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The Black Cauldron (DOS)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.4
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  *Katakis* (37691)
Written on  :  Jun 29, 2012
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars
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Summary

One word to describe this game: amazing

The Good

I recently watched The Black Cauldron, a Disney movie from the Eighties about a young boy who has to prevent the Horned King from seeking out the Black Cauldron, who plans to use it to rule the world. He must also rescue the pig Hen Wen before she can reveal to the Horned King the location of the Cauldron. The characters are heartwarming and the scenery is breathtaking. Unlike other Disney movies, there are no parts where the characters burst out into song. I was eager to see what happened next. I haven't read the books yet which the movie is based on.

In 1986, Sierra created an adventure game based on the movie which follows the same plot. However, anyone who plays the game may go down a different path. The game is produced by a team of people, and nearly half of them - Roberta Williams, Al Lowe, Mark Crowe, and others - went on to create future adventure games that made them famous.

The atmosphere of the game is mixed, with the majority of the game taking place in beautiful environments similar to the ones in King's Quest. A small portion of the game is set in dark and gloomy places, like the castle and swamp that you have to navigate, and I like venturing through dark areas. The musIc in the game is very similar to that used in the movie, and it is quite nice to listen to. It is the sunset at the end of the game that I found breathtaking. Who knew that sunsets look good in sixteen colors?

Although Black Cauldron can be enjoyed by adults, the game was aimed squarely at children. Sierra thought that it would be a hassle for them typing in commands at a parser, so they designed a much simpler interface specifically for this game. All the actions needed to complete tasks can be carried out by pressing the function keys, and all they need to do is memorize what each key does. If they forget, they can go up to the menu bar and read the Actions menu for some help. What I like about this is not only do you have less chance the game produces a "no comprende"-type error message, but actions are performed quickly. Most of the time, I questioned why Sierra didn't use the same interface for some of their future games.

As I mentioned earlier, the game takes the same path as the movie. However, it offers many alternate solutions to puzzles, such as how to get from one place to another, and how to work your way out of a dangerous situation. You can follow the movie, for instance, and allow Hen Wen to be captured by the King's gwythiants, or you could head into someone's house, where the owners agree to protect her. Also, at the start of the game, you can give Gurgi something else other than an apple. It is these alternate solutions like these that make the game replayable.

The keyboard can be used to navigate Taran around. The joystick can also be used to control him, but I found the keyboard effective to position him exactly where you want him to be. There are many ways you can die in the game, with most deaths occurring when the player attempts to solve those puzzles where you have to get yourself from one area to another without falling down a mountain or cliff.

The Bad

I didn't like the way that you become hungry and thirsty as you proceed through the game, and they need top replenish their stocks regularly. Also, unless the player manages to find a food wallet that contains an infinite supply of food, they will die of starvation long before they are able to complete the game; and I doubt that many players will know about this.

The Bottom Line

Children who have seen the movie prior to playing Black Cauldron will know what to do, unless they do not remember almost everything that Taran does. They can try anything in the game to see if it works, without any limitations. The game does away with the usual parser interface, in favor of a few pre-set commands that can quickly be executed with the function keys. The Black Cauldron boasts great environments (both light and dark), nice music that blends in well with the movie, and a variety of alternate paths that make the game replayable. If you have seen the movie already, you will certainly enjoy this game.