YOUNG MERLIN / Virgin+Westwood / Super NES
Young Merlin was one of Westwood's extremely rare forays into the console world, and also one of the rare console adventure games from the period. It doesn't go straight PC adventure style, being something more like a hybrid between Westwood's Legend of Kyrandia series and a Zelda game. You'll even note the same musical riff that opens Westwood's early to mid 90s PC adventures, along with the copious use of gemstones in-game indicating that it was probably mostly the same team from the Kyrandia games that worked on this one.
And as with Kyrandia, there's good stuff here jumbled up with problematic gameplay and design. The hybrid format is not used well; the adventure portions are too simplistic, and the action portions are too clumsy. The game also features a cave maze with mine carts fairly early on, which rivals Serpents Grotto in the first Kyrandia game for sheer annoyingness and tedium. To make matters worse, there's only one spot to heal until you get near the end of the game - and it's the first screen you start on! With the whole of the game being a linear trudge, this means walking back through tons of territory to get a top-up, the only alternative being finding some respawning creatures and killing them until they drop enough hearts for you. To be fair, this last problem is partly mitigated by the fact that you have infinite lives, and any death will only send you a little ways back from wherever you were with no loss of items or status.
The game is a unique idea that is charming and functional in some limited ways, but more seems to go wrong here than goes right. Even vet composer Frank Klepacki is off his game a little, with some OK tunes but nothing approaching the awesomeness of the Kyrandia soundtracks. The format also isn't used to full advantage, with most game tasks breaking down to fetch quests interspersed with awkward boss battles. On the whole the game runs OK and very patient gamers may find it playable, but I think most won't find it worth the effort to stick with all the way through.
* Gameplay Video