Magic Carpet 2, PC

The full title of this 1995 sequel is Magic Carpet 2: The Netherworlds, and it is an excellent continuation of the series.

Magic Carpet 2 features exterior and interior (cavernous) levels that are more dense than the original, with more new monsters, secrets, and evil wizards to defeat. It also has a multiplayer mode (which the first game didn’t have).

Graphically, Magic Carpet 2 is more impressive than its predecessor and the use of night and day in the game results in a more varied colour palette – and a more interesting landscape – than previously. Again: the landscape is deformable to some degree by shooting it with fireballs, and various locations hide triggers that spawn monsters, new spells, and bosses. Unlike the first game, Magic Carpet 2 features a useful ‘Help Mode’, that points out what everything is – until you get sick of it and turn it off. It helps get into the game quicker, and not miss any important gameplay features.

The gameplay in Magic Carpet 2 is pretty much the same as before: build a castle; collect mana with your balloon; build your castle up; collect more mana; rid the landscape of monsters; complete any quest objectives.

Most monsters are pretty tough, so the best tactic is to lure them away from groups to deal with them one at a time. The killer bees, for example, will kill you quickly if a number of them swarm you, so it’s best to split them up if you can, which you can do with your deft carpet skills. Mastering the carpet is key to beating the game, and the controls work extremely well, allowing you to perform very tight and precise manoeuvres with just a modicum of skill. You can also fly backwards and sidewards, which helps a lot. The controls are very responsive, though, so do take some getting used to.

There are 25 levels to play through in total – all of which can be completed quickly (by completing quest objectives), or can be scoured for more spells and mana, and a higher completion percentage, if so wished.

Magic Carpet 2 can also be changed to SVGA mode (640×480) ‘on the fly’, meaning: you can switch between the default VGA (320×200) resolution, and SVGA resolution by just clicking an option in the menu, although I couldn’t find a way of making SVGA the default (every time I restarted the game it ran in VGA, and I had to manually change the resolution). The game also crashed quite a bit for me in SVGA mode (usually preceded by graphical glitches), and I had some problems saving the game (and having to restart from the beginning – four times so far). Playing in VGA proved to be more stable (no crashes). And this is the bought GOG.com version I’m talking about… In spite of that I really enjoyed playing Magic Carpet 2 again – it is better than the first Magic Carpet, and it is also a superb game in its own right. Another classic DOS game from Bullfrog.

More: Magic Carpet 2 on Wikipedia
GOG.com: Magic Carpet 2: The Netherworlds on GOG.com

Magic Carpet, PC

Magic Carpet from Bullfrog was first released in 1994 through Electronic Arts. It is a DOS-based, first-person action game with you – the player character – flying a ‘magic carpet’ around a series of islands, fighting evil wizards and monsters and collecting ‘mana’ to increase your magical powers.

The game plays a bit like a flight simulator, although obviously flight sims don’t have magic spells, castles and monsters that shoot fireballs at you. Using a mouse and keyboard the carpet flies around very smoothly. Initially it moves quite slowly, but acquiring a ‘boost’ spell helps speed up when necessary. Which is often because the many monsters found wandering the landscape are actually quite tough cookies.

There are numerous spells to collect – usually in the shape of a red jar, and these only appear once you’ve flown near them to disable their “invisibility lock”, forcing you to explore the whole map – or at least certain places – to find them.

The one spell you begin with is the ‘Build Castle’ spell. Fire this into the ground (or sea) somewhere and a castle is created, which then sends out a balloon to collect any mana you’ve claimed. Neutral mana is coloured gold; your mana is coloured white; enemy mana is coloured whatever colour they’ve chosen. Mana can be found for free scattered around the landscape, or can be generated by killing monsters. The basic aim is to collect a set amount of mana on each level in order to progress to the next.

The landscape itself is deformable (to a degree), meaning: you can blast it with fireballs and change the elevation. You have to be careful where you shoot, though. Accidentally blasting friendly villages will usually result in a hail of arrows to contend with – as well as everything else – so is not advisable. What is advisable in Magic Carpet is to learn when to run away. And also how to ‘peck’ at tough opponents, and avoid their shots at you. Becoming familiar to the two-button command system is a must too, but learning how to play Magic Carpet properly is worth it, because it’s still a great game.

By level three you’ll also be up against a rival wizard, who flies out on his carpet, turning any mana he finds his colour. You have to build your castle quickly and turn any mana he’s earmarked as his, to your colour, and fend him off (with fireballs) until your balloon collects the mana. This results in some very exciting dogfights over coastlines. You can even get lucky have monsters kill your opponent – it depends on where he goes. When he dies, though, you get a message on screen. If you die, you start back at the castle and can continue the level without losing progress.

