Companions of Xanth

Developer/Publisher:  Legend Entertainment Company
Year Released:  1993

Review by Gordon Aplin (July, 1996)
xanth.jpgIf you are a connoisseur of terrible puns, or even if you like to have a good chuckle occasionally when playing your computer games, then you will be instantly at home with Companions of Xanth where much of the story, and even the puzzle solving, is based on word play and truly dreadful punning. In this game you must travel beyond the pail, taking care not to kick the bucket, and seek out the Fairy Nuff to help you in your quest for the ultimate prize.

Two demons X(a/n)th and E(a/r)th have a wager at the beginning of the game that involves your character, Dug, and a young female earthling or mundane called Kim being drawn in to the world of Xanth in order to compete for the prize. Neither Dug nor Kim know the true nature of the quest for the rules of the wager do not allow it, but the future of magic in Xanth depends on the outcome. Should Kim win then magic would be banished forever and Xanth would become as mundane as the Earth. So it's up to you to make sure that you reach the prize first.

Game within a game within ...
As Dug you are drawn into the contest as a result of another wager when your friend, Edsel, challenges you to play a computer game he sends to you. In this game within a game within a game you must first choose a companion, though really only one choice is correct, then you must traverse the magical land of Xanth overcoming obstacles that bar your way and, at the same time, overcome your own disbelief in magic.

The puzzles are imaginative and varied and a lot of fun with heaps of items to pick up and use. Many of the items you collect can be manipulated in your inventory and some will need to be combined with others before you can use them. If you become stuck and don't know what to do next you can always talk to your companion who will tell you about the strange world of Xanth and may even help you by suggesting things to try.

Choose your words carefully
As with other games from Legend this one uses an intuitive command structure where a list of verbs such as look at, open, take etc enables you to perform the necessary actions to get through the game. Sometimes, for simple actions, all you need do is click on the object on the screen and it will default to the most obvious command, for example 'look at', then all that is required is for you to click again.

All descriptions and conversations are provided via on-screen text and the game comes complete with an auto-mapping facility which is really useful for retracing your steps through locations you have already visited, and is crucial for solving/mapping the large maze sequence. There are plenty of save game slots and it is helpful to save often though not necessarily because it is possible to die. Indeed, the game interface is very friendly, if you happen to do something too drastic then you will be given the opportunity to 'undo' your last move and to try again.

Amusing game
Companions of Xanth is certainly an amusing game with bright and colourful graphics, lots of things to do, and a reasonably large gameworld to explore. The humour is gentle even if it is a little painful on occasions -- especially when it resorts to rather juvenile, though mild, sexual innuendo. Interestingly, this problem would not have arisen had the designers allowed us the choice of playing either Dug or Kim (what a good idea!) as many of these allusions simply would not be viable from Kim's perspective. Though I do concede that the Xanth novels set the precedent for much of the humour, and you shouldn't let my quibbling about this put you off as the game is certainly enjoyable enough overall to keep you playing.

Based on the novel Demons Don't Dream by Piers Anthony this is yet another book-turned-computer game that Legend do so well. And this one is sure to entertain lots of adventure game fans. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1996. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
486/33, 4MB RAM, SGVA, mouse. (Also published in floppy version).