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SummaryA well-crafted adventure with an innovative interface.
The GoodThe Black Cauldron is a cleverly designed, well crafted adventure game in the Sierra tradition. The Black Cauldron is a "light" game aimed originally at kids, the usual parser has been replaced by an - easy to use - interface that enables the gamer to initiate an action immediately by pressing one of the function keys. So you don't spend a lot of time by searching for the right words.
Game design is very clever; there are different routes through the game, you can enter places in different ways and you're always able to get your self out off - what may look like - a dead end. My favourite section of the game was the Horned King's castle. To get in, you could swim past the crocodiles in the castle moat or sneak in via the henchman's carriage. You could roam the castle in non-linear fashion and there were different ways to get out as well. I enjoyed experimenting with the different items & locations. It's fun to play some parts of the game again just to try a different solution. The Black Cauldron uses the AGI graphics system that we know from King's Quest III and Larry 1 (among others) to create several interesting locations.
The BadWell, I could say that the game is a bit short & easy, but hey this game was aimed at kids and what is wrong with a game you can finish without a FAQ. I could mention that there are some - annoying - action sequences in the game, but you can avoid most of these sequences by taking a different path. I could say that the sound is bad, but what would one expect from a game that's made in 1986.
So is there nothing wrong with The Black Cauldron? Well, since it is a short game and there's not much dialogue, the characters that you meet in the game are not fleshed out very well. Fflewdurr Fflam, Dallben, Gurgi, they all make an appearance but people who haven't read the books or have not seen the movie will know very little about them once they've completed the game.
Finally, I can't understand why you can not see an object (read a description) or preselect an object (by pressing F3 you preselect an item, later you can perform a context-sensitive action with that object by pressing F4) from within the inventory screen.