Finally: there are two really weird “3D” modes in the game (toggled by pressing F10), one being red/blue mode for use with cheap red/blue 3D glasses (these were supplied with the original game), and also a Stereogram mode, where a complex pattern of coloured dots are used to create a 3D image. I remember being able to actually see the Stereogram image when I first played this game back in 1994, but trying it now I just can’t see it. It must be age… There’s also a ‘high res’ mode (toggled by pressing R), although it really chugs (or at least it did for me) and I found it best to play in VGA mode for a higher frame rate.

Magic Carpet is a classic MS-DOS game from Bullfrog and is still very much fun to play today. GOG.com are selling the ‘Plus’ version of Magic Carpet, which includes the Hidden Worlds expansion pack, and it’s well worth picking up, as is the even better sequel, Magic Carpet 2.

More: Magic Carpet on Wikipedia
GOG.com: Magic Carpet Plus on GOG.com

Day of the Tentacle, PC

This is the original 1993, VGA, MS-DOS version of Day of the Tentacle, with graphics presented at a fairly low-resolution 320 x 200. They still look great to me though.

Compare this to the high def Double Fine remake of 2018 and there is no contest – the high def version wins every time – although there is still a perverse nostalgic thrill to be had from playing the original VGA version.

Day of the Tentacle is the sequel to the classic Maniac Mansion, but is far funnier and far more interesting. Bernard, one of the main playable characters from Maniac Mansion, makes a comeback in this as the ‘lead’. And he is helped along by two other playable characters, Hoagie (a roadie), and Laverne (a ‘kookie’ girl). Together they embark on a surreal time-travelling mission to stop an evil tentacle from taking over the world… With hilarious results.

If you’ve never played Day of the Tentacle: you’re missing out. It’s one of the greatest point-and-click adventure games of all-time and is still available to buy and play today.

More: Day of the Tentacle on Wikipedia
Steam: Day of the Tentacle Remastered on Steam
GOG.com: Day of the Tentacle Remastered on GOG.com

Day-of-the-Tentacle-Cover

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, PC

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is the 1991 sequel to the classic The Secret of Monkey Island and is arguably even better than its fondly-remembered predecessor.

Created by essentially the same team as the previous game, Monkey Island 2 once again follows the exploits of Guybrush Threepwood and his adventures into pirating and comedy. And once again he is up against his arch nemesis, LeChuck, only this time LeChuck is a rotting zombie due to him having been killed in the last game and brought back to life in this.

Like all LucasArts point-and-click adventures, Monkey Island 2 features beautiful graphics and laugh-out-loud dialogue. The solutions to many of the early puzzles are not too difficult to figure out, but some do take a leap in imagination to make the link between certain items and locations.

Monkey Island 2 was the first LucasArts game to use the iMUSE music system, which basically adapts depending on the situation, and it also opens with dancing monkeys! And everyone loves dancing monkeys… Well, digital ones, anyway.

A HD remake was released in 2010 and is currently available in various outlets. These grabs show the original 1991 DOS VGA version.

Monkey Island 2 really is a belly-laugh of an adventure and is arguably the high point of the series. It’s well worth playing.

More: Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge on Wikipedia
Steam: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition on GOG.com

Monkey Island 2 artwork by Steve Purcell.

Monkey Island 2 artwork by Steve Purcell.

The Secret of Monkey Island, PC

This is the original MS-DOS classic, as released by Lucasfilm Games (later to become LucasArts) in 1990. The Secret of Monkey Island is a humorous point-and-click adventure introducing wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood and his evil arch nemesis the pirate LeChuck.

The game uses the SCUMM system and uses a mouse to click on a list of verbs and objects on-screen, in order to carry out actions. Conversations play a big part in the game and there are always multiple answers you can choose from. Actually, the dialogue on The Secret of Monkey Island is one of the things that helps make the game so special – it’s very funny. Even the mundane characters have a life to them…

There are also a number of special mechanics in the game, like sword fighting, and… insulting. Both of which you learn by taking on a related quest and eventually beating the Sword Master. The insults are hilarious and play an active role in combat. If an opponent insults you and you give the wrong response (or don’t respond in time), you lose. Choose the correct response to an insult and it puts the ball back in the opponent’s court. And if they then don’t respond correctly, they lose… It’s tense stuff! But very much fun.

Playing The Secret of Monkey Island is a rite of passage for any self-respecting gamer. If you’ve never played it: rectify that ASAP and get it added to your gaming heritage.

A Special Edition was released in 2009, with updated graphics and gameplay.

More: The Secret of Monkey Island on Wikipedia
Steam: The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition on Steam
GOG.com: The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition on GOG.com