Sunday, 4 December 2016

Missed Classic 31: Legend of Djel (1989) - Introduction

By Ilmari

While Joe is busy completing Zork 1, let's get a step further in our history of early Coktel Vision games - what did they do before games like Bargon Attack? Doing a quick summary of games that have been covered so far, Mewilo was an unknown classic, Freedom was barely an adventure game, Operation Getafix was too small and simple, and Emmanuelle… well, I guess we all remember what Emmanuelle was like. With a track record like this, it is hard to know what to expect from the next game designed by Muriel Tramis.


There’s magic! And dragons! And obligatory eye candy with ridiculous clothing!
Legend of Djel shows yet another side in Coktel Vision repertoire - it’s a game based on a fantasy setting. I know that the game had a sequel of sorts, Ween: The Prophecy, which I have also played. Unfortunately, I remember of the latter game only two annoying twins, who were supposed to be your servants, but would all the time manage to lose precious inventory items.


The winners of the Cedric Award 1993?

Looking at the manual of Legend of Djel, it seems there’s a rich background story for the game, spanning many different lands. The central place is the Kingdom of the Ashes, so called because it was at some point devastated by a series of volcanic eruptions. The blame on this event fell on wizard Hokram, the chief of the humans who had first populated the land. Hokram was promptly banished, when the eruptions occurred. After several centuries, Hokram returned. The new occupants of the Kingdom of Ashes thought him first to be a madman - how could Hokram have lived so long? - but they soon found out they were mistaken, when they saw strange glow surrounding Hokram’s cottage.

Hokram got married to witch Esabelle and they conceived a son, Djel, who is also the hero of the game. Considering his lineage, it is no wonder that Djel grew up to be a magician. Petroy, a gnome friend of his father’s, introduced him to the three wizards governing the surrounding countries:
  • Azeulisse, mistress of the Land of 100 Countries. Djel apparently had romantic dealings with her daughter, whose name is not revealed in the manual.
  • Theros, a wealthy aristocrat.
  • Kal, a pauper.
Petroy also took Djel to a tour around all the lands surrounding the Kingdom of Ashes. I am pretty convinced I’ll have to visit all of these lands during the game, so I won’t bother describing them in detail now.

Some time after Djel’s travels, his parents, kept alive by power of something called Orah, moved into a plane beyond all matter (no, apparently they did not just die, but more like vanished into a thin air).

Then, a series of disasters struck the Kingdom of Ashes. Firstly, the harvest was pillaged and the people of the kingdom starved. Those left alive caught a deadly plague. And to top it all, it became “impossible to make more babies” (the manual leaves the mechanic of the last catastrophe somewhat unclear).

Everyone blamed at first Djel, but it then became evident that it was the three neighbouring magicians who were behind it all. Theros had caught a disease that made him spread the plague around him - an unhappy consequence of a personal disaster. Azeulisse had lost his daughter (we still don’t know her name) and in her motherly rage she had cast the spell preventing baby making - a somewhat radical decision, but parents can be crazy about their children. And what was Kal’s excuse? Well, apparently he just hadn’t the money to feed the populace of his lands, so he let them go rampaging on other lands. I think I am not going to particularly like this Kal person...

Djel’s house

Beginning the game, I meet Azeulisse and Kal, who explain once more their terms and hand me statues, by which I can contact them in the future.


Hand you all the gold I can make, so your starving people
won’t destroy my land?I am liking you less and less!

After this brief introduction, I witness an animation, in which a statue of a man with an eagle’s head crowned by bull’s horns blows out a kind of spark, which opens up a screen in Djel’s house, showing me what looks like a planet floating in space. From the manual I know that this statue will enable Djel to travel to different lands in spirit form. The manual also suggests that I should be able to choose the land I am travelling to with some kind of Atlas, but I can’t seem to find this book anywhere in Djel’s house.


A cozy little den

The basic interface of the game couldn’t be simpler. I can move with my mouse a symbol of a mask and press with it various spots on the screen and then either something or nothing happens. With interface as simple as this, it seems that the game is mostly about exploration and not so much about puzzle solving.

Let’s start exploring then! I shall begin with what I found in Djel’s apartment. Firstly, there were the two statues given by Azeulisse (the horned Sumo wrestler) and Kal (the little can at the centre of picture). I didn’t seem to a have a statue from Theros yet.

