Amstrad Computer User1st March 1986
Published in Amstrad Computer User #16
Hot on the heels of Finders Keepers comes Spellbound from the same author. But it isn't just a tired re-work of the same piece of code with new scenery. Graphically it looks familiar but the game itself is infinitely better.
Many people have tried to produce that infamous thing "an arcade adventure". Usually they have ended up as a fast and furious shoot out with the added ability to pick things up. In Finders Keepers it was possible to trade objects that you found but not a lot more. In Spellbound however there is a much wider range of options. It might have been difficult presenting the user with a whole host of different things to do so a very clever nested window technique has been used.
Anyone who has played with Locoscript on the Joyce will know how one key press will bring up a short list of options then picking one of these will take you on ,,o another short list of options and so on. The same sort of thing happens in Spellbound. Pushing the fire button brings up a window that presents a number of options (Pick up, Drop, Give, Take, Cast Spell, Read, Examine, etc). If 'Take an object' were chosen then a secondary window would overlap the first giving a list of characters from which you might want to take an object.
Once the pointer had been moved down to the relevant character another push of the fire button might bring up a tertiary window which again overlapped the previous two listing all the objects carried by that person. Once the correct one had been picked (fire button again) a fourth window would appear asking for confirmation. When the fire button is pressed for the fifth (yes fifth) time the action will he carried out and all the windows will disappear to leave the scenery just as it was before you started.
Five pushes of the fire button plus the up and down movement to position the pointer might sound like a lot of work just to take an object but it soon becomes second nature, besides which, it is only by this method that the complexity necessary for this to rival a real adventure could be included.
One window giving just eight options wouldn't. give much scope for the great range of possible actions in the game. Just as in a real adventure, you wander about picking things up and examining them (if they have a read status of "Yes" then the next thing you do should be to read the object). One of the first things you find is a "white" herring. It's a good idea to read this because it gives you a clue about what to do next. By shuffling various objects about the place on the first level and interacting with the characters you fi nd there you will eventually manage to open a door at the end that allows you into a lift. Inside this you can travel to a number of other levels each of which have their own objects to be found and puzzles to be fathomed out.
There isn't much point in detailing the nature of any of the problems here because that would render the whole thing quite useless. Needless to say though, it's bound to take many hours of enjoyable play before you complete the quest. Just to make it that little bit more difficult there is a limit to your energy so that you must find some way of rejuvenating your strength.
There are also some rooms that mean death unless you enter carrying the correct object (e.g. a glowing bottle will be needed fairly early on in the game).
Your character can just walk left and right but if you really want to get somewhere in a hurry he is also capable of some quite energetic leaps. This will be needed to get over things that might otherwise bar the way. Like a lot of the better adventures, not all the objects weigh the same amount so it is sometimes necessary to drop one or two things before a heavier object may be picked up. Details such as weight, whether it can be read and whether it will be destroyed if it is dropped can all be found by examining an object. The other characters that you meet can also be examined to see their current status of magic, strength and the like,
As someone who finds adventures a little tedious (except for the excellent Hitchhikers Guide of course) and would much prefer to be blasting away on a joystick it is refreshing to find a game that strikes an interesting balance between the two types of game. The overlapping window technique certainly seems to be flavour of the month in a number of camps and not. without justification. It is a clear way of making it very easy to pick one of a large number of options. Spellbound is one of the new Mastertronic "Mad Games", so it is still pretty cheap even if it does not fall into the usual budget pigeonhole.