Ere! Cop your lug 'oles around this one, for it be that old mischievous wizard Merlin ranting on about this here game!
'Many months after the Knights of Camelot set forth to find the Holy Grail, a dark cloud that was flayed by many luminous bolts of blue lightning appeared over the small town of Alder.
'From the cloud emerged a dark, cloaked stranger. She demanded an audience with King Arthur Pendragon, wanting to know the location of I, Great Merlin The Wizard, to absorb my power.
'I was on a secret mission at the time and Arthur told her so. Believing him to be lying the stranger revealed herself as Crania, an evil she-wizard from beyond the plains of dreams and threatened Arthur with death unless he told her of my whereabouts.
'Arthur grabbed Excalibur and swung it at her in a deadly arc. She foresaw this and disappeared to avoid the blow then reappeared behind him.
'Before he could act, she had cast a cowardly spell of dreams. Now Castle Camelot is transformed into a dark evil fortress, inside whose walls are hidden Brave King Arthur and his sword Excalibur. There they will stay unless I surrender all my magical powers unto her.
'I Merlin, set you your quest... enter the castle, find Excalibur, slay the she-wizard, and rescue Good King Arthur, disposing of any evil creatures along the way.'
That intro from the inlay wasn't so bad, was it? And what's more, the game Excalibur - Sword Of Kings isn't too bad for a cheapie; I'd especially recommend it to adventuring novices, as it seems to flow along of its own accord with simple solutions and a very useful list of major commands on the back of the inlay.
You kick off in a ramshackle hut with golden sunlight filtering through an open doorway to the north. There's also a ladder, and you'd have to have a rung missing not to pick it up straightaway.
Heading off north you discover the very zippy response to actions in this game - everything's done in a flash, with no hanging around at all. The pictures, text and colourful surrounds just zip up onto the screen with a very readable and pleasant-looking 'What Next' Fine, a good deal larger than the rest of the redesigned text. There's also a nice two-tone effect to your input on this line - all in all it's a very worthy attempt to give the screen a different look, and for someone who's seen more adventures than a dog has fleas any innovation on this front is most welcome.
The next part of the game introduces a much-used road picture, as you follow a path eastwards and come across a crimson fish. EXAM FISH (and after all those PAW games the first four letters of EXAMINE are quite adequate here) gives, not surprisingly 'It Stinks!'. Though none of the location descriptions are particularly long, they're quite atmospheric, with nice touches such as 'Small hills around the mad are crowned with vibrant red hawthornes'.
You'll soon notice that no midcompass directions are taken, just the exits outlined, but that's no great drawback and you'll soon enough meet the old lady who's selling lamps (and let's face it, these ubiquitous items tend to be rather useful in adventures). The only trouble is she won't barter - she just thanks you very much if you hand over your fish or ladder, and wants her palm crossing with silver.
Perhaps easier progress is to be found to the north, where that rather obvious ladder proves useful at the rather obvious problem, the stone tree. The vocabulary needed here is most unusual, but full marks to Alternative Software: the word is in the inlay's vocabulary list.
Excalibur - Sword Of Kings is a fine cheapie. I like the way it looks and plays differently from utility-inspired adventures, its interesting writing style, and its bounce-along plot. It'll be good fun for a beginner.
DIFFICULTY: not difficult
INPUT FACILITY: verb/noun
RESPONSE: very fast
Well worth a try.
A winner for beginners: Alternative Software's Excalibur - Sword of Kings.