Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur, following on the heels of Beyond Zork, continues Infocom's attempt to integrate graphics into text adventures. The game includes scenery graphics and a two-panel display that can be switched to various modes with function keys. But, behind all the graphical flash, it's really just another standard text adventure game, albeit one with excellent writing and some very clever puzzles.
The puzzles are remarkably varied and include a basic cryptography problem, a riddle, and a maze, as well as other logic puzzles. Some require you to solve them from the perspective of the animals you change into, while others have exceptionally clever solutions. Indeed, puzzle solving is the best aspect of the game, and combined with performing certain other actions, earn points in Chivalry, Wisdom, Experience, or Quest, categories used in lieu of one general point value to gauge your progress.
The prose is quite good, with plenty of vivid and verbose scene descriptions. The dialogue is especially well written and manages to convey the personalities of game characters through speech. Merlin speaks with a formal tone that depicts him as a learned scholar, while regular farmers at the tavern speak with heavy cockney-like accents that imply uneducated folk. The scene descriptions and dialogue are quite effective in setting the game's atmosphere, and keep you interested in reading and advancing the story.
One of the major problems is the storyline structure. Your primary goal is to prove yourself worthy of kingship and defeat the pretender king. Unfortunately, there are several times you're left with no idea of what to do. Depending on where you go and with which characters you converse, the game can either play out as a classic quest (rid the land of its various evils), or as a series of disjointed puzzles with no real purpose or sense of unity. This could easily have been fixed by incorporating more direction in gameplay, such as having Merlin drop a hint about who to talk to next.
Three different graphics modes are supported. The CGA and EGA modes are barely passable, with the CGA mode showing pictures in messy black and white lines, and EGA mode showing colored but very pixelated pictures. Conversely, MCGA mode is quite good, with solid vibrant colors that help to bring the well-drawn pictures to life. There are quite a lot of pictures as well, one for each of the game's rooms. The graphics, while not necessary to gameplay, add to the overall appeal and atmosphere. Purists can opt to turn the graphics off and play as a straight text adventure.
Despite the problem with structure, Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur is a solid text adventure game that's embellished with good non-intrusive graphical scene sets. The originality and variety of the puzzles should please even veteran text adventure fans, and the strength of the writing makes the story quite enjoyable.
Graphics: The CGA and EGA modes are decent, but the MCGA mode shines with impressive graphics and vivid colors.
Sound: It's a text adventure.
Enjoyment: The game features excellent puzzles with a lot of variety and originality, as well as strong prose.
Replay Value: Not much reason to replay the game after completion, other than to revisit the story.
In this Infocom Graphic Interactive Fiction, you play the role of Arthur in search of the Excalibur sword, stolen by the evil King Lot. To aid you in your quest, you are assisted by Merlin who grants you the power to transform yourself into a variety of animals.
The legend of King Arthur is a very popular story indeed. There have been books written about it, movies made - and of course computer games.
This game will allow you to play the character of the legendary king himself (even before he was a king). You start off in a cemetery where Merlin calls you to take the magic sword Excalibur. Unfortunately, the sword has been stolen, and you need to get it first, then pull it out of the stone and finally win the game (you get to kiss girls on the way too *hehehe*).
The game itself is a well-written text-based game with nice pictures to accompany the text but no animations. There is also no sound (but there's no real need for it). The puzzles are not too hard, but just in case, I added a walkthrough (it's always easier to have one around). The main reason why this game isn't too difficult is the fact that you can get hints from the game itself at any time by looking at the magic crystal. If you want, you can turn this option off.
The characters you'll meet on the way are well described, and you'll find some of them are quite complex. The style of writing is good, so you'll like reading the story that you're taking part in (because this basically is an interactive story).
This game will transport you from modern-day reality into a medieval past, where you'll be on a heroic quest to become king. Not just any king, but the one and only Arthur. All in all, the game deserves a 4, because the story is good, and the graphics are nice, although there's no sound. I really hated the poor mouse support in this game. There's just an annoying pointer on the screen.
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