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Game 61: Spellcasting 201: The Sorcerer's Appliance (1991) - Introduction

Why are we jumping straight to Game 61 when we haven't even started games 59 and 60? Simple. Alex is just too busy playing Larry 5, so he cannot yet start Police Quest 3, and Joe P. is trying to finish Questprobe games, so he couldn't do Willy Beamish. Next one on the roster was Aperama, always ready for some Meretzky fun.


That face looks familiar!


Written by Aperama

So, after the pain that was B.A.T., I've managed to recover enough that I can head into another game without having to cut out and play other, actually good games from my childhood in the middle of play posts. Which is good! I'm also quite happy to return to the nonsensical world of Spellcasting. Steve Meretzky is sure to give a good laugh every now and then – even if the puzzles that he turns in can sometimes be on the 'confusing' side.


Speaking of Steve – it appears that almost the entirety of the gang from Spellcasting 101 has returned, here, with the only real differences being that they had more testers in 101 (which is understandable given it was the maiden voyage for the Legend parser-cum-adventure game screen that we've just seen in action again to full effect in Timequest) and more artists at work in 201 (which if you may recall is probably a positive – some of the art in 101 was 'questionable', at best). Overlaying the two sets of credits shows a whole heap of old, familiar faces. The only new name that stood out to me was Glen R. Dahlgren, who apparently came in as a programmer back in Timequest – he appears to have become another Legend mainstay in his own right, given he features in all of their games including the ones put together after their takeover by GT Interactive post-99 where they turned in their adventure game credits for some FPS titles. It's impossible to find much information on programmers from this era who didn't go out and do something spectacular, but I am impressed to see in his Mobygames resume that he apparently put together his own TRS-80 adventure, 'Dragon's Blade' – I can only imagine that this is how he managed to get the job at Legend. Okay, it's conjecture – but it makes enough sense to me that I enjoy the idea of him showing a simple game he'd made five years earlier on a hobby computer and getting a job out of it. The fact that they had an additional programmer on board could have as much to do with the increased schedule we see out of Legend over 91-92 – after their first title sold enough, I am thinking they started churning games out at a rapid fire pace.


Hard not to see the familiar lines! (Credits courtesy of Mobygames)


Does Dragon's Blade look like a 'Missed Classic'? Probably not, but it's a fun curio

So, I would like to say that we're all pretty familiar with what Legend brings to the table. It's a bizarre mixture of things – you have a parser that gives you the list of all interactive items and verbs (although you can often use different ones, and in the case of a certain painful island I remember all too distinctly, the parser sometimes forces you to type things in regardless) along with a little image in the top right corner. You can choose either full-text (turning the game into something along the lines of a Zork), text with images (a screen that I think I probably should have been using the whole time in 101, in retrospect, as I find that I was never really using the side bar as much more than an inventory menu) and text, images and the Legend parser. It's easy to forget that these choices exist and just go straight in in the default Legend parser – I think I might switch up this time and use the 'intermediate' parser. That said, with the Legend parser, the game is theoretically 100% point and click – you can actually use the images on-screen interactively, so long as there's actually a clear link between the pictures and what you're seeking to click on. For instance, if you have a picture of a person on screen, you can, say, click on 'USE BIGGUS HEADDUS SPELL (on) ERNIE'. From my experiences with 101, I'm willing to say that this would be extremely difficult to play in this fashion. Still, nice for the sake of something different.


I cut off the huge amounts of white screen in both 'half' and 'full', but..
these are your choices in a Legend game

The manual, I think, is probably the most fun to be found in Legend's catalogue. It's full of whimsy and still manages to give enough information to not feel wasteful. There's no new information that wasn't given in the first game – now that I read it, the final puzzle from 101 makes a little more sense, and I'm sure it noted the fact that the spell boxes require a spellbook to not be cast into the air at random also. I'm sure that Legend is the only company that has ever printed a manual with the lines >POINT MAGIC WAND AT THE GORILLA >BUY VELVET STRIPS FROM BELINDA, for instance. I'd almost tell you all to go and read the manual even if you're not interested in the game – Steve Meretzky was clearly personally involved in the writing of this, as it's full of little laughs (for instance, informing us that Steve's hobbies have evolved over the years, and now consist primarily of fixing bugs, changing diapers, and trying to find spare hours to catch up on videotaped episodes of Twin Peaks. That really shows us just how far back we're going when we're playing these circa 1990 games, I suppose!) Even the end-of-manual 'legalese' has some humour to it, although I must point out that the jokes in that section were reprinted from the manual of 101 – I recall the explanation of how the game's limited warranty doesn't cover you if your friend is distracted by the in-game graphics, accidentally stepping on your cat leading to a lamp-based curtain fire burning down your house.


They've followed the 'copy protection in as fun a way as is possible' of the first game too, clearly.

Story-wise, the game appears to be about – you guessed it – Ernie Eaglebeak's second year at the premier magic training school, Sorcerer's University, where he's going through Spellcasting 201. Ernie's former housemaster, Otto Tickingclock, has taken his place as President of SU and Ernie has decided to pledge to, as some of you may have read in the form above, the Hu Delta Phart (HDP) fraternity. Clearly, with such prestige behind him from the first game's heroics, he's sure to fire through the competition like a bad smell – but unfortunately, the Pledgemaster of HDP, Chris Cowpatty, is not at all a fan of Ernie. Not to mention, President Tickingclock wants Ernie to learn as much as he can about the Sorcerer's Appliance. (From the death screen at the end of 101 if you played poorly and its ability to go nuclear, I'm guessing that this is not going to be particularly easy.) Also, like the previous game, this also has a 'nice' and 'naughty' mode. I won't bother requesting a poll this time – there was a clear landslide of support for the 'naughty' – but I'll ask.. do you want to have the Alley Cat picture again? I'm perfectly happy to have it back if you all do. Let me know in the comments, hm?


You could always try to make me just go with 'nice' mode, too

Cynic though I am, however, 101 was an incredibly fun game and I'm sure that it'll be a hoot to play through – as I say, I'm planning on using the 'middle' screen as it eliminates the largely unused (by me) dropdown menu and means there will be a little less scrolling back attempting to read things. The 'script' option is still sure to be my friend in this much. So, if you'd like to follow me in my journey through a whimsical world of bad (or clever, depending on your view) puns, a setting that is clearly so inspired by movies from the 70s and 80s that the back cover actually says 'Return to Animal House' on it, and maybe even save Peloria with a little bit of luck? Let's go!


From the back of the box, we're told another story element –
 we've created another plot point from an 80s movie!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of Aperama requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that Aperama won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 60 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

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