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SummaryBreaking down limitations
The GoodNo PC game has been more defined by hardware than this game. This game only exists because IBM's Color/Graphics Display Adapter (the CGA) was limited in the number of colors it could show on the screen. It could display a maximum of four colors in a graphics mode and the programmer couldn't select the colors. By comparison, the Commodore 64 allowed the programmer to use sixteen colors.
But some programmers sought to break this limitation, which was especially galling considering the CGA cost as much as an entire Commodore 64 computer! How they did it is documented in an excellent article on MobyGames. The amount of effort to get the graphics as good as they are must have been rather epic (suiting the subject matter of the game.)
These graphics have to be seen to be believed. They are blocky and strange, but that adds to their appeal. While the technique used was not unique to the programmers, unlike their competitors, these folks actually use the whole character set instead of just the half-left or right bar.
On the good side, you character can heal automatically and most enemies drop health-restoring mushrooms. You can save your game too. The setting, taken from Wagner's Ring, lends a sophisticated air to the game that could have resonated with the potential market (people who bought IBM PCs were not poor.)
The best thing about this game is that it was developed for a PC, which in its time period (1984), was rather unique. It was not a hand-me-down port from the Atari 800, the Commodore 64 or Apple IIe that game showed what a PC could do. It is a shame that the technique was not used in many more PC games.
The BadGameplay wise, this game seems like a watered down version of Temple of Apshai. Your character can use either a sword or a magic wand to kill his enemies. There only seems to be four enemies, Kobolds, Alligators, Rats and Bats. Hit detection is poor and enemies can quickly overwhelm you. Until you figure out how to avoid being drowned in the river, drowning seems arbitrary.
Unfortunately, while the graphics are revolutionary, the sound is truly basic. A decent rendition of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries is played at the opening, but its beeps and boops for the rest of the game.
This game was designed for the IBM PC with a CGA card or an IBM PCjr. If you don't have that hardware or something truly compatible, good luck getting this game to work.