Garry Francis gives the background to an unusual
adventure in a review that almost matches the title!
Michael Ende is probably a stranger to English speaking
readers, but he is well known in his native Germany. He has worked
as an actor, a playwrite, a director and a film critic, but is
probably best known for his novels in the 'Jim Knopf' series and
the award winning 'Momo'.
In 1979, Ende published a book called 'Die unendliche
Geschicte'. It immediately became the number one bestseller in
Germany and stayed in that position for three years. It has been
translated to many different languages with an English version
being published in 1983 as 'The Neverending Story'.
'The Neverending Story' is about a fat little boy
of about ten or twelve with the unlikely name of Bastian Balthazar
Bux. Bastian is the classic 'fat boy' at school. He is no good
at sports or at school work and always gets teased by his classmates.
In the opening pages of the book, Bastian bursts
into an old bookshop while trying to escape the local bullies.
When the shop owner is distracted by a telephone call, Bastian
feels compelled to take a book called 'The Neverending Story'.
He runs from the shop as fast as he can, then realises that he
can't go to school or go home because he'll be caught for stealing.
His only option is to sneak into the school attic where he settles
down to read his ill-gained prize...
Moldymoor is slowly being devoured by an all-consuming
emptiness known as the Nothing. The creatures of Moldymoor are
naturally concerned and decide to send a messenger to ask the Childlike
Empress for her help to overcome the Nothing. The messenger is
a will-o'-the-wisp named Blubb. Unfortunately, Blubb's sense of
direction isn't very good and it becomes lost in the Howling Forest.
It finds three other travellers camped in a clearing in the forest
and seeks directions from them. The other creatures – a rock
chewer named Pyornkrachzark, a tiny named Gluckuk and a night-hob
named Vooshvazool – reveal that they are on the same mission
as Blubb. It seems that all Fantastica is being consumed by the
Nothing and when the messengers realise this, they set off with
renewed vigour to find the Childlike Empress.
Six days later, the messengers start arriving at
the Ivory Tower – the heart of Fantastica and home of the
Childlike Empress. Much to their surprise, they aren't the first
to arrive. The High Street which winds around the Ivory Tower is
already clogged with messengers wanting to see the Childlike Empress.
Unfortunately, no one can see her because she is ill. It seems
that the destruction of Fantastica began at the same time as her
illness and all are concerned that there is some connection.
The best doctors in Fantastica have examined the
Childlike Empress, but none can find a cure for her illness. When
the last doctor, Cairon the black centaur, finishes his examination,
he announces that a hero is needed to search for a saviour for
the Childlike Empress. A Greenskin boy named Atreyu has been selected
for the task. He will be given AURYN to help in his quest. This
is the badge of someone acting on orders from the Childlike Empress
and everyone in Fantastica knows and respects it.
And so it is that Atreyu sets out on his horse Artax
in search of a saviour who can cure the Childlike Empress. At the
same time, in a different part of Fantastica, the darkness condenses
into a great shadowy form – the Gmork!
Atreyu's journey takes him through the Silver Mountains,
the Singing Tree Country, the Glass Tower of Eribo, the flaming
streets of Salamander, the broad plateau of the Sassafranians,
the jungle temple of Muwamath and the Howling Forest where the
four messengers first met. After a week's riding, he has a dream
which indicates that he should seek Moria the Aged One who lives
far to the north in the middle of the Swamps of Sadness.
Atreyu rides to the Swamps of Sadness, but loses
Artax in the murky black water. Only AURYN saves Atreyu from a
similar fate. When Atreyu finds Moria, she tells him that the Childlike
Empress needs a new name to cure her illness, but no one in Fantastica
can give her that name. Maybe Uyulala in the Southern Oracle can
help, but it's much too far for Atreyu to journey within his lifetime.
