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Review by
Steve Cooke
(The White Wizard)

 

 
Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
The Magician's Ball
1985 Global Software
By Grant Harrison & Kevin Grieve
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the eighth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (December 1985).
 


Hold it right there, fellow Wizards! This month's column heralds the beginning of a whole new age of adventuring. The White Wizard's wand is positively gleaming with excitement as he detects the long-awaited signs of an adventure software REVOLUTION! Can it be true? Has the Bearded One knocked back one glass of Vole's Blood too many? Read on, and see what the Might Mage is getting so worked up about . . .
.

[The White Wizard's article continues below, after the review.]
 

THE MAGICIAN'S BALL
Global Software, 7.95 cass
 

his is a new game from a new company -- Global Software, who have a firm commitment to the adventure market. You can check out the details of their next release in the news section, but first you should definitely find the time and the cash to get acquainted with the Magician's Ball.


The 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.

First, 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.

The 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.

However, 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.

The 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 there.

Other 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 very effectively.

Other 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.

Finally, 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.

So 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!

 
Atmosphere 72%
Interaction 70%
Lasting Interest 76%

Value for Money

79%

Overall

75%
 


If you want a walkthrough, visit
Jacob Gunness
' Classic Adventures Solution Archive or
Martin Brunner's C64 Adventure Game Solutions Site

Can anyone rip the SID tune out of this one?

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (28 Sep 2003)

 

[Continuation of the White Wizard's article.]


I'll break my staff if there isn't something very odd happening in Adventure-world right now. A few month's ago the While Wizard decided he was fed up with British software houses churning out the same old rubbish time after time. With one or two notable exceptions (Level 9's Red Moon, for example) there have been very few good adventure releases recently. Can it REALLY he over two years since Melbourne House introduced interactive characters in the Hobbit? How many adventures have you seen recently that really exploit the potential of having individual non-player controlled entities like Gandalf and Thorin?

Just to give you an example of what ol' Whitey is on about -- take a look at Robin of Sherwood from Adventure International. This is a very popular game and stands out in terms of sales over most recent adventures, but let's face it, what has it got to offer apart from pretty pictures? There aren't that many locations -- certainly nothing like the 200-plus you yet in a Level 9 game, and although it accepts complex inputs, you can't do anything clever like talk to other characters and get meaningful responses, or enter complex multiple commands, like 'Take everything except the Troll's handbag and go west'.

You may wonder what I'm going on about, but the point is that from the programming point of view, adventure software has hardly developed at all in the last two years. The only real change has been the addition of graphics and this is simply a marketing exercise to cover up the deficiencies of the programs -- limited input routines and no application whatsoever of so-called 'artificial intelligence' theory to the programming of the characters in the games.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Infocom continue to chum out excellently designed games with complex character interaction and huge sales. Over here, half the adventure companies have gone bust -- where's Dream Software, or Phipps Associates -- and when did you last see a program from Richard Shepherd of Urban Upstart fame? Virgin, Alligata, Duckworth . . . companies like these are still around, but they're all swearing that they won't touch adventures with a barge-pole from now on. Frankly, the White Wizard reckons that if they can't be bothered to put their back into their programs then that decision is best for all concerned. Now, however, it looks as if things are really beginning to change. Some British software companies have suddenly woken up to the fact that people will buy adventures if they're carefully programmed, include graphics but aren't dominated by them, and have imaginative themes . . . And the staggering thing is that this month alone has seen the release of FOUR such games -- each excellent in its own way. And what's more, one of these is from a new adventure house, while other companies -- Level 9 in particular -- have suddenly released details of adventure creation systems that will enable them to clobber Infocom at their own game!

We'll be covering these systems and the people who created them over the next few issues, as well as sampling some of the new breed of British 'super-adventures' as they appear. Meanwhile, get stuck into this month's offerings!
.

 

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