Retail Price: £1.99
Author: Mike Westlake
Merlin the magician has been absent-minded - and he's ended up searching the dank passageways of King Arthur's Camelot castle for his lost magical powers!
To reactivate his stock of skills that would leave Paul Daniels floundering, Merlin must collect the magic stars that lie in Camelot's horizontally-scrolling passages and rooms.
He can collect them merely by walking into them, but the positions of some are sure to test his agility, speed and ingenuity.
And Camelot is an ancient, strange and mysterious place. Bats, small ghosts and bewitched sweeping brooms occupy dark rooms, just waiting for Merlin to walk in...
Merlin's remaining life force is grimly displayed by an emerging gravestone at the bottom left of the screen, and he's got just ten lives to recover those lost powers - if he's ever to say another abracadabra again.
Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: large, colourful, but very slow and flickery
The eponymous Merlin is just too big! He just towers over everything else, and you get the feeling the sprite may fall over any second. And the screens are very cluttered, with small monsters and objects all over the place...
The collecting idea is old hat and boring, the title tune is very basic, but at least Merlin is nicety colourful - it you like stray blobs of colour chucked all over the screen.
Merlin isn't very original, a kind of latter-day Jet Set Willy without much of the fun. The gameplay itself is quite addictive, though I'm sure some of the rooms are impossible to complete. It's very fast-moving and requires a lot of precise joystick work- perhaps too much - but you're given plenty of lives to play with, and real progress can be made.
But don't be fooled by the screenshots on the inlay: the graphics are big, bold and colourful, with varied and interesting backdrops, but when the sprites start to move it's a different story. Glitches in the animation and a kind of 'transparency' afflict them - and because of this it's ludicrously easy to hide from ghosts.
So though there are lots of locations to explore, the simple idea doesn't hold long-term rewards - and the minimal instructions don't help much.
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