The test-tube on the left side contained a solution that I could use to restore my energy, but that wasn’t yet an issue at the beginning of the game. The candle apparently showed how much time I had left to complete the game, although the manual noted that I might be able to find a new candle somewhere. Sitting on a perch, there was an owl that might warn me of any intruders in Djel’s cottage.

The crystal ball on the table should be a device for receiving messages, but at the beginning it appeared to do nothing. There was also a jar containing a head of a conquered dragon, which should help Djel to memorise things. Basically, the jar was just a way to open an interface, in which to check the status of your missions for the magicians, your energy level, inventory and economical situation.


Like a Candel in the wind


The land outside Djel’s cottage seems empty

I can look through the window, but the manual tells me that I should do it especially, when I see a silhouette in it. Through the door I can access Djel’s library. In a bookshelf I find couple of interesting things: a second candle and a picture of a young woman.


 Perhaps she’s the daughter I should be looking for

Probably the most important thing in the library was the huge metallic contraption called Great Alambic, which could produce gold, if I would just first find the proper ingredients.


3 bats + 1 lead crystal = gold

Magicians

With nothing else to do in Djel’s cottage, I used the statues to enter the lands of the two magicians.




Visiting Azeulisse was a bit of a disappointment. She clearly wasn’t at home, and trying to press any spot in the room just led me back to Djel’s apartment.

Kal’s shabby den contained just a statue, by which I could summon Kal himself. Kal at once wanted to know if I had the money for him. My mask icon changed then into a hand. At some places of the screen, it showed a thumb up, at others, a thumb down - a pretty simplistic dialogue system. If I chose yes, I had a chance to haggle with Kal.

The haggling interface was again pretty simple. There were three piles, representing three different amounts (1, 10 and 100 coins) and by pressing them multiple times, I could increase the amount of money I was offering to Kal. Clicking a picture of a money bag would then confirm my offer. The manuals tells that when I am haggling, I will have three chances to make an offer that a person I am haggling with accepts. Because the game has no internal saving capacity, finding the most optimal offer would require multiple sessions.


And then the old niggard didn’t even accept my money!

The Land of the Rivers of Fire


With nothing else to do, I took the path to the other land. There’s no indication in the game itself what the land is and where you are going, so you must try to deduce it from the descriptions given in the manual. This time it’s pretty easy. There’s a cave on the side of a cliff, a scared, rabbit-like creature called Loris, and if you click on the pit with boiling lava, you’ll meet the master of Loris, Artem, who will give Djel some extra energy.

By the power of Greyskull…

Trying to access the cave, in which the master of this land resided, I found out that my touchpad was suddenly broken - or so I thought, because I seemingly couldn’t move the mouse pointer past a certain line surrounding the cave. In fact, this was a clever way to represent the invisible barrier, which had to be forced several times, before it let me in. When I finally reached the cave, the master - some sort of horned beast - told me that I required a jewel that had belonged to Azeulisse’s daughter to find her.

Moving Lands

After I had returned to Djel’s home with the information I had gained, the screen changed and now showed a picture of two lands. One of these brought me to Moving Lands, ruled by a moody magician, who wanted my help to change the landscape.


In principle, I had to click on various objects, which would then change their places.
When an object was in a correct place, a lightning would struck.


Moving lands, as they should be

After fulfilling the wish of the magician, he was for some reason doubled. The other magician wanted to fight with me.


 Definitely by “strengh”

The game leads quite frequently into a position where I must choose to fight a person either with strength/force or with mind, so I might as well describe here the two fighting minigames. I’ll state first that although I usually despise all minigames in adventure games, this time they were truly unique and fun little diversions. In fact, the two games work so well that I could imagine someone selling them as small apps.

In the confrontation by strength/force (the manual and the game use different words for it) both the Djel and his opponent assume the form of a dragon. There are three different dragon forms: red (Fire), green (Earth) and blue (Water). Of these, Water douses Fire, Fire burns Earth and Earth soaks up Water. So basically, when a Water dragon fires upon Fire Dragon, the Fire Dragon loses her energy. Then again, if a Fire dragon fires upon Water Dragon, the Water Dragon will eventually have to change her form (or so at least the manual says, I couldn’t verify this in action). Finally, if a Water dragon fires upon another Water dragon, both dragons are recharged.

The combat field is divided into two sections, with each dragon occupying one half of the field. The field is also full of crystals, by which player can change the colour of her dragon - that is, if the crystal is active. Crystals tend to become inactive after a bit of use, but they can be reactivated by the balls of fire/energy that the dragons blow up. In addition, the fire/energy balls can bounce from various obstacles placed on the combat field (and yes, you can hit yourself with your own balls), and after several bounces, the balls become more effective in activating the crystals.


