Not a game based around the antics of the software house of the same name but about one of those dudes with the funny hats and the long droopy facial hair who generally confuse and annoy people. No, not Jeff Minter, this is Merlin the Wizard - someone of great intelligence, magical skills and power and is, above all, extremely cool.
All the forces of evil (JR included) have joined together in an attempt to defeat the greatest wizard of all time, the magnificent Merlin (this guy's ego must be well inflated with this praise he's getting). Melvin, sorry that's Merlin, must use the magic spells at his disposal to fight off all these evil creatures sent to destroy him. Unfortunately he's not got a lot of energy and so to keep him going he's got to concoct a weird brew by collecting various magical ingredients, conveniently lying around, and dropping them into his cooking pot.
This is easier said than done because the evil nasties floating around drop anti-spells on parachutes (it gets weirder!) into Merlin's brew, To make matters worse (life really is tough for a wizard these days), Merlin must avoid the dreaded blue Hellwasp that frequently appears, since one touch from it spells instant death. Oh well, at least you have three lives.
For all this complexity, Merlin is in fact a single screen shoot-'em-up of considerable difficulty.
The screen display is that of a valley, complete with some grass, a few trees, some hills in the background and a cooking pot (not forgetting a rather mortified looking cow that just stands there doing nothing).
Merlin himself zips around on a little cloud and can fire spells about the place with a press of the fire button. Dropping an ingredient into the pot boosts the pot count by one and when this count reaches the magic number and Merlin's brew is complete, it's on to the next screen and a quick rearrangement of the scenery (that's the only way the screens differ on each level).
Any anti-spells that successfully find their way into Merlin's brew (they can be shot) knock the pot count down by one and add to the frustration.
This game has certain similarities in gameplay to Fantasy's Pyramid in the way that you pick up objects and drop them whilst shooting nasties (alright, so there are quite a few games that involve this sort of thing but this one feels similar in play). It's not by any means a graphic masterpiece but what there is, is adequate.
Merlin lacks anything meaty in the way of sound with only a few blips and beeps and other such things (some music would have been nice). The game is pretty hard and getting off of the first screen is difficult. The screens don't differ greatly on higher levels with only the trees and pot shifting position and the nasties get nastier but there is some lasting challenge.
This rather old-looking game is one that quite a lot of challenge and boredom at the same time. The game itself is quite hard and fast, being a pick-it-up-and-drop-it-in-the-pot (whilst shooting the nasties type) - go on, you know the type. But the swiftness with which you can die is rather disconcerting. The baddies are very fast and your character moves about at the same speed as they do, giving problems in controlling the thing. The graphics and sound are below average and even at its price, it doesn't really compete with other games far better and cheaper. Seems like it's been seen before...?
Simple but adequate.
Not a lot but enough.
Getting past the first screen is tough enough.
Getting much further is even tougher and interest may wane with no real change in things to do.
Value For Money 69%
Simple game (certainly not to play) at a cheap price.
Nothing outstandingly original but still fun.