Every Amiga owner knows that Psygnosis games have great graphics and sound, but often limited gameplay. Well, the release of this game will change all that. Reverse the trend, even. You see, Spellbound is probably one of the most playable platform games yet on the Amiga. It is also a game which has some of the most unspectacular (euphemism time!) graphics and limited sound effects ever to be found in a Psygnosis product. How's that for a complete about-face?
The plot goes something like this. You are Sortice, apprentice mage to the mighty Poinat The Wizzo Warlock. It seems that Poinat's step brother, Krookose, has kidnapped your master and taken him to Hell (with a name like that, he probably deserves it). Although you don't particularly like Poinat, student loyally (and the fact thai if you don't rescue him, you'll never be able to graduate into a fully-fledged warlock) stirs that fighting spirit in your brave elven heart. It's up to you, Sortice old son, to make your way past nine fiendish levels and rescue Poinat before he is lost to this earthly plane forever.
Spellbound has a lot going for it. The game is addictive, addictive, addictive! I just could not find the willpower to turn my Amiga off. As you complete each level, you are given a code word which will let you start off from your current position the next time you play. With this, I was able to make continuous progress into the game.
There are items to be collected, including bombs, potions (to increase your life force), and scrolls (to increase magic power). You have six spells to choose from, each requiring a certain amount of magic power before they work. These spells include levitation (allows Sortice to fly), Fire Wall (creates a barrier of fire), Water Wall (barrier of water), and Starburst (shoots energy in all directions).
For added enjoyment, there is a two player option (the second player gets to be Sortice's twin brother Cerorapp, or Mr. C. rapp as his friends call him). The game is that much easier to play with two people, especially in the higher levels filled with all sorts of horrors that only Hell could provide. It's also that much more fun! However, be careful when casting spells or firing your weapon. If you hit your playing partner, his (or her) character's lifeforce will be reduced (and you might get a whack on the head too...).
I guess if Psygnosis decided to improve the gameplay of its products, something had to go. In this case, it's out with the flashy graphics and sound that has become a Psygnosis trademark. Don't get me wrong, the graphics aren't bad. Indeed, the horizontal scrolling is extremely smooth, and the animation is of an acceptable Amiga quality. It's just that they could have been much better. Perhaps if the programmers had used the bottom half of the screen instead of making Spellbound look like one of those American NTSC Amiga efforts.
As for the sound, the title music does contain a few samples of digitised speech, but otherwise both music and sound effects are pretty ordinary. The benefit of all this is, of course, that the gameplay IS great, and that's the main thing. Besides, without all the extra kilobytes that graphics and sound would have taken up in disk space, the programmers have been able to crunch the entire game onto one single floppy.
To be quite honest, I am quite willing to accept a (slight) decrease in the technical qualities of a game if the gameplay is good. Look at Ultima IV, for example. The graphics and sound are absolutely irrelevant when compared to the playability and depth of this classic. Similarly, Psygnosis' Spellbound might well become a classic platform game on the Amiga. It certainly has the right mixture of addictiveness and gameplay.
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