Another Darling game, another Rob Hubbard soundtrack. But wait! This is not a typical Darling game. There's no driving or flying or pedalling along a fairly predictable path. No, this game has real depth. This game has ambition. This game is Master of Magic.
I didn't intend to sound overly critical of the Darlings games there, but to be fair, there were a lot of titles which were more or less the same game in different skins. Master of Magic, though... that was entirely its own entity.
Obviously a Dungeons & Dragons-inspired effort, Master of Magic opens with the player in a cave, having been dragged there by Thelric the Wizard with an order to retrieve the Amulet of Immortality for him, or you will never return home. What a miserable old bugger.
Thus, you must explore, out of necessity. Starting with nothing, you can find all manner of things to help you in your quest. Magic scrolls, mysterious rings, weapons... all are lying around this cave, possibly left by those who have tried and failed before you... waste not, want not though, you might as well pick them up as you're definitely going to need them.
Interestingly, the game features a Paradroid-esque viewpoint. The main game area is small, but within that you can only see the area that's in your line of sight. So you never quite know what's going to be around the next corner or through that door... better be careful!
As you would expect, monsters of all kinds roam the cave system, and the only thing they're interested in is taking a bite out of you. Fortunately, you don't have to fight everything you come across, but it does sometimes result in a sort of D&D Benny Hill chase as you try to outrun a pack of horrors!
It's quite an easy game to play, as it uses a joystick-controlled command system. There aren't many different commands, so it never becomes too unwieldy. Also, there's no great emphasis on stuff like levelling-up, and no annoying side quests. You just battle your way through the hordes as best you can to find try and find Thelric's amulet.
I've had a great time playing Master of Magic today. I really wish I'd bought it back in the day, as it would have been right up my street then. As it is, I think I'll be going back to it to see how far I can progress. The map is large, and I haven't seen much of it yet. I might even have to get some graph paper out...