first thing to point out about the Price of Magik
is its use of Lenslok. Apparently, the dreaded Lenslok
system flashes up at intervals throughout the game,
preventing you from making further progress unless you
can enter the correct input. I say apparently, because
it didn't do it once during the whole time I was playing,
which only goes to show that either my copy was faulty
(unlikely) or else that you may just get away with it
from time to time if you're lucky.
Price of Magik is the follow up to Red Moon.
Predictable, really, since Red Moon got the best
reviews of any Level 9 game since the old days of Dungeon
Adventure. The reason, most likely, is that in fact
it represented nothing so much as a return to the old
days, with magik, dragons and a good deal of spell casting.
Adventurers seem to go in for this sort of thing, so
a follow-up in the same mould seems like a cast-iron
a cassette-based game, this title really is pretty impressive.
I played it for several hours and found myself still
weighting in at the '100 locations explored' level,
which leaves at least another 100 still to go, and every
one with a matchless Level 9 graphic. I say 'matchless'
because no-one else seems to be able to beat their combination
of excellent drawing routines (which you can interrupt
to pass on to the next location without waiting for
them to finish) with really rather abominable pictures.
said, I reckon that the Price of Magik pics are
slightly better than any of Level 9's previous efforts.
However, they still contrive to leave me, at best, puzzled.
The contents of the pictures often seem to bear no relation
to the contents of the rooms except in a few obvious
cases. So, for example, in one misty corridor we see
mist alright, but in another corridor we see what appears
to be an enormous table (not mentioned in the text)
or, in another room, a set of stairs definitely leading
downward (similarly out of context).
are, however, niggles. There are possibly some slightly
more serious criticisms of this game, but let's leave
them for the moment and get on with the plot. The basic
idea is not really terribly original (serious criticism
number one). The Red Moon crystal is being exploited
by an unscrupulous magician from whose control you must
wrest the valuable artefact for the benefit of humanity.
To do this you must enter a vast mansion, with nothing
but your wit and repartee, and acquire magical expertise
to overthrow the baddy.
are 18 spells to learn in the game, but at the start
there are no instructions about what form they might
take or how to use them. However, as a word of advice,
the Wiz reckons that you should take careful note of
all inscriptions, most of which provide either a spell
word or a hint of one. All spells require a focus or
talisman to operate, but you can find this out easily
by attempting to cast a spell with an empty inventory.
The program will tell you which talisman is required.
out exactly what the spells do isn't quite so easy.
For the most part, this involves simply wandering around
and casting in all directions, then waiting to see what
happens. Unfortunately, this is a lengthy progress and
developing your magikal skills is one of the main challenges
of the game.
are given throughout by the program whenever you are
in the presence of a magikal artefact. The message 'Your
sanity is shaken' appears whenever such forces are present.
This message refers to the title of the game and the
main idea behind the scoring system. Mr Austin apparently
thinks that a belief in magik and a mastery of it can
only be developed as one's sanity declines. The White
Wizard is thoroughly insulted by this attitude and as
soon as the men in white coats let me out I shall be
round to Weston to make PA see reason.
the meantime, while you play the game, your sanity rating
steadily diminishes as your magikal status increases.
More seriously, your stamina decreases as well since
this is the first Level 9 game to feature wandering
independent monsters who you can not only talk to, but
also fight. There is armour and weaponry to be found
in the house (though only obtainable after cracking
a couple of easily solved puzzles), but much of the
time you will be tempted to use magik in combat, if
question of independent characters leads me to the second
criticism of POM, the role of the 'characters'.
Characters have been absent from Level 9 games until
now because the Austins did not believe that they should
be introduced until either disc-based programs were
the norm (therefore giving more space) or until their
programming had reached such a state-of-the-art that
the characters really seemed to come alive.
has to be said that the character actions in POM
are quite varied and yer average werewolf indulges
in a good deal of grunting, swaying, standing on hind-legs,
and even attempting to speak, but there is a slight
feeling of deja-vu, since other games have been including
similar features for a couple of years now. True, I
think that they haven't been implemented quite so well,
but Level 9, by entering this field so late, have given
themselves an initial disadvantage in that their achievement
comes across as being slightly lacking in originality.
game is going to keep you very busy for a long time.
Unlike previous Level 9 games, you will find yourself
spending quite a bit of time attempting either to interact
or avoid interacting with the characters in the game.
You will also find that the most objects are easily
found (perhaps too easily) and their mystery lies in
their use and not in their location. Some Level 9 fans
may find these differences irksome, but the Wiz believes
that POM is an important step for the Austins. The new
adventure system is quite simply excellent, the vocabulary
is enormous, the features (such as OOPS) comprehensive,
and the program as a whole a firm base on which to build
future, more startlingly original, character-based games.