Black Cauldron, The Download (1986 Adventure Game)

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From the silver screen to your computer screen comes The Black Cauldron, based upon the 25th animated feature from Walt Disney Pictures. In this early project from Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe, assume the role of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper on his way to rescue the oracular pig, Hen Wen, from the clutches of the Horned King before the evil monarch uses Hen Wen's powers to find the magical Black Cauldron, enabling him to create an army of invincible undead warriors to conquer the land of Prydain. Along the way, you'll meet the dog-like Gurgi, the bard Fflewddur Fflam, Princess Eilonwy, and the three witches in the Marshes of Morva. As with early Sierra titles such as King's Quest, it's up to you to guide Taran by finding items and using them in the proper place. Correctly solving a puzzle earns points (a perfect score is 230). Take special care to keep Taran's food and water supplies full so he doesn't starve or die of thir

st. The Black Cauldron, out of print since the 1980s, with no plans for re-release, also includes subtle references to Lloyd Alexander's five-part series of children's books (The Chronicles of Prydain), on which the film is based

Based on the Disney movie of the same name, The Black Cauldron focuses on the story of Taran, who is an assistant Pig-keeper in the land of Caer Dalben. One day Taran notices that one of his pigs, Hen Wen has magical powers. The Evil Horned King wants the pig so that he can locate the Black Cauldron and ultimately rule the world. Taran must now embark on a mission to rescue Hen Wen and defeat the Evil Horned King before his can discover the Cauldron's location.

The Black Cauldron is a side-view adventure game. Gameplay is similar to other Sierra adventure games of its day (such as Space Quest II or King's Quest III) but does not use a text parser. Instead the function keys are used to initiate actions. Players control Taran and can make him walk, run, swim and interact (talk) with other characters in the game. Puzzle-solving and advancement in the plot requires item manipulation of using the right item at the right time or at the right location.

The Black Cauldron is a fantasy adventure game based on the Disney movie of the same name. The original inspiration for both game and movie came from the popular series of children's books, Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

In this version of the story you play Taran, a young boy on a heroic quest to rescue your beloved HenWen (the magical pig) from the evil Horned King. You also need to find the Black Cauldron and destroy it, so the Horned King can be stopped from conquering your homeland. The graphics and sound are similar to the early King's Quest series released in the late 80's (and are equally primitive), which isn't surprising since both King's Quest and The Black Cauldron were designed by Roberta Williams of Sierra. Al Lowe of Leisure Suit Larry fame also had a hand in the design and programming of the game; however, The Black Cauldron is nothing like the LSL games.

If you wish to cut short the opening sequences, simply hit the space bar. Managing the inventory and the interface of this game is a little more bothersome.

I'll go over the trickier bits here. The readme-file tells you that hitting the Tab key will open the inventory. It does open a very simplistic-looking list of items (depending on what you're carrying), but you can't interact with them. Hitting F3 opens another version of this primitive interface which instructs you to hit Enter for a selection. You use the arrow keys to scroll through the items, and hitting Enter means you are now carrying the item in your hand. The first time I triumphantly hit Enter (after many failed attempts to obtain an inventory item), the screen froze, so I had to greet an old friend: Ctrl/Alt/Del.

In the meantime, Taran was continually dying of thirst because I couldn't get any water to him from the flask he was carrying. The first puzzle is to fill the flask. First you select the flask from the inventory by hitting F3 and highlight the flask. Then Taran must be standing beside a container of water (or river or lake) so he can fill the flask, which he does automatically when you hit F4 - which is the shortcut for using the object you're carrying. Although Taran then had water in his flask, I still had to convince the character to drink it. I repeatedly F4'd hoping the character would drink from the flask, but Taran was having none of it. I F3'd back to the inventory and discovered that 'water' was now listed as a separate object. I'll let you figure out what has to be done next.

An annoying part of the gameplay is that every few screens you're informed that Taran is hungry or thirsty, so if he isn't watered and fed, he quickly dies. The constant filling of water containers, drinking and feeding becomes repetitive and distracting. But once Taran is initially refreshed and HenWen the pig is fed, then you can finally embark on the adventure of a life-time. For the first time in your short life, you leave the safety of the farm and set out to rescue HenWen (who has been kidnapped by a large bird-like creature) and thwart the evil plans of the Horned King.

It's a fun game set within a beautiful forest and deadly swampland with a storyline and gameplay that become more engaging the further into the game you progress. The puzzles aren't frustrating or hard, and once you understand the logic of the game, and the interface, progress is swift. The actions taken during the game don't always correlate with the plot of the movie version. The ending can vary depending on decisions you make along the way, so this is a game that can be replayed many times.

Despite the simplistic graphics and sound, the gameplay is engaging and the story captivating, so all things considered, you should have many hours of fun playing The Black Cauldron. I rate this game at 3.

For more information on the game from one of its creators, Al Lowe, go here.

How to run this game on modern Windows PC?

This game has been set up to work on modern Windows (11/10/8/7/Vista/XP 64/32-bit) computers without problems. Please choose Download - Easy Setup (2.82 MB).


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