Description official descriptions
Magic Carpet is a first-person perspective game, in which you are a mage who flies on a, well, magic carpet and casts spells. The game has 50 levels, called "worlds"; each of those is set in a sea terrain with several mountainous islands. Your goal on each level is to amass enough mana within your castle to "restore the equilibrium" within the world. Once this happens, you can head to the next level.
To collect mana, you have to find it (it is represented by golden spheres) and cast a specific spell to make it "yours". To collect this mana, you have to use a special spell to raise a castle of your own out of the ground. A balloon will appear over the newly created castle; it will proceed to fly around the level and collect "your" mana. Initially, your castle will be small and won't be able to hold much mana, so you'll have to keep casting the "castle" spell at it to make it bigger.
The levels typically have monsters and rival mages in them. Not only they can hurt you with their attacks, but killing them is often necessary, as upon death they will release some of the mana you need to complete the level. To attack your enemies, you have a variety of spells at your disposal: fireballs, lightning bolts and meteors.
There are also many other spells available to you - they allow you to heal yourself, surround yourself with a protective shield, teleport around, summon a skeleton army, or even modify the terrain by creating volcanoes and splitting landmasses. Not all spells are available to you from the beginning, though.
Throughout all the levels, you are on your flying carpet, which can move in 3 dimensions. You can bring up a top-down map at any time.
Credits (DOS version)
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Average score: 90% (based on 21 ratings)
Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 53 ratings with 3 reviews)
When 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.
I 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 Line
An 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.
DOS · by Smackmud (4) · 2005
This game is AWESOME, one of only two games of this style I like (the other being Magic Carpet 2 :-))
It's simply awesome! The 3D engine is, as you'd expect from Bullfrog, groundbreakingly fast and pretty, the gameplay is unbelievably addictive and the sound effects/music are also quite good.
It's repetitive, but worth it.
The Bottom Line
A really awesome game you just can't miss.
DOS · by Tomer Gabel (4539) · 1999
This game is years ahead of its time. While other FPS games operated under highly restricted engines and tiny game worlds Magic Carpet gave gamers huge environments, superb graphics, and advanced gameplay. But far more than that, it transcended the boundaries of the genre and become something entirely new. I've never played a game quite like this.
Like most great shooters of the time, Magic Carpet contains little plot. You are an apprentice wizard who can control a mystical energy known as mana. Wizards are fighting over this mana so fiercely that the fabric of reality is being warped, giving birth to hideous monsters. Using a flying carpet you must fly to each of the affected realms and put things back into balance.
In Magic Carpet the player is no less than a demigod. You can summon lightning storms and earthquakes, create huge volcanoes that spew fire and destruction, raise armies of undead skeletons to fight on your behalf. You are also effectively immortal; if you die you respawn back at your castle with nothing lost but a tiny amount of mana. There are also local populations of villagers that you can either protect or annihilate, depending on your disposition. To be able to defend yourself, you have to collect spells. Spells are hidden in most of the levels, and in total there are 24 different spells to find. You have unlimited ammunition, once you've got a set amount of mana stored up you can use them many times as you want.
The Magic Carpet's biggest claim to fame is its show-stopping graphical engine, which is light years ahead of Doom and practically everything else. Magic Carpet supports slopes, reflective surfaces, ocean waves (check out this video), the ability to travel along a y axis, the ability to tilt your perspective (you can do a barrel roll to avoid enemy spells) segmented sprites, fog and transparency, and highly deformable environments. When you build a castle it doesn't pop out of nowhere, you can actually see the ground rise up and morph into the shape of battlements, walls and towers. This alone is incredibly cool, to say nothing of the high-end spells like Volcano and Meteor that can drastically remodel the landscape and cause massive damage. And all of this is in real-time 3D. Games these days are still struggling to incorporate deformable environments, but Magic Carpet managed it back in 1994. Of course there are numerous technological restrictions (it's impossible to look straight up or down, for example, or to create a cave) but Magic Carpet is nothing but an improvement upon every other commercial game before it.
Although it's nominally an FPS (albeit one that Flight Simulator players would enjoy) Magic Carpet has significantly different gameplay to, say, Doom or Wolfenstein 3D. In those games, you progress through levels in a linear fashion. You pick up keys, kill enemies, navigate puzzles. Beating the game is not so much a test of your skills and reflexes as your ability to memorise enemy and weapon placement.
In comparison, Magic Carpet is free-flowing and almost completely non-linear. In each level you have a set goal (to collect a certain amount of mana, the gold-colored resource of the real that powers all your spells) but how you acquire this mana is completely up to the player. Monsters spawn randomly and can be killed for mana. There are neutral villages that can be possessed to control the mana the villagers have gathered. You can fight rival wizards if you want and ransack their castles. The call is left up to the player.
Like most early Bullfrog games, Magic Carpet is part simulation in addition to whatever else it is. It's possible to sit around and watch the neutral villagers construct houses, trade between villages, train bowmen, etc. Undead skeleton archers will kill these humans and add them to their ranks. Monsters roam around randomly, wreaking havoc upon everything in their path. Certain enemies (such as the crab) can devour mana and give birth to new enemies. Human bowmen will fight back against them, as well as enemy wizards if they happen to be on your side. It's quite fascinating to watch, almost like the ecosystem of an ant farm. And speaking of your rival wizards, they have some outstanding AI and are perhaps the precursors of multiplayer bots. They build castles, kill monsters and collect mana, and try at every turn to foil the competition (ie: you). Certain wizards have preferences for certain spells, as well as varying aggression levels. Next to its peers Magic Carpet is very sophisticated, both in programming and design.
