plot of this game isn't startlingly original, but it's
gripping enough -- a young girl has been turned to stone
by an evil Wizard (we're not all white, you know) and
you must destroy the baddy and reverse the spell. Standard
stuff, but this game has quite a few features not normally
found on adventures that really makes it stand out as
a first release.
it's got interactive characters. You can talk to them,
and in fact instruct them to do anything that you can
get the main character, Caro, to do. They may not obey
you, of course, hut that's half the fun! Alternatively
you may find that you can't speak their language, but
in some cases this problem can be overcome through the
correct use of various objects.
characters in the Magician's Ball are truly independent
-- they will move about of their own accord, get and
use objects, and attack or help the player. The only
thing they don't do is talk, but this omission doesn't
detract much from the fun of the game. There is one
other major character called Azul and, as in the Hobbit
and Valhalla, you won't be able to complete
the game without interacting with him very carefully.
the real interest here is that you can actually take
control of Azul and 'use' him as the main character
-- so if by any chance Caro is killed you don't necessarily
have to end the game. Typing 'Azul' automatically transfers
control to this character, in a similar way that pressing
certain keys in Lords of Midnight enables you
to 'see' through the eyes of other Lords. This technique
has enormous potential in future games -- and the White
Wizard notes that Melbourne House are planning to introduce
it in Lord of the Rings.
parser in The Magician's Ball is also excellent.
A rather inferior magazine wrote a preview of the game,
claiming that when they tried to enter 'Take envelope'
(from one of the locations, where you can see a 'small
envelope'), he was told 'I don't understand 'Envelope'.
Must have been a bug in his spelling or his version
of the game, because mine understood it perfectly, and
also understood things like 'Look east' (useful for
looking into adjacent locations) -- though there were
some rather odd bugs in the 'Throw' routines. Typing
'Throw demon at Kipper' gets you the response 'Caro
throws the smell kipper to the diabolical demon'. A
little off, perhaps, but nothing too horrendously wrong
points about the game include excellent screen design
-- the graphics are neat, tidy, and don't dominate the
display as they do in Ulysses (see later) for
example. This is important because the smaller the graphics
the more care can be taken over them. The one's in Magician's
Ball incorporate animation and intricate design
nice points about the display include use of colour
when printing text. Your inputs are echoed in yellow
and the most recent response is also printed in yellow,
but old responses turn to green as they scroll up the
page, allowing you to concentrate on the up-to-date
info, but keeping a record of previous responses onscreen
should you need them.
there's the music. This is a Commodorised version of
Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. The conversion
has been done very well, and you get different sequences
in different locations. You can always turn the volume
down if you can't stand Mike Oldfield, but I found it
gave the game as a whole a pleasantly enhanced atmosphere.
there you go -- a new game from a new company that is
well worth adding to your collection. My only reservation
is that there aren't that many locations -- around about
fifty, I should say, at the most. But what with diabolical
demons, wandering trees, and a small female dragon there's
plenty to keep you occupied!