SummaryMove over Aladdin...there's a new carpet in town!
The GoodWhen talking about the glory days of classic gaming with my buddies the usual topics come up...Doom, Mechwarrior, Diablo, Civ II, Mario, etc. Then I'll inevitably pipe up..."What about Magic Carpet?"
"Magic Carpet?" they reply. "Never heard of it".
This is an unfortunate reaction, because this game remains to this day some 10-11 years after its release one of my all time favorite games. To tell you the truth, the only reason I had heard of it was because it was bundled with my brand spanking new Compaq Pentium 75. The game just sat in the software bundle, its red/brown cd shining up at me while my 75 tonne mech obliterated it's opposition until one day I decided to load it up and give it a try.
My god what a game.
At first glance Magic Carpet appears to be a Doom clone. Then the ambiance starts to sink in, the haunting Arab music, the sounds of people talking and mingling about in the city. As the name implies, you fly around on a magic carpet, which you control using the now common mouse/keyboard combo. Flying around is a breeze, and Bulldog did a great job of capturing the feeling. The purpose of each level is to kill all the creatures and collect their "manna" until you have enough and equilibrium is restored to that particular world. Manna is stored in your castle, which sends out hot air balloons(!) to collect it. You collect manna by equipping the manna collecting spell to one of your mouse buttons. Once your castle is full, you can upgrade it and make it bigger, until its a massive fortress complete with archers.
Sounds simple, right? Kill critters, gather items...haven't I played this in dozens of other Doom clones?
The answer is "Not like this. Not by a long shot".
Controlling the carpet is a completely ethereal experience. Think Doom meets Descent and you'll get the idea. The magic spells you cast (essentially your weapons) are varied and very fun to use, from the simple fireball to the frenzied lightning strikes to the army of undead skeleton archers to the awesome earthquake, meteor, creator and volcano spells. Which brings me to one of the coolest things about the game that to this day you don't find anywhere else...fully deformable terrain. That's right, you heard me. Think the terrain creation tools found in Sim City 3000, only real-time, and vastly more cooler. You can literally obliterate the entire world right down to the water-table if you wanted to. When you fire an earthquake spell, the earth cleaves underneath your carpet (good way to make moats around your castle). When you cast a volcano, the ground morphs and the volcano pops up like a flaming zit. Want to make a whole mountain range of them? Go ahead. Or fire several volcano spells on top of each other to create a stratospheric uber-volcano. The shear brilliance of it still astounds me to this day. The creatures you fight are just as varied as the spells you cast, with giant worms to swarms of giant bees to dragons to the almighty Wryvens. You're not alone in your manna quest either, as later on in the game you are joined by several other carpeteers, all building their own castles and vying for the ever important shiny spheres. Network play is supported, and while I've never played it, I imagine it would be an absolute blast. The game also supports 3D glasses, both the kind you plug into your computer and interestingly enough the red/blue kind. I only tried the latter mode once (due to the fact that those kind of 3D glasses are hard to come by) and while it gave me a headache, it was fun to actually see the world in full 3D.
The BadI don't really have to much to complain about with this game, just some minor criticisms. The worlds can take a LONG time to finish, and there is no way to save in the middle of a level. The graphics are on par with Doom, and while they arn't bad, the monsters do get quite pixalated up close, even when running the hi-res mode. And the last level simply doesn't work at all...I don't know if that was ever addressed in a patch (although I don't know how that would work since the game runs straight off the CD without any installation). It's a minor issue, but annoying to have beaten 49(!) levels only to be kept from the end scene by a faulty finale.
The Bottom LineAn absolutely outstanding game, and very fun to play even today. Unfortunately it only runs under pure DOS mode, and it requires some sort of slow down utility to run on fast machines. That's the biggest reason I keep that old Pentium 75 around still! If you have means of running it, you will be treated to a hell of an experience.