Computer Gamer1st January 1986
Published in Computer Gamer #10
Spellbound is an arcade adventure featuring window menus and superb animation, all for only £2.99! Tony Hetherington captures the magic of this budget gem.
Gimbal the Wizard is in trouble again. While trying out a spell to make his rice pudding taste nicer, he got his just desserts.
He was transported to the mythical castle of Kahn where he is trapped by a white-out spell. Unfortunately, he took you and seven other characters with him and it's your job as the Magic Knight to save the day. The resulting arcade adventure version of "hunt the Gimbal" is played using a unique system of window menus that goes under the name of windimation.
You begin your quest on the third of the castles seven floors in a room logically called "the start room". Like the rest of the castle, the room is illustrated beautifully this time was six shields and a moose head. A key is to your left.
Be selecting "pickup" from the main menu (that also contains drop, examine, take and give) you add the key to your inventory.
Further investigations reveal that the key is in fact a teleport key and that "Teleport" has appeared as an option on the main menu.
This feature can provide some important clues that will help you solve the game as the effect of some objects isn't immediately obvious.
For example, one object that would seem, at first sight useless, does in fact provide you with a whole list of spells.
Having explored the surrounding area, you set forth for further adventure only to die in a dark room.
In your next attempt you search for a source of light, a glowing bottle provides a temporary answer and this will guide you to the lift.
The lift is a good base to work from and is a useful place to store objects (as you can only hold five at any one time).
Call lift and Move lift will have appeared in the main menu which allows you to move to any floor. You try to move to the basement but this is impossible as the life is broken.
A quick thump with a hammer would do the trick but you're neither strong enough and you haven't got a hammer.
Once you've solved that little problem you can then tackle a wall that you can't climb over, a candle that explodes when you light it and a room full of gas that kills you as soon as you enter the room.
As with more orthodox adventures, these problems are solved by using objects that are scattered throughout the castle.
Unfortunately, these aren't particularly easy to find. Some are obvious as they are left in plain view whereas others meld into the background but the really important ones seem to be in the possession of the games other characters or just beyond your grasp.
Luckily the game is literally littered with hints and tips. These range from talkative characters to objects with messages scribbled on them. There's even a book of instructions with how to play the game written in it.
A particular good source is the banshee who provides invaluable information as long as you can decipher what he says, find the objects he refers to and find him in the first place.
For example, I managed to blow myself up while misinterpreting one of his clues.
Clues can also be found about the characters that you also have to save. Not only the objects that they carry but also the ones they can use as well as their corrent state of health and happiness. This is represented by a series of values including strength, stamina and happiness and if any of these values reaches zero then that character either dies or gives up on you and your quest is over.
Should you find the wand command, this allows you access to a menu of commands with which you can order the characters to eat, sleep, wake up and even by happy. This is often met by a sorry reply, such as, "they'll try and be happy."
The result is not only must you attempt to solve the game's logic problems, you have to keep all the characters going - and that includes yourself!
Unfortunately, you can't just order yourself to eat and be happy and so your games will end in exhaustion until you find a way to let another character help you.
Spellbound introduces a new arcade adventure system combining window menus and marvellous animation - hence the name "Windimation".
The window part of the system is a series of menus containing adventure-style commands which are selected by either moving a finger to the command you need or by pressing a single key. (For example, P for pick up or S to cast a spell.)
Selecting some commands such as Drop, Examine or Cast leads you to a sub-menu. Drop lists the objects in your inventory, cast, a list of spells, Examine gives you the option of looking at an object, one of the other characters or yourself which in turn leads to the appropriate menu.
As you move through the menus, your command is created at the bottom of the screen and once it is complete you can either execute or reject it if you've made a mistake.
The system is easy to use and undoubtedly speeds up the action. For example, the command "Give the teleport pad to Florin the dwarf" only takes four keypresses.
This doesn't help you solve the game, for as with computers themselves, it only allows you to make your mistakes more quickly.
Moving our hero around the castle is sensibly left to standard arcade adventure joystick or keyboard control. Consequently, he can quite happily bound through the castle at breakneck speed only pausing to rummage through his menus when required.
The most important thing to remember when playing Spellbound is that it is an adventure. It isn't just a question of joystick timing or collecting objects; there are problems that must be solved.
To solve a particular problem, you may need several objects and perhaps the help of at least one of the other characters. Spells often supply the answer but they are in themselves a problem that must be solved before they can be used.
Their names provide some indication to their purpose, for example protectus fumanticus may logically protect you against fumes, but which fumes and what is needed to cast it?
Naturally you should examine and read anything and everything to collect as much information as possible that may provide the answer to one of the dozen or so problems that you must juggle at once.
Unfortunately, you must also keep a watch on the welfare of the other characters, not to mention your own, as it's incredibly frustrating to have a character peg out just as you find the answer to a particularly tricky problem.
Therefore you should do your rounds, not only to keep them all healthy but you might glean some useful leads. Sending them to sleep (if they'll take any notice of you) will slow down their deterioration but a sleeping character can't help you. Finally, the character's name and description may provide some clues to their purpose. For example, Samson the Strong is fairly obvious but what about Florin the Dwarf, Orik the Cleric, Thor, Lady Rosmar and Banshee and Gimbal himself?
As mentioned earlier, the lift provides a good base to work from, particularly if you leave the teleport pad (where you go to when you use the teleport key) in there. This means that you can quickly return to base after exploring several screens worth of castle. This is particularly important as it is vital to conserve your energy whenever possible.
Spellbound is the first arcade adventure that contains enough depth to challenge even the hardened "text only" freak. The puzzles it poses are both logical yet their solutions remain painfully elusive until you've found all the pieces you need.
Windimation is easy to use and keeps the action at panic level without losing any detail. The menus are clear and any mistakes are easily rectified.
The one major omission which all adventurers will curse is the lack of a save game facility. This means that if you're just seconds away from completing the game and Thor pops his clogs, your quest is over and you have to start all over again. But what do you expect for only £2.99?
Spellbound would be a good buy at £9.99. I would even recommend it if it cost around £15 but since it is only £2.99 - need I say more? Buy a copy immediately before Mastertronic realise their mistake and put the price up.