Atreyu plods on. After a few days, he finds his path
blocked by the Deep Chasm in the Land of the Dead Mountains. An
enormous spiderweb is stretched across the chasm and in it struggles
a great white luckdragon named Falkor. The luckdragon is being
attacked by Ygramul the Many, a monster made up of innumerable
small steel-blue insects whose combined form keeps taking different
shapes such as a spider, a hand and a scorpion. Because Atreyu
is wearing AURYN, Ygramul reveals that her bite means death within
an hour, but the poison also allows one to wish himself to any
part of Fantastica. Atreyu lets himself get bitten and wishes himself
to the Southern Oracle. Fortunately for Falkor, he overhears Ygramul's
explanation and he too wishes himself to the Southern Oracle. Gmork
arrives at the chasm a short time later, only to find that his
quarry is gone.
Atreyu and Falkor become partners, but collapse under
the effect of Ygramul's poison. They awake sometime later in the
care of two little Gnomics. Urgl, a healer, has cured them of Ygramul's
poison. Her husband Engywook, a scientist, has been studying the
Southern Oracle all his life and tells Atreyu about the three gates
that he must pass through to get to Uyulala – the Great Riddle
Gate, the Magic Mirror Gate and the No-Key Gate. Atreyu sets out
and, to cut a long story short, makes it through all three gates.
When he hears the advice of Uyulala, he discovers that only a human
child from beyond the borders of Fantastica can give the Childlike
Empress a new name. With this knowledge, he returns to Falkor and
together they fly off in search of the borders of Fantastica.
They fly night and day until they encounter the four
Wind Giants – Lirr from the north, Baureo from the east,
Sheerek from the south and Mayestril from the west. They tell Atreyu
that Fantastica has no borders, but as they start to fight for
power, Atreyu loses his hold on Falkor and falls into the sea.
When Atreyu regains consciousness, he finds himself
safely washed onto a beach, but he has lost AURYN. He heads inland,
only to see the strangest procession of night-hobs, kobolds, ghosts,
witches and vampires. He follows the procession until they fling
themselves at the Nothing. Atreyu is tempted to follow them but,
with great effort, he fights the attraction of the Nothing and
runs with all his might in the opposite direction.
He soon reaches the deserted Spook City, where he
finds the Gmork, who is now chained up like a whipped dog. The
Gmork does not recognise Atreyu and tells him how he can reach
the world of humans by leaping into the Nothing, but if he does,
he will not be recognised by humans. He will be a lie!
Atreyu now realises why humans have stopped coming
to Fantastica to give the Childlike Empress new names. The more
of Fantastica that is destroyed by the Nothing, the more lies flood
the human world and the more unlikely it is that a human child
will visit Fantastica. It is a vicious circle from which there
is no escape.
In the meantime, Falkor recovers AURYN from the ocean
depths. With AURYN to guide him, he is able to find Atreyu and
rescue him from Spook City. Together, the two adventurers fly to
the Ivory Tower to report their failure to the Childlike Empress.
To Atreyu's surprise, the Childlike Empress considers his quest
a success, for his adventures have been shared by a human child
who even now is listening to their every word. The human need only
call the Childlike Empress by her new name and Fantastica will
Bastian knows the Childlike Empress is referring
to him, but he lacks the courage or confidence to utter her new
name. Besides, how could the characters in a book know that he
The Childlike Empress has one last trick up her sleeve.
She leaves three of her seven powers to care for Atreyu and Falkor
and the remaining four carry her from the Ivory Tower in a glass
litter. They travel in silence for many days and nights until they
reach a plateau at the summit of the Mountain of Destiny – the
highest mountain in all Fantastica. In a smaller, odd-looking mountain
in the middle of the plateau she confronts the Old Man of Wandering
Mountain. The Old Man does not speak to her, but writes in a book.
And as he does so, the events that he records actually happen.
For he is the great chronicler of Fantastica. The Childlike Empress,
the Old Man himself, Atreyu, Falkor and all Fantastica are recorded
in this book. The book IS Fantastica. And its title is 'The Neverending
This is NOT the end of 'The Neverending Story', for
it has no end, just a beginning. In purely physical terms, Michael
Ende's book is divided into 26 chapters. Each chapter begins with
a letter of the alphabet from A to Z in strict alphabetical order.
The Childlike Empress' meeting with the Old Man of Wandering Mountain
is not even halfway through the book. There are still over 200
pages to go! In the next few pages, we discover WHY the book is
called 'The Neverending Story' – for it truly IS neverending.
