Computer Gamer

The Price Of Magik

Author: Gordon Hamlett
Publisher: Level 9 Computing
Machine: Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Computer Gamer #16

A new Level 9 adventure is always good news. It's even better when it's the sequel to the excellent Red Moon. Gordon Hamlett investigates.

The Price Of Magik

A new release from Level 9 is guaranteed to get adventurers everywhere licking their lips in anticipation, especially when the game is the follow-up to the highly successful and award-winning Red Moon. The Price Of Magik is a huge game as Level 9 have improved their compression techniques even further, and features over 200 locations, all illustrated (except for the BBC Micro version) with a vocabulary of over 1,000 words - an amazing achievement for a cassette-based game.

Magic used to pervade the land whilst the moon was red. Gradually though, the sun bleached its power away. The surviving magicians created a new crystal and appointed mighty sorcerors to guard and enhance its abilities and so spread magic through the land once again. The problems started when Myglar developed a morbid fear of dying. Unfortunately, he was guardian of the red moon crystal of Baskalos at the time and started to use the crystal's power to his own end rather than the good of the land. As the power of the red moon diminishes, so does the amount of magic in the world. To that end, you have been summoned to overthrow Myglar and take his place as guardian.

The game starts with you outside the large house of the red moon knowing absolutely nothing about magik. In order to succeed, you will need to learn some eighteen different spells and be able to implement them. In order to be able to cast a spell, you must first learn its name and then find the appropriate focus. This is an object without which the spell will not work. There is, however, usually a connection of sorts between the spell and its focus e.g. in order to use the "Fly" spell, you must first find the broom. Casting spells is very straightforward. You can simply cast a general purpose spell, cast it as a specific object including yourself or cast it in a specific direction. There is of course a penalty to be paid for the indiscriminate use magik. Every spell you cast ages you by a year. Reach 100 and you are deemed to have died of old age although there is a way of reversing the flow of time. Scoring in the game is not the usual "find a treasure and drop it at the appropriate location" variety, but rather it is based on performance. Thus, you get mars for becoming a better magician, learning spells and finding their foci. This is indicated by a sanity rating. The greater your magical ability, the lower your sanity and the more spells you are able to cast.

The Price Of Magik

Exploring your surroundings is very straightforward and I was able to visit over 120 locations without too much in the way of mishaps. Mapping is easy to do as each location gives details of discovered exits and where they lead to.

Thus, you may be told that you can go west to a staircase, north to a misty corridor and south east to an oak corridor. These details constitute the bulk of the text, and as the map is a logical one. I would have preferred to see simple exit descriptions (you can go west, north and south east in the quoted example) and devote more space to describing the current location. As it is, you have to gain most of your descriptions by examining objects. The pictures are fairly simple but bright and colourful.

Thanks to the multi-tasking system developed by Level 9, you can type ahead and don't have to wait for a picture to finish drawing before you can move on - a great help if you are backtrackin through a previously explored section.

The Price Of Magik

If exploring the game is reasonably easy, solving it most definitely is not. There are over 150 objects and creatures scattered about waiting to be manipulated. Some of the creatures only have your worst interests at heart and you will have to fight them if you want to discover that they are guarding. Others are there to help you although you may find that you will need a bit of magical assistance before they obey your every whim. Combat is determined on a system of hit points. There are assorted weapons that you can use as you hack and slash your way through the game. When a creature's (or yours for that matter) hit points reaches zero, it dies and its body disappears although you may find that its ghost comes back to haunt you on future occasions. You start off with 100 hit points but can heal your wounds with the opposite spell.

As mentioned earlier, the game supports a vocabulary of over 1,000 words and the parser will understand some quite complex sentences. One of the nice things is that the word "it" is understood so that you can type "examine the mandrake and put it in the bag". Take and drop all are also supported. One command that I haven't come across before is the "oops" command. Let's face it. We've all typed in commands that we have instantly regretted simply because it is too much hassle to save your current position first. This is usually followed by fifty tons of rubble falling on your head or something similar.

With the oops command, you can take back your unfortunate entry and return to the position immediately before you tried it. Your position is constantly being updated in one or more buffers. How frequently you can use it depends on your machine. It ranges from not at all on the BBC to about sixty times on the Spectrum 128. The only problem is that there is no mention of it in the instructions!

Likewise for Ramsave, which stores a position in memory for as long as the computer is turned on. One other feature that Level 9 have introduced, and one that I am sure no-one is going to enjoy very much is the inclusion of the dreaded Lenslok protection system. The blurb says that you will need to use it *several* times during the adventure, but the only time it came up when I was playing was when I tried to restore a position. And, of course, it didn't work as I couldn't adjust the letter 'H' to the right size... very frustrating!

Apart from my grumble about Lenslok, I found this to be a very challenging and interesting adventure. And what is the Price Of Magik? Just £9.95 from your usual stockist!

Gordon Hamlett

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