COMPANIONS OF XANTH / Legend Entertainment / PC
Ah, Piers Anthony. He was at the height of his popularity while I was a kid, but I never ended up reading his Xanth books for some reason. I got one of his non-Xanth books as a birthday present once, and the main thing I remember about it is that it had about five or six fairly descriptive sex scenes. I assume that's a pretty common number for this guy.
Companions of Xanth doesn't have any sex scenes, but it does have some cleavage shots and gratuitous scantily clad buxom wenches to at least keep some semblance of the fine Anthony tradition of covertly selling soft porn to kids under the pretense of "high fantasy" adventure. It's apparently based on a Xanth book called "Demon's Don't Dream", which was packaged in with the original release of this game. The adventure adaptation is handled by Legend Entertainment, best known for being the split-off company that Steve Meretzky founded when he left Infocom, though the M-man himself apparently didn't put any work into this one.
Xanth is a point-and-click adventure that is very linear and kinda easy. That's not to say it's a bad game; on the whole it's pretty well designed, good looking and even has some decent music. Adventure game vets can expect to blow through it in about three hours or so, however; the "puzzles based on puns" concept that promises head-scratching arbitrariness never really delivers on that count, with the "punny" puzzles being rather obvious for the most part and having the requisite item usually lying about conveniently close at hand.
The high-res, colorful VGA graphics combined with the inventory bars at the bottom of the screen and the rather simplified interface recall the Kyrandia games by Westwood, as does the music to some degree. It's really a nice-looking game, exception of some rather clumsy FMV inserted here and there where the characters look like shmoes from around the office who didn't even bother changing their street clothes for the part. The interface is really self-evident and user-friendly, but this has the (probably unintended) consequence of divesting the game of challenge even more. The main problem here is that there's ways to die, but very few, and they're really telegraphed in most cases, and as with most first-person adventures it's a little too easy to see and isolate unique objects (rendered even more easy here by the very small size of the game areas and relatively small number of puzzles in them.)
The game is good for a chuckle here and there, generally having an absurd and not-serious tone throughout. The dialogue sounds like it was written by some adventure game designers and not Piers himself; I'm guessing he had the same sort of "consultant" capacity (job description: put your feet up and collect the royalties) that Raymond Feist did for the Kyrandia games. It's a pleasant enough little adventure, but it's really more like "adventure lite"; I'd recommend it for a beginning adventure game fan, but vets will blow right through it and wind up getting very little mileage out of it, since the complete linearity makes replaying it pointless.
Cool story, Gram