With just a clove of garlic for company and a faded spellbook under his arms, Phill South trod the slime filled dungeon of Gargoyle Games' latest epic, Heavy on the Magick, and dragged himself back to quill this report.
Brrr. It's cold down there. Creepy. The very stones of the wall seem to radiate cold, and the constant dripping sound of fetid water leaking through the roof rings in your ears...
I wish I hadn't gone there. But as Axil's alter-ego I was forced to tread that fear-some way, fighting the terrible monsters and traps with the magick contained in my spellbook, The Grimoire of Gugamon. I really shouldn't have been telling off-colour stories about Master Therion, and then he wouldn't have sent me down there. But he did, and it was my quest to survive the trials of the catacombs and to escape.
The area of the dungeon is vast. There are about 255 rooms and 21 different creatures to do battle with, as well as 280 objects to collect and use to their best advantage. There are also demons to be invoked, but this is a hazardous business. They are all powerful and very impatient. No room for spelling mistakes here! You must speak clearly and quickly else they'll banish you to the furnace where you'll perish in mortal torment. (sob!)
Now if this sounds a bit ho-hum to you, as far as your experience of either Gargoyle or adventure games in general goes, then think again. The universe of Graumerphy is portrayed using real time animated graphics, so the game plays a bit like real life. Sometimes you have time to think, other time you have to act first and ask questions later.
The pictures are at first sight a bit on the chunky side. That's all down to the compression and expansion they have to go through to fit so many of them into the game. You soon get use to this effect, however, and it's then you begin to notice how mobile the characters are and how much personality the exhibit.
All in all, Heavy On The Magick is the best blend of arcade skill and adventure logic that I've ever seen, and it's a real showcase for the humble Spectrum's severely underrated (sez who?) abilities. A breakthrough, a hit, and a lot of fun besides.
Another game from Greg and Roy's Gargoyle vaults, and another cracker. This one's all of three years old,m and was the first 'graphic adventure', if you can call it that. On the screen you see your rather roughly drawn hero, and you move him not by joystick but by entering instructions via the keyboard (N, S, etc). As he wanders around, you have to react to what crops up in the various dungeons, which as well as puzzles, objects and magic spells includes monsters who knock you off with the merest flick of a wrist. At the time it was hugely influential, and much imitated, and it survives well because not only was it cleverly done, but there was a game lurking in there as well.
Naturally there's mucho mapping to be done, and the game's liable to appeal to arcade adventurers rather than straightforward zappers, but it's still good fun, and I found that I had forgotten everything I had so patiently learnt about the game first time round. Another spanker, although what the cover illustration has to do with it all, I have no idea.
Axil the Able, more commonly known as Axil the Absolute Average, surveyed his surroundings with a deep sense of misgiving. Only a few fleeting seconds ago he had been engaged in his favourite pastime of wizard-baiting. Just as he was about to finish the story, who should appear but that old buffoon Therion, after a severe telling off, about which Axil was not too amused. Being told you look and eat like a Graumerphy goat is not funny. Therion raised his left index finger, muttered something under his breath, and Axil was transported several hundred leagues across Graumerphy into the stinking, dismal dungeons which stagnated below Coilodon's Pile.
The first item Axil noticed was a mouldy old book which, on closer scrutiny, revealed that it was a spell book. So, armed with the book and little else but an indefatigable spirit. Axil set about finding his way out. That is where you come in. The latest Gargoyle game will have you enthralled from the start. Controlling and guiding Axil through the dingy dungeons is a joy to watch. Animation of the various characters is excellent and there are certainly many characters in the program, all created in large cartoon-style graphics.
Axil is a marvellous hero who shrugs his shoulders when unable to do anything, throws his arms in the air when casting spells, and even waves his fist at you when in the process of dying. I felt like explaining to him, in certain circumstances, that I did not mean to make that fatal move.
As in any D&D/RPG, stamina, luck and skill play an important part. Running into monsters and doing battle can have fatal results if your stamina is not what it should be, but searching round the dungeon and finding bread helps build this essential part. Heavy on the Magick will appeal to all gamesters, young and old.
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