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atari mania
Caverns of Zoarre DOS Title screen

MISSING COVER

Released
Platform
Written by  :  Brian Pendell (18)
Written on  :  Feb 09, 2006
Rating  :  2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars

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Summary

D&D/roguelike. 80's text-based. Lethal

The Good

1. An intriguing dungeon that takes a long time to explore. It captures the D&D mystique well. It was also a hard game that remained challenging at every skill level giving it high replayability for it's time.

2. Interesting and varied monsters and traps. In this the lack of graphics can actually be an asset, as the imagination is free to draw it's own picture, rather than the blocky pixels that were all that was available to freeware in the late 80s.

3. Freeware. Many sins can be forgiven in a game that cost nothing save the time it takes to download. Especially when the game size is so minuscule.

4. Unlike real-time games of the 80s which became unplayable due to advances in CPU speed, this turn-based game retains it's original speed and thus has "aged" better than, say, Flightmare.

The Bad

1. Regrettably, the game has not been maintained and consequently has few features compared to other roguelikes. Better choices would be nethack or angband, both of which are freeware, both of which have more advanced magic systems, both of which have much larger bestiaries, and both of which are, in all, far more complex and fleshed out.

2. The interface shows a very limited portion of the entire dungeon. I found the interface clunky and mapping nearly impossible. Consequently I had to rely almost entirely on memory while playing. While the user interface was perfectly acceptable in 1988, it cannot compare with the interface of, say, Rogue today.

3. The game has high lethality when compared to other roguelikes. If memory serves, some monsters (such as the gelatinous cube) had special attacks which resulted in instant, unavoidable death at any point in the dungeon. Others (such as the spider) had poison attacks that could be countered, but the counter was not easy to come by and if it was not available, again, one attack would kill you. The high number of instant deaths made every step a gamble with a significant probably that you would be hit and die. That could make the game very frustrating at times.

4. This is not a critique so much as an observation: This is a text-based, turn-based game. If you want something to test your reflexes, or if you want beautiful graphics, this is not the game for you. It is a game for people who like puzzles, who like intellectual challenges, and for people to whom primitive or nonexistent graphics are a challenge to the imagination rather than a game-breaking fault.

The Bottom Line

This is a dungeon-crawl game similar to Wizardry or Nethack where a single player (that's you) ventures down into the Dungeon to retrieve the fabled Amulet of Yendor. The dungeon is approximately 10 levels deep with a multitude of nasty monsters to fight, ranging from the humble goblin to the vicious troll. A large spellbook (including "hold person", "sleep", and "charm monster") and a simple pet (the "freen") rounds out this excellent adventure game.

Atari 50