Below the Root is based on Zilpha Keatley Snyder's fantasy book series "The Green-Sky Trilogy". Following the events in those books, The Kindar and the Erdling societies have joined together. However unrest and distrust still remains. An old woman, D'ol Falla has heard the words "The Spirit fades, in Darkness lying. A quest proclaim, the Light is dying". Choosing one of five available people (of different ages and of either Kindar or Erdling descent) either she believes can help, D'ol Falla assigns the quest of discovering what these words mean and how to quell the racial and political tensions building between the races.
Below the Root is a adventure game and a platform game. Choosing one of five characters (each very different from one another), the player explores the tree-based lands Erdling and the underground-based lands of the Kindar. As an adventure game, goals are primarily accomplished by talking to people (though each character is treated differently by others) and finding the right items to use in specific situations, but also dealing with the challenges of level design in a platform game.
Each character can obtain different items to help with their movement as well as psychic abilities such as pensing (telepathy), kiniporting (telekinesis) and grunspreking (plant manipulation). Violence is abhorred among the Kindar and the Erdling and violent actions tend to harm the player's reputation. Kindar or Erdling factions may kidnap the player's character if they wander into the wrong areas, throwing them into a local "prison house" from which they must escape. The player must eat constantly to retain their energy, however Erdling characters do not eat meat.
I discovered this game on a Commodore 64 site about 13 years after its release, but I sure am glad I did! Below the Root is an epic fantasy adventure with some RPG flavor that is truly one of its kind. As one of three possible characters, you must save the "treehouse" world from certain destruction.
From Matthew Murray's thoughtful review of the game: "As another interesting game from Windham Classics, Below the Root is far more original than Alice in Wonderland, since the story is devised completely from scratch, with few real ties to the series of books on which it is based. You can choose one of five characters, each of whom has different skills and levels of magical powers, which make the game easier or more difficult. Each of the games is otherwise the same, however. For originality, Windham Classics deserves high marks, though the execution is far poorer. There is little direction in this game, and the series of books it is based on, unlike the other games from Windham Classics, are hardly famous reading material. The endgame is also very difficult, and requires too much time and exploration to be the exciting ending it should be. A good game, but designed primarily for the young and patient who are willing to replay the game the numerous times that may be required."
My impression of the game is a bit more impressive than Matt's, since I believe that the vast and unique gameworld that requires intensive exploration is one of the game's strongest points. But it does require a lot of patience to solved, so be warned. With unique atmosphere and NPCs, non-linear path, and a truly *vast* gameworld, this is really one of the games dying for a facelift.
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