ACROSS THE incredibly Flat and Featureless Plain, on the other side of the impenetrably Thick Forest, just beside the Stream that Dries Up in The Corner of The Map sits the Enchanted Castle.
Haven't we had enough of them, after Avalon, Knight Lore, Dragontorc, and Tir na Nog? OK, so the setting of Fairlight is not promising. There's a wizard locked up in the castle and you have to find a magic book to release him and save the great gizmo from going ape with the wotsit.
Don't worry. When you actually get inside the castle you'll forget about how bored you are with fantasy. Fairlight, from The Edge, a division of Softek, is a quest with a difference.
The difference is largely in the graphics. They are the best we have seen of the two-colour 3D variety, streets ahead of Knight Lore and Alien 8 for variety and elegance of design. There are stairways and catwalks, corridors and chambers, trapdoors and courtyards in the castle; mapping Fairlight is going to be a problem, as the castle is designed like a castle, not a chessboard with a lot of walls between the squares.
Your character is an adventurer, cloaked and armed with a suitably workmanlike orc-sticker for those embarrassing social encounters. The figure moves in four directions and can jump, pick up objects and fight. It does those things a lot faster than Sabreman, whose antics are beginning to look decidedly creaky against this new wave of arcade-adventures.
You can push objects around as well, stack chairs on tables to get at high doors or windows, and generally derange the furniture at your pleasure. But the problems have a more naturalistic quality than usual. Keys tend to fit doors - somewhere - and performing various sequences of action will reveal further depths to the castle as secret doors are opened.
Monsters include guards and trolls, club-wielding heavies who can be fought or outwitted. Realism in the fight sequences includes comparisons of strength.
In fact, every object and character in the game has a weight. Objects carried are displayed on a small scroll tucked away in the corner of the screen, one at a time - the one you have selected to hold. You can carry up to five objects altogether, but the weight is important, and you may only lave strength enough for less. Similarly, 300 pounds of gibbering green trollflesh packs a bigger punch than one wimpish little prison guard.
Fairlight is to be the first of a trilogy of games set in the land of Fairlight and future games will take the player into the surrounding countryside.
The secret of the stunning graphics is Grax, a high-powered low-level graphics language developed by Softek. Bo Jangeborg, who is currently putting the finishing touches to Fairlight, uses Grax to develop complex screens which occupy only one or two hundred bytes of memory at most. Softek originally thought in terms of a 35 screen game but the finished product could contain up to 100, depending on Bo's stamina.
Tim Langdell, manager director of Softek, says Grax uses adapted core routines from The Artist, a graphics package reviewed elsewhere in this issue. But he's thinking about releasing Grax in the shape of an arcade-adventure design package.
Meanwhile, watch out for Fairlight, it's got to be one of the best arcade-adventure quests of the year.
Now back to fairytales... Once upon a cassette there was a land called Fairlight, a land of peace, blue skies, free beer - a realm where taxi drivers never overcharged and magic prevailed. Then came war and disaster.
This is the readily recognisable setting for Fairlight, a new graphic-adventure from the Edge.
Isvar the hero is shown as a moustachioed figure, cloaked and armed. The world he wanders through leaves the gridiron-planned environment of Knight Lore standing in awe, for the castle's plan and geography is as bewildering as a real one.
Staircases and corridors lead to halls, cells, gardens and courtyards. Furniture, food and other odd items are scattered around and the place is guarded by scuttling orcs, thuggish trolls and ogres.
Those creatures have some intelligence and will chase and attack if you violate their territory. A combat system will weigh up your respective strengths and you must enter into direct action with the monsters. You must maintain your own strength by regular eating - food can often be found in the ores' barrack rooms or the finer private apartments of the castle. Many of the objects can be carried but all of them have a weight.
Momentum also exists here and if you push a table loaded with a flagon and chicken the eatables will carry on moving when the table stops. Very realistic and extremely convincing.
The keyboard offers a full range of actions including Fight and you are given the option of using a Kempston stick for the movement combat.
This is one of the most complete and satisfying role-playing graphic games I have yet seen. There is quite simply so much to do, so much to explore and so much to experiment with.
Let's take a look at the orc guards. When you enter a room you may only see a couple of their helmets lying around. Suddenly, the helmet grows into a fully fledged and bellicose warrior. After a while you realise that the orcs regenerate from the helmets. I spent hours on the dungeon level looking for places to imprison the helmets so that they wouldn't bother me. Early on you will find a scroll which will help you to escape when you get utterly entombed.
Fairlight is state-of-the-art. It's a classic in every sense - go get it.
Publisher: The Edge
Magic has faded in the Land of Fairlight! The great kings lie in barrows under burnt fields and, as the cloud crowded night moves over the valleys, the people look forward to doom. Fairlight has returned, specially enhanced for the 128K machine.
No game has yet bettered the fabulous 3D graphics of the original Fairlight - also one of the few arcade adventures which treats every part of a room as separate: move tables, chair, pots and barrels, the only limit being your strength.
There are few differences between the 48K and 128K versions of Fairlight. The new version contains more locations, more monsters and a superb continuous music track.
Fairlight isn't just about fighting, feeding or picking up objects. Although you can use your sword to get out of most situations it is always better to use brains - and not so testing on your life energy level. For instance, you can battle the guard on the ramparts, kill him and move through the door he was protecting. Alternatively, you can entice him into the courtyard, dodge around him and make for the door - simple and not one life point lost.
Fairlight 128 is a fabulous game, full of mist and magic. It stands a helmet and full set of chainmail above other 3D strategy games and is likely to remain so for a long time to come.
Label: The Edge
Author: Bo Janeborg
Reviewer: John Gilbert
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