It happened like this. Young Axil, inclined to magic more by temperament than by common sense or aptitude, found himself one night in the Golden Thurible.
This establishment, much frequented by wizards, warlocks and their hangers-on, was renowned for its potent Icemark Lager, a brew reputed to refresh the wraiths other potions could not reach.
Whatever the truth of that claim, three quarts of the fiery fluid soon loosened our Axil's tongue and he launched into a colourful account of the tale of Master Therion, a Moon Creature and a naive and gullible Elf. just as he reached the most scurrilous and interesting point a hush fell over his assembled audience. Too refreshed to notice, Axil continued - until, that is, he felt the bony finger of Master Therion himself on his shoulder.
Master Therion, a magician of some note, possessed many qualities. Regrettably a sense of humour was not one of them and, after a short and pungent series of comments on Axil's parentage, filthy habits and features he lifted his finger and threw Axil many leagues across the land of Graumerphy, deep into a complex of dungeons set in the bowels of the earth beneath Collodon's Pile.
These dungeons were, if anything, even more miserable than the castle above them but, philosophically, Axil got up and looked about. There on the table lay a Grimoire, a book of spells, tattered but still retaining a few pages... perhaps it would help him escape.
And so you put on Axil's hooded mantle. Heading east you look about warily - this awful place, like most of Graumerphy, is Heavy on the Magick. Who knows what creatures prowl here but one thing is sure - they'll all do their level best to annihilate you before you reach one of the three exits. The key is that your must grow in magic until you are the equal of any power that crosses your path - an up-hill journey with many deaths and rebirths.
Gargoyle's latest is a role-playing text and animation tour de force, set in the classic role-playing environment, a monster-infested dungeon full of treasure and its guardians, puzzles and traps. Physical prowess however plays no part in the quest and all the combat is magical - hence the title.
The bonus in Heavy on the Magick is text, keyed in in Merphish - which Gargoyle describes as a rather terse, even Spartan, tongue, familiar to most adventurers as action + object. The action commands work by single key-press and include the eight compass directions, left or right movement within rooms, examine and pick up/drop. There is also a set of commands to use what magic you have found - / to invoke a Demon, B to blast a creature and F to use a Freeze spell. There are others but you have to find them as you progress. Your chosen command appears in full on the central text window and all you need to do then is add the name of the thing you're interested in dealing with - though if you're desperate or under attack, you can blast away without wasting time on typing in the creature's name.
Speech is also possible and you can converse with quite a few of the monsters. This helps you to get crucial information about items you're carrying or doors you can't pass through - there are many passwords for these and you're only likely to find them by chatting to the dungeon denizens or even to the doors themselves, many of which have pillar-like guardians. Talking to trolls, though, is mostly a waste of time. They have very poor posture and even worse conversation - mainly, unfortunately, of the 'Troll kill Axil' variety.
Still, you do have one friend, the cheery and clumsy ogre called Apex. For some reason he adopts you at the beginning and will act as a sort of encyclopaedia, giving hints on the purpose of objects, passwords and so on. Once you've found a Call spell you'll be able to summon him al will wherever you may be stuck. The Call spell will bring other creatures if you want but I strongly advise you to be very careful - most of the 21 different types of monster are very badly socialised.
One thing to avoid at all costs is getting close to a creature. Physical contact is at least painful and, more usually, fatal as it's very hard to get away from beside or behind a monster. Even, amiable Apex can stumble into you if you're next to his entry point. With a stamina rating of 40 he can do you a lot of damage especially as he's not too bright and hardly seems to notice he's stepped on your head.
Most of the monsters you'll know from other games. There are baboon-like goblins, wyverns, wraiths, ghosts, vampires and even a medusa and a werewolf. Pretty well all of them are indifferent to your survival and the majority can be openly hostile. They move fast in attack and will do a lot of damage if your reactions are slow.
Keep an eye on the exit indicator at the lower left of the screen. This warns you when a monster is nearby and gives you time to move away from that entry point as quickly as possible at least that way you'll have time to prepare a spell or get out fast by another door.
