Pixie time again. (Cue moans of "Oh no, not the goblin's dungeon!") In fact Dragonia, despite having the most remarkably cliched scenario, looks amazingly pretty and may well set new standards for combining graphic animation and the adventure form.
Vaguely comparable to Gargoyle epics such as Tir Na Nog, Dragonia is a multi-scene horizontally scrolling icon-driven adventure. The central character, Cebrenia, is not, despite all indications to the contrary, a skin disease, but an apprentice wizard. In an attempt to impress the grown-up wizards, he has set forth on a quest into the zombie-haunted land of Dragonia, armed with ... absolutely nothing. No spellbook, no food, no weapons - not a sausage. The idea is to pick things up along the way; spells can be concocted by collecting scrolls, and examining them in a magic place, at which time their message will become clear. For instance, three scrolls combine together to create the spell FIRE ON THEE, which can be used to defeat a dragon.
Although in a sense the adventure is driven by verb-noun commands, most of the verbs can be selected from a scrolling menu at the bottom of the screen. Functions such as take, drop, put on, take off, speak, listen and so on will bring up appropriate messages in the scroll on the bottom left.
In the early stages, before you have assembled any spells, meeting a zombie will lead to inevitable death. The game map also seems quite complex; you can move in any of the four main compass directions, following paths. Lucky then that there's a Game Save option which allows you to save your position at any point. There's a time limit for the completion of Cebrenia's quest to find the lost crown, but while you are in command mode time is suspended, so you can use this as a pause. Excellent 128K mode music is another strong selling point.
The best thing about Dragonia is the background graphics, which are stunningly pretty. Bridges, houses, paths, forests and temples are all rendered in exquisite details. It's a pity that in comparison the characters are poor, vague figures, who tend to mince along rather than striding manfully or creeping creepishly.
Clearly more talented than your average small independent software house, Astros Productions has come up with something well worth a look here. Let's hope that Dragonia. or its successors, get wider distribution in the future. And cheaper too, please.
Some lovely backgrounds and complex gameplay make Dragonia stand out.