THIS IS ONE of Gilsoft's back-to-back Quilled adventures, text-only on one side and graphic version on the other.
Although both games have the same title they're different enough to make you feel you've bought two games for the price of one - it's not simply a matter of repeating the same commands with each program.
First the text game. Long ago in the land of Moylan a wizard took power by imprisoning Light and Dark inside a single perfect stone. Then he split the stone and put the Darkness inside the greater part. The Light he banished to a far corner of Moylan and used his dark power to rule without mercy or humanity.
Time lost its grip over the kingdom and a changeless decay set in. Only the joining of the two pieces of the perfect stone will return the land to life and health.
Your aim is to discover both parts of the stone and also to collect the seven remaining pieces of a magical medallion. Three are in your possession when you begin your quest. When all ten are united you may have enough mystic power to confront the wizard in his lair at the heart of Moylan's endless twilight, and thus take back the stone of Darkness.
The adventure begins on a cliff path somewhere in the west country. You are heading back to your holiday hotel, anxious no doubt to consume vast quantities of grub and lashings of ginger beer. Suddenly the path becomes unfamiliar and a strange cold seeps through your anorak. At your feet are the three fragments of a medallion.
Stranger still is the message nearby which tells you that magic can open every door and, if you gaze over the cliff, you will see weird riders with hunting trophies slung from their belts.
The opening sequence leads you into a derelict house. Careful examination of the door will give you magical powers which will be sorely needed on your journey. The stone of light is also here and you can now cross the threshold of reality into Moylan itself. "For as far as you can see a smooth, featureless wall encircles the ancient town of Moylan. A large iron gate has been set into the wall. Above the gate a dragon, cast in rough metal, looks down as guardian of the town."
Descriptions like this give the game a highly charged and dreamlike quality, and help to create a desolate landscape of shifting, ominous shadows where lethal surprises are commonplace. Almost everything seems threatening - pools ripple without wind, flowers have overpowering scents.
As you move in towards the centre of the evil the darkness increases and perils multiply. Snakes writhe, undergrowth rustles, volcanoes rend the earth and wolves scavenge in graveyards. And what desperation created this object: "At the meeting place of the roads a huge crystal lens stands on a plinth. The rays of the sun are fainter here but the power of the lens intensifies them so much that the point of focus glows with heat. You shade your eyes and look into the glow"?
In the second, graphic game the plot and presentation are quite different - to vanquish the Magician you must find and take his Sword of judgement as well as collect the many items of treasure placed around the landscape. This adventure is pre-Patch and the location graphics are full-screen, drawn with the Illustrator.
Play commences in another derelict house but it has now become a major location. Through it you can enter another enchanted land complete with stone circles, giant worms, underground caverns and dying vegetation. There are familiar objects like a lamp, flint and so on but there are also items whose uses are enigmatic - pruning shears, flies, salt, ice. Whatever their uses you must travel on into the undying darkness, into unnatural evil and magic.
In this version the text is obviously less full and the pictures draw and redraw fairly slowly. Newer Quilled games, which use The Patch, have now overcome this problem to a considerable degree but the pictures here do tend to intrude.
Both games are well-constructed with evocative and intelligent descriptions and puzzles. The Quill interpreter is as fast as ever and help is provided. In both games you will need to explore widely before solving the major problems and neither are likely to be solved in an afternoon.