First came Jewels of Darkness and Silicon Dreams. As compilations of Level 9's most popular games tantalisingly packaged (by Rainhird) in an attractive blue box, they became essential additions to every adventurer's collection. The presentation of Level 9's latest trilogy of rereleases Time And Magik (published, this time, by Mandarin) is just as impressive. The instructions are comprehensive and a glossy novella sets the scene for an exotic journey into a world of spells, magic and mysteries unknown.
LORDS OF TIME
The oldest of the trio is probably the most impressive. As a portrait in your living room suddenly springs into life, it reveals that a group of megalomaniac Timelords are plotting to take control of the world. Unless nine different objects bearing the impression of an hourglass are thrown into a cauldron at the end of time, the planet's fate is sealed.
A grand tour of history follows. The vital objects are scattered throughout nine different time zones accessed via a Tardis-like grandfather clock. Wandering through Ice Age caverns, past a prehistoric water hole and into a dangerous Roman amphitheatre, you encounter a series of perplexing puzzles. Successful interaction with (among others) clumsy dinosaurs, sabre-toothed tiers and Viking raiders (death is a constant possibility) leads to a final showdown with the terrible Timelords themselves. Carefully constructed, with complex, though logical problems, this is perhaps the most challenging of the three to play.
The Red Moon Crystal has been stolen from the Moon Tower on the island of Baskalos - and you've got to get it hack. Your journey winds through plains and forests, past the edge of a very active volcano to a complex network of chambers in the castle of Cakabol. Puzzles centre around collecting the appropriate objects to cast a series of spells and weaving the correct enchantments within a limit of 50 magic points.
Like The Price of Magik, it's a totally different type of adventure from Lords Of Time. The emphasis is on exploration (the environment is seemingly endless) rather than solving specific problems. Once you've acquired the right focus for each spell it's simply a matter of using them in the right place. If you're after puzzles that you can really get your teeth into, you maybe in for a slight disappointment.
THE PRICE OF MAGIK
The Red Moon Crystal has gone missing again. This time Mylgar, the jewel's guardian, has been driven mad by the crystal's radiance. If you manage to retrieve it, you will be given the chance to take his place.
As you explore a mysterious mansion, you are faced with the task of learning 18 magic spells. Shrieking mandrakes, howling werewolves, and mysterious skeletons shake your sanity and attempt to drive you, as well as Mylgar, mad. Map-making is essential; the environment is incredibly complex and demands hours of careful exploration. In fact, apart from the spells, exploration is about all there is to The Price of Magik. Plenty of adventurers will find this sufficiently stimulating in itself. Others might feel a little put off by the absence of really challenging puzzles.
All three adventures are distinguished by elaborate descriptions and some fairly uninspired graphics. As you'd expect from Level 9, there are plenty of superfluous locations with features that turn out to be 'just scenery' when you EXAMINE them. Considering that these are supposed to be improved versions of the original games. it would have been nice to have one or two extra responses.
The KAOS parser accepts most complex commands although there are one or two anomalies. Try and put anything in your backpack, for example, and you'll find the desired object lying on the ground. Facilities, though, are practically endless and very useful. You can turn off the graphics. determine the length of the location text (brief or verbose), switch EXITs on and off. SAVE, RAMSAVE and UNDO a foolish move. Apart from a GOTO or RUN command, you couldn't really ask for more.
As a compilation of rereleases, Time And Magik shouldn't be expected to match up to the standard of more recent Level 9 productions. Still - as a set of classic games which were initially released to rapturous acclaim, they're a must for every serious adventurer's collection. If you missed out the first time go out and buy them - just don't expect too much.
Dare you enter the holiday cottage?