There's also another great revelation that I'd prefer to keep from
you until you read the book for yourself. And you should!
Bastian does eventually call out the Childlike Empress'
new name and in doing so, he becomes a part of Fantastica. The
remainder of the book tells of his adventures there, the changes
in his personality and his battle to return to the human world.
If you thought the first half of the book was fanciful, then you
ain't seen nothin' yet!
Bastian's adventures take him through Perilin, the
night forest and Goab, the Desert of Colors where he befriends
Grograman the lion. From here he passes through the Temple of a
Thousand Doors and on to the Silver City of Amarganth where he
proves his superiority over all others and meets Atreyu and Falkor
for the first time.
The three friends set off to find out how Bastian
can find his way back to his own world, but he becomes increasingly
pig-headed and uncooperative for reasons that I shan't reveal here.
As the travellers wander through Fantastica, they build up an ever
increasing army of followers who worship Bastian as their Saviour.
They have encounters with the Acharis, Xayide the sorceress and
the Three Deep Thinkers before eventually reaching the Ivory Tower.
The Childlike Empress has gone, so Bastian sets himself
up as the new emperor. The increasing friction between Bastian
and Atreyu causes a war between the two. As with all wars, there
are no real winners, just losers. The war's culmination finds Atreyu
wounded by Bastian, the Ivory Tower in flames, hundreds of Fantasticans
killed or wounded and Bastian's followers in tatters.
Bastian rides off in anger until he comes to the
topsy-turvy City of the Old Emperors which is inhabited by the
Know-Nothings. From here, Bastian's downhill slide takes him across
the Sea of Mist to Dame Eyola's House of Change and Yor's Minroud.
By the time of his final encounter with Atreyu and Falkor, Bastian
has forgotten everything including his own name. It is only with
the help of Atreyu and Falkor that he is able to drink the Water
of Life and return to his own world.
The book has a happy ending, but be prepared to shed
a tear or two, for it's a real tear-jerker.
The popularity of Michael Ende's book was so great
that it was inevitably turned into a movie. In fact, it was the
most expensive film project ever undertaken in Germany.
The film of 'The Neverending Story' was created behind
locked doors in the Bavarian studios of Munic Geiselgasteig between
1982 and 1983. It took an international team of fantasy film specialists
supervised by special effects guru Brian Johnson. The end result
was a complex combination of miniatures, full size models and elaborate
studio sets; puppets, animatronics, mechanical special effects
and stunts; matte paintings, sculptures, photographic special effects,
special lighting, the biggest blue screen in the world and just
about every other trick in the book. Oh, and some live actors too.
The movie is remarkably true to the book, especially
considering the technical difficulties of fantasy film making.
The scenery, characters, place names, events and even the dialogue
are very close to the book, but there are some significant differences.
(For a fascinating insight into the making of the movie, see 'The
World of The Neverending Story' published by Paper Tiger 1984.)
The pre-production artwork included Blubb in the
film, but it was omitted from the final shooting. The other three
messengers appeared in the film, but were given the simpler and
more pronounceable names of Rockbiter, Night Hob and Teeny Weeny.
The land of Fantastica was also renamed to Fantasia.
The Ivory Tower does not appear as described in the
book because it could not be built in the studio and all the symbolism
would have been lost when photographed. Various ideas were tried
before the final concept of a blooming petal was chosen. Cairon
does not appear as a centaur in the film, but has a human form
and Atreyu does not have green skin.
The storyboards were done for the scene with Ygramul,
but the special effects people said it would be too expensive to
create. The script was changed so that Falkor could be introduced
by rescuing Atreyu from the Swamps of Sadness just before the Gmork
In the book, Atreyu must pass through three gates
before he can see Uyulala. Only the first two appear in the film.
The scene with the Wind Giants was not used because
the movie's realisation of the Nothing was more impressive than
the ghostly personification of the Wind Giants would have been.
The scene with the ghostly procession was also left out of the
movie, but the essence of the scene was achieved by the reappearance
of Rockbiter who had just lost his little friends Night Hob and
Teeny Weeny to the Nothing.
