THE EDGE have brought a touch of class to the staid old adventure with a wide choice of options on play and some pretty pleasing graphics and sound effects. Loading up presents you with the options of Kempston/Sinclair Joystick or Keyboard control. Although the icon option with joystick and little on-screen arrow may be the slicker looking of the two, it is in fact the keyboard option which, once all the key assignments are mastered, plays the better.
You are Prince Kyle leading your band of loyal warriors in search of Nemesar, your younger brother, and the Mindstone he has stolen. Members of the trusty team which accompanies you are called upon by pressing numbers 1 to 4 in Keyboard Mode, a mode made all the more attractive by way of its keeping the strength and psyche attributes of a character up on the screen (making the S for Status key superfluous). Gold reserves are also shown on screen but this is the same for each team member as it is a team figure. The team consists of Kyle, who has average to high values for strength and psyche at the start, Merel, who has the highest strength but lowest psyche, Quin who averages in both, and Taina, who has the lowest strength but the highest psyche. Strength, clearly, is a measure of competence in combat but you may be puzzled at the word 'psyche' which turns out to be an indication of how well versed the character is in spell lore.
During play all attributes can be altered with strength being increased by eating and drinking, psyche assisted with meditation under the right conditions, and gold pieces can be accumulated by mining or alchemy. If you are finding it difficult to attain gold by these means it's worth noting how buying provisions and artefacts can be made less damaging by bartering, which entails offering slightly less for an item than has been quoted. For example, I acquired a Royal Orb from a pixie for the bargain price of 36 (a discount of 3 gold pieces) while a golden arrow cost 53 as opposed to the 56 gold pieces price quoted by a voyager.
EXAMINE and LOOK are two commands used often in this game. EXAMINE tells you something about the location you are in. It tells you if something is blocking your way (a crocodile, locked door, or block of ice and so on) or whether a trader is present. LOOK tells of any objects lying within the present location but spells, being of the magic world, are transparent to the LOOK command. Instead spells are indicated by a brief flash of a spotted square at the side of the screen, possibly the only example of tatty presentation and design in the whole game - it very much has the look of a feature grafted on late in the development stage of the game. The 'hand' icon, indicating the presence of an object, isn't much better, and these two features together require a certain amount of vigilance for what is otherwise a slowly paced adventure game.
There is some animation with the picture window along the top third of the screen. A character selected to perform moves across the screen from far left to right either to take a drink from the bar, attack a wolf or an orc or whatever, or cast a spell to smooth the way. The animation wouldn't win any cartoon awards but is amusing enough.
Mindstone is a game which really impresses graphically. In play, as well, it is most engaging (although this comment can only be attributed to Keyboard Mode which is far more playable than the slicker looking Icon Mode) with some very pleasant sound effects. The game doesn't allow for the team to go their separate ways, and the poster on offer can only be described as a waste of paper (or a joke), but mostly everything else is truly impressive.