You can invoke Demons. Four of these are mentioned in the page of Grimoire you carry and all of them have particular likes and dislikes. Your common sense should tell you to collect objects which will placate them if invoked - these may be talismans, plants or jewels. Ignore this advice at your psychic peril because all of them detest time-wasters, fools and silly sorcerers.
According to Gargoyle there are about 280 objects to use and examine, some useful, some hazardous and some downright puzzling. A basic knowledge of ceremonial magic will help with some of the stranger things - a salamander clasp, for instance, will act against heat and fire but what creature might want a block of nougat? Apex may well help but most of the time you're on your own.
Particularly intriguing are the signs a feature of other Gargoyle games - which hang on many of the walls. Many of these are strange magical glyphs and it's worth checking out the reference books mentioned in the instruction booklet, just in case they're useful to the game. Some have simple interpretations - like the toll sign Apex will reveal to you outside a set of doors. Beware! I'm quite sure one of them killed Axil when I asked him to take a look at it. Dangerous business, this Magick.
Like all good role-playing games Heavy on the Magick gives you random stamina, skill and luck ratings. Stamina can be regained by eating but combat will take a heavy toll on your strength and food is hard to come by. If you want to progress in experience points you'll have to indulge in some bolt-slinging and inevitably use up your stamina. Never mind - you can save different versions of Axil to tape so the experience need never be lost. These saves will also include major objects that Axil possesses at that point, thus avoiding having to go all round the course again in a new game.
Axil can also grow in his magical power. He begins as an absolute Neophyte of the lowest degree. Certain achievements move him up the Magicians' Guild status ladder. Having found the password to a particular door I can now boast of my skill as a Zelator though, I've still got another nine grades.
This is a dream of a game to play, not just because it's as involved as other Gargoyle games but because the graphics and text interweave so well, so smoothly and so fast.
Let's be clear about this - these aren't just static location graphics or the sketchy figures of PSS's Swords and Sorcery. Axil and the other creatures are well animated, with an attention to detail which makes you grin with pure pleasure at times. Axil's cloak moves as he walks and, if you tell him to go through a non-existent door, he'll first look for it then turn to you and shrug his shoulders in puzzlement.
Invoke a demon and you'll first see a wisp of smoke. The smoke swirls and grows, finally becoming a vast face taking up almost a third of the screen. Trolls lumber and gawp, ghosts flit about and the goblins lope like apes. Even dumb old Apex has clearly some sort of character. He grins and cocks his head lopsidedly at you, displaying his enormous lungs. And when you die, you subside, surprised but resigned, into the floor to be seen no more this incarnation.
The single key-press system is no more difficult to use than the Sinclair keyword method and provides most of the main commands you would use in a text game.
Here are two genres of graphic role- playing and text interaction are combined to produce a fluid playing style which allows you to use both your verbal and physical/reactive skills. Mastering the text input system won't take you long - just play for half an hour and you'll be ready to begin in earnest. The interpreter reacts swiftly to your commands provided they're coherent, so stay cool if you can - though that can be difficult when you're trying to both blast a wraith and escape at the same time.
Above all, make sure you draw a map. There are 255 rooms in this dungeon, as many locations as in a Level 9 text adventure. That's one mother of a prison to get around by guesswork, and you're in for a whole mess of backtracking and wandering to find out how to use the objects and information you pick up.
This kind of vast exploring game, combined with first-rate animation, has become Gargoyle's forte. There can't be many companies who have so consistent and so excellent an output. What shows through is that Gargoyle themselves relish playing the kind of games they make - you're likely to enjoy them too.
At last graphics and text have been combined in a really satisfying way which augurs well for future games in a similar style.
Further modules and new main adventures are promised, so keep your eyes open and don't hesitate about buying Heavy on the Magick. It's a demon's delight.
Publisher: Gargoyle Price: £9.95 Memory: 48K Also runs on 128K