20. The Neverending Story

by Garry Francis, Sydney, Australia


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

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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 be saved.

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 exists?

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 Story'...

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 got him.

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 time.".


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 Oracle.

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 the room.

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.


Part 1

1. Don't know what to do here?
5 29

2. Feeling weak from the Swamps of Sadness?
16 75

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?
81 4

6. Can't find the Southern Oracle?
8 20

7. Can't find Falkor?
12 43

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?
23 35

11. Can't enter the tunnel?
2 54

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?
37 34

15. Still can't get past the sphinxes?
18 71 47 62 9

Part 2

16. Can't find AURYN or Falkor?
23 13 36

17. Don't know what to do here?
5 52

18. Keep getting killed by the Nothing?
14 69 74 17 22

19. Can't get the planks?
59 47

20. Can't work out what the paper means?
81 4

21. Can't see in the dark?
37 65

22. Can't get down the well?
37 57

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?
16 32

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

Part 3

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?
70 11

35. Is the Childlike Empress disappointed with you?

10 IS
14 MAP
16 EAT
17 BE
23 TRY
26 WHO
37 USE
38 IN
40 CUT
48 TIN
49 HIM
50 KEY
53 FLY
56 OUT
62 TO
63 DON'T
70 SAY
71 FOR
74 AND
76 ...
80 ARE
81 RED
82 AT