The episode with the Old Man of Wandering Mountain
does not appear in the movie either. Instead, Bastian calls out
the Childlike Empress' new name without her having to make the
trip. The second half of the book is not included at all. In fact,
it would make a terrific sequel. The film leaves itself open to
a sequel by including the closing remark "Bastian made many
other wishes and had many other adventures before returning to
his world. But that is another story and shall be told another
Just as the book inspired a movie, so too the movie
inspired a computer game. 'The Neverending Story' is a disk-based
Adventure which was originally written by Ian Weatherburn and released
by Ocean Software Ltd. for a variety of computers. The Atari version
was advertised, but I'm not sure whether it actually made it to
market. Distribution was later taken over in Australia by Intellicreations
under the Datasoft label. This is the version I bought, so that's
what I'll review here.
'The Neverending Story' is a traditional text Adventure,
but does include some nice graphics in a most unusual screen layout.
The top three-eighths of the screen has a 'Cinemascope' picture
of the Ivory Tower. This never changes. As you move around the
landscape, a smaller window is superimposed over the left hand
side of the main picture. The smaller picture shows your current
location or a character that you've just encountered.
In a similar manner, every time you pick up an object,
a picture of it appears somewhere over the right hand side of the
main picture. You can carry five objects and have one travelling
companion at any one time, hence you can have up to six little
pictures on the right hand side of the screen plus the picture
of your current location on the left hand side all superimposed
over the main picture.
The remaining five-eighths of the screen is devoted
to text. Room descriptions always start with a large fancy letter,
but this is NOT in colour as in the screen shots that you may have
seen in advertisements or reviews. The text uses a redefined character
set which is reasonably attractive, but very difficult to read.
This is not helped by some atrocious spelling and punctuation.
One problem with the text portion of the display
is that a long room description or a lot of objects in a room can
cause some of the text to scroll off the screen before you get
a chance to read it. If you don't type anything for about 1 minute
20 seconds, the program prints "You wait!". This happens
even if you are in the middle of typing a command and once again,
some of the previous information scrolls off the screen. This is
very frustrating if you take extensive notes like I do. Fortunately,
it doesn't have any effect on the game. It is NOT real time.
The parser allows multi-word input, but its understanding
of English is pretty dismal. It has a very small vocabulary and
only looks at the first three characters of each word. The whole
game can be finished using only one and two word commands, so keep
your commands simple to save a lot of trauma.
The game is accompanied by some really horrible music.
It is supposed to be the popular Georgio Moroder theme music from
the movie, but it is so awful that you'd hardly recognise it. Atari
owners deserve better. So does Georgio Moroder.
The music plays incessantly all the way through the
game and really gets on your nerves. You can turn the sound down
of course, but then you lose the keyboard click. I like to have
the keyboard click, so I did a bit of experimenting and discovered
an undocumented command to turn the music off. Just type NOMUSIC
(without any spaces) to turn it off and MUSIC to turn it on again.
I should also point out that the disk is copy protected,
so you can't (theoretically) make a backup. Bad move Datasoft!
As a hardened computer user, I know never to use an original disk
without having a backup, so I cracked the copy protection and made
a backup just on principle. In doing so, I made some interesting
discoveries. Most importantly, the game switches out the Operating
System and loads its own (which is just a rip-off of Atari's anyway),
hence it will not run on the older Atari 400/800 computers. Another
bad move Datasoft!
The plot is remarkably close to the movie. You could
probably complete the game without having read the book or seen
the movie, but it would certainly be harder to play and wouldn't
make much sense. You really need to be familiar with the storyline
and, to a lesser extent, the philosophy imbedded within the story.
That's why I've gone to so much trouble to summarise the story
in this article.
The Adventure is divided into three parts, each being
loaded from disk when needed. The first part covers Atreyu's adventures
up to the Southern Oracle and includes most of the important events
from the movie. However, it is chock full of red herrings and some
of the events in the movie can be avoided without affecting your
completion of the game. The aim is merely to get to the Southern
The second part leads you to Spook City where you
lose AURYN and Falkor. This part is considerably different to the
movie, as it covers very little of the story and has lots of new
objects and locations. This is probably a good thing from the Adventurer's
point of view, as this part of the game has the best puzzles. The
aim is to find the golden key. This is not terribly difficult except
for some really horrible bugs in the game. For example, you can
go up from the library even if the planks haven't been removed.
