Last time, I had just explored a house from top to bottom and defeated a giant slug with some salt. Beyond the slug opened up a completely new playing field. It seemed the game was funneling me towards some direction, since there were so many one-way connections between rooms (in truth, there was always a route I could backtrack to the house).
|I love the decoration|
|There’s a union for every trade|
The FIN spell turned the target into a fish, and it came soon handy, when I arrived at a river. A ferryman took me to the center of the river, I turned into a fish and dived. My reward was another spell (SAN).
|Rest of the underground|
Beyond the river I found a tunnel, the end of which was guarded by a bloodworm. Fortunately, my trusty bat friend scared the monster away.
Next, I came to an altar, on which rested a talisman, above which floated a 10 000 kg weight. If I tried to take the talisman, the weight crushed me. The simple solution was to cast FLY spell, which was enough to keep the weight floating, even if I took the talisman.
|I didn’t know cherubs looked like this|
A few rooms further I found a statue of cherub. The statue was holding a trumpet, which I knew to be a focus for BOM spell. I couldn’t just take the trumpet, but I had an idea I could test what BOM would do (you don’t need to be holding the focus for casting a spell, it just needs to be in the same room). To my delight, the spell turned the statue alive. The cherub was scared and left the trumpet behind.
I came to a glowing portal, where I had to offer a gift to Myglar, the evil wizard, before I could proceed. Myglar accepted any item as a gift, and then I could move through the portal to a grassy plain. The weirdest thing was that a brass monkey dropped on my back and refused to move. Taking into account that Brass Monkey is a cocktail and having a monkey on a back refers to being addicted, I think this is meant to be a joke. Ha-ha.
Getting the monkey off was equally ridiculous, and I had to check the clues to get it. I had to backtrack to house - fortunately I could use the ZEN spell for quick movement - and go to its kitchen area, specifically to a cold room. After a few turns, the monkey got too cold, escaped and left me with a crystal and a black ball. The black ball wasn’t that interesting - it was a sort of one-time protection to any spell - but the crystal ball was a focus for ESP spell, which let me send an astral projection to an adjacent room for one turn.
My mapping session ended, when I came to a portico, filled with giant ants. With no idea how to defeat them, I turned to test some of my new spells and items. I tried various things with the talisman I found and rubbing it sent me to a new valley, completely separate from the rest of the game. This place was almost empty, but I did find a riddle:
My father is dark
My mother’s unknown
I dwell in high places
And where the ghosts moanReturning from the valley, I continued checking the spells. BOM was especially useful, since the house was full of things I could animate. Most of them revealed new spells, some unleashed monsters, and one gave me a spell focus (claw, focus for SAN). But the most interesting result came from a picture of Stonehenge.
|It really took me there!|
|Map of Stonehenge|
At the middle of Stonehenge I found a blue box with the spell IBM written on it. This scene broke the mimesis for me. Had I been transported from a nameless fantasy realm to Earth? Why is there, presumably, a computer in Stonehenge? Did IBM have blue computers? And what does it all have to do with the spell itself, which frightens its target? In any case, I could use IBM to scare off the giant ants.
|The final rooms|
Beyond the ants I found new rooms. They were otherwise empty, but one of them contained a locked room. I could now try the ESP spell, which allowed me to project an astral projection of myself to some direction and returned me back to my body after one turn. Thus, I saw that beyond door there was a dead idol. I could not do anything physical in my astral form, but I could cast spells. Thus, it was only a matter of casting BOM to make the idol alive and of casting HYP to make it obey my command to open the door.
Next problem was an ice room that was too cold for walking through. The solution was simple - I just flew through it.
|Is this supposed to be gargoyle or moonbeast?|
After few rooms I came across a gargoyle and a moonbeast. Moonbeast was more aggressive, so I decided to deal with it first. I had trouble figuring out what I was supposed to do to the beast, so I checked the official clue sheet. The solution was waving a mirror, so that the moonbeast would be scared of its reflection.
Gargoyle was more peaceful, but it also prevented my move forward. The gargoyle wanted me to solve a riddle - it didn’t tell me what riddle, but since I had come across only one riddle in the game ( see above), I guessed that would be it. I had no idea of the solution, so I again turned to the clue sheet. Turns out, the correct answer was FEAR.
