Spellbound - A very classic Mastertronic ZX Spectrum review

The loading screen!
Following from the footsteps of the excellent Finders Keepers comes the equally excellent Spellbound. A far cry from the platform orientated FK, this time you were in a 'True Graphic Adventure' as the title screen suggests. This summed up the game brilliantly. This is what an adventure would look like if put into visuals instead of the standard text-based affair. The genius way to get around entering sentences or commands that, let's be honest hardly ever seem to work ('you cannot do that yet', 'I don't understand' - sound familiar?) was the excellent 'Windimation' window which you could open and select various commands, of which increased when certain objects were collected.

Windimation - not as rude or smelly as it sounds.
On to the plot!

Your friend, Gimbal the Wizard, has accidentally banished you and a few others to an enchanted castle, after a failed attempt to improve his rice pudding recipe. In doing this, he has also trapped himself with a 'White Out' spell, so he is also in need of releasing from his predicament before he is banished to oblivion forever! With no obvious exit, it is your mission to find a way out for yourself but to also help the others escape. To do this, you have to solve the many puzzles and obstacles that are in your way, the majority can only be solved with the help of the other characters who you must command to help you in various situations. In addition, it is your duty to keep them all alive and happy, commanding them to 'Eat' and 'Be Happy' are just some of the many things you have to keep on top of if you wish to progress. In order to command people you will of course need something to command them with, they won't just listen to anyone you know. You will in fact need to obtain the Wand of Command that can be found....nah, you'll have to find that out yourself!

Not only do you have to look after everyone, you also have to keep yourself alive as you lose energy slightly as you enter each room, and if something moves - it'll hurt! There is also a time-limit of 48 hours before you are banished forever to the mystical castle. Sounds simple, yeah?

The 'others' as I so eliquintley put it, are a mixed bunch of characters, some of which you could say have been borrowed from mythical characters. Let's have a look at these;

Thor - Likes to get hammered.

Thor - As you can imagine, this character lives up to his name. Handy with a hammer, though missing the flowing blonde locks of his latest incarnation. Can get a bit angry if you get on the wrong side of him but generally an all round nice guy who's happy to help.
Samsun - hair or no hair?
Samsun The Strong - Full of muscles though also a bit of a grump - you'll have to catch him in a good mood if you are to get any help from him.

Lady Rosmar - the 'Lady' part may be misleading.

Lady Rosmar - Another character who will often not want to listen to you, even if it's for her own good! But, you will need her help to progress.
Orik - not to be confused with the 80's computer with a similar name.
Orik the Cleric - Rarely seen, mainly because if you try to summon him he's usually asleep! Handy with magic though!

Elrand - likes to blow his own trumpet.
Elrand Halfelven - A chap who enjoys his music, particularly playing the trumpet, which may or may not be helpful to progress in the game. Won't say any more!

Florin the Dwarf - has got a lot of bottle.

Florin the Dwarf - My favourite character in the game. Likes to sing about gold and also enjoys a good snooze, but when awake is always happy to help.

The Banshee - Sci-Fi lover.

The Banshee - An 'unlockable' character, I guess you could say. Only after a certain sequence will he appear. Will give words of wisdom that may help you in your quest, but will also demand a return of a certain space-based TV show.
The main part of your mission will involve commanding the other characters to do certain tasks. Some of these will involve you having to provide certain items for them to help, some will be found within the realms of castle, others are being held by the characters within the game though they may not always be willing to part with them. This could well be because they need something in return before they're happy to part with their goods, other times it may well be because they just don't feel like it! Whilst it's good that these characters do have their own personalities, it can lead to frustration as if you're unsure of what other tasks you need to complete, you can find yourself wandering around the place trying to find something to do.

Don't see this as a negative though, oh no no, this will give you time to get used to your surroundings, toy with some spells, find new characters, collect new objects, examine objects, examine characters - there are plenty of things to keep you going.

He's always asleep - lucky git!
Examining characters and objects can, but not always, give you important clues as to who can help you do what and what items can help you along. Also, examining a character as above can also show you the characters current status - don't worry, he's asleep 90% of the time - and also lists their vital stats. As previously mentioned, keeping everyone happy is part of the game and essential, so examining them and keeping an eye on their happiness and food levels well help you along.

Just give him his hammer, dammit!
Going back to the personality of the characters, you will find that they will move about on their own free will so you never know where you're going to find them, though characters do usually have their favourite levels, of which you can access via the lift (a lift in a castle? This castle comes with all mod cons you know!) Simply moving from one room to another, or indeed just by executing a command can make someone disappear right in front of your eyes!

It is always mentioned when there is a Britishness about things....so I won't disappoint you here! Room names such as 'Plant Room' and next to it 'More Plant Room' - genius! Would you find quirky amazingness like that in an American game? Well, maybe, but I can't think of any (well, I don't want to prove myself wrong, so I'll pretend there isn't). Items that you can pick up but not put down, some suspicious looking spells (Quiticus Gamus, anyone?) an advert which is in your starting inventory promoting the previous Magic Knight instalment, all add to the uniqueness and off-the-wall appearance of the game.

But don't look at this as just a quirky little game with a few oddities thrown in, it's much much deeper than that. There is a very dark feel about the game, knowing that wrong move could end up with you dead, or indeed one of the characters dying as you haven't looked after them properly. It is, after all, your responsibility to keep everyone alive and happy so if you're not on top of things, it can all go horribly wrong!

If you've played the game before then of course you'll be aware of the general goings on of the game and the items you may or may not need to help I your quest. If you haven't, here are a few pointers;

The one ring to rule them all......or a wand in this case.
Wand of Command - essential for you to even think about getting anywhere in the game. Without it, you may as well try and take Thor's hammer off him.

Elf Horn - aside from sounding like a dodgy R-rated fantasy movie, this again is needed to summon characters (when they're awake!) to your current location.

The Mirror - this will show you what your are currently holding on your person.

The Glowing bottle - you won't get very far without this. Move across the first couple of screens, and you'll soon see why you may need this. I won't say any more - this isn't a walkthrough you know!

Finally, as I don't want to give too much away, you will need the Bottle Of Liquid. Though, I'm not going to divulge what this is used for, you'll have to find out for yourself. I never said I was a nice guy! Though if you were paying attention near the top the article, you may well see who the most reliable character is to give it to.

Memories of this game go way back for me. Playing the game when my age was in singular figures, it's always one I look back on fondly. From watching my dad play it relentlessly trying to get just that little bit further each time, to trying myself to finish this epic game which is no easy feat. For the record, I still haven't completed it though have managed to get past the tower on level 4 - dad never did!

The excellent game cover artwork.
For a game that was originally released on a budget label at a budget price, £2.99 if I'm not mistaken, you got your money's worth and then a whole lot more on top. The detail, originality and depth of the game was worthy of a full price game that was around at the same time. Author David Jones certainly has something magical about him and the same can be said about his games.

Spellbound was followed up by further Magic Knight games 'Knight Tyme' and 'Stormbringer' which continue the story of the character and follow the same style of game you get in Spellbound and contain the same witty humour and characteristics found within this game. If you're a fan of Spellbound, then it would be worth your time checking these ones out too.

In summary, an excellent achievement in gaming - great plot, good humour, a game to get lost in. You'll need patience, cunning, intellect, and most importantly - a lot of time! But is it worth it? Hell yes!

Review by Florinthedwarf

1 comment:

  1. Very nice take on this game. Played it as a young teenager. Still looks impressive.


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