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Doomed Xycanthus

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Postby davidw » Thu Oct 24, 2002 9:58 pm

Doomed Xycanthus by Eric Mayer

Eric Mayer's first ADRIFT game - Lost - was a strange one with little or no plot. His second - Doomed Xycanthus - was a far different sort of game. Larger, more detailed and plotted - and overall a far better game.

As Doomed Xycanthus starts, you are in the midst of a forest with no knowledge as to how you arrived there and no idea what to do next. Following a brief fight with a "nightmare creature", you discover a gem embedded in your left hand and a brief note from a wizard by the name of Malevol. It appears Malevol has cursed you with forgetfulness and dumped you in the middle of nowhere as payback for stealing his daughter's virtue. So starts the game.

I have to confess that after the beginning, I was surprised to find that the aforementioned Malevol the wizard did not make another appearance. I was half expecting Doomed Xycanthus to turn out to be a hunt-the-wizard-and-exact-revenge sort of game but instead it turns out to be more a hunt for treasure in the city of the game's title. While this is no bad thing in itself - the storyline as you wander around the wilderness outside Xycanthus and then subsequently inside the ruined city itself is well written and has impressive depth - but I was expecting at every moment for Malevol to show up and when the game finished and there was no sign of him, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed.

That isn't to say that Doomed Xycanthus is a bad game - far from it. It has some intricate puzzles - the one involving the snake being an interesting one, as well as the letters which allow you access to the ruined city - and the locations are often lengthy and detailed. The style of writing is overall very impressive, lending the game an eerie atmosphere, particularly during the times when you wander around the city of Xycanthus itself.

One aspect of the game I found frustrating - and something that, thankfully, seems to be getting rarer and rarer in text adventures these days - is its liking for killing the player off for making a single bad move. Sometimes there are warnings about what will happen if you go a certain way but more often than not these warnings are subtle to the point that they will most likely be missed, leaving the poor player to have to reload time and time again. Maybe this isn't such a bad thing as it encourages you to read the location descriptions more carefully than you normally would and anyone who just rushes through a game without reading where he is going is liable to wind up dead more than a few times.

All in all, this is a well above average game that suffers from a little too much guess-the-verb (the puzzle involving the statue is an unusual one that it is doubtful you would manage to guess without the hints) but the standard of writing and the atmospheric location descriptions more then compensate. From the ending I would have guessed that this was the first part in a series of adventures but as nothing has come out in the months since then it seems unfortunately not which is a pity because this is a standard of game we see too little of.

Logic: 8 out of 10

Aside from the strange puzzle involving the statue, the puzzles were straightforward enough to be guessed (for the most part anyway) without resorting to the hints system.

Problems: 10 out of 10 (10 = no problems)

None that I encountered.

Story: 7 out of 10

Had this been a story of you seeking to gain revenge on the wizard who stole your memories, I would have given it more than 7 out of the 10 but the storyline as it is just didn't strike me as quite so interesting.

Characters: 7 out of 10

Only one, but he has an impressive amount of subjects you can question him about.

Writing: 8 out of 10

Atmospheric locations and an overall impressive style.

Game: 8 out of 10

A decent well written game that might not have been what it seemed to be from the beginning but very good nevertheless.

Overall: 48 out of 60
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Postby MileStyle » Thu Oct 31, 2002 12:50 pm

Evil wizards, ancient ruins, and the obligatory death at every corner!

From the very beginning of Doomed Xycanthus I thought that pace would be an essential ingredient within the game as the player is immediately presented with a situation in which the next few turns will ultimately determine whether or not he/she reads verification on their untimely death. This pace, however, was only the introduction - the game seemed to back down after this.

Containing the staple diet of a number of fantasy stories: wizards, old mythologies, and magic swords, Eric Mayer has made a game no different to numerous other fantasy titles available, whether in ADRIFT or beyond. Interestingly though, the player is forced to read the descriptions closely and think carefully before making each move.

The story within seems limited and uses a deus ex machina at the very beginning to reveal the game's plot. The prose, at most, is minimal but this approach does not suit the game overall - some writing confuses tense, and a spelling mistake was also spotted although this is probably only noticeable to the eye of scrutiny.

Events in the game are well handled, varied, and create a touch of atmosphere, and the author has obviously spent a lot of time increasing the game's interactivity as using keywords and objects - nine times out of ten - produced a favourable response.

With respect to size, Doomed Xycanthus contains a fair number of locations to explore, tasks to execute, and objects to interact with; interacting with the game's characters, however, is typically limited to killing.

So, all cons aside, Eric Mayer's game provides us with a simple story, the chance to solve some puzzles and explore an interesting locale. Fans of fantasy IF may just find this piece just the thing they need to whittle away an afternoon; but be warned, however, making the wrong choices will have you reloading the game again and again until you find that it also helps pass the evening too.

Review by: Stewart J. McAbney
What, can the Devil speak true?
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