It is one thing previewing a game as I did this one (CU July 1990) and another actually playing it for a review. At a preview it is all too easy to be shown only what the person conducting the demo wants you to see. Also, it is impossible to get the feel of how the game actually plays with your own hands at the controls. With so many different methods possible to enter commands, and with such a wide choice of available windows, I had reservations as to whether Wonderland's game system might prove so complex and confusing that it detracted from the game itself. After five minutes at the keyboard, all those doubts had been swept away.
Using a large text window, an inventory window, a room object window, a compass window, a map, and the smaller of the two sizes of graphics window, I found myself quite at ease using the mouse and occasionally entering text from the keyboard, sometimes to try more complex commands not available from the menus, and sometimes just for a change to stop myself from sitting in one position!
Alice In Wonderland is a story with which pretty nearly everyone is familiar to a greater or lesser extent, and therefore most players will have an inkling for the use of cake, a bottle of potion, and a fan. Game author David Bishop has cleverly retained the ingredients from the original story, but moved them around a bit and mixed them up in such a way that however well you know Alice, you will have to stop and think. And he has added a lot more, which lead to some intriguing puzzles and take you off all over the game board to solve. One minute you could be down by the river stroking a puppy, and the next frantically ransacking the White Rabbit's house to complete what you set out to do in the first place.
Moving long distances is no longer a tiring business of typing in a series of commands (like E, E, SE, NE,S, S, SW ... for example) although you can do this if you wish. All you have to do now is place the cursor on the map at the location to which you wish to travel, hold the right mouse button down, and release it on GOTO on a pop-up menu. The game will then take you there automatically.
All the fine text detail that has become the hallmark of Magnetic Scrolls games is there, too, despite so much else being packed onto the disks and crammed into the machine. Take the White Rabbit. His garden indicates that '...carrots play a very important part in the White Rabbit's everyday life...' Go into his living room, and you'll see a fairly insignificant picture hanging on his wall. Click on it to EXAMINE it, and you'll discover ' ...a framed masterpiece entitled Crudites is yet further evidence of the Rabbit's fixation with vegetables.'
Every location, some 105 in all, has a graphic. These vary in shape and size, many are animated including even some of the pictures which are only cameos, and all are sensitive to objects within them being clicked on. Doing this displays the object's name and offers a pop-up menu of verbs valid in relation to it. The graphics windows can be re-sized, and the picture within the frame can be scrolled in any direction using the mouse -and it still retains its sensitivity to clicking.
The verb lists offered both via graphics, room, or inventory windows, and from a top level drop-down menu, are not exhaustive. They contain a standard list of the more common verbs, with valid ones highlighted. The game cannot be completed without a certain amount of keyboard work, which leaves plenty of scope for imaginative thinking to solve a problem. There are certain things you can do to a coat hanger, for example, that can't be done solely with a mouse!
Wonderland will delight and enthrall, as you meet up with all the legendary characters from Alice. With facilities from changing fonts to improve legibility if you are using a TV set, to a tree-structured progressive HELP option to prevent you getting absolutely stuck in any problem, the Amiga version comes on four disks, and can be installed on hard drive. You'll need 1MB of memory, but don't bank on seeing a 500k version, because the chances of one being produced are looking slim.
Over the years I have come to the conclusion that a rating should reflect a game's qualities at the time it is reviewed, rather than to try to tie it to a point on an absolute reference scale. A game rated this highly is nigh on unbeatable at the moment and to be honest, I cannot see it being bettered for at least a couple of years. The only reason it loses points for sound is not the quality, but the fact that there are only five or six music tracks, and I wanted more!
Here is an outstanding game that is a pleasure to play, extremely entertaining, and with widespread appeal to gamesters from nine years of age to ninety.
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