Amstrad Computer User1st May 1986
Published in Amstrad Computer User #18
I'll bet you, like me, often lie awake at night wondering just what "Obsidian" means. The truth can now be told - it's a noun meaning glassy volcanic rock. Who said this magazine was full of mindless games reviews?
It's also the name of the latest release from Artic. The connection between the two is that the game is set inside a space station which is itself set inside a large asteroid which is no doubt made of glassy volcanic rock - simple when you know. Unfortunately, the plot on the cassette inlay isn't quite so simple. There's something about you having to reactivate and reprogram the space station and get off before you're crushed by the gravity force of a nearby black hole. Don't spend too long trying to figure the plot out, once you're playing all this rather pales into insignificance.
In a Sorcery-esque fashion your task is to use the right objects to get past the various things that block your way. Once the doorways and force fields are opened up you can get on with starting the engines and returning several coloured crystals to their right, positions. I won't tell you how or where - the whole object of the game is for you to find out.
I don't think it would be giving away too much to say that the first problem you are faced with is a laser that you cannot pass beyond. In order to switch it off you require the laser pass. Unfortunately there is a barrier between you and the pass. To disable this you first need the energy key.
This is just the first of many problems to be solved in the game. Most require trying the various objects until you find one which does the trick. These are each kept in little boxes suspended from the ceiling. To pick one up you hover below the box with your head touching it and press the fire button.
You can only carry one object at a time, so if you are already carrying one, it will be exchanged for the one being picked up. Movement about the screen can either be made on foot or more quickly using your jetpack. However energy is used up by doing this and when it runs out the inevitable happens. You do have quite a generous five lives to start with, but you definitely need all of them and it will be many moons before you can return all the crystals, start the engines and leave the ship. In a similar way to the cauldrons in Sorcery there are pads dotted about the place that replenish your energy when you stand on them. The game is full of nice touches, like the teleport that will take you to a small complex of rooms in which one of the important. crystals is kept. There is also a room in which a crystal is held and can only be taken by replacing it with the correct object.
This variety in the puzzles to be solved - even though they really all involve only the movement of objects from one place to another - makes this an infinitely playable game. - All the screens are in Mode 1 and although this limits the colours available, good use has been made of stippling and shading to make them very detailed and attractive. Considering the number of screens, the programmers have done well to be able to get so much detail into each one.
The number of moving hazards is just right to give the game a good level of competitiveness. though there is a passage with a deadly floor that has to be repeatedly passed over. This makes the game just a little tricky unless you have infinite lives (keep your eyes on the Hairy Hacker's hidey hole). One thing to watch out for is a brick that looks like it is inscribed with a flashing wine glass in the ceiling of one of the passages. (Hint: I guess it is a "vapouriser"). Unless this is given the correct object to disable it, it will take anything you are carrying - you might lose an object that is vital for the completion of the game.
Talking of which, Obsidian has one of the most satisfying endings I've come across. The screen you are presented with is perhaps the best in the game but that's all I'll say. If you want to see it you'll just have to go out and buy the game. In fact I would highly recommend you to do this anyway.
Obsidian has the makings of a classic (like Sorcery or Knight Lore). The graphics are great, the puzzles are intriguing and the ending is definitely worth playing for - I can't see how anyone has any excuse not to buy this one. It works with either joystick or keyboard (which is user definable) and perhaps most importantly, it works on all machines, the 464, 664 and 6128.