There are situations where you can get killed in the darkness even
though the glowglobe is present. You can pick up the pouch a number
of times and have the coin appear more than once. You can get the
key from the box-shaped room without killing the rats, although
I won't tell you how. The logic behind the spider web doesn't make
sense. It blocks a different exit depending on which way you enter
Anyway, once you've found the golden key, Falkor
will reappear. All you've got to do is find him and you're ready
for part 3.
The third and final part takes you to the Ivory Tower
where your aim is to return AURYN to the Childlike Empress. This
part is fairly easy because there are hardly any puzzles. However,
there is a large, three-level maze which is a bit tricky to map.
The horizontal directions don't present too much trouble, but some
of the vertical directions are a real pain. Don't be surprised
if you go up a stairway and find yourself at the level below!
Overall, 'The Neverending Story' is a bit of a disappointment.
It has a poor parser, a limited vocabulary, terrible spelling,
grammar and punctuation, dreadful music and quite a few bugs. Despite
this, it is enjoyable in a perverse sort of way. It is fairly easy
to solve if you've read the book or seen the movie, but it's probably
not a good game for beginners.
Fortunately for Datasoft, there are Adventure addicts
like me who will always buy new Adventures no matter how good or
bad they are. Maybe we're just stupid!
I haven't had any coded hints in the last couple
of issues, so here's a quick note on how to use them for the benefit
of the newcomers. First of all, scan through the questions until
you recognise one which describes the point where you're stuck.
Then match the numbers with the words in the attached list to get
a hint. Simple, isn't it?
Everybody's heard of 'The Pawn'. It has been heralded
as the greatest Adventure of all time – "... brilliant
graphics ... superb parser ... better than Infocom ...". Bull
dust! It's more like the greatest swindle of all time!
Lots of people have been conned into buying 'The
Pawn' (not by Page 6) only to find that the game is full of bugs,
the parser is not so crash hot and the puzzles are unfair. More
people are requesting help with 'The Pawn' than anything else currently
on the market. So, if I can finish the rotten thing by next issue,
I'll have a full list of hints to help you out of the trouble spots.
See you then.
THE NEVERENDING STORY HINTS
1. Don't know what to do here?
2. Feeling weak from the Swamps of Sadness?
3. Can't save Artax?
63 33 49
4. Can't survive the quicksand?
8 56 24
5. Can't use the black velvet cape?
6. Can't find the Southern Oracle?
7. Can't find Falkor?
8. Still can't find the Southern Oracle?
53 28 73 76
9. Can't get past the sphinxes?
39 15 62 51
10. Can't find the crystal?
11. Can't enter the tunnel?
12. Still can't enter the tunnel?
72 7 82 68
13. Can't open the glass box?
27 26 1 38 78 42 76
14. Can't get the small fragment of glass?
15. Still can't get past the sphinxes?
18 71 47 62 9
16. Can't find AURYN or Falkor?
23 13 36
17. Don't know what to do here?
18. Keep getting killed by the Nothing?
14 69 74 17 22
19. Can't get the planks?
20. Can't work out what the paper means?
21. Can't see in the dark?
22. Can't get down the well?
23. Can't open the cell door?
46 80 50
24. Can't get past the rats?
55 48 74 67 30
25. Can't survive the spider's poison?
26. Can't get past the spider's web?
40 25 6
27. Getting killed by the wraith torturer?
8 56 24
28. Haven't found the golden key?
58 10 77
29. Still haven't found the golden key?
67 58 38 66 19
30. Can't find Falkor?
23 61 79 44 64
31. Don't know what to do here?
39 3 62 21
32. Can't open the enormous wooden door?
60 41 45 60 50
33. Can't find a use for all the treasures?
37 62 14 31
34. Can't open the small ornate door?
35. Is the Childlike Empress disappointed with you?