Friday, October 20, 2017

Mystic Realm


An evil vagrant has kidnapped the Princess (or Prince if you prefer to switch characters) and now she requires our valiant rescue. Whatever character, we are once again crawling through monster-infested dungeons fighting zombies, ghosts, bats, and more. It may look like it was made in 1985 but Mystic Realm was released much later in the ST's life by developer John Lince for STart Magazine in 1990. Impressively he programmed it in GFA Basic!

Mystic Realm is an arcade adventure which feels like an old skool mash of Gauntlet with various RPG elements. Obviously, I chose to play as the prince even though I think he looks like a gingerbread man!! There are 14 huge levels to plunder with the main objective finding the keys to the exit through the levels, ultimately rescuing our beloved. Each level is made from a number of separate rooms and navigating through is aided by directional arrows displayed at the top of the screen. These show us the sides of the screen that will lead through the dungeon. All 14 levels are mapped and included on the disk (enlarged screenshots here). Each map is superbly designed and very challenging as you progress, but never to a point where you feel bewildered or bored. You will have to contend with a range of baddies and puzzles which nicely integrate into the gameplay. For example, a wooden gate may block your path but it isn't a strong obstacle against a couple of knives but later sections will require more thought than simply throwing a sharp object. There are other locked doors but use your collected keys wisely because not all need opening...

Various weapons can be collected throughout our journey and each translate into a specific number of knives for our adventurer. No other weapons are actually used but collecting a high ticket item like an axe will reward your inventory generously. The firing method will instantly feel familiar to Berzerk fans - hold down the joystick button and tap the direction you wish to throw a knife. It's apt and works superbly well. However, beware not to waste your ammo because you never know how long it will be before you can top-up your arsenal.

Health points are displayed top/left of the screen and detail our vitality from 0 (you're dead) to 999 being the maximum. It's hungry work being a heroic gingerbread man so chomp on whatever you find to keep yourself alive. If you are already near the max then it might be worth leaving food behind until later? Sadly, health isn't regenerated at the beginning of a brand new level and you will transform into a skeleton if you foolishly starve to death!!

Don't be fooled by the humble graphics, I find Mystic Realm quite fascinating and it reminds me of the games I played as a kid. The little sprites are nicely drawn with comical retro details, I love the wobble of a zombie walk and the ghosts look fantastic. Even the meagre sound effects transport me back to the 80s as I hear the knife skim through the air on its way to hit a fiend. Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit that I adore its authentic 8-Bit atmosphere.

Mystic Realm proves jazzy graphics and sonic boom effects are not required to make a game great and that is exactly what we have here. I've really enjoyed the arduous task of rescuing yet another damsel in distress!

LINKS

 - I've recorded a video and AtariMania has the official download with the level maps (enlarged below).