Not to mention great ambiance, with a haunting Arabic soundtrack and even a few FMV cutscenes.
Magic Carpet was destined to join the ranks of games that were impressive but failed to click with the general public. What could have gone wrong?
For one thing, the game's system requirements were significant (486 minimum, Pentium recommended) and CDs weren't as widespread as floppies. It also unnecessarily attaches itself to peripherals like joysticks and gamepads (imagine trying to play Flight Simulator with just a keyboard and mouse). Lastly the game shipped with numerous bugs such as a final level that is impossible to access and seriously broken multiplayer.
Those things certainly hit Magic Carpet's sales, but unfortunately they aren't the game's only problems. Magic Carpet defines hardcore. It's so progressive and unusual it's difficult to see a casual gamer taking this over the more user-accessible games of the time. Magic Carpet is a tough, tough game that is, at times, far more frustrating than it has to be.
There's no quick-save option (although you can save in between levels), forcing the player to complete each level in one go -- some of them can take hours to finish. You also can't retain any spells you collected in the previous levels, leading to aggravating scenarios where you die dozens of times just trying to pick up basic spells and build a castle. Sometimes important spells are left out of levels entirely, such as one memorable case where there is no castle spell and every time you die you must restart the level. This is just designer-devised frustration and it's remarkable the game even got past the beta stage with these issues.
Magic Carpet also suffers from bloat. There are fifty levels in the game. Yeah, fifty. Or maybe 49 since a bug locks you out of the final one. And while the game throws some variety into the level design occasionally, most of them follow the same pattern: find the castle spell, build a castle, collect mana until you win the level. This chronic repetition is made worse by the fact that Magic Carpet doesn't support custom textures like Doom and you'll be looking at the same bland rock, dirt, sand and water textures from the beginning of the game until the end.
And as a minor complaint the interface is horribly vague. Apparently Bullfrog wanted to make the lives of their international translators easier and therefore did not include any text in the game. You have to navigate the game's menus using confusing icons and buttons. You'd be amazed how long it took me to figure out which icon loads a game and which icon saves.
And for all its technical dexterity, Magic Carpet is rather sterile. It lacks the camp and humor of Wolfenstein 3D and Rise of the Triad and the whole Aladdin theme gets old pretty fast as well. Some voice acting couldn't have hurt.
The Bottom Line
A very advanced game for its time, and if you're a serious collector you should either have this game or be looking for it. Not only does it mark an important milestone in the history of PC graphics, it was one of the last games Peter Molyneux took an active role in designing before leaving Bullfrog and starting Lionhead. Ironically, it was Magic Carpet's equally unsuccessful sequel that caused the split. Magic Carpet is to FPS games what Tool is to rock, and it's a deeply trouble masterpiece.
DOS · by Maw (833) · 2007
|Missing levels on all platforms||Arend v. Reinersdorff (1)||Aug 28th, 2014|
One of the reasons Magic Carpet didn't sell well was that many gamers thought it was just a ripoff of DOOM, even though they are completely different. Bullfrog unintentionally fostered this idea with a series of ads they ran for Magic Carpet, which contained hooks such as "BFG = BFD". The BFG is DOOM's strongest weapon, and BFD is an acronym for "big f***ing deal".
The original release of Magic Carpet contained a bug which meant you could not complete level 50. This was later fixed with a patch and was rectified in all re-releases.
Magic Carpet had what was perhaps the best graphics engine of that time. The engine features, among other things: * Dynamically lighted, gouraud shaded, changable ("morphable") landscape. * Scene reflections in the water * Distance fog * Transparency effects, such as the transparent "HUD".
Magic Carpet does not contain all of the 50 levels described in the manual. The missing levels are: 9, 18, 29, 34 and 40.
References to the Game
The game made several appearances in the Australian soap Neighbours, as the Kennedy family owned it and were frequently seen playing.
- Magic Carpet was one of the first games to support 3D viewers/glasses in many different configurations. You can use virtual reality headsets, red/blue glasses... the program will even generate a realtime random dot stereogram!
- The first game to be enhanced for the then-new Pentium processor (as advertised proudly on the front of the box). Bullfrog recommended a P75 as the minimum system requirement, although the game ran on 486 processors and was playable enough on a 486DX/100.
3rd-person view of the main character
Early version of the game actually shows the main character on a carpet in 3rd-person view as opposite to 1st-person view in the final game.
- Computer Gaming World
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #137 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
- One of "The top ten games you never played": The reason for the commercial flop of Magic Carpet seems to lie in categorization of games at that time. Most gaming-magazines labeled it at as a plain "shooter" despite the game's interesting and unique gameplay as a mix between action and strategy.
- GameStar (Germany)
- Issue 12/1999 - #53 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
- PC Player (Germany)
- Issue 01/1995 - Best Game in 1994
- Power Play
- Issue 02/1995 – Best Game in 1994
- Issue 02/1995 – Best Multiplayer Game in 1994
- Issue 02/1995 – Best Action Game in 1994
- MobyGames ID: 361
- Wikipedia (en)
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Brian Hirt.
Game added November 1st, 1999. Last modified November 11th, 2023.