May the best dragon win!

Confusing? Yes. Fun? Yes! I am sure more able players could make quite effective strategies, but I did fairly well just by madly dashing from one crystal to another, seeking to gain the upper hand and then just holding my opponent off from the proper crystals with my great balls of fire.

If confrontation by strength is just a mad dash of shoot and run, confrontation by mind is a little bit more intellectual - but not too much! The basic idea is pretty simple. Me (eagle’s head) and my opponent (skull) are placed somewhere on 8 x 8 grid. In her turn, the player must a) move her piece to one of the eight possible directions and b) remove one piece of the grid around her opponent. If the player cannot move, she has lost. Does it sound as dynamic as a slow game of chess? Well, if you are too slow in choosing your move, your turn will go and the opponent gets to make two moves in a row! In practice, you have no time to think of the strategy, but you’ll just have to rely on your gut instinct to push your opponent over the edge, before she does the same to you.


An almost impossible position, but I still managed to beat it by keeping my eagle close to the skull.

After having beaten the evil double of the magician, the real one told me to see a charming portrait on my den - he probably meant the picture of Azeulisse’s daughter I had already found.

Land of Everlasting Thirst

The other land I could access at this time was known as the Land of Everlasting Thirst. The manual told me that Atrem, the genie that lived in the lava pits of the Land of the Rivers of Fire, was some day pissed off by the Land of Everlasting Thirst and made the volcanoes cover half of the kingdom. The survivors were forced to drench themselves all the time in order to put out the flames, which licked unceasingly at their bodies.


The flames seem to have subsided, but the only inhabitant
I can see does have a pool of water ready.

Talking with the creature on the left, I could buy a diadem that had belonged to Azeulisse’s daughter. This was in fact a case of an alternative puzzle solution - I could have used the diadem to avoid the battle in the Moving Lands altogether.

There were still three flames burning - you can see two of them (the blue dots on the wall of the broken building) and third is covered by the mask icon. As manual told me, by clicking the flames, I could summon the former ruler of the land, who was buried under solidified lava (it’s the reddish rock wall). The ruler first showed me three pictures, from which I had to choose the person I was looking for, that is, Azeulisse’s daughter. Then he told me that the daughter had gone to the Kingdom of the Ashes - the home of Djel himself.

Saving the daughter

Owl, you seem to have become all blue!

Upon arriving in Djel’s cottage, I noticed two changes. Firstly, the owl sitting on the perch was glowing, which according to the manual is a sign of an intruder. Secondly, a silhouette on the window told me that I could talk with someone on the window. I started by checking my library and found out the intruder. She told me she was Azeulisse’s daughter, but later on, she would reveal herself as something else.


I’d replace that owl with a sturdy lock - it’s far more
effective to keep intruders out than to know when they are in

Through the window, I saw another would-be daughter.


I am getting a bit annoyed that this person, whom Djel
has a crush on, doesn’t appear to have a name

Apparently she really was the real daughter - or so her mother appeared to think.


Couldn’t you just accept her as she is?

With nothing else to do, I visited Kal, who did have the formula for giving the daughter back her freshness (his words, not mine!). All I had to do was to fight his enemies (I am getting sick of the ineptitude of this supposed magician). After I quickly confronted his enemy, Kal was willing to part with the formula, which I took to the daughter and recited.


Soul? I’d be satisfied with your name...

After taking Azeulisse’s daughter to her mother, Azeulisse took her statue back. Then I got a call to my crystal ball.


Theros, the magician I should cure.

After Theros, Kal contacted me to tell me that he needs his statue to pacify his subjects. This seems like a good spot to end the post, since I’ve solved one of the three quests already. I am still unsure whether I like the game, but it’s certainly quite original. Remember to guess the score!

8 comments:

  1. It's got a curious colour scheme, it looks like a dodgy EGA conversion of a VGA game.

    I'm going to guess 45 for the score.

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  2. I am actually playing Atari ST version, so I am not sure how it really compares with EGA or VGA. I suspect the colour scheme is meant to underline the magical nature of the various realms.

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  3. It's Missed Classic #31, so let's go with 31!!

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  4. I have nice memories of Ween but I'd never heard of this one before. Looks quite wierd (I'm spotting a pattern in Coktel Vision games here).

    For my guess I'll go with 38!

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  5. Seems pretty janky, I'll guess 35

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