Just imagine it... There you are, sitting in your dusty attic, playing with your Arnold, when you discover a program all about a boy (or girl) sitting in an attic, who discovers a program all about a boy (or girl) sitting in an attic, who discovers a program...
If all this sounds familiar, then you've probably either seen the film "The Never-Ending Story", or read the book. It can now be RAMmed into your Arnold, thanks to Ocean who seem to be making a habit of churning out games based on big-name marketing.
The never-ending plot goes something like this... anti-social Bastian Balthazar Bux climbs into an attic with a dusty old book he's found at the local rag shop and starts reading up on a planet called Fantasia. The author of this tome has such a gripping style that Bastian soon finds himself literally whisked away into another dimension, where he must save Fantasia from nothing at all.
From what?!? Yes, fellow Pilgrims, this is a never-ending story about absolutely nothing - in this case about the 'All-consuming Nothing' that is busy swallowing up Fantasia and from which only Bastian BB can save the world. Unfortunately, he's sitting in his attic, and it's up to a young Fantasian boy, Atreyu, to find him and put him on the job.
That's where you come in. You take the part of Atreyu and must get hold of BBB. It's a very enjoyable task - the game has some truly excellent graphics, making clever use of the Mode 1 colours but at the same time designed to give an appearance of reasonable hi-res. The graphics are very well-presented, using a colourful backdrop of sunset-tinted landscape across the top of the screen. Various different overlays are then printed against the background, showing characters you meet, objects you collect and other views of interest.
The character set has also been re-designed and is not only attractive but quite readable - a blessing after struggling with Souls Of Darkon last month which was almost illegible on a colour screen.
The game loads in four main data blocks, an intro followed by three plot sections. These have to be tackled in the right order, and although it would obviously be impossible to fit everything in at once, it's still a bit of a drag waiting for them to load. It's definitely worth saving the game frequently, otherwise you can find yourself starting all the way from square one if you come adrift.
The vocabulary is something limited but at least you're told what words aren't understood. Other programming refinements include a real-time interrupt that monitors the length of play and sets a very unpleasant character called Gmork the Werewolf on your tail if you don't get a move on. There are a number of characters, but communicating with them is limited for the most part to the exchange of objects in return for favours. You will not, however, be able to crack the game without their assistance.
The only real omission is of an 'Example' option, which is a pity because there is often the desire - and sometimes a real need - to take a close look at things you find or people you meet.
The plot starts off fairly tame - you shouldn't have any trouble cracking the first section, where you need to enlist the help of Falkor the Luckdragon to fly you over a vast expanse of desert. The second and last sections are, however, far more difficult and you will need to make frequent recourse to the SAVE command if you're not to come unstuck here.
The Never-Ending Story is superbly designed and the limited vocabulary will make it particularly attractive to younger players, while the size of the game may attract a few more experienced Pilgrims. I've only got one question - why does the graphic of Bastian show him reading a book in the attic? Surely, he ought to be tapping away at an Arnold!