The Micro User1st February 1988
Published in The Micro User 5.12
Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble
In true adventuring tradition, Spellbinder asks you to take the role of a powerful and wise Magelord entrusted with the awesome task of banishing the evil Zorn.
In order to do this you must search the forbidding Castle of Lorraine, find Zorn and then by mixing the ultimate spell, despatch him to the wilderness forever.
Released in the aftermath of a glut of arcade/adventure hybrids, Spellbinder has got to offer more than the usual range of features, particularly with its relatively high price tag. This it does, mainly through its icon system, its size, graphical detail and its spell-collecting and casting procedures.
Playing Spellbinder is not difficult. Your character moves freely around each room though you do have to be accurate when guiding him through the many doors.
Control is aided by a well thought-out icon system complementing the four definable keys. These icons, selected via the function keys, enable you to mix and cast spells, examine and use items to be found in the adventure, and keep tabs on what items you possess.
Spellbinder's graphics are not outstanding. However, the program designers have put some thought into littering the stone-walled castle with the sort of medieval accouterments you would expect to see in such a place.
Heraldic shields and gargoyles adorn the walls and you find suits of armour, wooden barrels and sturdy chests dotted around the place, all adding atmosphere to the proceedings.
What is more impressive than the detailed graphics, is the sheer number of rooms comprising the two floors, catacomb and the dungeon of the castle.
One-way doors, secret passages and teleports all confuse the issue of exploration, but I found the colour coding of the various parts of the castle (the game is in two-colour, high resolution Mode 4) most helpful in the creation of a game map.
What makes this more than a mapping and avoiding the monsters affair, are the weird and wonderful spells you are called upon to cast. First, however, you must find the ingredients for each spell - items like burnt oak leaves, toad legs and sulphur are all essential components of the common spells.
The instruction leaflet details some of the spells, but it is up to you to obtain the knowledge to create the rest. Speaking to the stone dwarves, browsing through the bookshelves and similar ruses will all help glean the necessary information.
The game sticks to some quite strict adventuring rules - it is more a problem-solving graphical nuzzle than a keybashing exercise in dexterity. The spell element, which it is absolutely vital to master if you have any aspirations of solving Spellbinder is far from easy. It is this aspect, coupled with the thought put into much of the game design which marks it out as better than most of the other, similar offerings.