'Tis a dark and stormy night and all around is gloomy as you curl up to read your copy of YS. Strange things begin to happen when suddenly you're plunged into a world where. . . Read on and leave the real world behind.
The Never Ending Story is the never ending success that grew from a best-selling book into a blockbuster film and finally into Ocean's latest adventure. And what a mega-game it is too - it loads in four separate parts, has windowing graphics, over a hundred locations, and some very strange characters.
Our epic hero spends his time hiding away in the attic. Well, wouldn't you if your parents christened you Bastian Balthazar Bux. But Bastian doesn't just run away and hide up there - he skips off to another universe. There he finds Fantasia, a world facing extinction. Predictably, the job sorting out the mess falls to him...
Thing is, bits of Fantasia keep disappearing, swallowed by "The All Consuming Nothing'. At the start, a lad from the plains, Atreyu, is chosen by his people to dash off and face all manner of danger and devilry in the search for someone who can save the world. That someone, of course, is Bastian, sitting in his attic reading all about Fantasia and its inhabitants. How Atreyu manages to track him down is up to you.
The display is one of the game's main attractions. On loading, a horizontal format picture of a vast plain beneath an evening sky appears across the top of the screen. Other images, such as little illustrations of what you're carrying and cameo pictures of your location, flash on and of Bastian in his attic, reading his Fantasia book.
And if you're wondering what The Fantasians look like, well, take a look at their piccies on the screen. There are plenty of them - some pretty weird! You'll encounter rockbiter, Teenweeny, and Night- hob at the start but they'll promptly disappear for the duration of the first episode. There're also Gnomes, Giant Tortoises, and Sphinxes - not to mention your faithful steeds, Artax and Falkor the Luckdragon. All the characters have a significant game role, though you won't get much chance to talk to them.
Mind you, the lack of an 'Examine' option is a far more serious loss. Even if everything you carry is illustrated, attribute problems and limited graphics resolution make some things unrecognisable - it'd certainly help if you could call up descriptions of the more obscure objects.
This drawback apart, the game's well designed and gets the best from the words it does understand. The responses are helpful, specifying any unacceptable words rather than saying 'You can't do that'. You won't need to enter anything complex to solve the puzzle either - though that doesn't mean they're easy. You'll find yourself having to tie objects and problems together that occur at quite distant locations. This exercises the fingers as well as the brain cells!
Never Ending Story's opening puzzles me - it's just so easy! You're unlikely to die unless you're dogged with real bad luck. Don't be put off, though. As time goes by you'll find yourself more and more up against it. Spook City, for example, has death waiting around every corner, so make sure you save the game at every opportunity - unless you want to keep going back to square one!
This is definitely a hot-shot Christmas bonus if you're tired of sitting in the attic all day!