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Heavy on the Magick

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Released: 1986

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Gargoyle Games

Developer: Greg Follis and Royston Carter

Submitted by: Andrew Hunt

You may have to bear with me, but Apex the Ogre is the ZX Spectrum's equivalent of Princess Zelda. Honestly.

I never played any of the Zelda games when they were first released, but in the last 2 years I've been working my way through several of them, Link to the Past, Wind Waker, Minish Cap, and Ocarina of Time. I quite like them, but I'm never going to finish any of them. Not got the patience, you see. It's not that they aren't great games, but they're the sort of games that I'll never be able to fnish without a walkthrough. I'm just not good enough at spotting the clues, and I just haven't got the time to go wandering backwards and forwards across what can sometimes be a very samey landscape. And that's what all of the Zelda games seem like to me. They're all a little bit samey. Now that I have to go to work and everything I just want somebody to tell me exactly how to play a game so I can experience the whole thing from beginning to end. I don't want to miss out on something because I haven't got the time to go through vast swathes of countryside looking for something I missed the first time around. Essentially I want a story with just enough interacivity to make me feel like I'm not just staring like a zombie at a screen for 20 hours. Not much to ask is it?

So anyway.

Heavy on the Magick is kind of like that. I bought it when it first came out because I loved Gargoyle Games (or thought I did, maybe I just liked what they were trying to do) They'd changed things from their previous titles (Tir Na Nog, Dun Darach and Marsport) so that you had to (kind of) type your commands. They made it fairly easy. There weren't many verbs you could use and all of them were single key entries. It was mainly just a case of picking up an object and putting it somewhere else, dependent on clues that you could pick up from your environment. Sometimes you had to figure out a riddle, which could be quite obscure. And I played it quite a bit, and having played it again over the last two days I seem to have got quite a long way through it. But I'm not sure if I got very far until the magazines started printing hints and tips. And although I got quite a long way playing it in the last couple of days, it's amazing how much of the puzzles had stuck in my mind so I'm not convinced I'm better at these riddles than I used to be, just got an astonishingly good, if utterly useless, memory. Some of the puzzles are a little obscure, until you remember the types of puzzles that were in other Zelda…sorry, Gargoyle games, and then you realise that they tend to be quite repetitive. There's quite a lot of wandering around the dungeons of Hyrule..sorry Collodon's Pile and there's a cartoony style to the drawing of the main character which doesn't seem quite as good as in the earlier titles (even though it looks more polished, you can't help hankering for some of the more basic graphics like they had in the good old days)

So for its repetitive puzzles and traipsing around a large map, that is why Axil the Able is Link for the Spectrum generation. And that must mean that Apex the Ogre is our Zelda….


Heavy on the Magick

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Released: 1986

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Gargoyle

Developer: Greg Follis / Roy Carter

Submitted by: Gavin Eke

 If like me, you were weaned on the Fighting Fantasy game book series by Ian Livingston & Steve Jackson, you'll be no stranger to skill/stamina points.  

Whether the success of these literary works was an influence on Greg Follis & Roy Carter it's difficult to say but Heavy on the magick turned out to be a very distinctive game. Essentially a graphic adventure, HOTM was controlled via keyboard commands. The story pits you as Axil the Able, a lowly wizard banished to an underground dungeon, and it's up to the player to guide him out whilst gaining experience, thereby improving his ranking beyond a Neophyte. 

You have three ratings which can be randomized at the start of the game that include Skill, Stamina & luck. Once you're happy with your stats, it's time to begin your adventure. 

Unlike previous text adventures which merely displayed a static picture, HOTM shows full animation of the characters that inhabit the dungeon. Every move made via your keyboard commands would be displayed on screen. Various creatures roam the dungeons, many of them will not think twice about attacking our hero. However, there were one or two larger than life characters such as Apex the Ogre who would assist in your quest. Getting that assistance was hard though, mainly due to the games syntax.

As with other Text Adventures, trying to guess/work out how to ask questions was the key to success & ultimate progression. Thankfully, some of the guess work was removed because of the command keys such as "Pick up", "Call", "Blast" & perhaps the most useful "Examine". As the title implies, magick can be cast to assist Axil in times of need. Once the Grimoire is acquired, he will have access to spells such as "Freeze", "Invoke" & "Blast". It will be essential to use these spells against the creatures lurking within the caverns. Defeating monsters garners Axil with experience points thereby increasing his powers. However, if his stamina gets to zero, the game is over. 

HOTM visual distinctiveness was down to the enlarged sprites, therefore, reducing resolution, enabling more gameplay to be squeezed in. The characters were extremely well animated too. Axil's cape would constantly flow together with Wyverns, Ghosts & Goblins all having their own charm. Apex the Ogre is Axils most useful companion but will attack if you try to blast him with magic.  Puzzles & obstacles impede your progress at every available opportunity. Trying to solve them isn't all that easy which is why getting Apex's assistance is important.

If you want to take a gander at a British developers interpretation of an RPG adventure, then this is a good starting point.