The Price of Magik

Reviewed by John Sweeney 


Issue 24

Nov/Dec 86

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Level 9
64K Cassette 



The Price of Magik is Level 9's sequel to the best-selling Red Moon. I am pleased to say that it is a very worthy successor to that excellent game. You are alone in a hostile world full of monsters and magic but, worse than Red Moon, you start the game with no knowledge of magic and have to learn what the spells are, what 'focus' objects are required to use them, and even what they do!

Your objective is simple, defeat the evil sorcerer, Myglar. To do this you will have to travel through scores of strange locations, defeating numerous dungeon denizens, and gaining vast magical powers. As with Red Moon, the game is rather large, over 200 locations, over 2 dozen inhabitants, over 40 artifacts, and 18 spells. The implementation is very similar to Red Moon, text scrolls up from the bottom of the screen, optional pictures (simple line drawings, but quite colourful) are drawn at the top of the screen, and your keystrokes are read into a large buffer and actioned quite speedily, AND it does it all simultaneously. You don't have to wait for the previous command to complete, if you know where you are going you can key ahead as fast as you like! The only thing to watch out for is that, if you are the violent type and have killed lots of monsters by force, their ghosts will return to plague you - probably while you are typing ahead!

The scoring system on The Price of Magik is a novel one. You start the game 100% sane and 20 years old. Every time you achieve something useful - reaching somewhere inaccessible, finding a spell focus, discovering or casting a new spell, etc., your sanity goes down by 1 or 2 percent and your age goes up by 1 or 2 years! Madness and Magik go hand in hand, but somehow you have to avoid dying of old age when you reach 100, while trying to achieve 0% sanity! Obviously you can set yourself the challenge of finding, how to lose all 100 sanity points, but in fact you don't need to find every single point in order to defeat Myglar and win the game. Once you know most of the secrets, it is possible to play through and defeat Myglar while still 70% sane!

One of the nicest things about the game is the wide variety of solutions to some of the problems - I compared my solution with someone else's and discovered that we had solved about a dozen problems by different means. As you improve in your knowledge of magic you will find more and more ways of achieving certain objectives. For example, there are at least four different ways of getting the Claymore from the Statue! On the other hand there are some quite difficult problems which only appear to have a single solution.

Initially your magic will be fairly weak, and you will probably find it necessary to fight some of the monsters. The combat system is very Dungeons and Dragons-ish - weapons, armour, Hit Points, and random dice throws by the computer. As you learn how to defeat or bypass the various creatures, either by magic or by logic, you will almost certainly want to avoid physical combat - the ghosts of the defeated can be very annoying, and once you know all the secrets you can avoid ALL physical combat. One of the best 'monsters' is the army of ants. You can only kill one at a time, and there are 128 of them! Your chance of surviving 128 rounds against them is not worth measuring so even the most blood-thirsty adventurer will be forced to turn to logic or magic in the end.

The game's understanding of English is excellent (within context) and Level 9 are now being slightly more moderate in their claims - 'The program copes with a wider range of English sentences than any other cassette-based game I've seen' - with which I have no argument. There are a couple of bugs which you should be aware of. 'The hilt in the ceiling' should say 'The hilt is still stuck in the ceiling', '658;stone' should say 'Stone'. Another concerns GET. I always use GET. I know it is not very good English, but it has one major advantage over TAKE, it is shorter! If you always use GET, you are likely to get extremely frustrated since, when you finally work out how to get the WHEEL from the mist and have the means to achieve it, you will find that GET WHEEL fails. At this one point in the game you must use the word TAKE - a very strange bug! One other minor point is this, the first time I succeeded in defeating Myglar I was most surprised to find that the game did not end! Some clue as to what is going on here might have been helpful as I wandered aimlessly for some time trying to work out what to do next. I had killed him by physical force but, presumably because his ghost still exists, this is not adequate. You MUST defeat him by magical means for the game to finish.

This game is Level 9's first use of the LENSLOK. Just in case you haven't encountered one, a LENSLOK is a small device containing prisms, used to decode various patterns on the screen. Without this you will not be able to complete the adventure.

At less than ten pounds this adventure is excellent value for money. Congratulations on another great game, Level 9. (P. S. Loved the Blue Box!)