Witch's Cauldron, The
by Dale McLoughlin, Shelley McLoughlin
Mikro-Gen Ltd
Crash Issue 17, June 1985   (1985-05-30)   page(s) 97,98

As far as I am aware (and, as it happens I am very aware due, in no small part to the flurry of free literature which still greets Neptune Software every morning) (Derek had his own software company called Neptune - Ed) Mikro-Gen have not to date released an adventure. However, there is no doubting the stir they caused in arcade with their brilliant Wally series and so the question is, have they brought the flair shown in those terrific games to the adventure scene. The answer, in short, is yes, they have.

If you are one of the many who read this column not through any great interest in adventure but more a canny desire to squeeze as much out of your CRASH as possible, then let me tell you this game does not have you cast in the role of a saviour of middle-earth or anything exotic. No, here we have a much simpler and more commercial storyline which will have a very broad appeal, quickly introducing a superbly presented adventure. When I say commercial, I mean this in the best sense of the word; you'll feel the not too exorbitant sum is worth it, so you too can enjoy this super game.

The Witch's Cauldron of the title is where you must mix the correct ingredients of a potion to begin the long task of righting the wrong the evil witch Hazel has inflicted upon you, namely turning you into a green slimy, but humanly intelligent toad. The path to your old human form is not an easy one as you must take on all the curious guises which eventually lead to your human persona and well-earned freedom. The different forms you endure early on include a toad, cat, ape and bat, and each is true to its own unique character so that a toad might hop through a gap closed to a cat, while the cat's agility easily allows it to negotiate a window ledge and so open a whole new area to investigation. Not only do these metamorphoses add a fresh angle to the game but also the various hoppings of the creatures are reflected in the picture so a frog which hops onto a couch is seen to do just that.

So you hop off from a location which varies each time you begin a new game (a feature which woke me up from the semi-comotose state which befalls all reviewers) and what is more, the objects and happenings also move around which very much reflects the thinking behind a game which does not wish to be seen as just another adventure. In the upper half of the screen is a picture of where you stand which is remarkable for its quality of design, bringing the clarity of arcade graphics to an adventure. Fuzzy shading has thankfully not been employed so pictures are a delight to behold as you ponder on your next move. And ponder you will, as the problems are superbly pitched into that perplexing, but engaging, area between lucid logicality and mind-frosting ingenuity. Once a problem is solved you quite rightly pat yourself on the back and reset your brain cells to TV mode happy in the belief that when called upon every brain cell can do its duty. It's that sort of game.

The vocabulary can be choosy over what it will accept, eg GET GOLD will not pick up a gold ring, but you soon get used to the sort of input the program requires and sometimes a prompt will point you in the right direction, eg GET SPOON very politely calls up 'There may be more than one of these, use the full description'. Corrected, you input GET SILVER SPOON. A list of useful words is listed in the precise instructions which neatly reside in the program itself and can be called up at any time. Sentence constructions include PUT THE WATER INTO THE CAULDRON and OIL THE SOUTH DOOR. Taking everything with GET ALL proves very useful, not least when the first time you realise you are carrying too much is when in a tricky moment you go and drop everything. It is in areas like these where this game has taken adventuring ideas and given them a twist making them fresh and interesting. Moving around is very fluid with IN, OUT, UP, DOWN, taking your current persona whether frog, cat, ape or bat hopping, crawling, loping and flapping all over the place.

This adventure is not a long one but this is not a serious drawback as each location is of major import and has some bearing on the eventual track of the game. There is a super feeling of quality about the whole thing with graphics making up detailed and exquisite illustrations, puzzles which are a joy to pick over, and characters that behave true to form. Witch's Cauldron is a seething mass of puzzles and bubbles of fun.


