Personal Computer News11th May 1985
Published in Personal Computer News #110
Cauldron is one of the best Commodore 64 games I've seen this year - but it's very difficult. Palace Software has produced a compulsive, graphically tasty little number that should be a winner.
The aim of the game is to collect ingredients to make a magic potion. Once collected they must be returned to the hag's cottage and mixed in the cauldron of the title. As in many games these days, the instructions are slightly obscure. Not quite Ultimate obscurantism, but eight verses.
The hag in question is a delightfully animated and detailed green-haired witch, straight out of Brothers Grimm. You can make her roam the night sky on her broomstick or land for a stroll. Hanging in the firmament are fixed stars and a cloud cast moon, adding to the tremendous atmosphere created by the accompanying music.
Airborne control is very tricky and takes a long time to master because of the momentum. Once you've built up speed it takes an age to slow down, so fast manoeuvres are out of the question. This makes dealing with the various flying hazards doubly problematic. Acceleration is slow and there's a peculiar feature whereby you move a fraction in the opposite direction to the way you're facing before picking up speed.
There are bats, seagulls and ghosts on the surface level where you start. The ghosts are a delight. You'll spend ages battling with them just to marvel at the way they're done, rather than getting on with the task in hand.
You'll also fly over pumpkin-spitting plants and fireball-hurling volcanoes. Contact with any of these drains your resources alarmingly rapidly, and once your magic factor reaches zero percent that's another life down.
The dying hag routine brings out the attention to detail - the hag loses any upward acceleration and slows down, and as soon as any obstruction is met she spins end over end, quickly coming to a rest. And it's there that the next hag appears. Fortunately, there's a generous nine lives granted at the start, so you get a fair crack at the game each time round.
The hag can cast (i.e. fire) spells to eliminate opposition, but like flying, control takes a long time to master. The trick, as in Ice Palace, is to press fire and then move the stick in the direction you want to shoot.
Having found one or more coloured keys on the surface level, you can land near one of the doors and gain entrance to the underground domain. If you thought the first set of hazards was hard, you suddenly find yourself in one of four rather nasty platform games.
Here you'll come across more bats and fireballs as well as ribcages and gaping skulls. Down in the planet's interior you must hop from level to level, dodging the nasties and looking to collect ingredients for your spell. But the game isn't as simple as it might sound at this stage. To collect some of the ingredients you'll need special containers, and you can only carry two at a time.
If you manage to collect all the ingredients to make your spell - and I'm nowhere near that yet! - you can make your way to the Pumpking's hideaway in one of the caverns and get stuck into the final showdown.
There's an awful lot to this game and the graphics and action are superb. The starting music is great and, while it's not sustained, the sound effects are good throughout. Cauldron just has to be a chart-topper.