around the 68% mark now.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 24, March 1984   page(s) 3 (Supplement)

ADVENTURE and arcade games are becoming more complex and of a better standard all the time, so it is no surprise that a company like Imagine Software has created a mixture of the two genres with The Alchemist for the 48K Spectrum.

You take the part of the alchemist who is searching for the parts of an ancient spell scroll which, when put together, will destroy an evil wizard. Your character can move around on the ground in human form or can transform into the guise of a giant bird and take to the air. All that can be performed with the keyboard or with many types of joystick.

To reach the parts of the scroll you must move past various evil monsters, including a colourful butterfly and a sheet-like ghost, which are all animated cleverly.

At first sight the game, with its cartoon maze and wizard as the central character, may remind you of the Ultimate Atic Atac. The extra features of the game, however, compensate for the similarity and there is much more variation in the maze construction and the creatures which will be seeking your blood.

If the attraction of the game is not sufficient and you still want something different you will be startled to learn that imagine has the dubious honour of being the first software house to produce a gold-coloured cassette and cassette box. That adds interest to the game and gives a hint of what it contains when you learn that alchemists seek to turn lead into gold.

The combination of excellent cartoon animation and depth of plot should make The Alchemist a winner. It can be obtained from Imagine Software.

Price: £5.50
Joystick: Kempston, AGF, Sinclair, Protek, Fuller, 12L

Gilbert Factor: 7/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Big K Issue 1, April 1984   page(s) 30

MAKER: Imagine Software
MACHINE: Spectrum 48
FORMAT: cassette
PRICE: £6.95

I opened the sprayed-gold cassette box and it promptly fell apart.

After that things got better.

The Alchemist is you, bub, and you've got to penetrate the inner defences of (yawn) the Evil Warlock, which are terrible and labyrinthine and guarded by the usual crew of plug-uglies.

So far so normal. What makes Alchemist refreshingly different and huge fun to play is the all-graphic side to this particular adventure: in a way it reminds me of ColecoVision's Smurfs, except that here the playfield scrolls both ways and up and down. Steer the doddering old fool (the Alchemist) along the levels, transform him into an eagle for the levitational bits (a minor masterpiece, this routine, which never failed to bring a surge of satisfaction) and blast the marauding entities with lightning bolts, or a Lesser Spell (if you've found one), or - though I never got this far and can't imagine the effect - the Great Spell, which comes your way once you've found all four missing pieces of the Scroll etc, etc.

While the plot is yet another version of an old, old theme, the graphics really bring the Alchemist alive. Me? I kept getting bumped off for lack of Stamina (sort of Survival Points) - but with a little practice I'm going to get further and further into this maze. Animation and scrolling are superbly smooth, colours rich and imaginative, and the general feel one of 100 per cent machine code slickness. A neat conception, beautifully carried through.

Overall: 3/3

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Personal Computer Games Issue 5, April 1984   page(s) 78

MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
JOYSTICK: Optional
CATEGORY: Arcade/Adventure
PRICE: £5.50

The Evil Warlock is terrorizing the land from his dread castle and you the greatest Alchemist on Earth have been sent to do battle with him in his own abode.

To defeat the warlock lord you must search through the numerous rooms looking for the four parts of the spell of destruction and then use it to kill him. In the halls and chambers you will find many objects and spells. These will help you fight off the guardians of the castle, but you can only carry one spell and one object at any one time.

So far the plot seems nothing unusual and could be exactly the same as dozens of other adventures on the market. But Alchemist is different because the action takes place as a standard arcade game.

You can move your man left and right, pick up and put down spells or objects and cast spells. When you need to move quickly you can transform yourself into a golden eagle which can fly.

But watch your energy and spell energy. Each time you move or cast a spell both of these will deplete and can only be replenished by resting and eating the food that you can find on your travels.

The graphics are excellent: you're chased by balls, brooms, butterflies, and skulls to name just a few. Getting past some of these can prove to be almost impossible without doing yourself some serious damage. Sound isn't exactly awe-inspiring but is good enough for the game itself.

If you've had enough of the text/picture type of adventure and you don't mind getting to grips with a few control keys then Alchemist may breathe some fresh air into your dungeon exploring.

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 7/10
Ease Of Use: 6/10
Originality: 7/10
Lasting Interest: 9/10
Overall: 8/10

Award: PCG Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue June 1984   page(s) 59

The Alchemist is not just another boring adventure game that takes hours of typing and frustration, it is a truly excellent arcade-type graphic adventure, similar in style to Hunchback.

The 48K program LOADed first time, taking about five minutes. There's a SCREEN$ and once LOADed you are greeted with quite a catchy tune, very well matched to the program which is set in the distant past. There's a menu with a good selection of keyboard or joystick options - a joystick certainly makes the game easier to master but using the keyboard is not so bad. There's a wide range of key combinations available and it is quite easy to work out a pattern that suits you.

After making your selection, off you go! The idea of the game is to find four pieces of the 'Spell of Destruction', find the Evil Warlock and cast the spell. You are the Alchemist, with a bit of magic of your own and you are on this great mission to destroy the Warlock. The story-line sounds familiar but the program is well written. Of course, it isn't an easy game: there are 16 rooms, which sounds disappointingly few, but each room takes up two screens and there's plenty to go at. As you move through a room, the background scrolls effectively and on going through a doorway the screen changes to put you in another room.

As the Alchemist you are a very stately figure on the screen. One of your tricks is the ability to transform yourself into an eagle (at the press of a button). This is done well in graphics and as an eagle you can fly to areas the Alchemist could never reach in human form. Learning to fly takes practice but you flap your wings nicely and automatically lower landing gear when necessary!

You have a permanent on-screen record of your vital statistics, namely Spell energy and Stamina, along with a record of which object and/or spell you are carrying. You also have an hour glass and a space ready to deposit any of the parts of the "Spell of Destruction' you have found. The hour glass tells you how much time you have left in a room before the Warlock locates you and starts sapping at your stamina. This is very dangerous and unless you evacuate the room quickly, will probably be fatal!

You have to keep up your strength by eating food which is scattered around. Spell energy is constantly replenished but is used up every time you cast a spell. Spells and other useful objects are scattered about the lair but are invariably guarded by nasties such as ghosties, skulls or other strange creatures. Combat is almost inevitable, and this saps at your strength.

The game is well thought out and needs dexterity as well as brain power. Although I completed the adventure within three hours, I still find it very enjoyable indeed. The colour and graphics are excellent, particularly because the objects are large and easy to identify. Sound is not used a great deal, but is effective.

Any complaints? Only two. The first is that it is far too easy to accidentally abort the game by pressing "1" in the excitement; the second is that there is no 'hold' feature. I expect this would make the game a bit too easy.

If you're after an adventure that you have a fair chance of completing, without being bored in the slightest when you have managed to do it then this is the adventure for you. Priced at £5.50 it's value for money, and certainly a great deal of fun to play.

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Top 50 Spectrum Software Classics   page(s) 31

Combining arcade skills with the logical thought required by adventures has gained immense popularity since the release of Halls of the Things. The Alchemist, challenging and a visual delight, is one of the best.

You must assemble the ingredients for the spell to defeat an evil warlock. To do that involves moving around a complex of rooms and caverns which each require a different strategy to negotiate the hazards. You can either walk in human form or change into a spectacular eagle to fly between levels or across chasms. There are many objects and minor spells to find and use in the special situations.

Position 29/50

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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