Difficulty: quite easy
Graphics: for each location shows your character. Similar quality to the Wally series, very good
Presentation: very good static graphics and scrolling text
Input facility: allows full sentence
Response: instantaneous

Addictive Quality9/10
Overall Value10/10
Summary: General Rating: An excellent and original adventure.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 12, March 1985   page(s) 32

Ross: Mikro-Gen are producing some very good pieces of software these days, and this text and graphic adventure is no exception. In the best of fairy-tale traditions, the plot is based on a Prince who having been turned into a toad, is now trying to regain his regal form.

The wicked witch, Hazel, cast the spell that transformed the Prince, and it's her abode that you have to hop around collecting all the ingredients necessary to make a potion in the witch's cauldron and then drink it. On your travels you may turn into many other forms, which can be useful but can also make you vulnerable to attack; for example, try turning from a toad into a bat and you'll be eaten by the cat.

I'm not a great fan of adventures but I liked this one very much. The illustrations of each room (which appear at the top of the screen) are detailed and drawn quickly, and the idea of the toad moving about the picture as you give it instructions is quite novel. Above all, this adventure is very user-friendly; it understood most of what I typed in and didn't expect that strange dialect I call 'adventure-speak'.

Overall, a humourous and well-designed game that I'd recommend highly. 3/5 HIT

Dave: Being able to see yourself moving around on-screen is a nice touch, but then there's lots of humour in this game. Red herrings abound and the puzzles are more than difficult. Addictive enough to keep you hopping back for more. 3.5/5 HIT

Roger: One for the pot - in that any literate, difficult, but somewhat sluggardly, cerebral adventure game can earn its supernatural keep. 3/5 HIT

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 37, April 1985   page(s) 23

WHY IS life so tough? There you are minding your own business, an ordinary human on the Clapham omnibus, when Hazel the witch arrives and turns you into a slimy toad.

Hazel has now imprisoned you in her island home and, naturally enough, you want to become human again and get back to Clapham. You must go through a series of transformations by using spells, potions and all other magical impedimenta lying around Hazel's dwelling. Warning - this won't be easy.

The game is a text adventure with superb location graphics. As you move around the rooms, - whether you happen currently to be a toad, cat, ape or whatever - you are shown in the position you have moved to - on top of a sofa, under the piano. In this sense the graphics are interactive.

The program is technically polished with a large vocabulary and about 100 locations. You can type in reasonably complex English and the input is very firm, allowing fast typing.

The plot is inventive and good-natured whilst the business of finding the correct things for your next change is quite tantalising. Change too soon and you may find you've missed something you could have done only in a different shape.

The Witch's Cauldron should be entertaining enough for the whole family. Splendid fun!

Richard Price

Memory: 48K
Price: £6.95

Gilbert Factor7/10
Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue February 1985   page(s) 40

Spectrum 48K

Bumpkins of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your shape - you have been turned into a toad by wicked witch Hazel. Having failed the auditions for Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus, it's down to you to seek out and concoct some spells and potions to help you regain human shape.

Witch's Cauldron is a graphic adventure game with a vocabulary of nearly 300 words. You can turn around in a room, getting different walls depicted on the screen, and if you examine things like the GRAMAPHONE very closely, you will find a DIAMOND.

You can't pick up anything that a toad couldn't pick up, which basically means that anything large will have ti be left behind. How a toad carries a diamond is a mystery to me - I guess it's okay if no-one gives you a hearty slap on the back. The plus side of being a toad in this game is that you can hop onto things like mantelpieces and examine them. While you can't open any doors you can hop up the chimney.

There is plenty of SOOT here and for your first trick you can throw it over your shoulder. Unfortunately one of Hazel's unpleasant creatures generally happens along and devours you., just as your are about to become more socially acceptable. If you can avoid becoming part of a monster's menu, you have a schedule of about 10 metamorphoses to go through. Talk about getting away for a change!

The program understands plain English; it is possible to give commands like "Put the water in the cauldron".

The game contains over 90 different locations - most are illustrated with a full colour hi-res picture. Not all the objects are useful, and there are supposed to be around 700 different possible actions in the game. Good fun, but you haw to remember that one small step for a man is a giant leap for a frog.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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