The Master of Dimensions

Developer:  Mad Engine
Publisher:  Eidos
Year Released:  1996

Review by Steve Ramsey (February, 2004)

If you enjoy great big inventory quests, if you like exploring and searching back and forth and back again across many locations, if you can handle the occasional obscure solution and seeming dead-end, and if you aren't put off by the thought of a humungous maze and a timed puzzle, then this could well be for you.

You play a sassy hero on a quest across time and space to find the pieces of Merlin's staff in order to save the world. Merlin was defeated by the Wizard of the North, who then banished him and scattered the pieces of his staff across the Dimensions to ensure that he could never rise again. A (female) Dimension Machine will enable you to travel to those Dimensions (and occasionally elsewhere), and will also provide helpful insights and assistance. A Narrator will help move the story along.

Master of Dimensions is played point and click style, predominantly in the third person. Some animated cut scenes from different perspectives punctuate events. I found these rather good. It is all mouse driven, right click for inventory, left click to examine and move, and double click to act upon an object. The cursor will indicate a spot which can be interacted with in some way.

You will do a lot of clicking. It is a very big game.

Deep pocket
There are a large number of inventory items to be found, essential to completing the game. You will find them all over the place, often nowhere near where or when you need to use them. Some have to be combined to be used. Not all are obvious as to how they are to be used. On the whole, they were reasonably and logically integrated into events, but the use of some and where to use them was unfathomable save through trying everything everywhere. The game itself even recognises this in one part through a conversation between the hero and his Dimension Machine.

Whilst you must have certain items to move on in certain places, and whilst there is a single path through the game in terms of "right" answers and actions, the game is exceedingly open when it comes to being able to move around and try different things. Almost all Dimensions can be visited from the very start, and much of the initial hours is spent simply exploring those Dimensions and logging your tasks and activities. If you get stuck in one, simply visit another - what you find or learn may help elsewhere. When you return to a Dimension, you will pick up exactly where you left off.

The Dimensions are varied in style and character, and sometimes in colour. You will visit a space station, a soap opera, a vampire dimension, an Egyptian mural and a fairy tale dimension amongst others. I thought the Noir Dimension was the pick - it captured the noir style quite well.

I have already noted that not everything is obvious. Your feet will be sore by the time you finish. You will visit and revisit the Dimensions, even if you never get stuck. I confess at times I did not have clue as to what to do next, and had to peek at a walkthrough

Still puzzled
There are some straightforward puzzles (as opposed to inventory based), generally not terribly difficult, although the "why" of some escaped me. Maybe there was a way to do a couple of them by other than trial and error, but I didn't find the key.

Then there is the labyrinth. First up, perhaps there is a bigger maze somewhere, but I haven't found it. After a couple of hours, I gave up, and resorted to a walkthrough. Whilst not every room has multiple exits, more than 70 steps are needed to get through according to the solution I used. Perhaps there is a lesser route - I am not going to try and find out.

Having traversed the maze, there are then some puzzles, a couple of which can kill you, one of which I had to resort to trial and error to solve. Which meant plenty of dying. The chess puzzle though was a goody.

Then it's back into the maze for a short(er) while, but you had better pay attention along the way. Getting out depends upon it. Finally, one last riddle and you are done. It's a daunting sequence. But the sequence immediately afterwards and the transformation involved almost makes up for it.

Watch the clock
The timed puzzle also needs a mention. As far as I could tell, you have one chance. If the time runs out you die, and you have to load a saved game. I could not discern any way to get the clock to start running again. I left and returned to the Dimension, but it picked up with the time I had left. I thought dying might start it all again, but it didn't. Which suggests a dead end is possible from which you can't recover. I could be wrong, but when you get to the Dimension with the clock counting down, perhaps you should save your game. Just in case.

Like most such games, the humour will hit and miss. It's a matter of taste. The musical score, though, hits the mark quite well. Look and listen out for the rock overture.

You can tweak and fiddle with sound and music settings, turn subtitles on and off, and a few other things, all from an initial load screen. The game is on 2 CDs, and there will be some disc swapping as you go back and forth. Saves are unlimited. I experienced no problems at all running and playing the game, but had to play in Windows 98. Cleverer types might get it going in XP. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2004. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 95/98, 486 DX/66 (Pentium 90 recommended) 640K base memory, 8MB RAM, 2x CD ROM, SVGA card, 640 x 480 SVGA monitor, Soundcard and mouse.