Only one more room to go! I entered the lair of evil Myglar - who instantly killed me with a lightning. I restored and sent instead my astral projection to the room. I tried casting SAN - a spell that makes a person completely sane - and it did make it impossible for Myglar to cast any spell, but he still had a dagger he could use. I then tested DED - a spell to “kill” all magic. After casting it, Myglar’s magical enchantment of eternal youth collapsed, and the evil wizard died.
Somewhat surprisingly, the game gave me an opportunity to decide whether I wanted a good or a bad ending. In the good ending, I received all the powers Myglar used to have and led the world into a new era of magic and prosperity. In the bad ending, my supposed magical powers were actually just figments of my disturbed mind and I was sent into an institution where I spent the rest of my days imagining myself as a magical ruler over my fellow inmates. Now, that came out of left field.
Spells (if I’ve “officially” found them) - foci (if I own them) - what they do: ESP - crystal ball - send an astral projection to a room next to you, ? - candle - ?, ZAP - ashes - throw a lighting, DET - elder cross - detect danger, XAM - prism - checks if target is focus for some spell, ZEN - mirror - rapid movement, MAD - grimoire - make target mad, HYP - staff - hypnotises targets, FIX - valerian - heal the target, DED - wheel - cancels spells, FLY- broom - makes target fly, DOW - pendulum - check if target is magical, BOM - trumpet - turns statues and pictures alive, SEE - feldspar lense - finding secret doors, KIL - axe - makes target go berserk, FIN - silver mail - turns target into fish, SAN - claw - makes target sane, IBM - blue box - frighten the target
Inventory otherwise: mandrake, skull, knucklebone, ring, eyebright flowers, cage, robes, knife, wolfsbane, shovel, plate armour, crowbar, talisman, black ball
Puzzles and Solvability
If we ignore the rather silly puzzle of monkey on the back and some of the more obtuse puzzles at the end of the game, all the puzzles were easy and solvable, once you knew what all the different spells did. Indeed, one might say that the biggest puzzle in the whole game was to learn how to use different spells and what effects they had. If I could have asked for something more, it would have been a more creative use of combinations of spells, since the rare times I had to do this (for instance, when creating an astral projection to cast spells in a room I couldn’t access) felt very satisfying.
The problem is that the game allows the player to skip a lot of these puzzles e.g. with a liberal use of XAM and ZEN spells. It’s one thing to provide alternative solutions and a completely other thing to let the player beat the game without solving puzzles, especially as solving these puzzles doesn’t lead to a different outcome from not solving them.
I haven’t spoken that much about the combat system, which the Price of Magik shares with its predecessor, Red Moon. Suffice to say that it serves even less function than in the previous game, since here no monsters need to be fought with. This means also that most of the spells, which often are meant to be used in combat, serve no purpose at all. Seems like a waste.
Interface and Inventory
The interface is probably the best I’ve yet seen in Level 9 games. Just to name a few innovation, the game introduces (I think) the OOPS command you can use to correct your previous move, completely discards the need for stacking items by removing the inventory limit (finally!), allows for more complex commands in the style of Infocom and even lets me command other creatures. These additions are sufficient enough to increase the score from Red Moon.
Story and Setting
The story is, to put it nicely, mostly irrelevant. You are told of an evil wizard in the manual and you finally face him at the very last room of the game, and in between you just keep exploring and augmenting your arsenal of spells. Well, to be fair, there are a couple more references to Myglar, but surprisingly few considering I am supposed to be walking in his home.
The house of Myglar is a good setting and has at least some thematic cohesion. The latter part of the game loses this cohesion, when you leave the house and the player has to trudge through yet another featureless cave system.
Sound and Graphics
Graphics are what they have mostly been in Level 9 games: waste of disk space. At best they have some link to the room descriptions, often enough they don’t, and constantly they are bland and boring to look at.
Environment and Atmosphere
The premise and the mechanics of the game seem at first quite promising, since the mapping of Myglar’s house makes for a relatively atmospheric experience. Then the player is sucked through a picture to Stonehenge, finds an IBM and uses it for magic. In the end, if you choose the “bad ending”, it’s all revealed to be a hallucination.
Dialogue and Acting
Some reviews suggest that the text would have been better in a version with no pictures (or, I guess, in Amiga version). I can rate only what I see, and I see terse sentences with barely enough meat to make an OK room description. Not very engaging.
4 + 5 + 3 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 30.
This lands the game somewhere close to Red Moon and Emerald Isle, which seems quite appropriate.